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The Majestic Plastic Bag – Part IV

Thin plastic shopping bags

This just in! Another fine addition to The Majestic Plastic Bag conservation series. A reusable plastic bag company, ChicoBag Company, announced recently that they are being sued by three of the nation’s largest disposable plastic bag manufacturers. Those companies are claiming that a link on the ChicoBag Company website educating citizens about the long term implications of disposable plastic bags to the environment is causing “irreparably harmed” their business.

Some of the statements that the disposable plastic bag companies have issue with are:

  • “A reusable bag needs only to be used eleven times to have a lower environmental impact than using eleven disposable bags.” Source: EPA
  • “Only one percent of plastic bags are recycled.” Source: EPA
  • “Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.” Source: National Geographic
  • “The world’s largest landfill can be found floating between Hawaii and San Francisco. Wind and sea currents carry marine debris from all over the world to what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This ‘landfill’ is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and thousands of pounds of our discarded trash, mostly plastics.” Source: National Geographic
  • “Each year hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine life die from ingestible plastics mistaken for food.” Source: L.A. Times

We’ll keep you updated on how this plays out via our Twitter feed.

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The Majestic Plastic Bag – Part III

Two months ago, the esteemed Carl Safina posted a piece titled, “For Seabirds As For The Graduate, One Word: Plastics“. It seems a suitable tie-in for the The Majestic Bag conservation series.

For Seabirds As For The Graduate, One Word: Plastics.

By Carl Safina
March 10th, 2011

If something can be neither fish nor fowl, for seabirds this is neither feast nor famine: scientists are discovering more species eating more—plastic.

An article in the Ottawa Citizen reports that in the Canadian Arctic, startled scientists “are pulling remarkable amounts of trash from birds in some of the remotest spots on Earth.”

Pacific albatrosses are famous for eating plastic. Now Canadian scientists are finding plastics in sturdy cousins of albatrosses called Fulmars; 85 percent of Canadian Fulmars now have plastic in their bodies. “I find these plastic pieces packed up around the bottom of the stomach and around the sphincter that leads into the intestine,” said Jennifer Provencher, who had been doing dissections. One gull-sized Fulmar, for example, had what looked like a red Coke cap and 20 other plastic pieces in it. Provencher called the amount of plastic she discovered in Arctic Canadian seabirds, “hard to believe.”

But in European waters, it’s worse: Fulmars there are now loaded with an average of 40 pieces of plastic. Virtually all European Fulmars now fly around with plastic in their bodies.

And, it’s increasing. Biologist Stephanie Avery-Gomm, opened stomachs of 36 Fulmars that washed up on Vancouver Island after a storm. One contained several dozen pieces of plastic, including industrial pellets, a chunk of sponge, fishing line and a bristle from a hairbrush. In a study of bird diets done back in the 1970s, Fulmar stomachs had contained no plastic.

“Every time we sample we are surprised by the amount of plastics we find,” said Provencher.

Another surprise: more species now contain plastics, including the normally non-scavening Thick-billed Murre. Fulmars were already known plastic swallowers, but “What was shocking was to open up the murres and find plastics,” Provencher said. Eleven percent of 186 Thick-billed murres examined carried plastics.

The plastics are coming not just from boats. They’re from us all. In North America and Western Europe the average person is now using around 220 pounds of plastic a year. Needless to say, that’s expected to increase. In Asia the average person uses around 80 pounds of plastic per year, and that’s expected to nearly double by 2015.

Read what the United Nations Environment Program’s 2011 Yearbook has to say about plastics in the ocean.

It’s a nightmare.

So my question is: Why do we use an eternal material to package items intended for one-time use? No one expects such items like yogurt and salad to stay in the distribution chain for more than a couple of weeks. Why don’t we package things like perishable food—and everything else not intended to last forever—in plant-based plastic that will break down in a year?

