Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Category: Sustainability (page 2 of 4)

Tips to Make the Switch to Waste-Free

More and more we hear tales of people who make the switch to a zero waste lifestyle, completely eliminating harmful products, packaging, and plastics from their life. These people generate absolutely no trash. This is becoming a growing trend and one to be proud of. Not everyone will go 100% waste free, but if everyone adopted just a few waste eliminating practices, the environment might stand a chance. Here are a few tips to eliminate waste from your life and take a step toward becoming completely waste free.

  1. Ditch the disposables

You would be surprised how much plastic you throw out without even knowing it. Getting rid of disposables means bringing your own bags and containers to the supermarket, replacing paper towels with cloth towels, and packing your own lunch which doesn’t just benefit the environment, but benefits you as well.

2. Compost, Compost, Compost

It’s easy to throw out whatever food you don’t eat, just toss it in the garbage and it’s out of sight, out of mind, but not only is composting quick, it is amazing for the environment. If you’re able, try setting up a compost in your backyard and whatever food or leftovers you can’t eat can go back into the Earth. If you aren’t able to compost right from your own house, it may take more thought, but you can find composting sites not too far from you at http://www.findacomposter.com/

3. Buy secondhand

It’s no secret how harmful clothing manufacturing is to the environment. Clothing makes up  3% of all global emissions. Buying clothes secondhand not only saves cute clothes from the trash, but decreases demand for new products and for manufacturing plants.

4.  Make your own supplies

It’ll take some research and time, but making your own cleaning supplies and cosmetics not only eliminates the waste from packaging, but also cuts down on the harsh chemicals in many products. Finding natural alternatives such as vinegar and baking soda for cleaning and trying out beauty products like an all natural eggnog hair mask for the holidays can be a fun experiment beneficial for both you and the planet.

While it may at first seem impossible to completely eliminate waste from your life, with perseverance, change can happen. Start small, one change at a time and you’ll be there, living a zero waste lifestyle in no time.

The Environmental Art of Andy Goldsworthy

Art has always been an essential part of the environmental movement, some artists such as Sayaka Kajita using reclaimed material in sculptures and photographs. More often than not, it is the use of man-made trash or reclaimed products to convey some sort of message about the degradation of the environment. However, one important environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy, knows that sometimes the best collaborator is not material created by man, but material provided by the Earth.

The British sculptor lives and works in Scotland, creating pieces solely out of material he finds in nature and photographing the artwork upon completion. What makes Goldsworthy’s pieces so impactful is that they last as long as nature does. While he may photograph them, the essence of the piece is in the materials, the leaves and stones, and in the way they change with the world around them. He was once quoted saying, “A stone is ingrained with geological and historical memories.”  It is that appreciation for the material that makes Goldsworthy’s art so lively, so ecstatically beautiful. The piece lives and then it dies. The art becomes of part of the stones memory and the stone becomes part of the art.

Although most of his installments are done in nature, many of them without an audience, Goldsworthy worked with stone for an installment at the National art gallery in 2004, titled roof. The installment featured domes made of stacked slate, dealing with his interest in the human passage through time. Goldsworthy had done several pieces like it, fashioning domes out of less durable materials like leaves and twigs.

What is so striking about Goldsworthy’s work is that he is able to create a piece using only the materials in the natural world. He can patiently piece together sculptors that will topple over in mere moments. Goldsworthy is a model of peaceful collaboration and creation with the Earth and a model to follow. Not only does he see the beauty in the Earth, but he enhances that beauty without destroying it. It is possible to use the planet without misusing the planet. One of the most important lessons from Goldsworthy’s art is that the Earth will be there long after we are. Humans can create and build and destroy, but it will all amount to nothing if we cannot coexist with the planet. He builds a sculpture with the Earth and allows the materials to return to the Earth in their own time. He doesn’t rush the artistic process and allows nature to take its course without interfering, something all humans must emulate if we are to survive as a species.

Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water

Pharmaceuticals, chemical ingredients from prescription drugs and over the counter drugs, are cannot really be treated in the wastewater treatment process. The WHO has found trace concentrations in drinking water, normally below 0.1 parts per billion. They vary from place to place and some water is more contaminated than other sources. As of right now, it is uncertain of this effect on humans, however, as seen in Last Call in the Oasis, hormone disruptors have shown to cause problems in fish and frogs. Some male fish and amphibians have been feminized where they produce eggs due to these chemicals. This has led to some worries about hormone disruption as well as antibiotic resistance in humans.

Find more about this problem here

Arnold Schwarzenegger: ‘Go part-time vegetarian’

“You shouldn’t stop the way you live – just change the technology.”
Since we are watching Cowspiracy on Friday I thought this is relevant.

