Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Category: Sustainability (page 1 of 4)

Solar Panels are taking all of the Sun – Why a North Carolina town BANNED Solar Panels

In Woodland, North Carolina, voters rejected a solar panel farm because of their alleged capabilities to soak up all of the sun’s energy. No, this is not an Onion article. This is real life. People are preventing measures that could help the environment due to misinformation and blatant ignorance. Although some places are more environmentally aware and conscious, many other towns are not, This town, and many others, need a proper education on environmentalism. After all, environmentalism could literally save their lives. Check out more information regarding the rejection of the solar panels here. 

Last Call at the Oasis Response

Rarely will you hear me rave about the opening credits of a film, but the evocative nature of the images of water presented by Jessica Yu start this movie with the proper imagery: the preciousness off water as a pristine, natural resource has been threatened, and the time for a call to actions has nearly passed. That the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas expansion issue becomes relevant so early in the film, especially considering the rather controversial statements put forth with the proposal of a pipeline to preserve said constructions, becomes a powerful device for the audience by an ultimate portrayal of fairly complicated issue. The ethical question proposed with the anxieties compared in the town that will be afflicted by the pipeline and the overseer of the pipeline proposal remains one of the most famous ethical dilemmas today, portraying the situation as not one of right and wrong (we obviously do not want to make an objective decision between the lives of people) but one of “how can we solve the issue creating the issue?” Especially at a time when it has become increasingly easy to get swept up in the countercultural movements of our age, I am relieved to see such a methodology of problem-solving employed, as I hope my peers, naturally, question their own assumptions that could potentially be detrimental, even if, at heart, driven by an environmental cause.

When I say assumptions I, of course, mean a whole broad range of social interactions we take for granted, which is why I found the piece on bottled water so interesting. It is no secret that bottled water has become an issue that has plagued our landfills, shorelines, and even the biological makeup of the public now, but the solutions just one company attempts to advance on the public is an entirely sensible and already functioning model else wise in the world: recycled sewage water. While some of my peers felt this section to be silly in with an association to Jack Black, this association, however, I found fairly inspiring. As we look towards educating people in the future we cannot use brutal honesty; the environmental issue has progressed into such a depressing state that some intermediary needs to manage this interaction. Utilizing the principles of marketing, and questioning how we can make something reputable, how we can eliminate stigma, how do we face the consumer, and, simply, how can we sell as many of these bottles as possible, remains a vital tool to us as content creators and environmental missionaries.

Ultimately, I walk away from this film not pointing my finger at some target from an hour and a half of the blame game on the big screen, but with gained knowledge and facts of valuable information to draw my own relative conclusions. The plethora of reliable and noteworthy faces attempting to reduce this disaster over the past couple decades point towards a drive to correct the issue, rather than find a culprit. I would argue that, in large, much of the environmental movement could benefit from this approach, and should be adopted as we look towards making a mass movement.

White Hawk Eco Village Guest Speaker Response

The speaker on Wednesday from White Hawk was a really interesting one. He told us how he got invested in an eco-village type community. It made sense that this sort of community would be great for children, to run around and play in a sustainable environment. Unfortunately, it looks like much of the sustainable parts of the village are up to the individual, which while is nice to choose if you create your energy, would probably be less expensive for the individual houses if there were more communal systems for their solar panels and their farms. I like the idea of an intentional community, and of sharing common resources such as tools and a common field for growing plants. However, I feel that neighborhoods with people you don’t know before they move can lead to greater diversity and new perspectives.

What is “Compost”?

