Tag: California

The Mysterious Deaths of a Young California Family on California Trail Near Toxic Algal Blooms | Who Has the Answers?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 23, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

The mysterious deaths of the young California family and their dog while out hiking along the remote Savage Lundy Trail in Devil’s Gulch in Sierra National Forest in Mariposa, California on August 15, 2021, should have us all on high alert as we enter this new high heat era that scientists know very little about. 

Heart of the matter. There are many toxins in our environment that become more dangerous in high heat, especially extreme high heat with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These hazardous chemicals are likely to become airborne in temperatures with a heat index of 90 degrees. Examples of such toxins are the pesticides used on golf coursesas well as conventional farms. These toxic pesticides — typically glyphosate and chlorpyrifos — run off the treated land during heavy rains, and spread far and wide. They’re invisible, and most are odorless, which results in the public being unaware that we’re exposed. A family might live hundreds of yards from a golf course, and not think to attribute a health condition to this unfortunate reality. In fact, doctors might be stumped and unable to quickly identify what is causing an ailment. 

This appears to be the way investigators in Mariposa, California are feeling right now as they try and solve the tragic deaths of John Gerrish, 45, his partner Ellen Chung, 30, their one-year-old daughter, Miju, and dog, Oski, who all died while hiking in the California wilderness on a hot Sunday afternoon when local thermometers hit 109 degrees.

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Important facts.

  • Harmful algal blooms (HABs, also known as cyanotoxins) were in the south fork of the Merced River a couple of miles from where the family was found. The investigators didn’t provide any information about whether the family swam or waded in the toxic water, or drank from it, although apparently they did not, since no evidence of that was discovered during the autopsies, and no information to that effect has been reported.
  • Upon testing the water, high levels of anatoxin-a (ATX) were found. ATX is also known as Very Fast Death Factor that can cause multiple conditions including breathing paralysis and death.
  • In April of this year, scientists found airborne ATX around Capaum Pond on Nantucket and weren’t clear about how it became airborne. They expressed concern: “People often recreate around these lakes and ponds with algal blooms without any awareness of the potential problems.”
  • University of Michigan researchers, Andrew Ault and Kerri Pratt, conducted a study on the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan in 2018 where toxic blue-green algal blooms appear each year en masse in the wake of agricultural run-off. They found that the waves splashing against the algal blooms along the shoreline, resulted in the toxic algal blooms becoming aerosolized. Ault and Pratt were the first to report this finding.
  • The terrain itself may have posed a problem. Steep mountain walls on all sides, with  the four bodies found along the trail on the lower section of the mountain. Hopefully investigators are researching whether thermal runawaywas a contributing factor. Thermal runaway is a condition, where “an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result.” This likely was not the case, but because the new high heat conditions are foreign to us, scientists don’t necessarily know whether or not it was a contributing factor, and might want to research this possibility. The toxic algal blooms were located at the very bottom of the mountain range in the valley, with towering mountains on all sides. Can thermal runaway cause the toxins to become more potent and rise further in the air?

Next Steps:

  • The Savage Lundy Trail is closed until at least September 26, 2021. Investigators have been very tight-lipped about their investigation, not providing any additional details after they learned about the high levels of ATX in the Merced Rivers due to toxic algal blooms. They did not respond to our request for an update, nor whether the Savage Lundy Trail would re-open after the 26th. 
  • Murder and suicide were ruled out. 
  • Nine out of ten Americans breath polluted air that becomes that much more toxic in the high heat.
  • We all may want to consider wearing facemarks outdoors in the high heat due to the sheer volume of chemicals that become airborne.
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School Buses with White Roofs Lower the Heat | Albedo Effect

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 22, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Many decision makers in our towns as well as local businesses and corporate office parks are aware of the albedo effectand apply the principles. We can see this with our own eyes as we drive through our towns and cities. Large sports arenas and convention centers seem to glow in the sun, many with their white exteriors and white roofs. I hiked up a mountain over the weekend and was startled to look out and see the bright white church steeples, metallic silver domes covering silos, and a few other gleaming white rooftops on buildings dotting the rural landscape. Another excellent example of the albedo effect principles being applied all around us is the widespread use of white roofs on public school buses in communities across the country. My county in Virginia has white-topped school buses.