It could easily be done. The materials already exist. For instance:

The Majestic Plastic Bag – Part II

Yesterday we brought you the “mockumentary”, The Majestic Plastic Bag. As a follow-up today check out this amazing infographic from Ireland reduced plastic bag consumption by 90% (1 billion bags!) from 2001-2011 by imposing a tax of 37-cents.

Bag Bans Worldwide
Source: Reusable Grocery Bags

image (c)

Philly, it’s time to get enthusiastic about ditching those bags of plastic

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of single use plastic bags (Check out this series about the majestic plastic bag from last summer) and I support any campaign requesting city officials to review a ban on plastic bag. This is especially true when the city of focus is Philadelphia, PA. I might be more of DCist lately, but my heart and soul are from Philly (Go Phils!). My parents are from the area and I still have plenty of family that I do not see enough in the area, not to mention I was raised in south Jersey. The way I always differentiate south and north Jersey for people that wonder why I make such a distinction is that when you say ‘the city’ in south Jersey you are referring to Philly and if you say ‘the city’ in north Jersey you are referring to NYC.

In any event, I actively volunteered with DC Surfrider as they worked vigorously to pass the Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009 which set up a 5 cent cost for all single use plastic bags and know that this type of change in a city has an impact on local streets, sidewalks, and waterways. The goal here is simple, if you live in or care about the beautification of Philadelphia, please sign this petition to bring attention to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, therefore initiating a vote in City Council. For more information please visit Green Philly Blog.

Los Angeles has officially banned plastic bags, joining cities Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto & many more. Philadelphia voted and rejected a plastic bag ban in June 2009. We need to bring the ban back to our city of brotherly love.

Please feel free to share this message and if you’re on Twitter use #BanPhillyBags to add to the conversation.
Here is another great infographic on the subject “How Convenience is Killing Our Planet” from the folks at ArteIdeas.

World Oceans Day is June 8th

June 8th is World Oceans Day, the UN-designated day for the global community to celebrate and take action for our shared ocean. So start the weekend off on a wave of advocacy and share the message that you have concern for the sea with your friends and family.

My call to action in honor of World Oceans Day? The Majestic Plastic Bag is one of the oceans greatest threats because chances are it’s so mundane you don’t even notice it effects. Look around you right now: how much plastic do you see and where does it go? Switch one disposable plastic habits for a sustainable, ocean-friendly one: such as bringing reusable food containers from home when eating out for your ‘doggie bag.’ Head out to your nearest and dearest body of water with some friends and pick up all the trash you find. You’ll be surprised at how much of it is plastic. Many communities around the world are banning plastic bags from being used at their stores. Learn how to start a campaign to stop plastic bags use in your town!

Here are some United States Events to celebrate World Oceans Day 2012 with others in your town.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner

100 ways to live (and die) green

Conservation and marine science education are two primary themes on BCS. And, since I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to marine science education the past few months I indulged myself with this list 100 of ways to live (and die) green. It’s a list of fun suggestions – beyond recycling day-to-day – and is appropriate since this weekend is Earth Day and this week is National Environmental Education Week! Please don’t hesitate to email with any questions or comments. Feel free to comment and add to the list. I love new ideas.

