Category: Oceans

Single-Use Plastic Bags MUST Go

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 19, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction


With the world in the grip of a pandemic, everyone wants something to make life less troublesome. Plastic bags make carrying things much easier. More items can be carried, which means you can avoid going back to your car in the rain or marching through the snow to retrieve that one last item. If only it were so simple. If only we did not have to worry about the environment.

On March 1, 2020, New York state’s ban on plastic bags became law. This means any entity authorized to collect sales taxes cannot distribute plastic bags. Failure to follow this law subjects the entity to up to a fine of up to five-hundred dollars per incident. The State of New York created the ban for good reason. Prior to the ban, New York State produced on average twenty-three billion bags per year, which filled already overflowing landfills, snagged recycling sorters, and wreaked havoc with birds to name just a few problems.

New York is not the only state that passed such a ban. Eight other states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont) have passed similar laws.

Of course, not all states have such rules, and these states still produce millions of plastic bags. It does raise the question: can lawsuits force other states to ban plastic bags?

Maybe. It is probably a state by state process unless Congress passes a statute under, for example, the Interstate Commerce Clause, that says plastic bags somehow affect interstate commerce. That may sound far fetched, but it is not. The Interstate Commerce Clause allowed Congress to pass much of the civil rights legislation, and it is quite a big stick to bludgeon states into submission. Whether Congress wants to take this up remains doubtful. 

In states that have the plastic bans, the bans are not absolute. New York has some restrictions. Most notably restaurants that offer takeout food, which in the age of COVID-19, can create many plastic bags, are exempt. Although it is likely not “an exception that swallows the rule,” this limitation still creates a problem when so many more people are getting takeout and likely will for the foreseeable future as virus numbers explode. 

But what about other plastic or rubber? 

Rubber glove use during the pandemic harms the environment, and there is no end in sight. While banning plastic bags everywhere will help, it will not solve all issues. It should still be done, however. 

More needs to be done because bags are not the only problem:

While plastic bags certainly make things easier to carry, their burdens to the environment certainly outweigh their benefits. The extent to which lawsuits or Congressional action will limit their use remains unknown. People should count on neither. It really is about personal choices, which must also be made with respect to other items people use. Over time it can all add up to pollution, death, and, as we have seen with COVID-19, a pandemic.

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How Much Carbon Do Bushes Absorb? This Ninth Grader Plans To Find Out

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 30, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Do bushes sequester carbon too? Is planting more shrubs as important as planting more trees in helping to lower atmospheric carbon levels and reverse global warming?

One student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia is determined to find out. Ninth grader Julia Victor has accepted the challenge to conduct her own science experiment for the upcoming Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair and is busy mapping out the procedure she will follow to test how much carbon five species of Northern Virginia natives can absorb in comparison to one another. 

The Regeneron ISEF has a wide range of categories, 21 in all, that 1800 participating students are selecting from. As a nature lover, Earth and Environmental Sciences was Julia’s top choice, which she quickly narrowed down to climate change. Julia asked herself questions about which NoVa natives might absorb the most carbon. She then spent time researching, and eventually arrived at her hypothesis: “I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees.”

Julia will be implementing the following steps to test her hypothesis. All the plants will be kept in open containers.

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

An important science experiment like this one is challenging enough without there being an extra layer of difficulty. But, Julia isn’t daunted by the complications during the fall season. Julia explained, that there are far less species available for her to choose from this late in the year. Many NoVa natives are nearly dormant, so there’s far less photosynthesis, which means very little, if any, carbon absorption. But Julia persevered and unearthed several standouts she can rely on:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

We’ll be checking back with Julia in December to learn about the conclusions she drew once she completes her experiment, weighs each plant, and is able to identify the winning species that sequestered the most carbon. Julia will be managing a total of 25 small plants for her project.

This is a lot of extra work during a very challenging global pandemic. Julia began her freshman year with virtual learning, and appears to be very excited about having something she feels passionately about, nature and science, to keep her mind preoccupied in the midst of a health crisis. “This is my first time participating in the Regeneron ISEF and I’m excited to see everyone’s projects, especially during covid-19.”

I asked Julia how she keeps from feeling intimidated by such a challenging, high level competition. Her response was one that we could all apply to our own lives.

“These days, it’s very easy to get intimidated by projects and big assignments. I found that if I don’t think about it as an assignment, but rather as something I enjoy, then it becomes much easier to do get motivated by my curiosity.”