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In 1992, Brunswick County, North Carolina decided to run a pilot program to gauge the effectiveness of white roofs on school buses to lower the temperature. They’d learned about the white tops being used in California and Florida. California had begun applying albedo principles to school buses 20 years earlier. The Brunswick County pilot ran from August through December that year. At the conclusion, they found that the white roofs:

  • lowered the temperature by 10 degrees
  • lowered the temperature by 17 degrees during peak hours
  • and only lowered the temperature by 3 or 4 degrees in the winter

Heart of the Matter. Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Kathy Castor (FL-D) said at a recent hearing, “We are all dealing with the devastating consequences of a rapidly warming planet. In the past 5 years, about 4,000 Americans have died from extreme wether events. Every year we lose about 700 Americans to heat related deaths.” Experts have gone on record stating officially that heat has a direct negative impact on our health.

Chelsea, Massachusetts has taken protecting the health and well-being of school children to the next level. According to WBUR in Boston, Chelsea Massachusetts just finished installing two white roofs on their two public middle schools this past July 2021. Their objective was to lower the heat in the classrooms, as well as the area surrounding the school. Chelsea is an oppressive heat island, North of Boston, across form Logan airport and is considered one of the hottest cities in Massachusetts. In addition to lowering the heat in the classroom for the students, according to WBUR, the Superintendent, Almi Abeyta, is also looking forward to the lower cost of electricity that will free up some money in the school budget.

Chelsea elementary schools are up next for the white roofs. Additionally, the city planner, Ben Cares, explained they also plan to replace the asphalt with a lighter material.

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I’m personally and professionally very excited about the two white roofs reducing carbon emissions and also having two more buildings added to the growing collection around the world that will help reflect the sun’s energy and make up for the shrinking icecaps. August 20, 2021 was yet another alarming global warming red flag. It rained for the first time in recorded history on Greenland’s summit. According to the Sierra Club, 337,000 square miles of Greenland’s ice sheet, experienced surface flooding and 7 billion tons of water flooded the summit.

Active measures such as these — switching to white roofs on buildings and buses, and lighter ground surfaces to reduce deadly heat — are what every community should be rushing to do to save lives in this new high heat era. We have the ability to lower the heat. We must act.

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb. Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

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Top Tips for Staying Alive While Working In the Heat

Washington (GGM) Analysis | August 19, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

Heat can hurt, warned UCLA Assistant Professor of Public Policy Dr. R. Jisung Park in a Twitter thread last month. “In unexpected ways, even indoors,” Park emphasized along with images highlighting the data that supported his assertions. Millions of Americans suffered through a scorching heat wave that punished the Pacific Northwest from late June to mid July, 2021. The staggering temperature highs jolted mayors and governors across five states. “Hotter temperature increases workplace injuries significantly,” Park stated point blank in one tweet.

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With so many enduring the negative impact of the heat, and with the IPCC Report confirming last week that we are now above 1ºC and will remain there for at least 20-30 years, (although scientists are very concerned temperatures will climb even higher, possibly at an exponential rate if we don’t act now to lower carbon emissions), the public must demand that OSHA rush to establish national Heat Index Standards to protect employees from the dangers while on the job.

The federal Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration (OSHA) was created on April 28, 1971 after 100 years of workers demanding protection from the torturous conditions endured during the boom in factory jobs that arose during Reconstruction, following the Civil War and beyond. Massachusetts was the first state to pass factory inspection laws in 1877. By 1890, the number rose to 9 states with factory inspection laws. Does this sound familiar? We’ve been experiencing this kind of grueling, slow motion response with curbing carbon emissions for decades. Millions of citizens protest and demand action, but legislative follow through is dangerously slow.

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With temperatures rising, and multiple employees dying at work in the unprecedented heatwaves of 2021, there’s no time for delay. We must call our local, state, and federal representatives and demand that OSHA act now.

According to OSHA, the heat index is the combination of air temperature combined with humidity to create a value that is usually significantly higher than the actual air temperature. The AccuWeather app refers to this as RealFeel.

