September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

September 15, 2020 by  
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Beach and coastline cleanups have been a focus of many caring citizens and environmental groups for decades. The most-publicized beach cleanup effort, Coastal Cleanup Day, is typically slotted for a day in September. This year, the event has expanded into an entire month with the goal of involving more people at every level and from every community — not just those near the beach. According to Surfrider Foundation , “International Coastal Cleanup Month (formerly International Coastal Cleanup Day) is one of the world’s largest annual preservation and protection events and volunteer efforts for our ocean, waves and beaches.” Register your own coastal cleanup — wherever that may be One conservation organization, Heal the Bay in Los Angeles County, serves as an example of this campaign by helping citizens coordinate their own cleanup efforts with a centralized registration system. As residents register events, other volunteers can join the effort to coordinate larger cleanup activities. Related: Atlantic has 10 times the microplastics previously thought The centralized information also allows organizers to track the amount and types of garbage removed. Knowing what has been collected is an effective way to identify the source of the pollution and provide data for policymakers. Save Our Shores recommends downloading the Clean Swell App to keep track of the items in your trash pile. “Data collection is an important part of Coastal Cleanup Day,” Save Our Shores explained. “The data that is collected about the types and quantities of debris picked up can be used for outreach, policy and advocacy, and more!” Further, the organization suggests that one member of the cleanup party be in charge of data collection to reduce the spread of germs. Safety tips for your beach cleanup To support community efforts, Heal the Bay provides tutorials and tips for safe and effective cleanups with information on how to dispose of collected trash and abide by LA County Public Health guidelines along with details regarding supplies and parking. Each region has varying needs, so participants can access specific information for their neighborhood. During this time of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the organization encourages social distancing during cleanups as well as the use of masks and gloves. Participants should only work with members of their own household and stay home if they feel ill. If you are in an area impacted by the ongoing wildfires, Heal the Bay advises you to also stay home to minimize your exposure to the smoke. Why is Coastal Cleanup Month important? The primary goal of Coastal Clean Up Month is to reduce the amount of debris that ends up in the waterways, including the ocean. Ocean pollution, particularly plastic from inland as well as boating activities, has become a massive environmental issue in recent years. The cycle is toxic. Animals are harmed by items like six-pack rings and plastic bags. Plastic in the waterways begins to break down into microplastics, which marine animals ingest. This comes full circle as seafood that may contain microplastics lands onto our dinner plates. In addition to waste removal, a secondary goal is to educate communities about the hazards of ocean pollution and share the importance of marine life and aquatic biodiversity. In addition, the event promotes more sustainable activities such as recycling and minimizing waste. Make a difference one small step at a time To support these educational efforts, Heal the Bay maintains five programs that, “allow citizens to explore and learn about the various issues facing the diverse regions that make up Los Angeles.” Volunteers can facilitate touch tank visits at the aquarium, participate in a beach cleanup , spread information through the outreach program, contribute to community science by collecting data or register middle and high school students as part of the youth program. The coordination in Los Angeles is just a sampling of similar events across the nation and around the world. In fact, Coastal Cleanup Month is a global movement that includes 6 million volunteers in 90 countries. Even though the efforts are widespread, coronavirus restrictions have resulted in several canceled events and made it difficult for organizers of various organizations to spotlight the effort this year. With that in mind, the push is for more of a grassroots coordination of many small groups rather than fewer large ones.  Related: How to volunteer during COVID-19 That means the entire month of September is prime time to get out and lead your own cleanup crew, whether that’s a party of one or up to 10 people within the same household. With 30 years behind this organized beach cleanup movement, organizers report disappointment in not being able to host large events. However, they say this is an opportunity for every citizen to tackle the garbage in their own area, whether that be the street, park, mountain, sides of the roadway or parking lot. Although that may feel a little off-point, the majority of the garbage that ends up in the ocean stems from further inland, so you can think of it as confronting the problem at the source. While it might seem that a neighborhood pickup isn’t enough, individual efforts make a huge impact. As an example, Heal the Bay provides inspiration in the fact that, “In 2019, the Ocean Conservancy reports that nearly 800,000 volunteers collectively removed more than 20 million pieces of trash from beaches and waterways around the world. That’s 20 million fewer potential impacts on whales, turtles and other beloved ocean wildlife.” So whether in groups of 1,000 or one, those same hands can make a difference for the health of our planet. + Heal the Bay + Surfrider Foundation + Save Our Shores Images via Adobe Stock

