Artist submerges 24 portraits underwater to raise attention about our plastic waste

August 29, 2019 by  
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It’s common knowledge that our oceans are suffocating because of our addiction to plastics . But there are some eco-warriors, like Austrian artist Andreas Franke , who are determined to bring more visual attention to the burgeoning issue, all in the name of saving our planet. Franke has recently installed Plastic Ocean, a project that saw 24 portraits of various people being drowned in a sea of plastic, submerged into the depths of the actual sea off the coast of Key West. Although the world seems to be on board with reducing our plastic waste , the action to actually doing it is moving at a snail’s pace. To instigate change, Franke decided to create a series of portraits that depict various people being drowned by plastic objects. Related: Recycled plastic art installation asserts that water is a human right in D.C. Not only are the images provocative for their message about how our oceans are being converted into massive trash dumps, but the collection also features a series of generations. By using images of tiny babies, toddlers and adults, the message is clear: there is an urgency here that cannot be overlooked if we want to provide a safer world for the next generation. The underwater art exhibition was installed on the wreckage site of the USS Vandenberg off the coast of Key West, where divers from around the world were invited to check out the installation. The exhibition ran until late August. Now, the artworks are being prepared for a land-based exhibit (location to be announced). After four months at sea, the artwork is covered with a unique patina, which was left as-is to give visitors to the upcoming exhibition a small glimpse into the beauty of the ocean. Franke hopes this small detail, along with the installation’s overall message, will inspire people to do their part in helping the cause. + Andreas Franke + Plastic Ocean Gallery Via Matador Network Images via Plastic Ocean Gallery

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Artist submerges 24 portraits underwater to raise attention about our plastic waste

Babylegs the inexpensive, educational way to monitor ocean plastic pollution

August 14, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is a frequent topic around the planet, especially when referencing marine life and water pollution. Microplastics can’t be seen by the naked eye but are showing up in water tests nearly everywhere. Do you have plastic in your nearby waterway? If you want to find out, you can collect a sample for testing using Babylegs, a trawl for monitoring ocean plastic. Currently fully funded on Kickstarter, Babylegs was introduced by Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a self-proclaimed feminist and anti-colonial marine science laboratory. CLEAR is working on the project in conjunction with another organization called Public Lab, a community that develops open source tools in the hopes of motivating community involvement. Together, the groups aim to provide tools the public can use to help gather information about environmental quality issues. Related: New line of men’s swimwear is made from recycled ocean plastic Babylegs offers a simple design and is sourced from inexpensive and recycled materials. It’s a do-it-yourself kit that you put together before use. This isn’t the product of a company looking to make a profit. Babylegs is a tool that the company wants to provide to as many people as can use it, inexpensively and efficiently. With the easy-to-source materials, anyone can put together Babylegs, including classrooms of students. The basic supply list is baby leggings, a water bottle, sandpaper, a drill, scissors, rope, a plumber’s clamp and a screwdriver. With these few supplies, plus some in the kit and some provided by you (like the water bottle), you can make your Babylegs and head out to the closest body of water In addition to providing the Babylegs kits, the company has a goal to facilitate education regarding plastics in the water. The concept is that an increased number of people taking and evaluating samples will provide a larger database of water plastic information that everyone can rely on. Of course, making the Babylegs and collecting the water sample with a simple trawl behind a boat or from a boat, bridge or dock is the easy part. The science comes in through the evaluation of the data you collect, so the kit helps with that, too. According to the Kickstarter campaign, “The activity guides included with this kit are divided into sections on building the BabyLegs trawl, deploying BabyLegs in the water, processing the sample in a kitchen, school or laboratory, where plastics are sorted from organics and finally forensically analyzing the microplastics so you can learn about pollution in your waters.” The idea is solely focused on information and education, so there’s nothing fancy about the product. Instead, most of the components are from recycled materials and many are reusable at the end of the Babylegs lifecycle. Kits are shipped in fully recyclable packaging that is also reused when possible. + Babylegs Images via Public Lab and Max Liboiron / CLEAR Lab