Nature is an exciting and therapeutic ally to help combat our daily challenges during covid. A major destresser, thanks to its beauty and healing scents, as well as the chemicals it emits that we humans respond to by releasing our own positive chemicals—serotonin for example. Nature is very responsive to human interaction, both positively and negatively. Humans and nature are connected through a symbiotic relationship. What we give is what we get. We see this with climate change of course, but it’s equally as powerful on the positive side of the coin. Nature nurtures. It comforts. Heals. Inspires. Supports. Motivates. Hanging out with nature makes us physically and emotionally stronger. It’s time to recognize this fact and act on it. Planting millions of trees and shrubs and flowers and all types of nature is an investment that pays us back exponentially. So, let’s get planting! If it’s too cold where you are right now, you can plant a seedling indoors in a container and leave inside until spring. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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3 Must Haves for New School Year | Eco-Friendly Parenting

Washington (GGM) Analysis | July 27, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

As August nears, so do thoughts of sending your children back to school.  If it were any other summer, you would be budgeting for clothes, scheduling haircuts, and debating with your kids about why they don’t need the latest Louis Vuitton Supreme sneakers.  Instead, due to the global pandemic, you’re reading and re-reading governor briefings and state guidelines for re-opening in the fall and wondering about the efficacy of remote learning.

No doubt, things will be different this school year. Your child may return to school in the fall using a hybrid model, or they might be 100% remote.  No matter what avenue is taken, you still need to prepare.  As an earth-conscious parent, we know how important it is that your back to school list is sustainable. 

We talk about plastic a lot, but one of the biggest offenders of the climate crisis is our paper consumption.  According to the Environmental Professionals Network (EPN), each person in the U.S uses 749 lbs of paper per year, resulting in massive deforestation. Adding insult to injury, so much of this paper does not get recycled.  Paper waste makes up 26% of landfills, resulting in the production of methane, “greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide.” Because of this, the reMarkable 2 should be the first item on your shopping list. 

This next generation “paper tablet” is wildly versatile.  It looks, feels, and even sounds like a pencil and paper, offering your child the creative experience they are used to.  It is ultra-lightweight and compact, and all of your child’s notes will be automatically uploaded to the cloud.  So, finally, everything will be organized, and nothing will get lost!

Twitter – @Ayo_d10

The next item of the list, of course, is cellphone related.  Nowadays, if you have a school-age child, the chances are that they have a mobile device.  Without a doubt, they will be looking for a new case for the start of the school year.  For this request, consider buying your young one a Pela phone case.  Pela cases are nonsynthetic and are Certified Climate Neutral.  These stylish accessories are plant-based and made from recycled materials, making them completely biodegradable and compostable!  With tons of styles that fit AirPods, iPhones, Samsungs, and Pixel phones, your child will be excited to make this eco-friendly switch.

This last item was definitely not on your back to school list last year: a face mask.  Disposing of single-use face masks is posing a real threat to marine life.  To combat this dangerous trend, try switching to a reusable mask made from upcycled materials.  Lumily is an ethical brand that focuses on sustainability as a part of their business model.  They offer a variety of CDC certified reusable masks made from 100% responsibly sourced cotton.  An added bonus: Lumily will donate a mask to someone in an underserved or vulnerable community for each mask purchased!

Twitter – @craigtimes

With these three small changes to your back to school shopping, you and your kids can make a big impact on the globe!

Come back every Tuesday for more Eco-Friendly Parenting tips!

Tl:dr

  • Concerns about COVID-19 will most likely affect the way your child returns to school in the Fall
  • Try to keep sustainability at the forefront of thought when curating your child’s back to school list
  • Each person in the U.S uses 749 lbs of paper per year
  • Paper waste makes up 26% of landfills, resulting in the production of methane
  • Methane in landfills has 23 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide
  • Try limiting your family’s paper waste with the purchase of a reMarkable 2
  • Try replacing plastic phone cases and AirPod cases with a compostable Pela case
  • Face masks, gloves, and other PPE are posing a major threat to marine life
  • Purchase a  CDC certified reusable Lumily mask, made from 100% responsibly sourced cotton

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.


How Cool Is This? | Loop Shopping for Zero-Waste

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2020
NWHillReport-Pic by Noreen Wise

The vast majority of plastic waste is product packaging. If our goal is to have a sustainable circular economy, and rid the environment of as much plastic waste as possible, we have to find a series of solutions to overhaul the way we package consumer products.

So why hasn’t Loop become a familiar buzzword and pathway for all of us to take  advantage of for waste free weekly shopping? It’s quite brilliant.

