Environmental News Roundup! 6/19/14

Industry Finds Plastic Bag Ban Loophole

Ralph’s, an LA grocery chain, is now offering plastic bags for 15 cents, despite the plastic bag ban. The law states that a reusable bag is defined as “a bag with handles that has a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, can carry 22 pounds over a distance of at least 175 feet and is a minimum of at least 2.25 mils thick.” The plastic bags sold by Ralph’s meet the criteria, but are they going to be reused? Probably not. This is obviously not what the bag ban initiators had in mind, and they are encouraging those seeking out bag bans in other cities to raise the required thickness to 3 mils, or to redefine reusable bag in order to close this dangerous loophole.

Many BPA-Free Plastic Water Bottles Only BPA-Free Before Heat/Sun Exposure Study Finds

“Between 2010 and 2013, scientists from CertiChem, a private lab in Austin, tested 50 reusable BPA-free plastic containers. In most cases, they used a line of human breast cancer cells that multiplies in the presence of estrogen, as well as substances like BPA that mimic the female hormone. The researchers found that some products leached hormone-altering chemicals even before being exposed to conditions, such as heat from a dishwasher or microwave, that are known to unlock potentially toxic chemicals inside plastic. And most containers did so under some circumstances. After exposure to the type of ultraviolet rays that are found in sunlight (UVA) and used to sterilize baby bottles (UVC), more than three-quarters of the containers tested released synthetic estrogens.” A chart linked in the title shows the results for a sampling of products before and after UV exposure.

GMO Companies Dousing Hawaiian Island With Toxic Pesticides

“For the better part of two decades, BASF Plant Science, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, and Syngenta have been drenching their test crops near the small town of Waimea on the southwest coast of Kauai with some of the most dangerous synthetic pesticides in use in agriculture today, at an intensity that far surpasses the norm at most other American farms, an analysis of government pesticide databases shows.” This has caused community backlash despite aggressive pushback from the industry. Only time will tell if Kauai natives can triumph over big-agra, or if democracy is no longer enough to maintain the health, freedom, and safety of American citizens.

How Scare Tactics on GMO Foods Hurt Everybody

This article discusses how anti-GMO protesters have created a cloud of fear around the word despite little scientific evidence to prove that GMO plants cause harm to us. The author compares this fight, mainly on the Democratic side, to that of climate-change deniers on the Republican side. The author claims that simply labeling products as containing GMO’s is not informing the public properly. She instead insists that all foods and drugs should be labeled in more detail about how the crops were grown and what is actually in the food.

A Quarter of India’s Land Turning Into Desert

“India occupies just 2 per cent of the world’s territory but is home to 17 per cent of its population, leading to over-use of land and excessive grazing. Along with changing rainfall patterns, these are the main causes of desertification.” Similar desert growth issues are happening in China. Without major changes, the Chinese and Indian dust bowls will continue and worsen.

Environmental News Roundup–World Oceans Day Edition

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” —Jacques Cousteau

This past week we celebrated World Oceans Day (June 8th) and here is a selection of articles related to ways we can save our oceans and its inhabitants, as well as ourselves.

We have the power to protect our oceans.

Officially recognized by the United Nations in late 2008, each year an increasing number of countries and organizations mark World Oceans Day on June 8th. Last year, approximately 600 events were held in 70 countries, and we aim to double the number of events in 2014 by encouraging aquariums, zoos, museums, youth groups, conservation organizations, universities, schools, state and federal agencies, sailors, surf clubs, civic organizations, bloggers, and businesses to participate in different ways. World Oceans Day also provides opportunities to build synergies with media and decision-makers, which helps bring more positive attention to the ocean every year.

The Most Polluted Oceans and Seas on Earth.

According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), more than 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based activities that cause oil spills, fertilizers and toxic chemical runoff and the discharge of untreated sewage.

Administration Agrees to Stronger Language Regarding Salmon and Steelhead

A coalition of advocates for alternatives to pesticides, conservation organizations, and fishing groups have reached a significant agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agreement restores reasonable no-spray buffer zones to protect salmon and steelhead from five broad-spectrum insect killers – diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl.

UN Calls for Eco-Awareness For World Oceans Day

Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova said: “At a time of rising threats, ‘business as usual’ is no longer acceptable — we must change how we understand, manage and use ocean resources and coastal areas. For this, we need to know more about the ocean and draw on stronger science to craft sustainable, ecosystem-based policies for the ocean and coasts.”

Celebrate Graduation and Father’s Day with anything other than balloon releases!