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Giant totems in Poland warn against climate change catastrophe

July 18, 2019 by  
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In the heart of Pozna?, Poland, artist Alicja Bia?a and architect Iwo Borkowicz have installed Totemy , a series of giant sculptures designed to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Located beneath the MVRDV -design Baltyk building, the massive totems derive their bold patterns, vibrant colors and shapes from statistics on pressing environmental topics, from deforestation to air pollution to plastic production. Each sculpture features a QR code that passersby can scan to access a website explaining the meaning behind each sculpture. Measuring nearly 30 feet tall in height, each timber Totemy sculpture was constructed and painted by hand by Bia?a with help from local wood workers and community members. During the design process, Bia?a opened her workshop to the public for weekly open studios where the community could contribute their ideas to the project. Given the amount of community involvement, the sculpture location beneath the Baltyk building was fitting: the building, which was formerly a cinema , had long served as a place where people would gather to discuss political ideas. Related: Daniel Libeskind unveils climate change-inspired sculptures at Paleis Het Loo “The two designers aimed to use public space as a direct confrontation with facts and statistics, able to reach a wider public than would typically be afforded by museums, galleries and conventional art spaces,” the Totemy press release noted. “We wanted to address the public at large and at an everyday level,” Bia?a explained. “Passersby on the street and tram will catch out of the corner of their eye a flash of strong colors and be reminded of the current state of our world.” The popularity of the Totemy project in Poland has garnered interest in other cities and abroad. Bia?a and Borkowicz plan to take the concept to other countries to spur dialogue about climate change and environmental issues. + Totemy Images via Alicja Bia?a

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Study shows reusable menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads

July 18, 2019 by  
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Reusable menstrual cups have been around for decades, but they are just starting to pick up in popularity. Most people can’t shake their familiar comfort with tampons and pads, but a new study indicates that the cup is just as effective as the disposables and has no health risks. If you can get past the learning curve and “ick” factor, the menstrual cup is one of the easiest and most sustainable options for your period. Reusable cups are typically made from silicone or rubber and are inserted into the vagina. The cup stays put via suction against the vaginal walls. A finger must be inserted to break the suction, and then the user removes the cup, empties its contents, washes it and reinserts it. It can stay for up to 12 hours. The initial cost of cups might seem expensive, around $40 USD, but they last up to 10 years. Related: 5 eco-friendly menstrual products that also protect women’s health The study in The Lancet Public Health used data from more than 3,000 people around the world and proved that the cup is safe and effective. Not only are there no associated health risks, including vaginal infection or discharge, but the cups are light, compact and easy to travel with. Once you get past the initial sticker price, cups are one of the most affordable options and could be helpful for people in poor and rural communities. “People in non-profits assume that [the cups are] not suitable,” said Mandu Reid, founder of The Cup Effect , which trains people how to use cup. “That’s based on presumptions about these women’s preferences. That they wouldn’t like them because they have to be inserted or because they don’t want to touch their own menstrual blood.” There is certainly an “ick” factor to get past and some challenges in areas with limited access to clean water ; however, the study found that 73 percent of first-time users expressed a willingness to continue using it. + The Lancet Public Health Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Study shows reusable menstrual cups are safe and just as effective as tampons, pads

