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Archive for the ‘Green News’ Category

For years, I’ve been bothering my roommates about the intricate rules of plastic recycling in NYC. The only plastics that are recyclable are bottles and jugs! Well, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg, not anymore. Now we can finally recycle ALL hard plastics! Yes, that means those yogurt cups and food clamshells! And I can finally stop yelling at my boyfriend for trying to do good, but not knowing the rules. This is expected to save taxpayers $600,000 a year in costs associated with shipping the 50,000 tons of plastic waste out of town. Win-win for all of us! Hey Bloomberg, good job! Next, can you please ban plastic bags?

Here’s the new poster explaining what plastics can be recycled:

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I have been a recycling volunteer for GrowNYC since 2009, so I am pretty well versed what can and cannot be recycled in NYC. Throughout these years of educating New Yorkers on how to recycle, I’ve realized that there is a huge misconception of what types of plastic can be recycled. I’ll say it one more time, people – The only plastics that can be recycled in NYC are BOTTLES and JUGS! Yogurt cups and plastic food containers ARE NOT recyclable in NYC. And neither are those plastic foam containers you see in delis and take out places. I always cringe when I have to use them, because they are not biodegradable. Yup, that means they will stay in our landfills FOREVER!

But, as I learned from this NYTimes article today, Mayor Bloomberg will be proposing a citywide ban on plastic-foam food packaging during his State of the City address this coming Thursday. The ban will require approval by the City Council, but his proposal does have some traction among voters. Quoted from the article,

Officials at City Hall said a plastic-foam ban could save millions of dollars a year. Plastic foam, which is not biodegradable, can add up to $20 per ton in recycling costs when the city processes recyclable materials. The city handles about 1.2 million tons of food waste each year; the mayor’s office estimated that the city’s annual waste stream included about 20,000 tons of plastic foam.

Saving $400,000 a year is a good chunk of change for city. Now, I know not everyone will agree with Bloomberg’s proposal. Plastic foam containers are cheap, so restaurant costs may go up. Habits will have to be changed.

I may not agree with Bloomberg on his soda ban, but I do endorse his plastic foam container ban. I think that this is just something restaurants will have to get used to. A few years back, restaurants had to innovate when trans-fats were banned. And we’ve all gotten used to that. And now, they may have to restock their supplies, but this is just another opportunity to innovate. If Whole Foods can do it, so can other restaurants. As for most consumers, I don’t think they’ll notice the difference between a paper container and a plastic container. But the environment will thank us for it!

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I’ve been working out in northern California (around Santa Cruz) for the past two months, and as much as I love being a New Yorker, I gotta say, Cali is SO NICE. The weather here is perfect, the people are very nice, the lifestyle is more laid-back, and there is definitely a strong focus on sustainability. So many environmentally friendly companies are based out in Northern California. Even though the company I’m currently working for isn’t selling products or services in the green space, it definitely has a strong focus on incorporating sustainable practices and approaches into its everyday operations. Not only is it really cool to be in a corporation like that, but it’s also really nice just being surrounded by people and things that really care about the environment. For example, look what I found at the Target parking lot this morning!

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I was pleasantly surprised, and this definitely warranted some more research. So here’s what I found out: The ban on plastic bags started in Watsonville, CA last Friday, and Watsonville was the first city in Santa Cruz County to ban plastic bags.

 A number of places have already banned plastic bags, such as China, Ireland, and Mexico City. And in the states, we’ve already seen Portland, Seattle, Washington DC, Hawaii, and even Los Angeles taking steps to ban plastic bags at stores. San Francisco was actually the first city to ban plastic bags from large supermarkets and pharmacies in March 2007. And starting October 1st, all retail establishments in San Francisco will be banned from providing single-use, non-compostable plastic bags. That means clothing stores as well! And then in October 2013, restaurants will be included in this ordinance.

Right now you might be thinking, who cares? Why is banning plastic bags a good thing for the environment? The answer is that plastic bags are made out of oil, and it takes millions of barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags that are being distributed at stores each year. It will also limit pollution because plenty of bags blow away everywhere and end up onto streets, trees, and waterways.

I’m definitely a supporter  of the plastic bag ban. As a society, we’ve become very dependent on plastic bags. Yes, they are extremely convenient, but I think that with a few easy lifestyle adjustments, we will do just fine without plastic bags. If China can do it, so can we. We can also purchase a paper bag for 10 cents each if we forget to bring a bag. I definitely think it’s one step closer to decreasing the amount of waste generated. Now I’m just waiting for New York City to pass a ban on plastic bags!

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Today we celebrate the start of the World Cup! Woohoo! I don’t follow sports much, but I do love the excitement of global sporting competitions. I’ve always loved watching the Olympics, and I had my first taste of World Cup celebrations 4 years ago when I spent my summer in Shanghai. I just remember everyone packed in sports bars, watching matches at 2 am, pounding down drinks and screaming at the television. It was awesome. I love the way the World Cup builds a sense of national commaraderie, but what I love even more is the eye candy! These soccer guys are HOT. Mmm mmm mmm.