Eastern Shore: No matter how tightly balloons are tethered, they often manage to get away and because of the way the wind blows, they end up in the water or on the beach.

Environmental News Roundup! 5/29/14

Obama is planning his biggest climate policy yet — and he doesn’t need Congress

On Monday, June 2, President Obama will announce his most sweeping policy yet to address global warming — a new rule to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants across the United States. Obama will be using the EPA to circumvent Congress in this matter- a relief for environmentalists who have not been able to sway Congress to go against their financial backers in the coal and oil industries. The EPA will propose a rule to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from the nation’s existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. The New York Times reports that the rule could require coal plants to cut their emissions as much as 20 percent. The EPA has a fair bit of leeway in designing this rule, and the precise details will matter a lot. A strict rule that cuts power-plant pollution sharply could help the Obama administration achieve its goal of cutting overall US greenhouse-gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Every country will be watching America, as this decision will set the stage for reform across the globe, especially in China.

Solar Panels Now Being Offered as a Prebuilt Feature in California

High upfront costs have been one of the great deterrents to more rapid adoption of energy-efficiency products, from hybrid cars to solar installations. Homeowners seeking to add solar, until recently, had to kick in up to $30,000 upfront, clear space on the roof, and hire contractors to build the system and connect it to the grid. But the climate is changing. California’s Million Roof solar initiative is providing incentives and encouragement. Companies like Solar City offer leases, which allow people essentially to put solar panels on their roofs without splashing out the cash to purchase the system. And now in a few areas solar systems are starting to come as a prebuilt feature—not an option.

Arctic ice melt to release 1 trillion pieces of plastic into sea

Researchers based at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire published last week in the scientific journal Earth’s Future, that they found the unusual concentrations of plastics by chance while studying sediments trapped in ice cores. Scientists said in the report that they found 38-234 plastic particles per cubic meter of ice in some parts of the Artic areas they studied. In the next decade the scientists predict that at least 2,000 trillion cubic meters of Arctic ice will melt. If that ice contains the lowest concentrations of microplastics reported in the study, this could result in the release of more than 1 trillion pieces of plastic, the report said.

Americans care deeply about ‘global warming’ – but not ‘climate change’

New research released on Tuesday found Americans care more deeply when the term “global warming” is used to describe the major environmental challenge. “Climate change”, in contrast, leaves them relatively cold. The two terms are often used interchangeably but they generate very different responses, the researchers from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communications said. “Those two terms get heard and interpreted in very different ways,” Anthony Leiserowitz, a research scientist at Yale and one of the lead authors, told The Guardian. “The choice of these two terms really does matter, depending on who you are talking to.”

Why Do These Tank Cars Carrying Oil Keep Blowing Up?

While the recent surge in domestic oil production has raised concerns about fracking, less attention has been paid to the billions of gallons of petroleum crisscrossing the country in “virtual pipelines” running through neighbor­hoods and alongside waterways. Most of this oil is being shipped in what’s been called “the Ford Pinto of rail cars”—a tank car whose safety flaws have been known for more than two decades.

Environmental News Roundup!

Method, A Producer Of Green Soaps, Creates Plastic Resin From Ocean Plastics

New packaging from Method uses recovered ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic to make containers for hand soap you can buy at your local Wholefoods and Target. The combination of plastics results in a uniquely gray resin. It might not be beautiful, but imagine if all plastic makers were to start mining and using ocean plastic as their core resin. Right now, the plastic collection is done through volunteer cleanup efforts in Hawaii, but if Method can compete in the US market and get the attention of large plastic producers like Coke and Johnson & Johnson, plastic mining and ocean plastic collection could be the resin of the future, cleaning our oceans and saving millions of gallons of oil at the same time.

‘Third Plate’ Reimagines Farm-To-Table Eating To Nourish The Land

Author Dan Barber discusses the wastefulness of American food culture, suggesting that we rotate the most desirable and valuable foods, like tomatoes, with more humble offerings like buckwheat or barley or mustard greens — which are often overlooked when it comes to dining. Rotating crops and growing certain crops together in the same field for healthier growth has fallen out of practice. He also laments the American-born tradition of large meat portions, as meat takes a heaping amount of energy to produce and is bad for health when eaten in large quantities. In most countries, meat is used in small quantities as a flavoring rather than a main attraction. He adds that chefs are in a unique position to change food culture by pairing foods together that grow well together in a field (eg; beans and tomatoes), changing food culture for the better.