Poland Spring pledges 100% recycled bottles by 2022

June 5, 2019 by  
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This week, Nestlé Waters North America promised that its Poland Spring brand would start using 100 percent recycled bottles by 2022. The announcement is part of Nestlé’s larger pledge to increase recycled bottle use and has the potential to significantly boost the recycled plastic industry. According to the $247 billion corporation, 25 percent of all its water products will use the recycled bottles by 2021, and 50 percent will use recycled bottles by 2050. The Poland Spring brand has a huge market share in the U.S. and will amount to a significant amount of recycled bottles used annually. Related: New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year “We spent a lot of time designing these bottles to ensure that they move efficiently and effectively through the recycling value web. We want the bottle back,” said chief sustainability officer David Tulauskas. Tulauskas also noted that because of discrepancies in recycling programs and compliance in different cities across the country, the recycled bottle program has been difficult to streamline and roll out. Cities with stricter recycling policies actually make the process more complex, because the recycled plastic buyer must rely on consumers taking the proper measures to clean the plastic and place it in the proper recycling stream. The buying power of Poland Spring will boost the confidence and dependability of recycled plastic producers. Without secured buyers, these facilities do not have the motivation nor reliable cash flow to increase production. Poland Spring’s interest and investment in the industry has the potential to increase the amount of food-grade, high-quality PET plastic produced, which is the type of plastic needed for bottles. “They need confidence that we’re going to buy from them for the long term to make sure that it’s worthwhile for them to make the investment,” Tulauskas explained to CNN . Last year, Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles and only recycled 23 percent of them. That means that approximately $1 billion in recyclable plastic is wasted every year when it could be re-routed back to companies to quench the thirst for plastic next year. + Nestlé Via The Hill and CNN Image via Mike Mozart

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Poland Spring pledges 100% recycled bottles by 2022

New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year

May 21, 2019 by  
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A new report reveals the scale of the world’s plastic problem and the alarming amount of plastic that is burned. Despite the grave and well-documented consequences for human health, about 12 percent of all plastic in the U.S. is burned. In middle- and low-income countries without the infrastructure to recycle, plastic is burned at a much higher rate. According to the report , published by Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International, WasteAid and The Institute of Development Studies, a double-decker bus full of plastic is burned or dumped every single second. When calculated annually, that is equivalent to 70 million metric tons. Burning plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air that have been linked to heart disease, headache, nausea, rashes and damage to the kidney, liver and nervous system. In low- and middle-income countries without garbage facilities, the majority of trash is burned near homes — such as in the backyard — and poses direct threat to the inhabitants. In many cases, repeated exposure to the chemicals can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema. Related: Microplastic rain — new study reveals microplastics are in the air In wealthier countries, new incinerator technology claims to burn trash with fewer direct health concerns. The negative health impacts of plastic are not new; in fact, this month the United Nations voted to list plastic as a hazardous waste material . Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced, and nearly half of that is only used once . This number is enormous but hard for many people to truly understand. According to National Geographic , this will be equivalent to the weight of 35,000 Empire State Buildings by 2050. But do these abstract numbers really help us put our problem into perspective? The first step is understanding the world’s addiction to plastic, but then specific actions must be taken. The American Chemistry Council, which contested the report’s results, argues that governments and companies need to enforce stricter requirements for packaging. Last year, major plastic producers formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste , inclusive of Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corp. and Procter & Gamble. The Alliance promised to invest $1.5 billion into the effort to reduce plastic’s impact on the environment. Via HuffPost Image via Stacie DePonte

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Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during worlds deepest dive

May 15, 2019 by  
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This May, American Victor Vescovo broke the standing record of the world’s deepest solo dive, venturing 7 miles into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, where he discovered four potential new species as well as plastic waste and candy wrappers. Vescovo is a wealth equity investor with an interest in ocean exploration . He traveled in a high-tech submersible that can withstand enormous amounts of pressure from the 35,849-foot descent. In fact, the submarine is capable of withstanding the weight of “50 jumbo jets piled on top of a person,” according to the BBC . Related: Point Nemo, the most remote spot in the ocean, is plagued with plastic “It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did,” Vescovo told BBC. “This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving — rapidly and repeatedly — into the deepest, harshest area of the ocean.” The mission was to collect data and video footage of what is thought to be the deepest ocean trench in the world. During his expedition, Vescovo also may have found a new crustacean as well as three other new species , including a relative of the sea cucumber. Samples of the new species will also be tested to see if they contain microplastics . The discovery of plastic in the farthest reaches of the world is disappointing, but not surprising given the scale of the plastic waste problem. It is predicted that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Data collection expeditions to the ocean trenches also contribute to increasing evidence that these deep sea depressions can store higher amounts of carbon than the rest of the ocean and therefore may play an important role in mitigating climate change . Via BBC and  Technology Review Image via Jessie Sgouros