Most of us know about recycling and that it’s good for the Earth.  From a very young age recycling was drilled into us and we knew the entire process by the time we were adults.  (Recycling is when old products are used to make brand new products).  However, up until recently, I’m not afraid to say that I personally had no idea what compost was. I knew it was good for the environment but the exact process was a complete mystery to me.  So what is “composting”? Composting, it’s actually quite similar to recycling if you think about it. Although compost material doesn’t go towards new commercial products, compost materials are still being used again- instead of sitting somewhere in a dump. Compost materials are broken down and used to give nutrients to soil, like fertilizer.  When the same materials are in dumps, since there is a lack of oxygen, they produce harmful greenhouse gases. Unlike when you compost, when you compost there is oxygen so it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.  Meaning that composting is better for the Earth, and also works as a great fertilizer! However, like recycling, not everything can be composted. Things that can be composted include (lists provided by getcomposting.com):

 

“Greens”

 

Tea bags

Grass cuttings

Vegetable peelings, salad leaves and fruit scraps

Old flowers and nettles

Coffee grounds and filter paper

Spent bedding plants

Rhubarb leaves

Young annual weeds (e.g. chickweed)

 

“Browns”

Crushed egg shells

Egg and cereal boxes

Corrugated cardboard and paper (scrunched up)

Toilet and kitchen roll tubes

Garden pruning

Twigs and hedge clippings

Straw and hay

Bedding from vegetarian pets

Ashes from wood, paper and lump-wood charcoal

Sawdust and wood chippings

Wool

Woody clippings

Cotton threads and string (made from natural fibre)

Feathers

Vacuum bag contents

Old natural fibre clothes (cut into small pieces)

Tissues, paper towels and napkins

Shredded confidential documents

Corn cobs and stalks

 

References:

“How to Compost at Home.” Get Composting. Straight Ltd. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Cowspiracy: A Response

The 2014 documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, Kip Anderson, an avid environmentalist, embarks on a mission to uncover the secret to truly sustainable living, in the process discovering the one thing no environmental organizations want to talk about, agro-industry. Making up about 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, cattle raising and the meat industry account for more carbon emissions than any other industry, but still most organizations refuse to address the issue, making it seem as though there is some sort of conspiracy in which everyone simply agreed to turn their heads to the growing issue of environmental sustainability when it relates to the agriculture industry. Because of the content of the documentary, the film’s original financial backer pulled out, leaving Anderson to crowfund the work. Despite its “controversial” nature, Anderson managed to surpass his fundraising expectations and deliver a poignant performative documentary condemning America’s unsustainable practices, specifically in relation to the agro-industry.

Early on in the film, Kip establishes himself as a strong environmentalist and a fan of Al Gore. His personal interest in the topic of environmental sustainability establishes his credibility and right to make the film. With Anderson as the center point of the film, it is easy for the audience to establish and emotional connection with a human entity. It is also an important persuasive element in the documentary and, in a sense, peer pressure. Because Kip Anderson is experiencing a transformation in thinking, the audience feels pressured to do so as well. As Anderson makes a resolution to become vegan, it persuades the audience to look into veganism as well.

The interviews with different organizations are one of the most affective elements of the work. Kip Anderson attempts to get interviews with as many major environmental organization as he can as well as pro-agriculture industry lobbyists. The interviews themselves as well as Kip’s inability to secure interviews with organizations such as Green Peace are interesting and surprising in that not a single organizations or spokesperson “felt comfortable” answering questions on the agro-industry, as if it was a secret, as if the human need for a cheeseburger is more important than the planet’s need to survive. Some people even went so far as to claim that a change in attitude towards consumerism in the agriculture industry was impossible for the American people despite the fact that the documentary is a testament of the opposite. While it’s impossible for a documentary to be completely objective, Kip does present as many viewpoints as he can while still persuading the audience against meat and of the importance of sustainability.

On a personal level, I was very moved by Cowspiracy. I had been considering vegetarianism for many years, but after watching the documentary finally decided to make the switch over with long term plans to become vegan. It’s difficult to watch that film and continue to consuming meat. It isn’t something I can do in good conscience any longer, not when it takes millions of gallons of water to produce one cheeseburger. The depletion of our natural resources is not worth that small amount of meat.