  • No membership is required
  • We just pay a small one-time fee at the start for the returnable durable Loop Tote
  • We’ll use the Loop Tote with each shipment delivery which will eliminate the cardboard waste
  • All the products are delivered in reusable containers that are returned when we’re through
  • Most containers are stainless steel, while others are glass
  • Loop will sanitize each container and reuse

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Loop has even managed to solve the toothpaste crisis, which has always seemed too tricky for a feasible alternative. Many of our favorite name brands are Loop partners. But most importantly, Loop is an excellent fix for personal care products that we use everyday and create the bulk of plastic waste.

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Innovative creativity is so exciting.I’m IN… can’t wait to check it out!

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Are You Ever Confused About What Can Be Recycled? | Check Out This Link

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 10, 2020
NWHillReport-Pic by Noreen Wise

Recycling has the world’s undivided attention as we strive to reach our lofty goal of zero waste.  Proper recycling is of the utmost importance in the new circular economy era. As we attempt to deposit each item into the correct bin, it’s become more clear that the packaging industry has to be overhauled.

  • Paper labels stickered to a glass container is a very big problem. When glass is pure,  it’s 100% recyclable. When paper stickers are added to the mix, it changes everything.
  • How about the bubble wrap mailing envelopes? Paper on the outside, plastic inside. These can’y be recycled, which is unacceptable.
  • Toothpaste has to have a package redesign as well. It’s impossible to recycle toothpaste tubes because they can’t be cleaned.
  • Plastic bags can’t be recycled. This includes bread bags, frozen fruit and vegetables, Saran wrap, sandwich bags, etc.
  • If we can’t reuse or recycle, we must refuse.

On the subject of cleaning, any plastic container that’s dirty cannot be recycled. Plastic packaging with skinny necks, and there are many, are a very serious problem. The hair conditioner I use, is nearly impossible to clean. I have to work so hard at it, I become aggravated at the selfish business practices of the manufacturer. My time is very valuable. Being forced to be clever and resourceful after a long day of work, so that the manufacturer’s job is easier, isn’t right.

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Here’s an exceptional link that makes recycling super easy. Just enter the name of the item you want to recycle, and it will tell you how to take care of it.

By the way, plastic shopping bags cannot be recycled either. ZeroWaste.gov recommends that these be recycled by returning them to the store where they came from. Excellent idea! Better yet, invest in reusable bags to make your life easier, and the world a better place.~

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Consumers Profit from Circular Economy

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 16, 2019
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

Finally, the era of consumer profit has arrived. We’ve certainly earned this ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
unexpected windfall after nearly two centuries of corporate greed destroying our hopes & dreams by restraining our financial ability to achieve them.

Now that our golden opportunity is upon us, let’s try and maximize the amazing possibilities so we can quickly increase our disposable income and apply this boost to health, education and long term goals.

A circular economy is created through the principals of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. This requires a bit of imagination and resourcefulness, key characteristics of the creative, the artists and those with right brain strengths.

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According to the Centre of Expertise on Resources, the tools for succeeding at a “no waste” circular economy are straight forward:

  • Refuse: try to eliminate using our natural resources when there are other alternatives
  • Reduce: lower the need for using natural resources, by reusing products already manufactured
  • Reuse: rayon paper towels can be washed and reused over and over
  • Repair: if the screen breaks on our phones, we simply repair rather than buy a new one
  • Refurbish: improving a product when it ages, ie repainting, polishing, etc
  • Remanufacture: improving an old product and using in a new way (broken outdoor shutters create beautiful indoor wall hangings… ART!)
  • Repurpose: reuse a product for a new purpose without having to change anything about it (glass jars are best example, buy pickles in a glass jar, when done we now have a storage container)
  • Recycle: reusing a products raw materials
  • Recover: use waste to make energy

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photography by AdobeStock

The most useful & effective reusable product that I’ve stumbled upon are rayon paper towels that can be washed, dried & reused indefinitely. They hold up well. I was spending $6 per week on paper towels, and now $0. That’s an easy $312 in my pocket.

We’ve got THIS!

© Copyright 2018 – 2019. ALL Rights Reserved.
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Glass Packaging is a Vital Climate Action Solution

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 7, 2019
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

Glass packaging is an immediate climate action initiative we can run with ASAP.  Eliminating as much plastic as possible from the environment is on everyone’s ST-Saga-CovFrnt-72dpi-300
agenda. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of France, is nearly pure plastic and threatens ocean health. It’s hard to believe that as recently as, fifty years ago, the majority of US food packaging was glass, including everyday milk.

Plastic has several obvious benefits that resulted in consumer good manufacturers transitioning to plastic packaging when it was introduced to the marketplace back in the 70’s. Lightweight, squeezable, and durable. Plastic doesn’t shatter when dropped the way glass can.