OSHA has never had specific heat index standards that cover employees working in hot environments. They do have strong messaging about “water, rest, shade” on their web page: Using the Heat Index: a Guide of Employers, but it’s not required and there’s no legal liability if employers do not provide these three essentials.

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On July 8, 2021, Oregon’s OSHA established temporary agency standards that applied to both indoor and outdoor work environments where the temperature in the work area was 80ºF or higher. These emergency standards went even further if temperatures exceeded 90ºF. The temporary heat index standards will stay in effect until permanent heat index standards are passed. California and Washington have also adopted heat standards. But there are approximately 30 million Americans who work outdoors in the heat, and we have 47 states that do no have any employer requirements when the temperature skyrockets.

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Under Oregon OSHA’s Temporary Heat Standard, employers must:

  • Provide shade area that meets certain specifications
  • Provide 32 oz of dinking water every hour
  • Provide training for all employees, in whatever language they speak, to educate on: environmental and personal risk factors for heat illness, as well as employee rights and obligations under the heat standard, acclimatization, common signs and symptoms, factors affecting tolerance of heat stress, and how to quickly report.
  • In high heat, with temperatures above 90ºF, employers must create a communication channel between an employee working alone and a supervisor; a mandatory buddy system for others; one designated employee per worksite who’s authorized to call for emergency medical services; ten minutes in the shade every two hours; and implementation of acclimatization practices. 
  • Establish an Emergency Medical Plan
  • Review work sites to determine how these new rules will apply to their sites
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We know that heat is here to stay and will only be getting worse. Our inability to move quickly will cost lives. There’s already so much at stake with climate change. Let’s learn from our past mistakes of inaction, to create a safer tomorrow as we all face, and try to manage, a very oppressive enemy—high heat.

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Groundbreaking YA book series for all ages. Not only a gripping modern day nail-biter with Machiavellian villains, but also one that opens our eyes to the brutal war going on beneath our feet that controls our destiny, despite our obliviousness to this potentially civilization-destroying threat.

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Fear Waterspouts and Climate Change Calamities

Washington (GGM) Analysis | May 7, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Waterspouts can suck marine life out of the ocean and toss it onto land. And waterspouts can do the same thing with hazardous chemicals on the ocean floor such as 27,000+ barrels of DDT recently discovered off the coast of Los Angeles. Fortunately, this has not happened yet, but it certainly could especially since more and more waterspouts are popping up all over the world due to an increase in severe weather caused by climate change. Any potential calamity climate change may (will) create is not a “what if?” question. The better questions to ask are “how bad?” and “when?”

Heart of the matter. Every week new stories come out about toxic chemicals that if somehow dislodged will kill people, destroy wildlife, wreck plantlife, and otherwise decimate ecosystems. Often these chemicals do cause the problems predicted. 

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Whether it be forest fires in California, toxic algae in Florida, Superfund sites throughout the United States (Hanford Superfund site in particular), Camp Jejune poisonous water, Keystone Pipeline, and other things that are unknown, calamities are everywhere. Most recently, a previously unknown future source of calamity emerged. Specifically, tens of thousands of barrels of DDT dumped off the coast of Catalina Island were discovered. 

On the other side of the Pacific, Tokyo Bay now has coral growing in it, something previously unthinkable because the water was not warm enough. 

In the Great Lakes, 2020 was known as “Great Waterspout Outbreak of 2020.” Forty-one waterspouts popped up in Lake Erie in one day alone. In Louisiana, in 2020, 5 waterspouts occurred in one place. While these events may appear unrelated, they are, in fact, quite related because they are either caused by climate change or they exacerbate problems both known and unknown related to climate change.

How this impacts you personally. The skeptic will argue waterspouts have been discussed for hundreds of years, long before climate change was a huge issue, and they are not a climate change problem. Waterspouts are not new, but one thing is certain: Severe weather will only get worse with climate change, and, regardless of whether that causes more waterspouts, a largely warm water phenomenon, do you really want waterspouts blowing tanks of DDT out of the water in Southern California and smashing them against the rocky coastline? 

