Tag Archives: environment

How far must we take our moral obligations to the earth?

I am an avid protector of the environment, but I find myself facing daily struggles about how to live my life. I think every environmentalist inevitably faces certain hard decisions every day. On one hand, we want to care for the environment and the world’s wildlife and human populations. On the other hand, this makes life very difficult.

Should I bike to work for 30 minutes in the snow and 8-degree temperature? Should I stop eating the french fries I love so much from McDonald’s? Should I buy only local even though I can barely afford it?

Today I read an article about the effects of birth control hormones when they are flushed down the toilet. According to a University of Idaho press release, “James Nagler, professor of biological sciences, recently discovered that 17α-ethynylestradiol – an active chemical in birth control pills – causes cells in rainbow trout to have an abnormal number of chromosomes.”

There have been studies on the effects of birth control hormones on human populations as well. One study stated that the estrogen that entered drinking water as a result of flushing the toilet could affect the gender of an unborn child, thus causing a positive spike in the birth of female babies.

It would seem ethical then, to cease the use of birth control pills. This, however, fails to address the world’s problem with overpopulation. It also fails to recognize the many health benefits that are offered by birth control pills such as controlling the severity of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis.  Many women even use birth control to lessen the pain of their menstrual cycles.

How do we find a balance then, between protecting the environment and protecting ourselves? I personally suffer from a condition known as interstitial cystitis and have been successfully using birth control as a method of controlling the pain and discomfort associated with the condition for more than a year.

I feel horrible knowing that by treating my condition, I may be negatively affecting human and animal populations. So what are we to do?  Should we all just try to do what we can to help save the environment and worry a little less about the not-so-good things we do to contribute to the problem? Is it enough that I use reusable shopping bags, buy organic, recycle, start a carpool club at work, and write this blog? Or should we all sacrifice just a little more?

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Why environmentalism hurts

I’m an environmentalist, and it hurts.

Let me explain. I am one of the lucky people who has been stricken with an undying passion to save the planet. I’m the girl who sobs while watching the wildlife shots on Planet Earth. I get so worked up when thinking about global warming that I literally feel like I alone bear the burden of fighting this global catastrophe.

My mom asks me why I’m so opinionated and my boyfriend says I get too worked up about things I can not change. These comments burden me even further.

The burden of passion

I’m sure some of you can relate to my strife. If you are a passionate person you often feel frustrated and as if you are an outsider fighting for justice. Whether you are an advocate of peace, a better environment or poverty elimination, your passion can move you to tears.

When we care so deeply about something it is hard to separate ourselves and unburden our hearts.

Accepting the burden

I have recently decided that I do not want to be unburdened. It is the burden that pushes me to do great things. It is the burden that makes me want to prove others wrong and make a difference when no one thought it could be done.

Some people think I’m a crazy environmentalist with too many opinions, but I pity those who live without such passion. While they may not feel the “burden” they do not feel the joy in knowing that they have something to believe in.

And I do.

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!

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.

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.

Companies with a conscience

Stop. Close your eyes and think about the qualities of a successful company.

If you are like many environmentalists, these words may have came to mind: Profit. Exploitation. Pollution.

In today’s world it’s easy for us to get caught up in what is going wrong in in society, and in doing so, we forget to focus on the good. We forget to think about those companies who do their best to end exploitation and do good for the environment at the same time.

Here is what these “do-good” companies have realized: being a good sumaritan is actually good for your company.

Chipotle

Chipotle has all the ingredients (literally) for a successful business. They have a niche, they have a business sense, and they even top it off with tasty burritos.

But this product has a conscience. Chipotle’s menu consists of natural and organic ingredients.

The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it’s had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It’s led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations. —Chipotle Web site.

Learn more about Chipotle’s Food With Integrity philosophy here.

Aveda

Aveda has a superb product and comparable prices to other designer hair and beauty manufacturers.

So what makes them stand out?

Aveda believes there is no responsible alternative to doing business other than through environmental sustainability. At Aveda, we also believe that profit and environmental responsibility will increasingly work together as more industries find out that “nature works” for both sustainability and the bottom-line. –Aveda Web site

Aveda uses 100 percent wind power to operate their manufacturing facilities. Aveda is also one of the largest purchasers of organic ingredients among beauty organizations. Aveda doesn’t stop there, however. They support responsible packaging, participate in charitable giving, and support the indigenous communities that help provide Aveda with its natural plant-based ingredients.

