David Evans - founder of prch - writes an insightful piece for Hannah4Change's blog...
When you think of the ocean, you probably immediately conjure an image of a sandy beaches, warm salt water, sunshine, coral reefs, or diverse marine life. But our oceans’ health is declining at an alarming rate and the beautiful, mysterious, and magnificent bodies of water we regularly take advantage of are beginning to show more and more pronounced symptoms of destabilization.
And while there are many things that need to be done to correct this issue, the first step to finding an effective solution is to address the problems at hand. Therefore, organizations such as the Ocean Health Index, marine researchers, and scientists have begun identifying some of the major challenges to the current state of the oceans.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is estimated that over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully depleted or over exploited. The fish industry has grown significantly and is an established livelihood for many around the world. However, this rise in popularity is not only threatening the species of fish being caught and sold, but entire ecosystems that those fish are a part of. In taking away a source of food, or a predator for other species of fish or aquatic life, entire ecosystems are being threatened.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. And it is currently estimated that every square mile of ocean contains around 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. This is not even including the environmental impacts from oil spills, industrial agriculture and pesticide runoff, and man-made sewage. The destruction of marine ecosystems is only being enhanced by land-based pollution, contributing to several problems including contamination, algae blooms, and massive islands of trash, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
3. Habitat Destruction
Pollution is only one adversary in the destruction of marine habitats. Others include bottom-trawling (or deep-sea trawling), overfishing, mangrove deforestation, coral mining, fish farming, and shipping. Many of these problems could be mitigated through adequate management and protection.
4. Climate Change
Oceans have an increased temperature of 0.7ºC since pre-industrial times. While this may not seem concerning, it has already contributed to problems such as coral bleaching, rising sea levels, increased tropical storms, and impacted marine life. As ocean climates continue to increase in temperature, these problems will intensify, affecting more and more marine and coastal ecosystems.
Ocean acidification occurs when oceans absorb too much atmospheric carbon dioxide. This limits the amount of oxygen in oceans, making it harder for some marine animals to breathe and decreasing others’ ability to build calcium carbonate shells. Ocean acidification is also the leading cause in coral reef destruction.
There are many things that can be done to mitigate these challenges both on the ground and in the sea. Some of the major changes necessary to prevent further destruction include sustainable fishing practices, emissions reduction, promotion of alternative energy, organic agriculture, and adequate Marine Protected Areas.
While all of these need to be acted upon on a global scale, there are also things you can do personally, such as sourcing the food you eat, reducing consumption of single-use plastics, and choosing more sustainable products that decrease your impact on the environment.
About The Author
David Evans is the founder of prch, a resource for eco-minded consumers. He is a minimalist, environmentalist, and conscious consumer with a background in environmental studies, conservation, and tech. Learn to improve your environmental and social impact @theprch.
I have been educated thousands of people about the harmful effects of plastic pollution since I was 11. I am particularly focused on single-use disposable plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, and straws because these items we use for convenience are destroying the planet and its precious animals.
“These products are made to last for hundreds of years, using our precious fossil fuels, but are only used for a few minutes - and they last on our earth virtually forever”.
Last year, I decided she needed to do more to get my message out to fellow citizens, so I created Plastic Pollution Awareness Day with my state senator and the rest of the Georgia state senate. That day was such a success that I was able to duplicate the event this year and proclaim this February 15 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day.
In honor of Plastic Pollution Awareness Day this February 15, I explain 5 common ways you may be destroying the planet - along with practical solutions that can be easily implemented.
You might think “what is the big deal with straws?”, but consider this: Americans use an estimated 500 million plastic straws per day. That’s enough straws to circle the Earth’s circumference 2.5 times! Considering that plastic straws are not recyclable, this is a large volume of plastic that ends up in landfills and beyond. Because of their size and shape, many escape from their trash containers and end up in the environment. And you probably have seen some of the devastating impacts that plastic straws have on animals - the video of the sea turtle with the plastic straw up its nose is very sad - if not horrific - to watch as its rescuers try to remove the straw.