Just to give an example of how bad DDT is for the environment, 25% of California’s adult sea lions have cancer largely due to pollution from waste dumped by Montrose Chemical. Montrose dumped the DDT off the coast of Los Angeles. This is in addition to a 34-mile stretch of toxic chemicals dropped in the ocean, which is designated a Superfund site. 

The point of all of this is: whether it be waterspouts blowing toxic waste, leaking nuclear waste, or whatever other disaster waiting to happen, climate change marches on affecting all of us no matter what we believe. Literally and figuratively it is “pick your poison.”

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What you can do. Of course this sounds bleak because it is. We live in a time where life is like the opening montage of an apolocapolitic movie. But all is not lost (not yet). We can still reduce our carbon footprint by consuming less plastic, planting trees, taking reusable bags with us to the store, and other little things along the way. These small steps can make a huge difference.

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

Next Steps

  • Examine and lessen your plastic use; 
  • Read about ways you can reduce your carbon footprint (you are doing that here);
  • Care about the environment even when you think stories are from far away places that do not affect you because everything is connected; and
  • Contact your state, local, and federal officials, and tell them you care about climate change.

Waterspouts, DDT, dead sea lions, and coral in Tokyo Bay should concern everyone because they are symptoms of a planet in a climate crisis. There are multiple “canaries in the coal mine,” and they are singing loudly, begging us to do something before we are all wiped out. 


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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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No More Natural Gas| Berkeley, CA

Washington (GGM) Analysis | May 13, 2020
NWHillReport-Pic by Noreen Wise

It’s always the small things that make the difference in big transitional changes. So too with our transformation into renewable energy. If every household committed to replacing gas stoves and gas grills with electric in 2020, we’d be well on our way to converting our homes to solar and wind. Bloomberg Green’s recent article about this new trend highlights the pros and cons.

Realistically though, it’s all about taking the first step. We need to eliminate all fossil fuel usage including appliances. If we know that the elimination of fossil fuels is inevitable, (does anyone doubt that it is), then we should all immediately begin to replace easy to replace appliances. This is how progress is made. One step at a time.

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Last summer, Berkeley, California  became the first city in the United States to ban natural gas in new homes. The law was passed unanimously and went into effect January 1, 2020. Interestingly, Berkeley was also the first city in the United States to ban smoking in restaurants and public places back in 1977. There’s a saying in California: As goes Berkley, so goes California. Let’s be on the look out for more California cities to continue with this trend, creating the much needed momentum.

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Daily conversation focused on how to turn a negative into a positive and land on the bright side. A daily emotional 7 minute vitamin to boost your spirits. Podcast Host, Noreen Wise. Today’s Episode: What to do when the devil walks into your life.

Berkley of the East, Takoma Park, Maryland just passed a climate agenda in which they plan to become the first city in the United States to ban all fossil fuels. According to the Washington Post, the town’s 2020 Climate Emergency Response Act, was written in an effort to guide local officials in policy making in the upcoming years.

As always, the changing of the tides comes when one person, one town is willing to step boldly in the right direction. Thank you, Berkeley, California. May your small step with climate action be as successful as the revolution you kicked off when you banned smoking in 1977. Think of how many lives Berkeley saved. Cheers to the Butterfly Effect.🦋