Have You Heard About Baltimore’s Solar Powered Trash Collecting Water Wheel?

“A study published on Sunday in Nature Climate Change gave us the news that climate change is bringing about a higher proportion of female sea turtles to males, thanks to a seemingly idiotic genetic quirk called temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), also found in a few other species. Essentially TSD gives the turtles a baseline temperature of 84.2 degrees, at which there are 50/50 odds of being male or female. Beyond a certain threshold of heat, too few males will exist to sustain the population.”

Environmental News Roundup!

One use for 150,000 plastic bottles: Build your own personal island

Richart Sowa,a former carpenter, assembled a mass of recycled junk over almost seven years to make his own personal island near Cancun. Sowa gathered bags of more than 150,000 plastic bottles and fastened them to old wooden pallets before flipping them over in the water. He then put sand and dirt on top, which somehow manages to sustain trees and other plant life on the 82-foot island. I guess I have my retirement plan now.

Millions To March Against Monsanto On May 24

On May 24, millions of activists from around the world will once again March Against Monsanto, calling for the permanent boycott of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other harmful agro-chemicals. Currently, marches will occur on six continents, in 52 countries,with events in over 400 cities. In the US, solidarity marches are slated to occur in 47 states. A comprehensive list of marches can be accessed at www.march-against-monsanto.com.

Environmentalists Sue US Government To Get Bees Listed As Endangered Animals

“The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.”- UN report. With the massive drop in bee populations, our food supply is in jeopardy. If Any living creature had to be protected, bees should be #1.

“Last year the Xerces Society petitioned the Interior Department to list the bee as endangered but received no response. So the society sued the Interior Department along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Right now, there aren’t any bees listed as endangered, though several bees native to Hawaii are under consideration, despite the fact that bee populations have suffered dramatic losses.”

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy

“On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.”

10 Feet of Global Sea Level Rise Is Now Guaranteed

At least 10 feet of sea level rise is now guaranteed worldwide. An ice sheet two miles thick has collapsed in West Antarctica—glaciologists have been dreading this moment for decades, though in recent years, it was more of a question of when than if—and there is nothing that can stop it from melting now.

LOCAL Environmental News Roundup!

Hi guys! Erin here this week wishing our intern, Anthony, good luck on his exams. I’ll be doing the roundup this week, focusing on local news.

Bike To Work Day

On Friday May 16, 2014 Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association invite you to join over 10,000 area commuters for a celebration of bicycling as a clean, fun, and healthy way to get to work. Attend one of 79 pit stops throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to receive refreshments, and be entered into a raffle for  bicycles being given away. Free T-shirts available at pit stops to the first 14,000 who register and attend. You can even sign up on the website to join a commuter convoy led by an experienced bicyclist. Wear a helmet and stay safe!

Sixth Graders in Charlottesville, Virginia Step Up To Urge Dominion Virginia Power Toward Renewables, No More Nuclear

Students in Charlottesville were inspired to testify for more renewable power in Virginia after reading a book and seeing a TED talk about a young boy in southeast Africa who cobbled together materials and skills under adverse conditions to construct a wind turbine that could supply electricity to his village. They practiced testifying with one of their teachers and were prepared to speak at a recent public hearing, although none of the judges agreed to hear their testimony and a staffer tried to whittle down their numbers from ten, to two. The most common theme of their intended testimony: Dominion should not build a third reactor at its North Anna nuclear power plant as the utility is contemplating. Instead, it should deploy available funds to increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources, led by offshore wind, solar and biomass. It is true that sixth graders don’t typically have a good understanding of the more technical details of supplying power to millions of people, but it is important to observe those who would take a stand and get involved at such a young age.

American Wind Energy Association to highlight Virginia potential at June conference

Virginia currently has only a handful of small wind turbines statewide, putting us far behind neighboring states like Maryland and West Virginia. But AWEA’s Larry Flowers, who leads the team organizing the event, says his trade association sees great potential in the Commonwealth.

 

Washington, DC Green Festival celebrates its 10th year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center May 31 – June 1, 2014!

At Green Festival®, there is something for everyone interested in living a more sustainable and healthier life. Experience the widest selection of products and services to work green, play green and live green – from food, fashion and health, to energy, construction and design. Enjoy vegan and vegetarian cooking demos, educational activities for kids and families, panels featuring inspirational speakers, and live music and entertainment. Shop in our unique marketplace of more than 300 eco-friendly businesses – everything from all-natural body care products and organic clothing to Fair Trade gifts, beautiful home renovations made from renewable resources, plus vegan and vegetarian offerings based on organic, non-GMO or local, artisanal foods.