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September is Coastal Cleanup Month with a new look for 2020

Google becomes retroactively carbon-neutral

September 15, 2020 by  
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Google announced that it has now invested in enough high-quality carbon offsets to essentially erase its carbon footprint , compensating for all the carbon the company ever emitted. Google first became carbon-neutral in 2007. The goal is for all of Google’s offices and data centers to run on carbon-free energy by 2030. “We’ll do things like pairing wind and solar power sources together and increasing our use of battery storage,” said chief executive Sundar Pichai, according to BBC . “And we’re working on ways to apply AI [ artificial intelligence ] to optimize our electricity demand and forecasting.” Pichai’s plan could create 12,000 more jobs over the next five years. Related: Humans can’t count on rainforests to offset their carbon “Today’s announcement, combined with Google’s promise in May to no longer create artificial intelligence solutions for upstream oil and gas exploration, shows that Google takes its role in combating climate change seriously,” said Elizabeth Jardim, senior corporate campaigner for Greenpeace USA. This is all good news. However, the idea of offsetting all the company’s past use of carbon may not hold up when you take a closer look. Google’s offsets have so far focused on capturing natural gas that escapes from landfills and pig farms. As BBC points out, isn’t this something governments should be enforcing already? Planting trees to capture carbon dioxide, a popular offset strategy, also has its problems, such as ensuring that those trees never burn down or are felled. Google’s fellow tech giants have also announced plans to reduce or eliminate their carbon use. Microsoft plans to be carbon-negative by 2030. Amazon said it will be carbon-neutral by 2040, and Apple plans to have an entirely carbon-neutral business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030. And where the giants lead, smaller companies are apt to follow. Via BBC Image via Pawe? Czerwi?ski

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Google becomes retroactively carbon-neutral

The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

September 13, 2019 by  
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With fall around the corner, the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) has already taken over Starbucks menus across the country, and it’s likely that the crisp mornings will send you straight for the drive-thru. But before you prove your loyalty to the iconic, autumnal beverage, consider the effects your morning brew might have on the environment and your health, from the ingredients to the drive-thru to the disposable cups. The ingredients can be bad for the Earth and our health The recipe varies from one place to another, but it’s worth asking the question, “What is in that pumpkin spice latte, anyway?” Most contain a combination of traditional fall spices, steamed milk, espresso, often sugar and sometimes some pumpkin puree, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. While that might sound wholesome, researchers have found things like sulfites, potassium sorbate and annatto, which have been linked to breathing conditions, damage to genetic material and effects on blood pressure. Even when Starbucks announced its intention to switch to real pumpkin instead of a mixture of artificial flavors, other ingredients might also be problematic, such as commercially produced milk and non-organic pumpkin that contributes antibiotics, pesticides , insecticides and herbicides to our diets and ecosystems. Organic is a better option, and some groups have pressured Starbucks to make the change to no avail. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead You should also know the concoction is barely even coffee, with a very low amount of caffeine. While it’s difficult to know exactly what’s mixed into your cup, before you indulge, do your own research about what you’re ordering. Note that a 16-ounce cup, or “grande,” with 2 percent milk and whipped cream serves up 380 calories , 14 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbs and 50 grams of sugar. PSL impacts our planet in many ways Cultivating the ingredients for your cup of seasonal Joe is rough on the planet. Consider the impact to the Amazon alone, where 2.5 million acres have been cleared in favor of coffee plantations over the past few decades. Sure, your single PSL isn’t to blame, but the cultural and habitual elements of the daily coffee run are; not to mention the whipped cream topping and the ever-growing awareness of the effect cattle has on the planet. Animal agriculture is one of our planet’s largest contributors to air quality issues, making that frothy topping and milky foundation anything but a treat. Then, there is the fact that coffee is a water-intensive crop, with Mother Nature Network reporting that it takes about 37 gallons of water to grow and process the coffee beans to make one cup of coffee . Take into account the process of making a cup of PSL and washing dishes afterward, too. Humans are responsible for polluting our waterways , which comes as no surprise after many years of headlines regarding landfills, lawn fertilizer runoff and microbeads. What you might not realize is something as simple as a cup of PSL can result in water pollution. While it might not be as toxic as Roundup , a group called Sound Citizen has monitored the waterways around the Pacific Northwest for the past decade and reported finding higher amounts of cinnamon and pumpkin spice throughout the fall season. PSLs leave a trail of waste Following the damage that the ingredients of the PSL have on the planet is the waste left behind. To perform at the level we expect, manufacturers coat the disposable paper cups in plastic, for which the planet does not thank us. Even when the paper manages to break down naturally, the residual plastic is left to sit in the soil and eventually the waterways. Add to that the plastic lids and straws (unless of course, you have your own ), and you’ve contributed plentiful carbon emissions and landfill waste in a single sip. The larger point to this is that everything we produce and consume has an effect on the water and earth, from the pumpkin and coffee remnants tossed at the cafe to the garbage full of drippy, plastic-lined cups to the waste we release in our urine. How to enjoy an eco-friendly PSL You might not be able to pass up the PSL 100 percent of the time, and we’re not saying you should, but awareness is a huge part of the battle. There are several things you can do to lessen the burden on the planet. Firstly, bring your own refillable cup and skip the single-use option. At the very least, avoid the lid and straw. Secondly, skip the whipped cream and opt for soy or almond milk options. Finally, avoid idling in the drive-thru. Organize coffee stop carpools at the office, walk to your morning spot or at least turn off the engine while you wait. Related: The homesteader’s guide to a perfect pumpkin spice latte Another alternative option is to make your own PSL at home. Enjoy the warmth and endearing scent emanating from your mug with ingredients sourced locally. Plus, using your own recipe means you know what went into it, like organic milk and pumpkin. If you’re not sold on making your own concoction, seek out local coffee shops that offer organic and natural ingredients. Cheers! Via Care2 , Society 19 , Earth Day , Independent , Mother Nature Network and Atlas Obscura Images via Pexels , Mimzy , Robert Couse-Baker , Daniel Spils and Jill Wellington