There are many alternatives to plastic straws, including not using straws at all. If you feel you must have a straw, there are great, long-lasting bio-degradable paper straw alternatives. There are also glass and stainless steel straws that are made by leading companies. So the next time you go to a restaurant, tell your waiter, “no straw, please” (and inform the manager for added impact). And please don’t use the excuse that you don’t like your lips touching the glass - unless you use a straw when you drink beer or wine! Restaurants and other business should get in the act too - if you implement a “straws upon request” policy, you’ll drastically reduce the quantity of plastic straws that are used - which is savings to the bottom line.
Have you ever seen pictures of landfill trash? What you’ll see more than anything else is plastic bags. The average American uses around 500 disposable plastic bags per year (some estimates are even higher when you consider all types of plastic bags). Given how lightweight they are, they are a product that can easily escape from a landfill and end up choking our planet. They are also difficult to recycle in most jurisdictions. Given that China recently announced they were refusing to take recyclables from the US and other nations, this will put a burden on municipalities to efficiently dispose of plastic bags and other items.
Once you get in the habit, taking reusable bags to the store is easy and is more practical than plastic bags. You can fill them up and not worry about breaks or tears. What’s more, many stores provide a financial incentive if you bring your own bags to the store. Another alternative is to request paper bags from the store. Many grocery stores have paper bags but they won’t use them unless customers request them. Finally, another option is to not use a bag at all. How often have you purchased one item and had the cashier put it in a plastic bag? Crazy! And when you go to places like Costco and Aldi, you won’t see a plastic bag in sight. Do you complain that your purchased goods end back up in the cart?
You may not have heard of polystyrene, but you probably use it. This material shows up in coffee cup lids, plastic utensils, restaurant take-away or to-go products, and cups. And one type of polystyrene is styrofoam. Yes, styrofoam is plastic! In addition to the large quantity of polystyrene that is used and ends up in the landfill or in the environment (the EPA estimates Americans use 25 billion polystyrene coffee cups annually), one of the chemicals in this material - styrene - is a known animal carcinogen. These plastics are almost impossible to recycle.
I carry a stainless steel water bottle with me everywhere I go. You can also bring a stainless steel cup - there are some nice insulated ones too - with you. Offices can furnish coffee mugs to their employees rather than stocking their shelves with styrofoam cups. Regarding utensils, instead of taking plastic utensils, I carry (or put in the car) bamboo or stainless steel utensils. Use these products instead of polystyrene!
Americans use approximately 3 million water bottles per hour! And if you include the plastic cap, that’s 6 million plastic products that are getting trashed every hour of every day!
The alternative to plastic bottles? Keep a reusable cup in your bag, or carry around a stainless steel bottle. And just think about how much money you are saving by drinking tap water instead of costly bottled water. And since our federal government seems to love Norway so much these days, let’s follow Norway’s lead by instituting a full take back program for plastic bottles. As a result of this comprehensive program, Norway is recycling 97% of its bottles.
Did you know that cigarette butts are made of a type of plastic? Cigarette butts are one of the most common forms of plastic pollution. When I do street cleanups, I find more cigarette butts than any other type of trash. These butts are not biodegradable and are a material the earth cannot digest. What’s possibly worse, they leach toxic chemicals into the earth. Hopefully this gives you yet another reason to stop smoking!
I believe that knowledge is power, and now that you know better, you’ll do better! That’s the essence of Plastic Pollution Awareness Day; through education and awareness, we will all make better choices. So go forth and try some of my practical alternatives and you’ll see that it is rather easy to save the planet!
This is such a great article that I thought to post it here. You may have heard of the Bag Monster or have seen it at environmental conferences or presentations (let me know if you want to see a sighting). This article, by Andy Keller, CEO of Chico Bag, was originally posted in Sept 2011. Here Mr. Keller explains what a Bag Monster is:
Plastic Bags are not all bad, but when used excessively and in large numbers they can turn into Bag Monsters. They start as innocent balls of bags, however they can grow into a menacing creatures that cause all kinds of trouble. A Bag Monster is your annual consumption of single-use disposable bags – estimated to conservatively be 500 bags. You may never realize the size of your Bag Monster unless you keep all of our single-use bags for an entire year. If you don’t – you may only see small Bag Monsters, the one under your sink, the one in the pantry, the one in your trash or recycle bin or the lone bag monsters that travel our highways, swim in our streams or wave proudly from our trees. Despite your best intentions, Bag Monsters are born to roam wild and can escape trash cans, recycle bins, a picnic and even the landfill. It is really important to tame your Bag Monster by tying each bag in a knot to lessen it’s ability to become windblown litter.