Schwarzenegger recommends trying to eat meat free a few days out of the week in order to protect the planet. The main reason being that farming causes a big portion of green house gases. Giving up meat completely is scary, but trying it a few days a week could end up being not as big of a deal that some people would think. Some people might even go full-time vegetarian if they just tried this out and see how it affects them. People made jokes about how his body size and a meat-free diet don’t work, but he states that there is plenty of other ways to get protein.

Watch a video interview here.


Bees Are Important

Over the past decade, the population of bees has reduced drastically. There are reported losses of 30-50% of colonies, more than the usual 5-15%. A  part of this is due to certain pesticides which can wipe out entire colonies. Chemical residues permeate bee pollen and poison the colony.

Bees are huge pollinators, accounting for one third of the food we eat. If bees were to go extinct we would be in an even large global food crisis than we already are. The European Food Safety Authority has been limiting the amount of pesticides used that harm bees. The US needs to follow in these footsteps if we are to help retain the amount of bees needed to pollinate our crops and ecosystem.

Read here and here to learn more about the bee crisis

Read here to learn more about the importance of bees



Last Call at the Oasis

Last Call at the Oasis is a documentary film made in 2011 that was directed and written by Jessicu Yu and features Erin Brockovich, Robert Glennon and Jay Famiglietti, among others. Additional cast members include Tim Barnett, Gina Gallego, Jack Black and Peter H. Gleick. This film was produced by Participant Media, which is a production company that focuses on being politically active. Other films from this company include Food Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth. This film is organized by place, and at each new place, such as Los Angelos, Las Vegas or Australia, there is new people with new stories. The film also travels with Erin Brockovich, an environmental activist, for some scenes and documents her effort to create environmental change, specifically her efforts to stop companies from polluting water with chemicals that is harming residents in small town areas. Additionally, this film features a somewhat humorous campaign for selling bottled renewed (sewage) water, as well as a bit from people bathing in holy water in “The Promised Land”. This film is an expository film, because it exemplifies a classic documentary. While being entertaining, it has an educational feel, and employs the use of talking head interviews, footage, and narration.
I think the thesis of this film is the earth’s water is running out, and it is up to everyone to find new ways to recycle and conserve it if we want to sustain this population on Earth. Many people believe that the Earth can never run out of water, but that is extremely false. Most people do not even realize we are in a water shortage crisis. Breaking the film up into different locations because besides keeping the film organized, it helped the viewers personalize the story. Often people can think of climate change and water shortages as something that is happening far away, but by naming the towns where people were suffering the consequences of the global water shortage and water pollution, it made viewers realize these horrible things were happening in their own backyards. This film had many strengths which included good use of music, bringing in Erin Brockovich to give the film direction and a wide range of people, thus opinions, featured. Erin Brockovich gave viewers someone to rally behind, and she was factual while still remaining hopeful about the environment. The weaknesses of this film were some of the images and bits could be considered tacky. During some parts, it seemed confusing who the intended audience of this film was. The scenes with very emotional, difficult stories told by farmers, grandmothers and environmentalists- those seemed like scenes in a documentary intended for educated adults. However, the scene with the animated water droplets seemed intended for children. The film would have been better if its creators had picked an intended audience and stuck to that more strictly.
Despite its weaknesses, I really enjoyed this film. I felt it was extremely engaging while still being informative. I feel Last Call at the Oasis absolutely belongs in an environmental class. The film was educational, eye opening and made the current water crisis hard to ignore. My favorite part of the film was the scenes shot in Midland, Texas featuring the grandmother who after writing many letters to her senators about her granddaughter’s skin rashes she believed the water was causing and getting no response, took matters into her own hands and emailed Erin Brockovich. This woman is a great example of people taking charge and fighting back to protect themselves and their children from harmful chemicals in the water and the environment. If people keep fighting back, whether it be in a small town or big city, there will be change.

Damnation Film Response

The documentary film Damnation by Travis Rummel and Ben Knight looks into the large dams of the United States and the effect they have on the river ecosystems. Released in 2014, it highlights the problems of the old dams but also explains how removing them significantly helps the environment there. As the film notes in the beginning, it was financed by Patagonia, which helped give it a higher budget and opportunities. This is one of its weaknesses however, as defined by the class. The documentary is composed of many shots of actual dams, interviews, and hand-held camera work. It is most definitely an advocacy documentary because it presents an issue with a clear statement on where the film stands. Ben Knight is also taking part in the documentary and so it becomes participatory, along with performative since he is in the story as well. Though some people disagreed, the film allowed unaware people to learn some information about the problem and also show how it can be fixed.