Anyway…one more reason to love this year’s games is that some teams are going green! The players of all of Nike’s national teams will be wearing kits (or jerseys) made from 100% recycled PET bottles. The teams wearing Nike’s new  jerseys in South Africa are: Brasil, The Netherlands, Portugal, USA, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Each shirt comprises up to eight recycled plastic bottles. To make the 2010 national team kits, Nike’s fabric suppliers sourced discarded plastic bottles from Japanese and Taiwanese landfill sites and then melted them down to produce new yarn that was ultimately converted to fabric for the jerseys. Manufacturing jerseys using recycled materials reduces energy consumption by up to 30 percent compared with manufacturing virgin polyester. Besides saving raw materials, Nike diverted nearly 13 million plastic bottles (or nearly 560,000 pounds of polyester waste) from landfills. According to Nike, if the recycled bottles used to produce the jerseys were laid end to end, they would span more than 3,000 kilometers (roughly 1,860 miles), a distance that exceeds the entire South African Coastline. So crazy! What’s crazier to me is that the Nike was able to be environmentally friendly without sacrificing the innovative performance elements of these uniforms. The jerseys have been designed to keep players drier, cooler and more comfortable, allowing them to maintain an optimum body temperature and perform at their best on the pitch.

The replica jerseys will also be made from recycled plastic bottles, so us fans can wear the same PET jerseys are our favorite players. Sweet! I think I’m gonna go buy myself a USA jersey!

Eco-friendly eye candy 😉

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Happy World Oceans Day!

This international observance was first proposed on June 8th 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, but was not formally adopted by the United Nations until December 2008. Last year’s inaugural theme was “Our Oceans, Our Responsibility”, which emphasized the duty to protect and manage the marine environment and its resources. This year’s theme is “Our Oceans: Opportunities and Challenges”. In his message for World Oceans Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states:

If we are to safeguard the capacity of the oceans to service society’s many and varied needs, we need to do much more. On this second annual commemoration of World Oceans Day, I urge Governments and citizens everywhere to acknowledge the enormous value of the world’s oceans – and do their part in ensuring their health and vitality.

The ocean provides us with so much, and more. It generates most of the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate, offers us lot of diferent medicines, etc. etc. But the ocean ecosystems are under tremendous stress from multiple challenges, including exposure to land and marine based pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, unsustainable harvests and the introduction of exotic invasive species. About 270 million people are affected annually and some 124,000 killed worldwide every year by natural disasters including floods and droughts. But within these tragedies there lies opportunity. Billions of dollars and thousands of lives can be saved if we address these problems through improved governance! It’s extremely important for both individual citizens and governments to protect our oceans.

And for the icing on the cake, this year’s World Ocean Day celebrations are tinged with worry about the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is just another example of how human activity can imperil the waters that both humans and animals live and feed off. Scientists and environmentalists fear the spill could affect the marine food chain for years, if not decades. And I’ve also heard that the Gulf is headed for a tough hurricane season. Which means that the damaging winds and large waves could push oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands, coating miles of debris-littered coastline with a sticky, oily mess. And in the long term, areas including NOLA could be more vulnerable to bad storms for many years to come.

What a mess we caused ourselves. I hope we realize the impact of our actions, both negative and positive, can have on the oceans and the environment.

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Global warming is a very serious issue. I obviously believe it is imperative for us individuals to do our part to be green, but I do think it’s just as, if not MORE important to solve climate problems on a much larger scale. This is a hot topic in not only Washington but also among scientific research groups as well. I just learned this week that Bill Gates has donated $4.5 million to fund research into planet cooling strategies. And $300,000 went to The Silver Lining Project, a non-profit research collaboration based in San Francisco that is studying geoengineering, specifically “cloud whitening” technology.

According to Wikipedia, geoengineering is usually taken to mean proposals to deliberately manipulate the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions. One example is to plant vast plantations of fake trees that would be bio-engineered to grow at a fast pace and suck carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow. Another is what The Silver Lining Project is studying, known as “cloud whitening”.

Basically, a fleet of ships equipped with screens and vacuums would pump up millions of gallons of ocean water and using high powered water canons, spray the water 3,000 feet into the air, where clouds are formed. The added moisture content would increase the thickness of the water vapor and make the clouds whiter and thus more reflective. The whiter clouds would reflect more sunlight back into space and thereby reduce global warming.

This experiment actually seems simple enough in the sense that not a lot of resources are needed and can actually be semi-easily deployable, but there definitely are groups of people who are adamantly opposed to it. There is even a group called HOME (Hands Off Mother Earth) that is trying to stop these kinds of experiments until international laws on geoengineering are clarified.

I’m not sure how I feel about geoengineering – it’s such a new (and maybe a bit crazy?) concept to me. But I do think it’s interesting and I’m happy to hear that people are trying to think of creative solutions to reduce global warming. But I also worry about what could happen – we just really don’t know how weather patterns and biodiversity would be affected. And would this be a short term fix, or could there actually be a long-term benefit? There are a lot of unknowns, but I do think it’s worth researching. If you have any thoughts on this topic I’d love to hear what you have to say!

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Check out this eye opening video. Every second of this 18 minute clip is worth watching. Coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson discusses how the ocean is overfished, overheated, and polluted, and how it will only get worse. Thanks Mike for sending this over to me!

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