The Bag Monster is not just comprised of polyethylene retail carry-out grocery bags, which according to the United States International Trade Commission, in 2008 is 102 BILLION annually. If tied in a chain, this chain would circle the earth 776 times!* If divided equally among all Americans, would equal 332 bags per man, woman and child. That is a scary Bag Monster in its own right. Can you image your body covered in 332 bags on a hot Summer day?
BUT WAIT, with BAG MONSTER – THERE’S MORE | In addition to grocery bags, the Bag Monster is comprised of all types of excessive plastic bags, from produce bags for single items, to newspaper bags on a sunny day, to all those poly bags in which our electronics come packaged. The Bag Monster thrives on our excessive consumption of plastic bags. The more you feed it, the bigger Bag Monster gets!!
Bag Monster is very secretive and tricky and does not want us humans to realize the size of his empire, or his secret plans to take over the world and cover it in plastic. Some suspect that he has been influencing how the government reports bag consumption and recycling rates. We hear that grocery stores give out more produce bags than retail carry-out bags, however Bag Monster keeps that a big secret. However, not deterred, we were able to do some digging and found that our estimate of 500 bags per year is VERY conservative. It takes some work, but if you like numbers, read on and see what we found.
According to EPA Report: MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE IN THE UNITED STATES: 2009 FACTS AND FIGURES Table 7: Estimates in 2009, Bags, Sacks and Wraps equal 3.8 Million tons. Assuming a ton is 2,000 pounds, this equals 7.7 billion pounds. According to THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION hearing on March 16, 2010, DIERDRE MALONEY, Senior International Trade Advisor for White & Case LLP testified (on page 163 of the transcript), that due to the limitations of publicly available information, she necessarily converted the “product 3” (Large “t-shirt sack” style bag with (a) dimensions 15-18”) public price data from pounds into 1,000 bags, using a conversion rate of 12.5. She said, while this estimate is not exact, it nonetheless provides a reasonable method to estimate the portion of total domestic shipments of bags of “product 3”. According to testimony, “product 3” accounts for almost 70 percent of the total U.S. shipments of PRCBs (Polyethylene Retail Carrier Bags) over the period of interest 2007 and 2008.
The EPA data cited above is clearly not comprised exclusively of product 3, but rather a wide variety of bags and sacks from sandwich baggies to large bags. Product 3 can serve as a fair conversion ratio for bags in general since some bags will be smaller and some bags will be larger. It is important to note that while Bag Monsters love trash bags, trash bags are reported separately in the EPA data and are not included in this calculation. Just think about all the plastic bags that line hotel trash cans that are sent to the landfill each day. Now think about all the office buildings. Bag Monsters love when you line ALL your trash cans with plastic bags. However, we are going to ignore this aspect of Bag Monster’s plan for now.
The EPA data cited above also includes wraps and film. To estimate the percentage of bags and sacks, we looked at the most recently published data available in the MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE IN THE UNITED STATES: 2005 FACTS AND FIGURES report. The 2005 report was the last year the EPA provided data for bags and sacks separated from wraps. (We think Bag Monster had some influence here) Since this is the most recent data, we can use the ratio between bags & sacks and film as a fair estimate. In thousands of tons, wraps were reported to be 2,810 and bags and sacks were reported to be 4,450. Based on these numbers, we find the percentage of bags and sacks to be 37%.
Therefore, 7.7 Billion pounds of bags sacks and wraps * 37% = 2.85 Million pounds of bags and sacks divided by 12.5 the estimated average weight of 1000 bags * 1,000 bags = 227 Billion Bags divided by 307 Million people in the US (2009 Census Data) = 739 bags per person. This is a very large Bag Monster. We use the estimate of 500 because it is conservative and won’t anger the Bag Monster. If we say the Bag Monster is larger than he wants to be seen as, he may get really nasty!!
*Calculation is based on the following: 2008 bag consumption, according to U.S. International Trade Commission = 102,105,637,000. Earth’s Circumference = 131,480,184 feet, Average bag length = 1ft.