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The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

New subway-style map shows how US rivers connect cities and national parks

July 26, 2017 by  
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When we think of transportation in the United States, we don’t always think of rivers . But according to designer Theo Rindos , the country’s waterways once were and still worthy of travel. He designed a subway-style map of America’s major rivers inspired by Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground Tube Map . The new map reveals how rivers connect cities and national parks in the country. Rindos, a Yonkers-based illustrator, grew up in Montana near the Yellowstone River , where he spent his childhood rafting, tubing, and fly fishing. He translated his love for the water into a crisp subway map, Major Rivers of the United States, featuring the country’s major rivers like the Mississippi River , the Rio Grande, and, of course, the Yellowstone River. Related: Sierra Club Draws a Subway Map of America’s National Parks Data from the United States Geological Survey , Wikipedia, and Google Maps helped Rindos draw up the map, with the the iconic 1930’s map influencing his design . Rindos told CityLab, “London is a very old city and the streets are not laid out in a grid, but Harry found a way to transform something chaotic into something clean, readable, and beautiful. I wanted to take something completely natural and structure it as a transit system, because technically these rivers once were and still are a form of transportation.” He prioritized rivers key today in shipping and transportation, although left some, like the Potomac River, off the map for aesthetic purposes. The ends of each line generally indicate river sources. Stops on the map are towns and cities along the waterways. Smaller rivers, like the Pecos River or the Sacramento River, are drawn on as bus routes. Rindos also divided the country up into 18 Watershed Hydraulic Unit Code zones, like New England or the Great Lakes. Rindos’ subway map is available for purchase online here . + Theo Rindos Via CityLab Images © Theo Rindos

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New subway-style map shows how US rivers connect cities and national parks