Grant Funds Available for New Beekeepers in Virginia

With the advance of colony collapse disorder, other diseases and pest challenges like mites, life has been difficult for honey bees in America—and for the beekeepers trying to raise them. But assistance for establishing new hives in Virginia is available through the state’s Beehive Grant Fund. Any individual who purchases a new hive or purchases materials or supplies to construct a new hive can apply for a grant from the fund. Each grant will be in the amount of actual expenses incurred for the purchase of items to establish a new hive, up to $200 per hive, not to exceed $2,400 per individual per year.

Environmental News Roundup!

Human litter found in Europe’s deepest ocean depths

A seabed survey has revealed the depth of the marine litter problem by mapping waste in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. Plastic bags, bottles, fishing nets, and other human litter have been found in the deepest parts of Europe’s oceans. Scientists used video and trawl surveys to take nearly 600 samples from 32 sites, from depths of 35 meters to 4.5 kilometers. Trash was found in every Mediterranean site surveyed, and all the way from the continental shelf of Europe to the mid-Atlantic ridge, around 2,000km from land.

Derailed US train bursts into flames in Lynchburg

A freight train carrying crude oil has derailed and burst into flames in Lynchburg, Virginia. Three or four tanker cars carrying crude oil were breached, and over a dozen tanker cars were involved in the collision. Oil has been spilling into the James River since the accident. About 300 people have been evacuated from nearby buildings close to the city center. The environmental effects of the crude oil leaking into the James River have yet to be known.

Chicago Approves Ban On Plastic Shopping Bags

Chicago has become the latest U.S. city to approve a ban on plastic grocery bags. The City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of a partial plastic bag ban in Chicago. The new ordinance will first go into effect in August 2015, when retailers occupying stores that are more than 10,000 square foot will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags. The ban will be extended to smaller chain stores and franchises in August 2016. Fines run between $300 and $500 each time the ordinance is violated. An estimated 3.7 million plastic bags are used in Chicago daily and between 3 and 5 percent of them become litter.

Texas jury awards $3M to family for illnesses related to fracking

A Texas jury has awarded nearly $3 million to a family for illnesses they suffered from exposure to contaminated groundwater, solid toxic waste, and airborne chemicals generated by natural gas fracking operations surrounding their 40-acre ranch. The verdict is seen as a landmark decision for opponents of hydraulic fracturing – a process in which high-pressure fluid is injected into the ground to fracture shale rock and release natural gas. Up to 600 chemicals are used in fracking fluid, and they include known human carcinogens. Only 30 to 50 percent of those fluids are recovered, with the rest of the nonbiodegradable chemicals left in the ground.

April Becomes 1st Month With CO2 Levels Above 400 PPM

Every day in April 2014 has been over 400 ppm of carbon dioxide concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere. Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide were around 280 ppm. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high consistently was anywhere from 800,000 to 15 million years ago. Carbon dioxide concentrations will most likely stay above 400 ppm through May and possibly June, dipping down below this level again in July. The 400 ppm mark will very likely be reached earlier next year, possibly in February.

All about Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated around the world each year on April 22! Although caring for the planet and being sustainable are year-round practices, Earth Day is important to spread environmental awareness.

The idea for Earth Day started in 1970 after Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator at the time, witnessed the disastrous effects of the oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He wanted to infuse the energy of the student anti-war movement at the time with a growing awareness about air and water pollution. Nelson wanted to force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Environmental awareness was not something very common in politics before Earth Day. The sulfurous smell of factories in a city was considered the smell of economic success. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans all over took to the streets to show support for a healthy environment. Politicians from both sides of the spectrum took part in this new movement and created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This led to the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Act.

The past few decades, Earth Day has gone global with over 192 countries taking part to show support for the environment. Earth Day’s India program is engaging people to build and enhance the region’s civic mobilization in the environmental movement. The Asian elephant, once prevalent throughout many areas of India, is now listed as an endangered species. To reverse the Asian elephant population decline, Earth Day India has launched a campaign to protect and preserve the species from poaching. As a part of Earth Day, mass tree-planting campaigns have taken place in Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, and Uganda. Over 413,000 new trees were planted in these countries as a part of these efforts.

There are lots of things you can do on your own to celebrate Earth Day! You can organize a neighborhood clean-up. You can walk, bike, or take the bus for one day. You can plant a garden in your backyard with your family. You can also help plant a tree in your community!