An impactful moment in the film was the slaughtering of the ducks in the man’s backyard as well as the scenes with the kids, saying that they can’t become too attached to the pigs. Not only was it difficult to watch a living creature get its head chopped off, but it was difficult to hear the children that couldn’t form an emotional connection with the very loving pigs that they raised. As a pet owner and someone that loves animals, it seems natural to form connections with animals and nearly impossible to avoid it. As someone who recently lost a pet, I couldn’t imagine watching animals die over and over again for the sake of a few bites of meat.

Eating meat is not sustainable, not with the amount of resources the cattle and livestock consume, not with the unsustainability of grass-fed cattle. There seems to be nothing at all sustainable about the industry, something to which even the farmers own. If it does anything, Cowspiracy makes it clear that humans must change their way of life. Humans must become sustainable. Humans must consider giving up meat and becoming vegan or risk losing our planet forever.

7 Way Nordic Startups are Fighting Climate Change

Every Little Bit Helps

By Matt Allchin

Collecting Waste Without Wasting Energy

Finnish company Enevo manufactures tiny, battery-operated wireless sensors. These sensors measure and predict how full waste containers are in urban areas. The information is used to generate optimized routes and schedules for collection trucks. Trucks don’t have to waste mileage going to almost empty garbage cans which means less CO2 emissions.

Encouraging Electric Vehicles

Norwegian Meshcrafts wants to remove the obstacles for switching to electric cars. The company’s founder was surprised at how difficult it was to find charging points for electric vehicles. Meshcraft aims to enable everyone to sell electricity to others from their own charging points, at their own chosen price. This would be the same as how people rent out their houses on Airbnb.

Sharing Bike Rides

AirDonkey contacts wannabe bike riders and bicycle owners via smartphone. Those who want to hire out their bike get a Bluetooth enabled lock, which users open with their phone once they’ve reserved and paid for the bike through the app. This is basically another Airbnb clone, but for bikes.

Making Waste into Fashion

Pure Waste created the official gear for the Slush Conference in Helsinki. The company is making 100% recycled garments made of cutting waste, which makes up 15% of all fabric used in manufacturing. This saves 38.5 billion liters of water every year, which would otherwise be used on cotton irrigation.

Harnessing the Sun in Developing Regions

The Norwegian company Bright Products launched their SunTurtle and solar LED lamps in May last year. They have provided 300,000 solar lamps to 2 million people around the world. They reduce the use of gasoline generators by providing these lights to places like Africa, Asia and South America.

Helping Stop Food Waste

Finnish tech company Foller aims to end food waste by encouraging the sales of food close to its sell-by date. Their solution is based on RFID tags the monitor products on the shelf of a shop. If something isn’t selling and is likely going to go to waste, it’s price automatically goes down.

Gamifying Energy Behavior 

Swedish startup company Greenly has an app that will gamify our energy use experience. The app collects information about your energy use and gives you tips for better energy efficiency. The app also has you compete against your neighbors to see who is being more efficient.

Reagan, Bush 41 memos reveal sharp contrast with today’s GOP on climate and the environment

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Reagan and Bush administration memos

By Matt Allchin

Memos that were formerly classified documents from the Bush and Reagan administrations were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and released by the National Security Archive.

The documents portray two senior officials in the two Republican administrations advocating for U.S. leadership on combating climate change.

“If climate change within the range of current predictions actually occurs, the consequences for every nation and every aspect of human activity will be profound,” assistant secretary Richard J. Smith wrote in the memo.

These memos provide an interesting insight of an environmentally conscious Republican White House throughout the 1980s and 1990s.This is especially interesting when looking at the GOP officials today who deny the consensus of human caused climate change and refuse to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Read the full article here

Biodegradable plastics may not be as great as you think

Biodegradable plastics don’t disintegrate as quickly in the ocean

By Matt Allchin

A new report from the United Nations presents a couple of environmental problems regarding biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics were designed to help reduce waste but some polymers need to be exposed to prolonged temperatures to disintegrate which is hard to come by in nature.

