Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Expanded Spring Clean – Great American Cleanup

highway sign for no litterGot those windows washed and drawers organized with your spring cleaning frenzy? (Sorry East Coast–I know only the calendar says it is spring today, NOT Mother Nature!). Look outside your four walls to the larger picture…America.

Keep America Beautiful is the number one non-profit building green and sustainable communities. This year is the seventeenth annual Great American Cleanup, which will get more than four million of us involved volunteering around the country to take local action for positive change. Willing workers help renew parks, rails, and recreation areas and also clean shorelines and waterways, pick up trash, reduce waste and increase recycling efforts, and plant new trees and community gardens.

Last year’s efforts resulted in the removal of 37 million pounds of litter; cleaned 85,901 miles of roadways, trails, and shorelines; cleaned and renewed 130,497 acres of parkland and public space; collected over 250 million pounds of recyclables; and planted 41,000 trees plus 1.5 million flowers and bulbs.

Come on! You want to be a part of THAT! There are over 40,000 events this year, starting now and continuing through the fall. Seek out programs near you via this website, then grab your work gloves, and go!

Connecting Wild Places 50 Years Later

close-up shot of endangered Bald Eagle head

endangered Bald Eagle

The Wilderness Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson 50 years ago, to officially set aside and protect federal lands for conservation and preservation. From much smaller beginnings, there are now more than 100 million acres that are protected wilderness lands.

The next step is to try and connect some of these isolated islands of wilderness land, so species can move in natural patterns since we’ve built and developed so much space, encroaching on and often destroying such large areas. Wilderness Corridors will create a “Wildlife Refugia” protecting many millions of plants and animals, many of them endangered. We often think of endangered species as those in Africa or various global rain forests, but the issue of extinction is close to home, as well. As example, well over half of California’s fish, amphibians, and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”

We’ve all been overloaded in our inboxes with year-end appeals for money for the causes and charities we support, and I know it is exhausting and just makes you want to hit the “DELETE” button…but leave your well-worn wallet in your pocket for the moment, and just commit to finding out more, and letting your elected officials know this is a priority. Half of the species endangered (and California is not an anomaly–so many species face next-to-impossible odds for survival)–can you imagine if tomorrow you woke up to only 50% of America’s birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish still with us?

Thats is NOT how we are going to do 2015!

Find out more here:

Earth Overshoot Day – We’re Way Ahead of Schedule

burned charred fallen tree with wooded backdropMost often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things–better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the earlybird doesn’t get the worm…the earlybird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot, very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day should be sometime in early October, for many years, while not great, it happened right around now, but this year, 2014, it happened on August 19. Yikes!

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We owe the world, and that tipping point date gets earlier every year. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

Our global overshoot has nearly doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take 1.5 Earths to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Only 14% of our world lives in counties with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy redzone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.

Check out this interactive FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR to discover how much land area it takes to support your own lifestyle, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

What Price Fashion–Rainforest Wreckage for Style

1168175_87597514Fashion Week just started in New York–the Mercedes Benz-sponsored high holy days for many, when it is impossible to get a cab or a table at hip eateries (ironic since so many at the forefront of fashion are known for eating so little). In addition to the swirling, whirling, paparazzi flashing chaos of couture celebrations, there is, as with most industries, an underbelly that is less appealing.

Clothing today, its manufacture and materials, is, in many instances, decimating our environment. To make the popular fabrics that drape beautifully and flow effortlessly, including rayon and viscose, is a pretty rough-on-the-world process. Rainforests in Indonesia, Canada, Brazil, and more, are clear cut to make way for “monocrop” plantations. The new monocrop trees are then cut down and their material put through a labor-intensive and highly toxic chemical bath process to create “dissolving pulp” that can then be spun out and woven into cloth. The chemicals used are brutal and high impact, and the destruction of the rainforest ecosphere adds to the loss of endangered species, like threatened orangutans, rhinoceros, and others. 

The fabric created is used by global brands like Gap, Forever 21, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and legions of others. Of course there are plenty of responsible, sustainable replacement options.

The Rainforest Action Network is calling upon the fashion industry, especially now during high profile fashion celebrations and showcases for designers, to find environment-sparing alternatives. They’ve got a petition going to bring attention to the cause and state that “there’s nothing fashionable about rainforest destruction.” Sign here and leaner more about awareness events happening this month with which you may want to participate. Sources report that an average of 137 species of rainforest life form go extinct EVERY DAY! Help curb those numbers with how you spend your clothing dollars, and volunteer to spread the word.


What Shark Week Really Should Recognize


India’s New Program of Planting and Employment is a Win/Win

photo: Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography, Boise, ID

photo: Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID

India’s Prime Minsiter, Narendra Modi, has launched an initiative to combat unemployment AND environmental issues in one shot. The government will be hiring jobless youth to plant trees along the entire National Highways network. Millions of trees are in the plan, providing more than simple roadside beauty, but a density of greenery (some suggest is wishful thinking and mathematically impossible) that would be forest-like. In light of the intense impact the Indian nation has had on the environment, this is a large step in the right direction. In some versions of the plan, fruit trees are the model, so local communities suffering from food scarcity can also reap the crops.

The plan is aiming quite high, and it doesn’t stop there. It was announced along with grand schemes to clean two of the major river systems and other waterways, and developing systems to better capture rainwater–more than 60% of which is lost and washed to the oceans while locals clamor for potable drinking water, water for hygienic use, and agricultural/irrigation water to increase food yield.

While some suggest these are political promises, if the nation can put some action behind them, even falling short of these lofty goals would still be progress. Here’s hoping India takes these bold steps toward viable environmental solutions that also address underemployment, and that many nations will take notice and follow suit.

Heading Into Your Weekend, Remember to ReCORK

794575_88920138Even if you are a teetotaler, you definitely are aware that a summer weekend is a time when lots and lots of wine gets opened and finished. I’d wager a bet that most folks get the bottles into the recycling system more often than not…but what about the corks?

Now, of course, there are lots of very fine wines with screwtops (once upon a time the symbol of rotgut vino, but no more) and plastic corks…but the good old fashioned stripped form the tree cork? Unless you’re collecting them for your next Etsy craft adventure, they probably get tossed in the trash.


Recycle your corks with ReCORK, America’s largest cork recycling initiative. With the help of over 1,700 recycling partners in the wine and hospitality industries, as well as individuals like you and me, they have recycled more than 49 million corks! They grind them up and up cycle them for use in shoes and other consumer goods. Harvesting cork is good for the cork trees and actually extends their lifecycle, and cork represents the lowest carbon footprint of wine stopper options…and now there is an aftermarket solution for responsible continued life. ReCORK goes the extra mile and plants new trees, too—over 8,000 planted so far!

Chances are good that there is a participating center or retailer near you that will receive your gathered corks—check for drop-off locations at this link. It’s a great and celebratory way to engage and get involved in the recycling/sustainability world…and besides…you don’t really want that wine cork bulletin board up on your wall, do you?