Even though Earth Day has been going on for a while, we should continue to care about the day and what it represents. There has been a growing sense of apathy and even skepticism towards the green movement. No matter what you believe or what your political viewpoints are, everybody should get behind making the Earth a less-polluted, more sustainable place to live. Earth Day is a very important reminder every year that we only have this one place to call home, and we should keep it livable for our children.

Environmental News Roundup!

Plane Search Shows World’s Oceans Are Full of Trash

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has been hampered by the huge amount of garbage that is floating in the ocean. Before major news outlets began covering every aspect of the search, ocean garbage patches never made global headlines. People searching for the missing plane were bewildered to see hundreds of objects off the Australian coast that turned out to be cargo container parts, plastic shopping bags, or discarded fishing equipment. About 90 percent of the debris in ocean garbage patches is plastic. All of this plastic has a disastrous effect on marine animals. Sea turtles and California gray whales are big unintentional consumers of plastic. This can lead to starvation or malnutrition when plastic builds up in the animal’s stomach causing the animal to feel full.

Wind Power Has Cut U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions by 4.4 Percent: Report

The rise of wind power in the United States is putting a big dent in carbon emissions. Wind generation avoided 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, which is equivalent to taking 16.9 million cars off the road. That equates to a 4.4 percent cut to power sector emissions. It was also found that the expansion of wind energy has helped reduce water consumption by 36.5 billion gallons, or about 116 gallons of water per U.S. resident. Elizabeth Salerno, American Wind Energy Association’s vice president for industry data and analysis said, “Every time a megawatt of wind power is generated, something else is not generated.” Two big factors could help boost the continued growth of wind power: the extension of the production tax credit, which gives a financial incentive for wind development, and possible changes to the EPA’s emission standards for existing power facilities.

Gulf Oil Spill “Not Over”: Dolphins, Turtles Dying in Record Numbers

Even four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover. Bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers, and the evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the BP oil spill. Ongoing research shows that dolphins swimming in oiled areas are underweight, anemic, and showing signs of liver and lung diseases. Over 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. Sea turtles are also being hit hard as a result of the oil spill. About 500 dead sea turtles have been found in the spill area every year since 2011. The full extent of the repercussions from the 2010 oil spill are still yet to be known.

New climate pragmatism framework prioritizes energy access to drive innovation and development

A new report  from climate and energy scientists has shown that expanding access to reliable energy offers better route to address global challenges. “Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people. They key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean and reliable power.” The report is the first of the Climate Pragmatism project, led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes in partnership with The Breakthrough Institute. Given the pivotal relationship between abundant energy access and human development, climate change must be addressed within the context of poor nations gaining access to modern energy.

Climate change will ‘lead battles for food’, says head of World Bank

Head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim urged campaigners and scientists to work together to form a coherent plan in the fight against climate change. He predicts that battles over water and food will arise within the next five to 10 years as a result of warming climates. “Is there enough basic science research going into renewable energy? Not even close. Are there ways of taking discoveries made in universities and quickly moving them into industry? No. Are there ways of testing those innovations? Are there people thinking about scaling [up] those innovations?” Kim said that there were four areas where the bank could help in the fight against global warming: finding a price for carbon; removing fuel subsidies; investing in cleaner cities; and developing climate-smart agriculture.

Self Watering Plants From Plastic Bottles!

A friend of ours passed along this eco-friendly invention you can try at home- check it out!

1Remove the guess work out of watering your plants.  This easy self watering bottle lets you see when to add water to the reservoir and promotes even distribution of water for a happy plant.

Items you will need

• Empty plastic bottle

• 2-Fabric strips

• 3/16 inch drill bit and drill

• Knife or saw to cut the bottle in half

 • Soil 

• Plant (African Violets work great)

 

Instructions2.jpg

Cut the bottle into two parts leaving enough room on the top half for your plant and soil.  Roll down the edge of the bottom, if necessary, to support the top half.  (this is necessary when using a one-liter bottle so the top does not slip down into the bottom.) (You can also roll the top edge to protect the leaf stems)

 

3.jpgDrill a  large hole in the lid, insert the fabric strips and screw it back on your top. Make sure the fabric comes up near the top edge to promote even wicking of the water up into your soil.

 

 

4Soak the fabric in water and wet it before adding the dirt to ensure capillary action of the water up the fabric.  Leave enough fabric hanging below the screw cap to sit in your water reservoir.

5

 

 

 

Remember: there are many shapes and sizes of plastic bottles that can be used to make self-watering planters.

Have fun!