Monthly Archives: April 2008

Easy ways to give back this Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and it’s time to give back to Mother Earth. If you aren’t already a particulary environmental person, try doing something sweet for the planet to show your respect. Environmentalist or not, here are three quick tips for this Earth Day (and for every day):

1. Plant a tree

Planting a tree is a wonderful way to go green this Earth Day. If planting your own tree isn’t possible this Earth Day, many environmental organizations let you plant a tree with just a few clicks of the mouse (and a modest donation).

You can plant a tree for $1 through the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion campaign. Your money will help The Nature Conservancy plant trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The Nature Conservancy hopes to plant one billion trees throughout the forest in the next seven years.

You can also plant a tree through Tree Nation, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme. Tree Nation’s goal is to plant 8 million trees in Niger, Africa, with the hopes of ending desertification in the region. The organization works with local community members and plants trees native to the region.

2. Buy a reusable shopping bag

Many non-profit environmental organizations sell reusable shopping bags. You can also try the following organizations to buy affordable reusable bags online:

Green Feet

ECOBAGS

Many stores, such as Wal-Mart and Toys R’ Us, also sell reusable bags in their stores, but you can use any large sack or duffel bag to do the job. At the very least, make sure you ask for a paper bag instead of a plastic bag when you go to the store.

3. Pick up someone else’s trash

Last night I was taking a walk in the park and I noticed a woman who was picking up garbage as she walked along the trail. Although she got some weird stares from some people, she was doing something really positive for the environment. No doubt she went home that night with a feeling of accomplishment. I often pick up trash that I see on the ground, which usually goes to my recycling bin. I encourage everyone to do the same and make your city or town just a little bit cleaner.

Happy Earth Day!

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My outcry against bags

I have a beef with bags, and the people who misuse them.

My mother thinks it’s cute that I get so mad because the cashier at the grocery store put the milk in its own separate plastic bag. She even thinks it’s cute when I tell her not to put her bananas in those useless produce bags at the grocery store. I mean, aren’t the bananas touting a protective yellow peel anyway?

My friends also think I’m crazy when I vent over the fact that the cashiers at Chipotle always try to put my burrito bowl in a sack. Seriously? Why do I need an entire sack for something that is already in a case? This goes the same for any restaurant (not to mention those heinous styrofoam leftover carriers).

What amazes me is that people think they need to put everything in separate bags. What further disgruntles me is those organizations that still use plastic bags, even though plastic bags could take anwhere from a year to more than 250 years to decompose. To me, this just seems like a flagrant diregard for the environment.

Stores like Wal-Mart have started selling “eco-friendly” bags, but I wonder how many people actually buy and use these bags to carry their groceries. Most people seem perfectly content with putting their bananas (which they have already bagged in produce bag) in another plastic bag. They leave the store with something like 20 new plastic bags in their cart, which they probably end up throwing away (although Wal-Mart offers to let you bring back your used plastic sacks for recycling).

So where am I left in this mess of bag? I am that annoying lady in front of you at Chipotle who specifically asks for the special “bag” person NOT to bag my stuff. I am the annoying girl in the self-checkout line of the grocery store who is either bagging my stuff into a tote bag or searching for paper sacks (they are usually hidden away somewhere). If I accompany you on a shopping trip, I might even re-allocate the contents of your plastic sacks and give one of the empty bags back to the cashier (who is surely scowling at me). No matter where I am, I usually draw annoyed looks and weird stares.

My solution

Stores need to stop carrying plastic sacks. They should give patrons their own reusable sacks that they can bring along to the grocery store. Most grocery stores already track their customers through some identification system already, so they would be able to easily track who has received a reusable sack from the store. No bag, no service. Or, no bag, then carry your stuff out by hand. If the patron needs new sacks, they can conveniently purchase them from the store. This would not only reduce consumption and waste, but it would also profit the company, who would no longer need to invest in those fleeting plastic bags.

At the very least, stores and people should not needlessly bag items. Don’t put those bananas in the produce bag. Don’t put your milk or laundry detergent in a separate sack. Heck, don’t put these in a sack at all. They already have handles for you to carry them with.

How the slums of Mexico changed me *published in Children International eNews

About two years ago I walked through the slums of Mazatlán, Mexico. I looked over at the children in the street, who were playing soccer barefoot, and almost tripped over the loose wires that the neighbors had used to create their own electrical system. I sat next to a mother in her one-room shack, and she welcomed me.

You may ask what a pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Kansas girl was doing in a ghetto south of the border. You may think that it seems like the perfect plot for a horror film.

I was working as an intern at Noroeste newspaper in Mazatlán, and my editor decided he wanted me to experience the “real Mexico.” You see, while the other Americans were slathering on the sunblock at Mazatlán’s beautiful beaches, I was experiencing parts of the city hidden to tourists.