But the plastic negatives are life-threatening and must be factored into decision making. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), plastics are “produced from natural gas, natural gas processing, and crude oil refining.” Thus, plastics contains numerous chemicals that are carcinogens as well as the source of other serious human health hazards that can leach into food and impact health. Not only does plastic packaging increase cancer risk, it also impacts our body’s ability to regulate itself by disrupting our hormones and our body’s chemical pathways. Additionally, plastics imperil the well-being of our oceans and the food supply living in the deep blue seas. In fact, whenever we eat fish, we consume microscopic amounts of plastic.

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Climate and health focused consumers are sounding the battle cry to eliminate the scourge of plastic packaging from our lives, and thus save humanity. A very powerful alarm… and force. It’s the witching hour, with no time for delay.

On this note, as we begin to boldly transition back to glass packaging, the Glass Packaging Institute is a wealth of information and a critical resource for manufacturers making key decisions. Whatever the difference in cost may be, it’s clear that consumers have already made the decision that we’re willing to pay a few cents more for glass packaging. Yet, companies did receive a significant tax break at the end of 2017, so they should be able to cover the cost increase on their own, especially now that many consumers are choosing products based on how they are packaged.

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The Glass Packaging Institute website provides valuable information, that every savvy consumer will want to know when making a decision about what to buy based on how it’s packaged as we struggle to save the planet, our climate and our health.

GPI:

  • Glass is made from natural domestic materials such as sand, cullet, soda ash, and limestone
  • Glass is impermeable and nonporous so there’s no leaching of chemicals into our food supply
  • Glass is 100% recyclable
  • 80% of recycled glass is used in new glass products
  • Communities are beginning to set up large glass recycling bins, rather than use curbside service, so glass can be that much more easily recycled at its purest form (curbside often results in shreds of cardboard being mixed with the glass when recycled)
  • Glass packaging can also be recycled endlessly with no loss to purity
  • GPI has a new president, Scott DeFife, who will be developing and sharpening GPI’s focus on “marketing, advocacy, and sustainability” for the glass container manufacturing industry. Best of luck, Mr. DeFife… you have a huge #ClimateAction fan club that will be keeping track of and sharing your successes.

On a personal note, I was excited to discover over the weekend, that the barbecue sauce aisle in my local grocery store displayed products on shelves based on packaging. The TOP 5 shelves were all the glass bottles of barbecue sauce. And the bottom two shelves, which were so close to the ground you wouldn’t actually stoop unless you were forced to, were the plastic bottles of barbecue sauce. Imagine if every grocery store did the same… we’d have this particular climate action initiative humming along in record time. Interestingly, two of the plastic bottle brands clinging to the bottom were the biggest brand names: Heinz and Kraft. We clearly need to alert these two consumer brands about our consumer expectations.

Let’s FIX this, fast & furious!

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch & ‘The Ocean Cleanup’

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 2, 2019
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

The simple fact about cutting carbon, and saving our civilization and returning to 350 PPM, is that if everyone does their little part now, we’ll succeed. And if not, we won’t. It’s that basic.

ST-SAGA-CovFrnt-72-300Knowing this, it becomes super exciting to see individuals, families, groups, corporations and innovators dive in and act, and quite infuriating when corporations that I love from a consumer perspective, do nothing. In fact, I feel extremely disappointed with the “do nothing” sector, and if it’s a corporation, quickly search to see whether their top competitor is moving more quickly with climate action.

Saving our civilization is going to take grit and sacrifice, two vital traits that require practice to make perfect. Both become charged when inspired. The story of 25-year-old Dutchman Boyan Slat, and his seven year journey of bringing a dream to life, drawing a diagram on a napkin while in high school, and having his boat The Ocean Cleanup  set sail from San Francisco, CA on September 9, 2019, is quite dazzling. He’s young, lives across the globe, yet he was the one who became so infuriated with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that he moved into high gear and took action.

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The Ocean Cleanup is testing it’s theory that the ship can use ocean currents along with a massive boon and skirt to collect the plastic from the garbage patch — that’s twice the land mass of France — and harvest it. Slat had to make the huge personal sacrifice of foregoing his studies in aeronautical engineering to follow through with his vision. But his sacrifice paid off. And we’ll be able to follow the success of this determined humanitarian. Mr. Slat recently became the youngest winner ever of the UN’s greatest environmental honor, The Champion of the Earth award. Congratulations!

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Our contribution to this noble cause of saving our oceans which then saves humanity is very simple. We all MUST:

  • Use reusable bags INSTEAD of single use plastic
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Metal straws
  • Fly kites instead of balloons

Nominal cost, maximum gain. It doesn’t get any easier than this. #ActNow

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