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Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably

May 2, 2019 by  
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More than ever, students are leading the charge in promoting sustainable living . Protesting is an effective method of getting the attention of lawmakers, but there are other things you can do to improve the environment outside of a picket line. From volunteering for a local clean-up effort to saying goodbye to single-use plastics, here is a quick guide on how students can incorporate sustainable living practices into their daily routine. Avoid Single-Use Plastics Going in and out of classes all day can make finding quality food difficult. Purchasing food on the go is a common way to deal with the everyday bustle of student life, but it usually results in large amounts of plastic waste . Related: How to teach children about climate change You can avoid contributing to the growing problem of plastic pollution by bringing your own food containers to class. That way, if you need to take the food with you then you have a reusable container on hand. Alternatively, you can also prepare your meals at home, which is better for the environment and your wallet. For shopping at the grocery store, you should consider investing in reusable bags. If you do not have room in your budget, you can always reuse old bags until they are no longer viable. Sustainable Dorm Supplies Purchasing eco-friendly products helps prevent harmful chemicals from entering our oceans and waterways. For the bathroom, look for toilet paper that is made from recycled materials and is bleach-free. You should also avoid body wash that contains microbeads, as they often pass through treatment plants unfiltered and end up in the water supply. When it comes to cleaners, look for natural products that do not feature harmful chemicals. These chemicals enter the waterways and can have devastating effects on marine wildlife . Volunteering If you cannot make it to a nearby protest, get in contact with a local environmental group and donate some of your time to their cause. There are plenty of green organizations throughout the country that will welcome you with open arms. Many of these organizations will work with students to promote sustainability in the education system and the experience is great to put on your resume. Many of these groups also organize large clean-up projects throughout the community. Not only does this have a positive effect on the environment , but it also enables you to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Some clean-up ideas include beach projects and waste removal along roadways. Recycling Recycling is one of the easiest ways you can contribute to a better environment. As a student, there are many things you can recycle throughout the school year. This includes most plastic items you encounter and all of your paper products. Your college should have at least one recycling bin on campus. If you cannot find one, contact the administration office and talk to them about installing one. Related: Go green in your bedroom with these sustainable decor picks Green Transportation Vehicle emissions are a growing problem in cities around the world. You can do your part in helping to curb air pollution by finding alternative ways to school. This includes getting involved in a ride-sharing program or taking your local bus to class. If you live on campus, consider using a bike to get around or walk when the weather is nice. Walking or biking is a great way to get in a quick workout and can help you save money in the long run. If you have to call an Uber or Lyft, consider selecting a vehicle that has low emissions . Paper Savings Computers may be taking over the world, but many college students still rely on paper for note-taking and homework assignments. Apart from recycling, make the most of your paper stock by writing on both sides when taking notes. You should also avoid making excess copies and always double check your work for errors before taking it to the printer. For best practices, consider using refillable binders instead of traditional notebooks. You should also be aware of excess paper use in other areas of your life. In the cafeteria, for instance, only take as many napkins as you need instead of large handfuls. Donating If you do not have a lot of time on your hands for volunteering or protesting, donating is a great way to participate in sustainable living. Local charities would love your monetary support, but there are other things you can donate as well. This includes giving away old clothes, furniture, computers, cell phones and even dishes. If you do have some extra cash to spare, keep track of every dollar you donate. When tax season comes around, you can deduct charitable donations, which will boost your tax return. While it does take some effort to practice sustainable living, doing so is critical if we want to preserve the environment for generations to come. Via  Eco Nation ,  Princeton Review Images via Shutterstock

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Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably

The Phox V2 water filter fights plastic pollution

April 25, 2019 by  
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While water filters solve problems by cutting plastic waste and removing nasties from our drinks, they add to environmental woes by sending 100 million cartridges to landfills every year. That’s enough to fill 50 jumbo jets, according to the makers of Phox V2, a new filtration system with a reusable cartridge. The world is ready for this solution to plastic pollution, judging from Phox’s Kickstarter campaign being fully funded in just 34 hours. The campaign, which ends Monday, April 29, rewards supporters with Phox jugs and bottles. Young Glasgow-based entrepreneurs Scott Dickson and Paul McTaggart founded Phox in 2016. After 18 months of design work, their trials have paid off with the Kickstarter win. “Getting this support has been brilliant — it’s a real highlight for us,” Dickson told the Scotsman . Related: Ovie’s ‘Smarterware’ smart food storage aims to help reduce food waste The Phox V2 is a glass pitcher that fits in the fridge door. The top is made from recycled, food-safe, BPA-free plastic and the bottom has a rubber, non-slip base. The Phox V2 comes in carbon black, seal gray, arctic white or marine blue. The filter — the only part that needs to be changed out — is made with coconut shells fired to a high temperature to produce extremely absorbent activated carbon. This removes bad taste, odor and at least 90 percent of chlorine, copper, lead and mercury. There are two choices of filters: one cleans and softens water, the other also adds minerals for an alkaline pH. Phox is conscientious about packaging and shipping, too. Manufacturing its products in England cuts air miles. “Seventy to 80 percent of the product is designed, manufactured, packaged and distributed within 50 miles of our Charing Cross base, so all of the money raised is going to go toward making sure we can manufacture the product here in the U.K.,” said Dickson. Other leading water filtration systems are produced in China. Phox eschews plastic packaging. The team has designed filter replacement packages to be thin enough to fit through an average letterbox, so they can use regular mail and avoid repeated delivery attempts. The first batch of Kickstarter-funded products are slated for August delivery. After that, Phox aims to supply brick-and-mortar retailers as well as pursuing online sales. + Phox Images via Phox

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The Phox V2 water filter fights plastic pollution

Researchers rush to link toxic chemical to health concerns

April 24, 2019 by  
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A new trend in research reflects a growing concern about the health impacts of a commonly used toxic chemical substance called PFAs (per- and polyfluoralkyl substances). The family of chemicals is pervasive in heat and water-resistant technologies– and is now found in soil, drinking water and even in human blood. “Essentially everyone has these compounds in our blood,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences told NPR . Related: Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine PFAs are valued for their resistant qualities and used in a variety of items, including food wrappers, umbrellas, tents, carpets and firefighting foams. PFAs are also used in important emerging and lifesaving technologies, including pacemakers, defibrillators, low-emission automobiles and solar panels . However, the same qualities that makes them attractive to manufacturers and consumers are also what wreaks havoc in the environment. Nicknamed the “forever chemical ” the substances have been found in lakes, rivers and drinking water reserves. Recent research also links the contaminant with serious health concerns. The first study to link PFAs to human health was conducted in 2005, when researchers discovered a connection between PFA emissions and health problems among communities in West Virginia and Ohio, such as kidney cancer and thyroid disease. Since then, there has been growing interest and funding among researchers to further explore this critical connection. Another study indicates that prevalence of PFA in the body may make people resistant to vaccines. No limits: unchecked chemical emissions The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for setting limitations on potential toxic chemical use and emissions, but rarely conducts studies on new chemicals until a public health concern has been raised. Currently, there is no U.S. law that prohibits the sale of a new chemicals or mandates preliminary research on health impacts.  Even after health problems have been noticed, studies require long-term analysis to prove linkages and are often too slow to prevent serious consequences. Although the science of exactly how the toxic chemicals impact human cells is not fully understood, it is clear there is a connection between their abundance in the environment and problematic health symptoms. As a result, some states have decided to develop limits for PFA prevalence in drinking water , opting to seriously consider the warnings from initial studies in order to protect current and future generations. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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