I’m not saying I asked to visit the area. I was scared. I felt uncomfortable. I felt frivolous in my pretty designer clothing.

But the residents didn’t care. Sure, a few heads turned, but they welcomed me into their houses. They were eager to tell me about the injustices they had suffered; how the government wouldn’t help them and how they had to create their own electrical and sewage systems.

When I left that day, I felt morose. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there was poverty in the world. I, myself, did not come from an affluent background. However, to see this firsthand, to talk to poverty’s victims, to see its children, deeply moved me.

Too often we place ourselves so distant from things that make us uncomfortable. We tell ourselves that it’s not our fault and we go on with our lives. We live blind and barren.

I am by birth a fighter for justice. However, my experiences in Mexico have made me stronger in my convictions. I can now put a face on poverty and injustice, and my desire for amnesty for all has increased.

I wish I could tell all of you to visit my little section of Mexico and talk to the people who I talked to, but that is impossible. What I can encourage you to do is open your heart. Understand that we are all connected in this world, and that everybody matters. Wealth should not be measured in dollars, but in love.

I would also encourage you to join me in fighting childhood poverty by sponsoring a child through Children International. I have been sponsoring a child for almost a year, and it is so encouraging to know that I am helping her become the person that she deserves to be.

Please join me. Help make a difference for one child. Show your love and support for those in poverty throughout the world.

This post was reproduced for Children International June 2008 eNews. To see the blog and photos, click for English or Spanish.

Global warming denial costs us all (except those who profit from it)

“Global warming is made up by the government. They’re just trying to suck more money out of us when we’re already in a recession!”

“Who is the one making all the money off of global warming? Al Gore!”

“I don’t believe in global warming because the earth goes through natural warming cycles.”

I become more and more apalled as I read online forum comments and articles touting that global warming is an elaborate hoax and will come to be nothing more than a gigantic Y2K fiasco.

What is most disturbing is those organizations and “scientists” who are getting paid to trump these lies to the public.

Case in point is the Heartland Institute.

This organization says its mission is “to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Furthermore, the institute claims to be a non-partisan, non-profit organization that is unaffiliated with any businesses.

However, the institute has been documented as receiving $561,500 in funding from ExxonMobil from 1998-2005. The company also receives funding from Phillip Morris, the tobacco company. In addition, the Board of Directors for the Heartland Institute includes Thomas Walton, Director, Economic Policy Analysis, General Motors Coorporation.

Needless to say, the Heartland Institute denies that second-hand smoke is dangerous and says that global warming is an unproven farce. It even recently held a conference with the purpose of convincing people that global warming is a myth and is not a crisis.

The Heartland Institute’s research on global warming is laughable. The institute states that global warming is not a crisis, yet one of the organization’s very own researchers found the following:

  • Eighty-two percent of climate scientists agreed with the statement, “We can say for certain that global warming is a process already underway.”
  • About 56 percent agreed when asked, “Do you agree or disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic (man-made) causes?”About 14 percent were unsure.

First, this sample was non-scientific; it was placed on the Web site for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Furthermore, I would argue that the true percentage of scientists who believe that global warming is due to anthropegenic causes is actually much higher. Most scientific organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society, American Physical Society, the Federation of American Scientists, Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, and the European Geosciences Union, have released statements that conclude that global warming is happening, and it is due to man-made technologies. Many of these organizations have also concluded that swift action must be taken.

However, let’s say that the Heartland Institute’s research is correct. Is it not enough that nearly 60 percent of scientists surveyed by the institute think that global warming is caused by man-made processes, with only slightly more than a quarter of scientists saying that it isn’t?

Let’s say there is a 60-percent chance that you will get mugged if you walk outside alone at night without any protection (pepper spray, for example). Would you continue to walk alone at night sans protection because there is still a 40-percent chance that you will not get mugged?

It is crucial that people understand that even IF global warming is not caused by humans we need protect our planet and our future. Furthermore, we have the responsibility to be stewards to the earth regardless of our beliefs about global warming. How dare we pollute and rob the land that gives us so much? We ought take care of our environment and invest in clean energies from a pure moral standpoint.

The Heartland Institute was a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition which questioned the impact of global warming and claimed that climate control policies hurt consumers. It seems that this is already a popular farse by global warming skeptics, although the rise of green technologies in markets across the world has actually improved economic viability in many countries.

This type of stereotypical “global warming policy hurts the economy” view could have detrimental effects in the long run. What if global warming meets all of our worst predictions? Its effects will cost us an invaluable amount of money, resources and human lives. However, if we engage in responsible practices to mitigate the possible effects of global warming, and it turns out that it really was a hoax, we STILL benefit from a cleaner, more livable and sustainable environment. So either way, we win. Unless we follow the advice of organizations such as the Heartland Institute, who thinks we should not do anything to mitigate global warming.