A Little Antidote for Consumer Remorse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 19, 2009 by carissagrubbs

I was sitting in the Student Union Memorial Center at the University of Arizona the other day eating a bag of Sun Chips and I noticed a little green symbol down in the bottom right corner of the bag. The words “we buy green energy credits” were printed around it. I never noticed it before, but apparently the symbol has been on all Sun Chips bags, owned by Frito-Lay, since 2007.

What is a green energy credit you may ask? According to the Sun Chips Web site the renewable energy credits they purchase help support innovations in renewable electricity. With titles like “Healthier Planet” and “Healthier You” dancing across their Web site the brand seems to have a true vested interest in the health of our future planet and population. They have managed to put their money where their mouth is, as one of their plants, in Modesto California, is powered by solar energy.

 

Sun Chips powers their plant in Modesto, CA with solar energy.

Sun Chips powers their plant in Modesto, CA with solar energy.

 

 

After noticing the green logo on the bag I starting wondering about what other products or services I consume, which are made by companies who buy green energy credits.

After poking around on the internet I discovered a program called the Green Power Partnership, a program created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that recognizes companies, businesses and institutions making great strides in green energy causes and contributions. The EPA co-sponsors the annual award program, 25 were given this year, with the Center for Resource Solutions and the U.S. Department of Energy.

PepsiCo, Inc., which acts as an umbrella for several businesses including Frito-Lay, Tropicana, Pepsi-Cola, Gatorade and Quaker foods was the recipient of the one of the programs Green Power Leadership Awards last year. The EPA has yet to publish the awards for 2009.

You may be thinking, “wow Pepsi produce’s a lot of products that are consumed through plastic bottles and containers,” which clearly doesn’t help the environment because plastic doesn’t break down naturally. You may feel just a little bit better knowing that PepsiCo, Inc. increased its green purchase amount by millions of kilowatts last year to keep pace with the huge company’s growth and was awarded the EPA’s Green Power Partner of the Year in 2007.

Producing and buying the equivalent of 100 percent of the energy they purchase in the US, PepsiCo is on the  EPA’s National Top 50 and Fortune 500 lists of green power buyers. Other companies who do this include: Whole Foods Market, Johnson and Johnson and Starbucks. You may not have to feel so guilty next time you are drinking your coffee or pumping your face wash from a plastic container.  This is because although those containers are choking the planet as we know it, you’re helping people who are investing in a more sustainable environment. 

Birds-eye View

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 10, 2009 by Sarah

Picture this: You are flying in the clear blue sky, enjoying the breeze, drifting through the clouds. You are looking at the ground below for a nice tasty meal when out of nowhere, you crash into a clear glass wall. That wall wasn’t there last season! You didn’t even see it coming! But now it’s too late because the impact of the collision has shattered several of your small porous bones, and you breathe your last breath as you fall to the ground.

Sound familiar? Probably not because, well, we don’t fly. But for many birds, this is a reality… and a death sentence. One of the biggest dangers to wild birds in cities are tall building with reflective glass windows and walls. Birds don’t see these as dangerous and fly straight into them, which is lethal.

The New York City Audubon Society estimates they collect thousands of dead birds each year, usually killed by colliding with skyscrapers in the city. The three deadliest buildings:

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

2. The Jacob K. Javits Convention CenterThe glass exterior of the Bellevue Hospital Building (upper left) is considered one of the deadliest for birds in NYC

3. Bellevue Hospital Center

Bird species extinction rates have been accelerating, not only because of skyscraper collisions. Especially in large cities, the absence of a habitat is what is killing off more birds than anything. Destroying trees and natural forests mean birds have to nest farther and farther apart, which makes the mating and reproducing process much harder.

Science Daily’s Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, writes that other factors killing off species include selective hunting, invasive alien species and global warming.

Other dangers in cities lie within the buildings. Red lights, televisions and other machines that give off magnetic signals interfere with bird migration, thus disabling them from traditional mating patterns. Several biology professors from SUNY have explained the complicated pattern of bird migration, in that birds use color wavelengths to orient themselves during migration. Multi-colored lights like TV’s and stoplights cause changes in their internal compass and make it difficult for them to fly in correct directions.