  1. Install a dual-flush conversion kit.
  2. Use  water bottle (they even come with filters!).
  3. Make sure your faucets do not leak.
  4. Plug the sink to collect water for rinsing dishes.
  5. If you do have a leak, why not make it count and use the water wisely for something else.
  6. Pre-rinse your dishes for the dishwasher with a squeegee instead of rinsing in the sink.
  7. Why not install a low-flow showerhead?
  8. Filter your water from the tap.
  9. Turn off the water when you brush. (It will save about 8 gallons of water a day!)
  10. Take shorter showers.
  11. Only do full loads of laundry.
  12. Do not dump hazardous materials (e.g., oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints).
  13. When it’s dirty, take the car to a professional car washer. (Doing it yourself in the driveway wastes about 150 gallons of water.)
  14. Use pet-safe deicers when it snows.
  15. When your feisty pet chews the squeaker from his toy, why not put it back in and sow it up for another round of tug-o-war?
  16. Consider natural pet products for your furry little buddy.
  17. Give the wire hangers back to the dry cleaner.
  18. If you dry clean do it less often so they can bulk up more and skip on more plastic wrap.
  19. Xeriscape (i.e., plant natives to reduce the need to water).
  20. Use a rain barrel in the garden.
  21. Consider using alternatives to pressure-treated wood in your garden.
  22. Use some elbow grease to pull weeds or use a natural herbicide to get rid of weeds.
  23. Use a library. (Here I could also suggest switch to an ebook reader, but since my mom is a librarian and I know she loves her job I’ll promote a little community citizen interaction.)
  24. Buy local produce for your dinner.
  25. Switch to fairtrade coffee or tea for the morning beverage.
  26. Use a reusable bag when shopping. (You might remember the ‘Majestic Plastic Bag‘ series from last year.)
  27. Skip the meat in the dinner for a night each week.
  28. Jazz up the garden with some illuminating beautiful solar lighting.
  29. Make sure your exfoliating facial scrub doesn’t have harmful plastic beads that do not dissolve when they go down the drain.
  30. Know what ingredients are in your beauty products.
  31. Ask your workplace to consider carbon offsetting.
  32. Go ahead and send the electronic birthday card. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
  33. Pack your shorty’s lunch in a reusable bag.
  34. Pack their lunch items in reusable containers, too.
  35. When you use plastic cutlery, try a biodegradable option.
  36. Choose an organic version of the fabric of our lives.
  37. Try a DEET free bug repellant.
  38. Compost!
  39. Make your own cleaning products or use some natural ones that won’t harm the local watershed.
  40. Skip the paper towel and try cellulose cloths.
  41. Make certain to maximize the way you wash dishes.
  42. Wash your clothes is cold water.
  43. Get a home energy audit.
  44. Use a non toxic paint.
  45. Install Energy Star appliances.
  46. Hang dry clothes.
  47. Wear a sweater.
  48. Generate your own energy and install a DIY solar panel kit.
  49. Generate your own energy and install a DIY wind power kit.
  50. Install ceiling fans.
  51. When you’re going to leave a room for more than 15 minutes – switch the lights off.
  52. Install efficient lighting throughout your home.
  53. Donate your electronics  properly.
  54. Pay your bills online (and, ask your boss to direct deposit that obscene paycheck you don’t really need).
  55. Ask your neighborhood association to install solar lamp post lights.
  56. Go natural with your products when you’re about to have a little one.
  57. … And, after you have a little one.
  58. Decorate with plants to increase the air quality in your home.
  59. Be a little unconventional with your online shopping.
  60. Be creative in your gift wrapping and use some newspaper or magazines!
  61. Keep your car in tip-top shape to save on gas mileage (and/or go hybrid).
  62. Try to use public transportation or carpool when possible. (Or slug, DCers!)
  63. Consider rechargeable batteries.
  64. Be conservative in what you decide to print off the computer and when you do need to print do it double-sided.
  65. Find the people to call to cancel your phone book delivery.
  66. Skip the ATM receipt.
  67. Turn off the computer monitor at night.
  68. If you’re looking to buy a new computer, purchase a laptop instead of a desktop.
  69. Use recycled paper for your creative needs.
  70. Check out your neighborhood to see if there are proper bike or walk lanes and bike or walk when possible. (Check it out – May is National Bike Month!)
  71. Stop junk mail! (Did you know that the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year?)
  72. Choose a green hotel when traveling (or, my favorite – VHBO).
  73. Buy bulk. (It’s nuts – packaging makes up more than 30% of our waste!)
  74. Rock a green hosting company for your next website.
  75. Rent, borrow, or Freecycle!
  76. Save the take out container and use it as tupperware or to hand out cupcakes at your shorty’s birthday party.
  77. Bring your own mug to the local coffee shop so you don’t have to use one of theirs.
  78. Telecommute.
  79. Skip the CD or DVD purchase and download online.
  80. Stray away from imposing balloon releases unless you know they’re latex.
  81. Stray from using 6-pack rings (or cut them).
  82. From time to time use one less napkin.
  83. When fishing always be an ethical angler.
  84. Eat sustainable seafood.
  85. Skip the produce in additional plastic wrap.
  86. Participate in local clean-ups.
  87. Rock a new TV as they’re a little more efficient.
  88. Keep the freezer at least 3/4 full.
  89. Once a month bake a loaf of your own bread.
  90. Once a month why not roast your own chicken and stock up some homemade chicken broth afterward.
  91. In winter, keep the shades drawn when you’re away.
  92. When purchasing furniture find products that are earth-friendly and organic (e.g., cotton, wool, hemp, natural rubber latex).
  93. Plant a tree.
  94. Rock some vintage jewelry.
  95. Clothe diaper.
  96. Make your own play-dough with the kids.
  97. Blow your nose green. (Ewwwww … what did she say?)
  98. Recycle toner.
  99. Stay informed and educated.
  100. Be buried green.