Please contact your state politicians in Georgia to express support for Senate Bill 383! This is a proposed law that Hannah has spearheaded, working with Senator Nan Orrock.
Please contact your State Senator and Representative in Georgia and urge them to support this important piece of legislation. Link to find your state politicians: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
Here is content you can use (feel free to modify and make it your own) to call or email your Georgia representative and senator
"I am _____name______ and I am asking for your support for Georgia SB 383, which would ban the purchase or sale of ivory and rhinoceros horns within our great state. Each year, thousands of elephants and rhinos are killed by poachers in order to harvest their tusks and horns.
Elephants and rhinos are some of the most majestic creatures on earth. Sadly, they are currently on the path to extinction. In the early 20th century, there were approximately 10 million elephants in Africa. In 2016, scientists estimated that there were less than 400,000 remaining. And there is an elephant killed every 15 minutes, which means the population is reduced by over 30,000 annually. And with fewer than 30,000 rhinos in the world today, scientists warn that rhinos could be extinct in a decade.
Criminals are capitalizing on loopholes in US regulations. As a result, seven states have taken action to ensure they have no part in ivory and rhino horn trade. Let’s make Georgia the eighth state to show the world that extinction is not an option."
If you’re like many people, you’re probably just happy to get a good meal on the table a couple of times a day—and maybe even a good meal on the run more often than you’d like.
But wherever you take your meals and whatever you look like, there’s something you can do to make a significant impact on the world around you. You can start thinking about how you can eat more food that’s found closer by to where you live. There are a number of reasons to do this, and impacting the local economy is a big one. The farmers who grow that food and supply it to you take their wages and pour them right back into the community. So how do you think about your food more clearly and change your habits?
Thanks to Zerocater.com for the graphic...
I wanted to share an article because I found it so shocking. What is discovered here is one of the many reasons I have gone Vegan.
Seattle-caught salmon found to contain cocaine, antidepressants and pain relievers
Originally published by ideapod and TrueActivist.com on Jul 16, 2017
Salmon is purported to be one of the healthiest foods due to its high omega-3 content, protein, and essential fatty acids, but if the fish is obtained from the Puget Sound, it is anything but healthy.
According to a recent study, up to 81 drugs and personal-care products were detected in the flesh of salmon caught in the Puget Sound. Some of the drugs include Prozac, Advil, Benadryl, Lipitor, and even cocaine. The Seattle Times reports that the levels are believed to be so high because either people in the area use more of the drugs detected, or because waste water plants are unable to fully remove the chemicals during treatment. Another theory is that leaky septic tanks are contributing to the problem, as high fecal coliform counts were detected.
Said Jim Meador, an environmental toxicologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle:
“The concentrations in effluent were higher than we expected. We analyzed samples for 150 compounds and we had 61 percent of them detected in effluent. So we know these are going into the estuaries.”
Samples were gathered over two days for the study, and both migratory juvenile chinook salmon and resident staghorn sculpin were tested. Chemicals were found not only in the tissue of the fish but in the water. And, the researchers suggest, it is likely the study underreports the amount of drugs in the water close to outfall pipes, or in deeper water.
Some of the drugs and contaminates found include Flonase, Aleve, Tylenol, Paxil, Valium, Zoloft, Tagamet, OxyContin, Darvon, Nicotine, caffeine, Fungicides, antiseptics, anticoagulants, as well as plenty of antibiotics.
Intriguingly, the researchers are not concerned about the effect the cocktail of drugs will have on the humans who eat the fish, but they are concerned about how the chemicals are affecting wildlife. Reportedly, Meador’s other recent work has shown that juvenile chinook salmon migrate through contaminated estuaries in Puget Sound and die at twice the rate of fish elsewhere.
That seems like cause for concern.Unfortunately, it not likely the contamination will let up. According to one study, 97,000 pounds of drugs and chemicals could be entering the Puget Sound each year.
Like the issues of plastic pollution and reckless carbon output, this conundrum is a man-made problem that requires human involvement and attention to remedy.
I wanted to share an interview I recently held with Patrick Pickens, co-owner of an innovative skincare company called HiQCosmetics. The full article is published in MyForsyth magazine.