In the same story, Raven also estimates that since bird scientists began studying species in 1,500, approximately 156 knows avian species have become extinct.

Some of the most well-known species we will never see again include the dodo bird, carrier pigeon, and several varieties of emu.

drawing of a dodo bird, circa 1600's

SO what can you do? Well… nothing for the poor dodo bird that will never be seen on earth again. But for those of us who own homes with large windows and or reflective glass, there is something we can do to help the birds in our area. Web sites such as absolutebirdcontrol.com offer stickers you can purchase to place on large windows that act as visual deterrents. They sell for $19.95, and homeowners who do not want to splurge for the extra money, you can even get templates online to make your own stencils to place on your windows. The site also claims that everything for sale contains no toxins and will not kill animals.

Choking on Trash

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 9, 2009 by srhazen

I listened to the Super Bowl during a long road trip home from the Bay Area in California last weekend. Not the greatest way for an Arizona girl to take in the game, but it had to suffice. Sports talk radio stations tend to fill their down-time with public service announcements or local ads. For most of them, we would turn down the volume down and not listen.

But about halfway through the game, an ad came on during a time-out, and a woman started talking about the Great Pacific Trash Vortex near Hawaii. Even though I am a journalism student studying environmental issues, I almost switched stations. I wanted to hear the game, not a PSA for changing the world one piece of trash at a time!

Yet, I listened on to the commercial. It made me stop and think. The announcer said the pile of trash, located near Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, has been measured to be the size of Texas. And as I realized that I had heard everything really is bigger in Texas, I panicked. Trash pollutes miles and miles of ocean, and I rarely bother to make sure I reduced my waste on a day-to-day basis.

As soon as I came home, I looked up what some call “The Great Pacific Trash Vortex” and others refer to as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Whatever you choose to call it, the piles of trash floating on top of that area of the Pacific Ocean stagnates and should disgust anyone. It kills animals and pollutes that section of nature in ways that people centuries ago couldn’t have imagined.

Most, if not all of us, know about the landfills across the United States. They contain years and years of society’s trash buildup. But, trash signifies society. Where there’s trash, there will be people or there were people at one point. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of our actions.

Despite knowing about landfills, the amount of waste we dump into the ocean appalls even the toughest of hearts. Aside from the damage to wildlife, aesthetically speaking, the trash heap takes away from the breathtaking beauty we should see when out on the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Plastics, diapers, and random debris float along for years in this space where they become trapped in slow-moving waters.

What will happen when I visit the Bay Area again and the trash has reached the Pacific coast that I love?

After researching this problem more and more, I realized that this story broke a few years ago. Where have we been? I can never recall hearing about this before Sunday night. This story needs more than just feature story-like coverage.

And the bigger question than just, “Where have we been?” is, “What actions are we going to take?”

Just telling people to recycle or be aware of their waste contributions just isn’t cutting it. We know that.

Let’s not make the oceans become piles of rotting waste. Nature deserves better than that. Killing it shouldn’t be part of the typical human lifestyle.

Where do we go from here?

~Sarah

welcome

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 2, 2009 by Sarah

It’s scary to imagine all the destruction we have caused to our planet.  Since humans began walking upright, we have been slowly plowing down everything in our path, in order to survive. Perhaps that seems a bit dramatic, but it’s true. There is serious damage being done to our planet and much of it may be irreversible. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change things. And awareness is the first step.

This blog is dedicated to revealing the ways in which we are currently causing destruction world-wide. Be it an industry or a single person, we plan to expose different stories about the environment and perhaps it will inspire our readers to think carefully about thier own ‘carbon footprint’ and the things we can change.

Who we are: we are several  journalism students at the University of Arizona. We are also contributors to http://www.thecatscan.com, an eco-report based in the Southwest. This blog is inspired in part, by Alan Weisman’s book, A World Without Us, in which he describes at length what would happen to our planet once humans disappear. Part of his research for the book includes a study of the different industries that are currently doing harm to our planet and destroying ecosystems. It’s a fascinating study and we highly recommend you pick it up.

http://www.worldwithoutus.com/index2.html

Posted in Uncategorized on February 1, 2009 by Sarah

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images from flickr.com