Organic valley

Organic Valley, the “Family of Farms,” is comprised of1,205 farmers from across the United States. Instead of the traditional company, where the wealth is distributed to only a few, each member of the Organic Valley cooperative shares the organization’s wealth.

Organic Valley prides itself in distributing food that is better for the environment and better for people.

A commitment to choosing local and regionally produced foods is a core value of the organic movement. In addition to fresher foods and reduced fossil fuel consumption, the profit from the sale of locally produced foods is more likely to find its way back into the community. Consumers and family farmers working together to support such local systems form a sustainable partnership. –Organic Valley Web site

And all this environmentalism has profitted the company. The sales of this $259-million cooperative jumped 25 percent in 2005. This is an above-average growth rate for even a conventional food company.

So, environmentalists and social advocates, do not despair! There IS good in the world! I feel a wind of change in here and I think I sense the dawn of a new kind of company — a company that gives back equally to what it takes. A company that truly cares about the world. A company with a conscience.

Boycott the meat industry

The United States Humane Society (USHS) recently documented gross abuse to dairy cattle at a slaughterhouse in California. Documented abuses to cattle included poking, prodding, kicking and dragging downed and sick cattle, and even forcing water through the animals’ noses and mouths.

To watch complete coverage of what they found, please visit the Humane Society‘s website.

This behavior is despicable and unacceptable.

The sad thing is that this happens more than you would think. I have read numerous investigations that have pointed to the same conclusions. For years, organizations such as PETA (which many people think is off its hinge) have been pointing to animal cruelty in our nation’s meat production plants, but it took a startling investigation such as this one (which has no doubt come to light because the meat from these sick cows was sent to school children and the elderly) to make people actually start caring about these types of mistreatments toward animals.

This video and the other videos on the USHS’s website make me sick to my stomach. Not because children ate the meat from these sickened cows (although that is horrible indeed), but because the workers at this industrial cow farm obviously think that it is okay to abuse and torture animals. To them, animals represent lower beings than the human race, and deserve to be treated as if they do not matter. What’s more, these animals represent no more than a couple of dollars to these people. This type of mentality makes me sick.

Secondly, this makes me sick because these type of animal factories are driven by our disgusting market for mass-produced food. This system of mass produced food is not only unsafe for the humans that consume the food (with mistreatment of animals, use of unnatural pesticides and fertilizers, use of growth hormones, and the introduction of genetically modified foods), but it is inhumane, and I would argue, unethical, as much of the food that workers try so hard to mass produce is thrown away somewhere along the line from animal/plant to human mouth.

I urge anyone reading this blog to take action against this cruelty in any or all of the following ways:

1. Protest against the mass-production of meat and the cruelty of animals at these mass-production plants by refusing to eat meat of unknown source. I am banning all grocery store meat. If you are unaware of how to buy ethically raised meat, the Local Harvest website allows you to find local farms, read about them, and purchase directly through the farmers.

Purchasing your food directly from the farmer ensures that you will be able to monitor how the animals are raised. Buying locally is also better for the environment, as it reduces pollution due to transportation of food.

2. Do not eat genetically modified food. If you shop at a grocery store, try sticking to those products that are USDA certified organic. These products will have the USDA organic green seal on their packaging. For produce, use this key if you are uncertain about how your food was grown:

  • Conventionally grown produce will have a four-digit PLU code (a banana, for instance would have a 4011 on its label.)
  • Organically grown produce will have a five-digit code starting in “9.” (An organic banana will have a PLU code of 94011.)
  • Genetically modified produce will have a five-digit code starting in “8.” (A genetically modified banana will have a PLU code of 84011.)

3. Write your congressman/congresswoman to tell them how you feel about this issue.

4. Support future endeavors by the USHS by donating to the USHS Investigations Fund.

5. Spread the word about this investigation to your friends who may not know that these kinds of things are going on in our supposed “civilized” society.

6. Write your own blog discussing the issue. The more people who are talking about it, the more difference we can make.

If this kind of mistreatment of animals does not make you feel sick, I question that you have a soul. Please do the right thing and join me in my protest of these types of atrocities. Just doing one of the above suggestions can make a difference. Thank you!