EE, Ocean, & Water Conservation Infographics

It’s no secret that a picture speaks a thousands words. But, when you couple words and pictures (with numbers, arrows, charts, etc.) you get quite an impact. If you’re a regular reader of the BCS blog you already know I’m fond of infographics. So I decided to pull together the ones found on BCS, as well as other places. You’ll see this list follows the general themes found on BCS: marine science, water/ocean conservation, as well as connecting with nature. I hope you enjoy browsing and a special thanks to all the organizations that have produced these powerful resources. To check out the collective visual of most of these infographics please check out my EE, Ocean, & Water Conservation Infographics Pinterest board. Please email or let me know on Twitter  (@bcsanswers) if you have another one that could be added to the list.

  1. 5 reasons feeding of whale sharks should stop – Save Philippine Seas
  2. 10 ways to save water in your home – Good
  3. 10 places to see – Infographipedia
  4. 25 years of Shark Week – Leonly
  5. 50 Awesome facts about earth
  6. Acting green v. buying green – Inhabitat
  7. Anatomy of a bottom trawl – Oceana
  8. Atlantic bluefin tuna (Saving an ocean giant) – Pew Environment Group
  9. Atlantic horseshoe crab – Beach Chair Scientist
  10. Benefits of plants – Zabisco
  11. Benefits of recycling –
  12. Black market on bluefin tuna – Center for Public Integrity
  13. Boating accidents: The bad & the ugly – Gadling
  14. Carbon storage and coastal habitats – Ocean Health Index
  15. Challenger Deep – Visual News
  16. Children and nature – National Environmental Education Foundation
  17. Citizen science is blooming – National Environmental Education Foundation
  18. Collapsing seas –
  19. Dangerous sharks of the Red Sea –
  20. Dangers of natural gas – One Block off the Grid
  21. Decline of fish populations in the last 50 years – Good
  22. Deepwater Horizon explained (video) – Visual World
  23. Do you know your seafood? – One World One Ocean
  24. Earth ages – USGS
  25. Earth Day – H&R Block
  26. Energy level threats from sea level rise – Surging Seas
  27. Energy-water collision – Union of Concerned Scientists
  28. Facts of fracking – Treehugger
  29. Global water crisis – Living Green Magazine
  30. GMOs: We have the right to know – Just Label It
  31. Great Barrier Reef – Go Green, Travel Green
  32. Green guilt – Call2Recycle
  33. Green electronics – National Resource Defense Council
  34. Highest, leaping sharks –
  35. How a landfill work –
  36. How bikes can save us –
  37. How convenience is killing our planet by ArteIdeas
  38. How deep is the ocean? – Our Amazing Planet
  39. How does recycling work? – Transit Utopia
  40. How fresh is your seafood? – Oceana
  41. How long will it last? –
  42. How to choose the safest seafood –
  43. How much are you spending on water per gallon? – United By Blue
  44. How we are eating our way through the oceans – CFP Reform Watch
  45. Humpback whales –
  46. Humpback whale facts – The Daily Catch
  47. Hurricane Sandy vs. Hurricane Katrina – Huffington Post
  48. Is it really ‘green’? – Contract Services Group, Inc.
  49. Let’s explore the ocean – found on Ocean Wild Things
  50. Life of a water bottle –