In 2015, Patrick Pickens decided to start a company that focuses on only the healthiest and most effective ingredients in skincare products. Their all-natural formulas are created to deliver results while maintaining environmental consciousness in literally everything they do. I was so impressed with their commitment to quality and environmental sustainability that I wanted to sit with him to learn more.
Why did you start HiQCosmetics?
Working at the CDC, I would routinely read articles about ingredients found in common health and beauty products that were causing harm to the environment and/or human health. Many of these ingredients are carcinogenic! So I teamed up with my business partner, Dr. Holly Carpenter, who received her Ph.D. from Emory University in Chemistry, to launch HiQ Cosmetics (HiQCosmetics.com). Together, we hand-selected every ingredient found in our formulas to deliver luxury performance and results. Just the best ingredients nature has to offer. Holly and I believe nature is the best chemist.
What products do you offer?
Currently, we offer our cult-favorite, HiQ CoQ10 Anti-Aging Facial Serum. The serum is ideal for men and women and is optimized to balance all skin types. This month, we launched our HiQ Eye Serum, and we are launching our HiQ Moisturizer shortly thereafter. We have been working on additional products that are going to change the skincare industry forever! Our products are available at HiQCosmetics.com and Costco.com as well as local boutiques.
Why is it important to be mindful of what we put on our skin?
Many people are careful with what they eat and drink, yet your skin is the body’s largest organ and the skin absorbs chemicals that are applied to its surface.
A lot of consumers are price-conscious. What would you say to consumers that say they’d rather buy something off the shelf at their local store? Are your products worth the premium price?
Great question. I completely understand price-conscious consumers because I am one myself! There are so many skincare products out there. However, what a lot of people may not be aware of is that not all ingredients are of the same quality. Some ingredient supplies do not have high standards of quality control. Often times, companies will use lower quality, cheaper ingredients to reduce their costs, or they will sprinkle in key, active ingredients just to show them on an ingredient list.
At HiQ Cosmetics, we are proudly different. Our formulas are 100% formulated by us. Every single ingredient is hand-selected for a specific function and effect. In addition, we source all of ingredients from the highest quality ingredient suppliers that all maintain the highest standard for quality control. Our key ingredients are placed into our formulas at high concentrations. Our HiQ Facial Serum is the most concentrated CoQ10 anti-aging facial serum on the market.
So, are our products worth premium price? 100% yes. I can promise you that your skin will feel the difference. You will have results you can see and feel.
How do you balance doing right for the environment and adding quality ingredients with the price of your products?
At HiQ Cosmetics, we do not let manufacturing costs dictate quality or environmental impact. We formulate, brand, and package all our products with the best of the best. We do not believe the quality of a product should ever be sacrificed. Quality and safety are the backbone of everything we do. In addition, we strive to be as environmentally conscious in every single aspect of our company. We promise to offer high quality skincare products without ever compromising the environment. We are dedicated to providing products that promote healthier and younger looking skin while minimizing our carbon footprint.
Do you have any testimonials or success stories you can share?
We have happy customers all over the US. We have a couple in their 90's that call us every other week to let us know that our product is the first product that has made their skin feel firmer and moisturized. We have customers that have replaced their Retin-A prescription with our HiQ Facial Serum. We have countless customers that have sent us messages stating their dermatologist cannot stop complimenting their skin.
Your products are non-GMO, PEG free, vegan, certified organic, and more! Why is this important to you?
Our products are formulated to be FREE of: GMOs, PEG, Parabens, BPA, phthalates, gluten, animal testing, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrance, sulfates, formaldehyde, and petrochemicals.
Why is it important? We believe this should be important to everyone! Why is it okay for companies to be using products that are widely known to be harmful to humans and the environment? HiQ Cosmetics wants to be the new standard for health and beauty products. There is no excuse for using ingredients that are harmful. We want customers to be confident with products they are applying to their skin.
Your commitment to the environment also extends to your product packaging, right?
That’s right. Our glass bottle and pump top are both manufactured in Europe with the highest level of quality control. The recyclable European glass bottle is BPA and phthalate free. Only the pump top is made of plastic. All of our packaging and shipping boxes are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified to support sustainable forestry practices.