Environmentalists question ‘worrisome’ NYC plan to pour chlorine in sewers

May 3, 2017 by  
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Every year around 20 billion gallons of untreated sewage streams into the waterways of New York City during overwhelming rainfalls. Attempting to stave off health risks, the city has a plan: pour chlorine into sewer pipes. But environmental advocates say the technique is shortsighted and worrisome. The city has attempted a few fixes to the issue, such as new retention tanks and greenery planted to reduce runoff. Now they want to disinfect wastewater inside pipes with chlorine; those pipes lead to three bodies of water in the Bronx and Queens . Riverkeeper staff lawyer Sean Dixon told The New York Times, “They’re using the most worrisome and unproven technique that we have in our toolbox. It’s like they’re grabbing the last straw and using the cheapest and least effective method.” Related: Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage Dixon said chlorine sometimes doesn’t even disinfect sewage completely, and doesn’t treat certain toxins. Further, residual chlorine can harm marine life . Chlorination is commonly utilized in wastewater treatment plans, not pipes that run into waterways. New York City Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Ted Timbers said chlorine is “the most widely used disinfectant for water and wastewater treatment in the U.S.” He said the plan had been talked about in meetings with the public, and that chlorination would occur from May to October. Queens College hydrologist Timothy Eaton said chlorine can be effective in controlled settings, but with unpredictable changes in sewage flow, residual chlorine could be left behind and the exact dosage would be tricky to get right. He told The New York Times, “It’s very difficult to predict the amount of water you’re going to get at any period of time. If you overdose it, you’re basically treating Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay like swimming pools .” Via The New York Times Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Environmentalists question ‘worrisome’ NYC plan to pour chlorine in sewers

Tesla executives start mysterious new recycling company

May 3, 2017 by  
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You’d think with battery production commencing at the new Gigafactory and Tesla being the most valuable car company in America, the company’s executives would have their hands full. But it appears Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Straubel and head of special products Andrew Stevenson have quietly filed documents for a new company aiming to “unlock the value of your materials.” CB Insights found a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing , with Straubel and Stevenson listed as executives on a new company called Redwood Materials . They already have a $2 million investment from an undisclosed investor. Their office is in Redwood City, California, fairly close to Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto. Related: Tesla just announced plans to build up to five Gigafactories Could Tesla be behind the company? According to its scant website, Redwood Materials offers “advanced technology and process development for materials recycling , remanufacturing, and reuse” – and that’s about all we know. A Tesla spokesperson didn’t answer The Verge’s request for clarification. But the publication said it’s quite possible Tesla isn’t involved with Redwood Materials at all. In the past Straubel has invested in companies that aren’t connected to Tesla, like a 2016 investment in energy storage company Axiom Energy. He’s also mentioned an interest in mineral recycling. Last year he said Tesla would recycle electric vehicle batteries and reuse those materials. In a recent March 2017 keynote address, Stevenson mentioned “re-thinking the materials supply chain ” as an area of innovation for the car company. Battery production requires materials like nickel, manganese, cobalt, graphite, copper, and lithium, and it makes sense Tesla would want to obtain reused materials for their batteries as much as possible as they ramp up production from 80,000 cars in 2016 to one million in 2020. The Redwood Materials website offers no other details, although you can enter an email address for updates. Via CB Insights , The Verge and Electrek Images via cchana on Flickr and Lwp Kommunikáció on Flickr

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Tesla executives start mysterious new recycling company

The United States just officially banned harmful plastic microbeads

December 29, 2015 by  
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President Obama just signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act , which bans the sale and manufacture of plastic microbeads in personal care products. The ban on microbeads in products such as body scrubs and toothpastes will take effect beginning July 1st, 2017. The decision is huge for the safety of our waterways, as well as those who use them. Read the rest of The United States just officially banned harmful plastic microbeads

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The United States just officially banned harmful plastic microbeads

Highly toxic residue from winter road salt is killing aquatic life

December 29, 2014 by  
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Salting a snowy and icy road is standard procedure for most cities and towns. Where that salt ends up is rarely a concern, but according to new research  it is concerning because the salt washes into rivers and streams and remains highly toxic through the rest of the year. Scientific American reports that in states like Wisconsin, where salt is used liberally to clear icy roads, the levels of sodium chloride in rivers, streams, and lakes is as much as 15 times higher than the federal level suggests to protect fish, amphibians, and small crustaceans. Read the rest of Highly toxic residue from winter road salt is killing aquatic life Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: alaska , eco issues , fresh water salt pollution , ground water issues , groundwater , river salt , rivers , road salt , salt , salt in drinking water , salt pollution , stormwater runoff , streams , vermont , water damage , water pollution , water runoff , waterways , wisconsin

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Highly toxic residue from winter road salt is killing aquatic life

Boat Concept Produces More Energy than it Uses

February 7, 2010 by  
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Last year, we told you about Vincent Callebaut’s amazing 128-floor vertical farm concept to green the New York City skyline . Now, he’s moved his eco-friendly designs to the waterways with the Physalia–a floating garden transport vessel that not only produces enough energy to sustain itself , but generates a bit to spare

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Boat Concept Produces More Energy than it Uses

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