Flight Planned…Using Plastic as Fuel! by Rebecca Mayer

A history-in-the-making type of flight is about to occur.  According to the NYT, “Sometime in the next few months, a single-engine Cessna will fly from Sydney to London. Converted to be able to carry extra amounts of fuel, the small plane will take 10 days for its journey, making 10 or so stops along the way.”

Photo from bdtruth.com.au

“What will make this journey special is not the route or the identity of the pilot — a 41-year-old British insurance industry executive who lives in Australia — but the fuel that the aircraft will be using: diesel processed from discarded plastic trash.”

I’m doing this because I believe that unless we do something to give back to the planet, we’re stuffed.

Pilot Jeremy Rowsell

It’s not about me, he says — the story is the fuel.

Plastic can be recycled into fuel Photo: Dan LaMee/Flickr

The fuel is expensive, that is to say, getting the fuel to each of Rowsell’s stops will cost at least a million.  And the journey is not without its risks. Rowsell’s currently training to survive in case of a crash.  (And he’s tweeting about it – follow him here.)

The idea is to fly the whole route on plastic fuel alone and to prove that this technology works, Rowsell said. I’m a kind of carrier pigeon, carrying a message. We have a whole bunch of waste kicking about. So instead of sending it to the landfill, let’s use it.

Read more about a plastic-to-fuel conversion technology at Clean Oceans Project.




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The Life of a Plastic Water Bottle – by Rebecca Mayer

Photograph by Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images

Bottled water, as Peter Green points out on Bloomberg, is the healthy alternative to sugary sodas and juices.  Bottled water sales grew 9% last year, as people made the switch to a healthy alternative.

Of course we should drink water.

As we’ve pointed out before, access to clean water is a diminishing resource, and one we should prize.  For more information on global drinking water access, see this great film.

We just want everyone to bring their own cup or bottle, everywhere, whenever they can.

Photograph by Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

What is the impact of your bottle of Fiji water?  According to Treehugger, “the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed…

  • 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons)
  • .849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or .26 gal) and
  • Emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds).

How’s that for a carbon footprint?

Read more statistics on that lone bottle from the Water Project.

“Water would seem to be the ultimate environmentally friendly product,” said Daniella Dimitrova Russo, founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. “It’s a case of doing something good, packaged in something toxic.”

See this beautiful slide show on the problem of plastic around the world.


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Poisoning Ourselves – by Rebecca Mayer

Photo: Scientists say toxins from plastics are entering the Antarctic food chain. (Chook Brooks: ABC News)

According to ABC News:

“American oceanographer Charles Moore has labelled plastic pollution as a bigger problem than climate change, and one that must be fixed.

‘It’s murderous to marine ecosystems. It is acting as both predator and prey. As predator it is tangling things up and killing them,’ he said.”

Plastic pollution arriving in Antarctica, our last pristine “frontier,” by way of the Southern hemisphere is found to be poisoning marine life and entering our own food chain, according to new research published in ABC News’ The World Today by Miriam Hall.

Moore wonders what it will take for our disposable culture to end.   Five years ago, he says, there were birds without traces of plastic ingestion to be found along the coasts of his home country, Australia.

“Now it is 100 per cent of all birds and these are the most common seabirds in the world, the shearwaters, 100 per cent of them have eaten plastic.”

Being alert to the reality of throw-away culture is the first step.  Now, what will you do about it?

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Join Bag It’s New Contest to Reduce Plastic in Schools!

We are officially launching the Bag It Plastic Free School Contest!

Sponsored by the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, founded by Jack and Kim Johnson to support environmental, art, and music education now and into the future, the winning school will receive a personal video thank you from singer/songwriter Jack Johnson.

The best Middle School Project, the best Elementary School project and the best High School project also win:

  • A school installation of an Elkay® EZH2O Rapid Bottle Fill Station, which provides a quick, clean and green drink of filtered water without the need to purchase a single serving plastic bottle. The EZH2O will be awarded to t) along with a trip to the:

Teachers and students are encouraged to develop creative and effective action projects that reduce disposable plastic use in their communities.

Licensed copies of the Bag It educational DVD and curriculum packet available to 200 schools across the country. The contest is open to all schools however! If you are interested in a copy for your school please email Laura Colbert at laura@reelthing.us

Participating students can use the DVD and curriculum packet as a tool to develop and execute plans that change the way their school, and communities, perceive and use single-use plastic products. There are also numerous resources available on the contest webpage.