Ocean degredation rates are even lower because UV light penetration is limited. On top of this it is cold and there is less oxygen so these plastics will just stay there for a long period of time.

The biodegradable plastics also pose a problem for recycling. Mixing biodegradable plastics with standard plastics can compromise the properties of the original plastic. When the plastic does disintegrate, the fragments behave exactly the same way as a standard piece of polyethylene which poses a threat to wildlife.

Ice in the Arctic ends up trapping a lot of fragments because it is too cold for them to disintegrate. The amount of micro plastics in these areas are at least three times more abundant than in other areas in oceans.

Full article here

Sweden Plans to be the First Fossil Fuel Free Country

Just before the climate talks began Sweden had announced their plan to be fossil fuel free by spending 542 million dollars on green infrastructure. Other countries are following their lead such as Denmark, which produced 140% of its energy needs with just wind power and gives energy to neighboring countries. It’s nice to see countries making huge progress with renewable energy.

Read more here.

 

The Ugly Truth About Cosmetics

It’s difficult, through the layers of mascara and foundation, to see how harmful the cosmetics industry is to the environment. So many companies these days simply slap the word “natural” in front their product and ignore how wildly problematic the word is. Between trends and cost and packaging and chemicals, the cosmetics industry, while it looks pretty on the surface is anything but.

Pink, glittery, and gorgeous, cosmetics look innocent enough until you look at the label. Most cosmetics currently sold in stores are full of damaging chemicals, waiting to wreak havoc on the environment when they are washed down your drain. Those gorgeous lipsticks might just be full of P-phenylenediamine, a chemical toxic to aquatic ecosystems. Over periods of time, it can diminish the plankton population and even kills many aquatic species.  Dioxane, a chemical found in many cosmetics such as shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, and soaps, is a carcinogenic chemical, costly to remove from products, although possible, and fatal to insects and fish populations. This list goes on and on with triclocan which changes the biochemistry of amphibians, and DBP which can change the biochemistry, genetics, and growth of fish when washed down the drain. When cosmetics go down the drain to tamper with the aquatic eco-system, what becomes of the rest of the world? All life on Earth is dependent on water and if that water and life in that water has experienced chemical alteration, so will the rest of the Earth.

Not only this, but cosmetics packaging in incredibly harmful to the environment. Because of the numerous chemicals in each products, the packaging must be made out of material durable about not to corrode when in contact with the products. This means that the plastic is more difficult and will simply sit in landfills as more and more plastic bottles and packages accumulate. Such packaging is costly not only to the environment, but also when compared to the cost of homemade and truly natural cosmetics products in reusable containers.

 

The latest trend in cosmetics is throwing “natural” in front of every name and product. Consumers want to feel as though they are being less harmful to the environment by buying a product made from natural ingredients. However, in order to cash in on this trend, many cosmetics companies are looking towards acquiring natural products through farming and mining. However, it is not cost-effective to harvest these ingredients sustainably. They farm through pesticides and toxins to increase yield, doing more damage than good, effectively eliminating anything natural about their product.

However, that’s not to say that someone must forego their favorite beauty regimen. There are cosmetics companies that stay true to the “natural” label. http://makeup.allwomenstalk.com/natural-makeup-products-that-arent-harmful-to-your-skin-or-the-environment provides a rundown of some top-notch makeup products that won’t harm people or the environment. Not only is buying from eco-friendly cosmetic companies an option, but making homemade products can be beneficial as well. Not only is it a safe way to ensure that the ingredients in the products are natural and safe, but it also reduces, even eliminating wasteful packaging. The ugly truth about cosmetic companies is that they damage the environment, but by being eco-friendly in personal beauty routines, people can reduce the risk to the environment and potentially make lasting change in the beauty industry.

 

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