  51. Low down on bottled water – Sustainable Energy Systems
  52. Marine debris poster – SeaGrant, et al
  53. Marine habitats – PlanetSave
  54. Ocean food shortage (Save menhaden) – Pew Environment Group
  55. Oceans: Our living resource – Humane Society of America
  56. Offshore drilling – Oceana
  57. Paper vs. plastic – Market Research
  58. Plastics Breakdown, The – One World One Ocean
  59. Polar bears in peril – Mother Nature News
  60. Pollutants entering the ocean – Living Green Magazine
  61. Pop science guide to birds – Mother Nature News
  62. Right whales – Kyle Bentle
  63. Recycling: The good, the better, the best –
  64. Reduce your water footprint – Good
  65. Reuse, reduce, and relocate – My Move
  66. Save the Arctic – Greenpeace
  67. Seafood decision guide – National Geographic
  68. Sea turtles of the coral triangle – World Wildlife Fund
  69. Secret to a sound sea – Visual News
  70. Sharks count – Pew Environment Group
  71. Shipping noises and whales – Ocean Initiative
  72. STEM & our planet – National Environmental Education Foundation
  73. Suffocating the world with plastics – Living Green Magazine
  74. Tar Sands Standoff – Huffington Post
  75. Test your water IQ – Whole Living Daily
  76. Threats to wildlife – Ocean Conservancy
  77. Tips for a green home and yard – A Simply Good Life
  78. Trash and recycling trends – Round2, An Avnet Company
  79. Truth about water – Evergreen AES
  80. Truth about plastic –
  81. Total water – Soulja Portfolio
  82. Toxicity of surfing – Adventure Journal
  83. Ugly journey of our trash – Project Aware
  84. Understanding carbon offsets – Good
  85. US of the Environment – Mother Nature News
  86. Water: Cooperation or competition –
  87. Water footprint of Americans – Nature Conservancy
  88. Whale shark – One World One Ocean
  89. Whaling is a big issue – Human Society International
  90. What is oceanography? – Sea Blog
  91. What is shark finning? – Wildaid
  92. What to eat this summer? – Good
  93. What we recycle – Live Science
  94. When sea levels attack – from Creative Data
  95. Where do plastic bottles end up? – United By Blue
  96. Who are the deepest divers in the sea? – Live Science
  97. Who’s been dumping in my ocean? – Marisys
  98. Why a four degree Celsius warmer world must be avoided – The Moral Mindfield
  99. Why don’t Americans recycle? – Good
  100. Why protect Antarctica’s ocean? – Antarctic Ocean Alliance
  101. Why the ocean? (video) – One World One Ocean
  102. Why you should care about water conservation – Mother Nature News
  103. Worldwide plastic bag ban –
  104. World wetland destruction – So Fresh and So Green

Best of 2011 from BCS

I hope everyone welcomed the New Year with style and grace! Here is a fun list to recap the “Top 12 most popular posts written by Beach Chair Scientist in 2011”:

1. It’s as easy as A, B, Sea: Weddell Sea
2. Happy as a clam
3. Beach trivia
4. 5 facts about fish farming
5. Basics on renewable energy
6. 13 apps for your day at the beach
7. Blue Sway – Paul McCartney
8. Can you write with a sea pen?
9. The Majestic Plastic Bag – Part IV
10. Linda Thornton, an inspiring aquaculturist on a mission for sustainability
11. How deep is the ocean?
12. 30 reasons to be grateful for the ocean