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Tesla Crushes It In 2019| How Will Other EVs Fair in 2020?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2020 NWHillReport-Pic by Noreen Wise After a ten year struggle to become profitable, Tesla nailed it in 2019. The 4th quarter was the turning point according to CNN. Some of the key factors for increased growth in consumer demand that put Tesla into the black are:
  • range
  • how long it takes to charge
  • how many public charging stations exist in local communities
  • and the EV car price
Every single one of these critical factors have moved in the right direction.
  • range increased with the new average at 200 miles per full charge
  • charging time went down significantly and now only averages a quick 20 minutes
  • public charging stations have mushroomed, not only businesses providing them in corporate parking lots to employees, but stores offering charging stations to consumers as a competitive advantage
  • EV car prices have dropped substantially
HillReport1-29-2020 Climate action focused states such as New York, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts have crafted creative carrots and stick, incentives and regulations, creating a patchwork of solutions that are driving results. Very happy for Tesla to finally experience the upside of being an innovator, after schlepping through the painful wilderness for so long. In 2020, Tesla will have to face a much more competitive landscape, now that most of the obstacles in the EV marketplace have been eliminated. The following is CNET’s Road Show’s official 2020 EV lineup by range:
  • Tesla Model S |373 miles | $79,990
  • Tesla Model 3 | Long Range 330 miles | $44,500
  • Tesla Model X | 328 miles | $81,000
  • Chevrolet Bolt EV | 259 miles | $36,620
  • Hyundai Kona Electric | 258 miles | $36,990
  • Kia Niro EV (SUV) | 239 miles | $38,500
  • Jaguar I-Pace | 234 miles | $69,850
  • Nissan Leaf Plus | 226 miles | $36,550
  • Audi e-tron | 204 miles | $75,000
  • Porsche Taycan | 201 miles | $150,900
  • BMW i3 | 153 miles | $44,450
  • Nissan Leaf | 150 miles | $29,990
  • Mini Cooper SE | 110 miles | $20,000
  • Honda Clarity Electric | 89 miles | lease only
Very extensive options. But the Tesla Model 3 certainly shines amongst its peers.~ HillReport1-29-2020

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More States Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags | Reusables for Every Store

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 30, 2019
NoreenProfilePicHillReport-75 by Noreen Wise

The holiday shopping season has begun. Packed malls and stores from coast to coast. American consumers are expected to spend nearly a half trillion dollars  from Thanksgiving through December 25, 2019. But how many US shoppers will rely on their reusable bags at every store they visit?

ST-SAGA-CovFrnt-72-300Prior to 1977, stores offered paper bags to shoppers. But once the first plastic shopping bags appeared in 1977, the switch to plastic was swift and furious and by the end of the 1990’s, the vast majority of retail outlets across the globe relied on single-use plastic. According to The World Counts:

  • we consume 5 trillion single-use plastic bags per year
  • 160,000 single-use plastic bags per second
  • but sadly, less than 1% of these are recycled
  • single-use plastic bags are made from oil, gas & coal which produce a significant amount of carbon
  • one ton of recycled single-use plastic bags equals 11 barrels of oil
  • the public’s seeming indifference to the extensive damage single-use plastic causes the environment, as well as it’s impact on climate change, has resulted in several states stepping in to regulate the use of single-use plastic bags

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According to U.S. News & World Report:

  • Connecticut just passed a law that went into effect August 1 2019, banning single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and restaurants by July 2021. Some grocery store chains and restaurants have already begun transitioning patrons to the ban by ditching all plastic bags and charging shoppers .10 cents for paper bags, as well as passing along a discount to shoppers who bring their own reusables. Businesses that continue to provide singles-use plastic bags these next 19 months will charge shoppers a .10 cent tax for each plastic bag. This is an excellent model for other states to follow.

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  • California was the very first state to ban single-use plastic bags back in 2014, and San Francisco was the first US city in 2007
  • New York jumped in and banned single-use plastic bags on Earth Day 2019; the ban will go into effective March of 2020
  • Hawaii hasn’t officially banned these deadly bags, but beginning in 2015 every county in the state has barred them, so Hawaii too is included in the count of state bans

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The Center for Biological Diversity has provided a critical list of key facts about the harm of single-use plastic bags:

  • the average American household uses 1,500 sing-use plastic shopping bags per year
  • 80% of the oceans’ massive toxic plastic island, the size of France, floating in the Pacific, comes from the plastic’s use on land
  • once it begins swirling around in the ocean, plastic is broken down into micro plastic fragments the size of rice and ingested by the majority of marine mammals
  • 267 marine species are impacted by plastic
  • each year, 100,000 marine animals die from plastic consumption
  • once dumped in a landfill, it will take 500+ years for a plastic bag to degrade

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It’s time to ACT. SAVE a LIFE this Holiday Season. There’s no need to wait for a ban in our states. Shop with REUSABLE bags at EVERY store beginning immediately.

Let’s GO. We can do this!

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