“Not only will students feel empowered having made a positive impact on their
community, but teams will also be eligible for awesome prizes,” said Michelle Hill,
REEL Thing Films producer.

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Will You Speak Up about H.R. 3409? by Rebecca Mayer

Do you subscribe to the EcoWatch newsletter? We highly recommend it. Each issue highlights the latest news in environmental legislation and offers multiple ways to get involved to make your voice heard to representatives.

For example, this week’s top news item concerns the “Stop the War on Coal Act” or H. R. 3409, basically allowing industry to impact our water and air freely and without constraint.

According to Sierra Club President Michael Brune, “this bill is a shameless, reckless and deadly assault on key safeguards Americans count on every day.”

Read more about H.R. 3409 here.

According to Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeeper Alliance, “The American people have the good sense and wisdom to know that good environmental protections pay us back by delivering the clean water and air that we need for good health. They pay us back by requiring polluters to install pollution control technology that provides thousands of jobs. Stop and think for a minute how many engineers, inventors, construction workers and truckers it took to design, build, ship and operate the country’s thousands of waste-water treatment plants. Or all the people it took to start putting scrubbers on industrial smokestacks across our nation. More of those jobs will be created if we strengthen rather than weaken our environmental laws.”

Contact your Representative today to add your voice to the mix.

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9 Ways You Can Reduce Global Warming – by guest blogger Emily Johnson

When done collectively with others in your home and neighborhood, these quick tips can make a huge difference in protecting our environment. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, gasoline, diesel, and oils, around the world are raising carbon dioxide levels to dangerous amounts in our planet’s atmosphere. It’s important to consider that each person who uses energy is responsible, to some extent, for global warming. That’s why everyone must take personal responsibility for how best to use energy to reduce global warming. Lucky for you, we’ve got 9 simple ways to do it.

1. Use the Heater/Air Conditioner Less – This is something everyone can do, and it’s a great place to start in lowering your home’s production of carbon dioxide. To accomplish this, don’t set the temperature so low, and use your air conditioner a few hours less every day. You should also do this with your heater in the winter months, and simply wear extra layers of clothing around the house.

2. Upgrade Your Light Bulbs – It is as easy as it sounds. Simply changing the bulbs in your home to compact fluorescent bulbs can have a major impact on lowering carbon dioxide emissions, especially when done collectively.

3. Drive Less – When we use our vehicles less frequently, we create fewer emissions. This can be a great excuse to explore more of your city than you would have done otherwise. Try riding the bus or other public transportation, or, better yet, join a car pool and make some new friends.

4. Take Shorter Showers – Many people like to run the shower much longer than actually necessary. When showering, only run the hot water long enough for you to rinse off. You can also install low-flow showerheads, which can save enough hot water to prevent more than 300 pounds of carbon dioxide from being produced per person each year!

5. Air Dry Clothes – This is another wonderful way to save money while also helping to prevent global warming. By hanging your clothes to dry, you will shave dollars off your electricity bill.

6. Hand Wash Dishes – Believe it or not, before the invention of the dishwasher, people hand-washed their dishes! Everyone in the family can pitch in to help lower the electricity bill and save the environment at the same time.

7. Limit The Garbage Disposal – Instead of using your garbage disposal, make compost with your old food. This is a great excuse to start up a garden in your backyard, and growing fresh vegetables can be a rewarding experience as well!

8. Turn Off Lights – It’s amazing how much energy is wasted when people leave lights on in their home when no one is using them. Children aren’t always to blame; adults are equally as wasteful when it comes to leaving lights on.

9. Encourage Others – Saving our planet from global warming will take much more than just your own efforts, so we need to get everyone involved—which requires getting the word out. Let your family, neighbors and public officials know about the importance of everyone doing their share to save the planet. Every person must take responsibility for their personal carbon dioxide footprint.

Emily Johnson loves gardening and being outdoors. She is also a contributing writer for flowerdelivery.net

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Back to School Supplies – Harmful to your Kids? by Rebecca Mayer

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice just released a new report on toxic chemicals in children’s products.

This Dora backpack contains phthalate levels 69 times the limit set by the federal ban.

This Dora backpack contains phthalate levels 69 times the limit set by the federal ban.