As a business owner, I believe it is my duty to do everything I can to help preserve this beautiful planet we live on. As you know, Hannah, our earth is truly extraordinary, and the steps toward a “greener”, more sustainable future starts with each of us. In addition to our packaging being sustainable, we also manufacture our products in a solar powered facility.
What are your long-term goals for the company?
We plan to continue to grow throughout the US and abroad. Most importantly, we’ll want to continue to be a strong voice in the beauty industry that advocates for healthy, natural, and transparent ingredients.
Thank you, and all the best to you and HiQCosmetics! May your company be a model for other companies trying to help our environment.
Thank you very much.
This month's blog comes to us from a guest writer. We are thrilled to have Mr. Erich Lawson provide us with some outstanding recycling information. Erich is passionate about saving the environment through proper recycling.
There are several studies outlining the harmful effects of plastics on the planet. According to a UN report, the amount of plastic produced rose by 38 percent between 2004 and 2014. Another report said that in 2010, between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tons of plastic was washed into the seas, a substantial portion of which found its way into the stomachs of whales, plankton and other marine life.
There is also a growing presence of microplastics, particles of under 5 mm in length, in the world’s oceans. There are over 150 million metric tons of plastics in our ocean today. This is a scary figure considering the amount of plastic that may be consumed by marine life and how they are being affected by that much plastic.
How Does Plastic Enter the Food Chain
Another thing we need to worry about is that these plastics and toxic chemicals can eventually accumulate in food chains and make their way into animals and humans that eat ocean creatures like fish and crustaceans.
Two recent studies in Marine Biology and Animal Behavior found that microplastics can indeed be passed through the food chain to fishes. When we consume this fish, the microplastics will enter our systems as well.
Threat to Aquatic Creatures
Impact of Plastics on Humans
Plastic, which is made from petroleum and toxic chemicals that are often not found on labels, are harmful to humans as well. Two examples of harmful chemicals found in common plastic items include:
We must turn to practices like recycling to minimize the impact plastic can have on us.
Measures To Stop Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution is becoming a global menace since plastic is consumed all over the world. Plastic will most certainly be a part of your life in some way or the other, but you can do your part to curb plastic pollution by making some lifestyle changes:
It is important to identify your role in the problem in order to find appropriate solutions. So, take the necessary steps and help in protecting our planet.
Erich Lawson is passionate about saving the environment by effective recycling. He has written a wide array of articles on how modern recycling equipment can be used by industries to reduce monthly garbage bills and increase recycling revenue. You can learn more about environment savings techniques by visiting Northern California Compactors, Inc blog
To celebrate Earth Day/Earth Month, sit down as a family and watch eco-documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean and Plastic Paradise and talk about it. In addition, here are some other ideas you can do today:
- Go Vegan or Vegetarian for the day (or month)
- Turn off your electricity and go on a long hike or picnic in a park!
- Get involved in a community cleanup
- Walk/ride your bike - avoid using the car if possible
- Create a compost area in your yard
- Switch your cleaning supplies to organic items, or make homemade cleaning supplies
- Refuse plastic straws at restaurants
- Bring your reusable bags to the store
- Learn what you can and cannot recycle
- Read the labels of cosmetics, toothpaste, suntan lotion, groceries, etc. to see what you are putting in and on your bodies
- Be kind to humans and do a random act of kindness
- Have your kids join or support Animal Hero Kids - animalherokids.org
- Plant a tree
- Plant an organic garden or support Captain Planet Foundation's efforts to get youth involved in planting/caring for school gardens
- Buy a plastic-free product as a gift for the family, such as those from ECOlunchboxes, Klean Kanteen, Aardvark Paper Drinking Straws, Life Without Plastic, Simply Straws, and U Konserve
#ZEROWASTETIPS: Visiting a local farmers market is a good way to avoid grocery stores' excess plastic packaging...and reduce your food carbon footprint.
While most farmers markets have a plastic bag if you need it, bring your own reusable bags instead! That way, the trip will be a zero-waste trip!
Find more #zerowastetips here: http://bit.ly/2oJg7mq
Hannah Testa, Eco-Warrior, and Environmental/ Animal Activist