As one would imagine when watching a film about dams, the film is essentially entirely all shots of dams. The film is composed of beautiful shots along with interviews that, for the most part, help enlighten the viewer even more as well as provide some humor. The strongest point is definitely the quality of the shots; compared to Gaslands, this film is cinematic and it makes it appear more calm. I can understand how the cinematography was utilized for a unique purpose in each film, but I prefer a more cinematic shooting style. A weakness that the class pointed out is that the film is produced by Patagonia, yet I found that there was almost no reference to Patagonia other than the “disclaimer” in the beginning of the film. The one shot of Ben Knight with his RED camera in the woods was unnecessary, but a 4 second shot doesn’t always ruin a film. Most of the films viewed in class are effective in conveying a message and showing the audience how they can start to think about change. Damnation very clearly outlined the problem that dams make, and at the end it was a hopeful ending. It wasn’t entirely oblivious or too hopeful, but it didn’t make you depressed that there actually was no solution.


Since I personally really enjoyed Damnation, particularly the cinematography, I had to try and see my classmates’ perspectives because while they also liked the cinematography, they didn’t think it was an effective film. In relation to Manufactured Landscapes, I thought the advertising in this film was very minimal, mainly the reference to Patagonia in the beginning and the shots of the RED camera. Manufactured Landscapes was completely about a photographer and showed his work, but I don’t think people will react to it the same way. With the great cinematography, I was able to think about what was being said more than how much I disliked the footage, like with Gaslands. Overall, I think the film is effective for certain people and does convey information, but some might be less impressed with the product placement and also a limited output of information.

Article Written  by Crystal Ledbetter

“Going green” isn’t a term that’s foreign to America. Ever since ego-friendly campaigns started the popular phase has been a clever representative.  Majority of the campaigns encouraged alternative energy sources, energy-efficient appliances and technology made from environmentally friendly materials.  For many, buying special electronics and alternative energy can be pricey, if not completely financially unrealistic.  If you want to do your part, but simply don’t have the money, there is a simple solution.  Gardening.  Things such as energy efficient gadgets cost hundreds to thousands of dollar but a few seeds only cost a couple of bucks at most.

With cities popping up everywhere sometimes it’s easy to forget that we should make up for the plant life we’ve destroyed. Not only do plants produce oxygen, which many living organism need to live, they also provide food for creatures and regulate the atmosphere.  Plants emit water into the atmosphere when the climate gets too hot.  It is important to note that carbon dioxide is the one of main greenhouse gases that is contributing to global warming because plants actually use carbon dioxide to produce their nourishment.  This means that planting a significant amount of plants around the world may actually help slow down the global warming process.

Plants aren’t only good for the environment they’re also good for us as well. There are many studies that explore the positive impact that plants have on humans.  It has been proven that being around plants is therapeutic because it naturally elevates mood while relieving stress.  As a result, people that are around plants generally have better mental stability and health than people that aren’t. Being around plants also increases creativity, learning and concentration.  The color green itself signals to our brains to be more productive.

If that’s not convincing, then gardening can be looked at also from a business and community point of view.  Businesses would benefit from planting trees and flowers around their business because people subconsciously associate beautiful scenery with a better perceived quality of life and happiness.  So plants would automatically attract people to the business.  Communities with more plants tend to have less crime.  This is due to the fact that plants encourage people to come outside and interact with each other more, which would strengthen the community while fostering people’s natural compassion for each other.

When it comes to building a sustainable future, the big picture can easily overwhelm people into doing nothing.  It’s common to feel as though you’re too small to make a difference.  If this is a feeling you’re familiar to, thinking about the Butterfly effect may help.  One butterfly flipping its wings has the potential to become a major variable in the making of a hurricane on the side of the world.  Your individual actions do affect the Earth, even as little as they seem. You can use this power to take on small step for good or one small step for bad.  No matter what you do, you’re influencing the world around you just as it is influencing you.  The Earth belongs to everyone, which means the health of our Earth is a collective responsibility.  It may not seem like much, to plant a tree or a flower, but think of it this way: if everyone plants just one plant each then, collectively, we’d all be heading towards a healthier path together.





Arbor, Ann. “Going Outside-even in the Cold-improves Memory, Attention.” Umich. Michigan News, 16 Dec. 2008. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.


“Benefits of Green Plants.” Green Plants for Green Buildings. Green Plants for Green Buildings. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.


“Health and Well-being Benefits of Plants.” Ellison Chair. Tamu. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.


“How Plants Can Change Our Climate.” Earth Observatory. Nasa. The Earth Observatory. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.


Sparks, Jennifer. “New Behavioral Research Demonstrates Flowers in the Home Make a Positive Impact on Our Lives.” Magnet Mail. The Flower Promotion Organization, 26 Sept. 2006. Web. 4 Nov. 2015.


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