The Center tested 20 “back to school” items, and found that 15 of the 20 contained phthalate levels far above the federal regulations for toys.  Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals linked to asthma, obesity, endocrine disruption and birth defects.

I asked Mike Schade, the PVC Campaign Coordinator at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, to explain how these school supplies put kids at risk.  The reason children’s toys have been so heavily regulated is that they can be, and usually are, chewed.

But what about school backpacks and lunchboxes that older kids will keep out of their mouths?

“Children can be exposed to phthalates not just by chewing on the products,” Schade said. “The phthalates are not bound to the plastic and are released over time into the air, so children can breathe them in.  Phthalates also tend to cling to dust when they’re released into the air, and dust is a significant route of exposure to phthalates.  The phthalates cling to dust, the dust settles, and children can then be exposed to them from touching the dust.  Researchers have found phthalates in both indoor air and dust, and according to the federal government, children have the highest levels of these chemicals in their bodies.”

The CHEJ does not set out to simply be a downer, however.  (We love organizations that set out to provide solutions!)  They have published a list of PVC-free School Supplies.  This comprehensive list even provides links to electronics companies committed to phasing out PVC and other toxic chemicals.

Visit the CHEJ website and learn about more ways to take action against toxicity in your community.


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Tsunami Debris Waking Us Up – by Rebecca Mayer

“Sometimes it takes a tsunami to remind us what our legacy will be if things don’t change. Plastic is forever.”

Tsunami debris. Photo: Stiv Wilson

Tsunami debris. Photo: Stiv Wilson

Stiv Wilson of the 5 Gyres Institute reports on the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami March 11, 2011, for Outside Magazine.  Due to the tsunami, he says, “the world finally woke up to the everyday pollution our oceans endure as the plastic zeitgeist of convenience we seemingly can’t avoid flows unchecked from every stream, river and sewer outfall in the world.”

Read the article to see Wilson’s sobering list of statistics.  Here are just two:

Amount of plastic the average American consumed annually in 2001 and 2010, respectively: 223 pounds, 326 pounds

Current population of the United States: 314,220,127

This great international tragedy can serve to remind us about the scale of the plastic pollution problem, and how now it is more essential than ever to take a stand and have a voice.

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Sign the Petition to Save our Waters! by Rebecca Mayer

Sometimes we need legislation to move us toward radical action.  Even by introducing a petition, movement begins toward awareness around an issue, prompting future change.

Photo courtesy Ewan Edwards/The Clipperton Project. Photos are available for media use.

Photo courtesy Ewan Edwards/The Clipperton Project. Photos are available for media use.

This is why we are excited that today the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency “to take new steps to curb plastic pollution in our oceans that kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds, endangered sea turtles, rare seals and other marine species each year.”

According to the CBD, “roughly 40 percent of the world’s oceans are covered in giant, swirling convergences of garbage, including billions of pounds of plastic. Today’s legal petition to the EPA seeks new plastic pollution limits for oceans under the Clean Water Act.”

Read more about the petition here.

Show your support for marine life by signing the petition for the EPA to take measures to reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans here.


BANNING STYROFOAM…About Time? – by Rebecca Mayer

I admit it.  I am not always perfectly plastic-free.  After a busy day teaching yoga, I picked up some lunch on the way to the Bag It office.

Suzanne Beraza, Bag It‘s Director, looked up with a smile that quickly changed to alarm as I put the meal into the microwave to warm.

“Here, take a plate,” she said, grabbing a ceramic one from the table between us.  “That is so toxic.”

“That” was a styrofoam take-out container.  I did some research and found all the potentially harmful chemicals that styrofoam releases not only into food when warmed, but also into the environment.  Read about these here.

Styrofoam is lightweight, blowing into the world’s waterways easily.  It’s easily mistaken for food, so it chokes marine life, killing on a mass scale.

Like plastic bags, styrofoam needs to go.  California Senator Alan Lowenthal agrees.

“Shaking things up is what California is about to do as it stands to become the first in the nation to pass a statewide ban on expanded polystyrene foam to-go food ware. Senate Bill 568 by Senator Alan Lowenthal is the groundbreaking piece of legislation that can do it. The bill is cosponsored by Clean Water Action and the Surfrider Foundation.” – Huffington Post

Support Senate Bill 568 here.