Category Archives: organic

How Trader Joe’s Will Save a Million Pounds of Plastic

Last year, Trader Joe’s officially announced that it would be making some major company-wide shifts?namely, to up its sustainability standards and reduce its plastic waste. While it all started as a response to a massive Greenpeace petition, Trader Joe’s is continuing to hold itself to a higher standard by scrutinizing all the wasteful, unsustainable facets of its grocery empire?and it seems to be working. When all is said and done, the company will have eliminated over one million pounds of wasteful single-use plastic from its stores.

Where’s all that plastic waste coming from?

Odds are, you’ve probably strolled through any supermarket and been frustrated by the amount of fresh food wrapped in plastic. From individually-wrapped cucumbers to plastic-wrapped styrofoam trays of apples, it’s like walking into an environmental nightmare scenario. There is so much unnecessary, un-recyclable plastic waste in our grocery system. And Trader Joe’s has placed itself on the front line.

Now that they’re keyed in on the problem, Trader Joe’s continues to strive to clean up their act.

In December, they informed customers that they would no longer be offering single-use plastic bags?one of the first nationwide grocery chains to do so. They’re also replacing their produce bags with compostable alternatives and limiting the amount of produce sold in plastic altogether. They are even going the extra?mile to remove the tiny bit of non-recyclable plastic and foil from their tea packaging.

It seems that no waste is too small to address, which is a sustainability outlook we can all get behind.

Curious to check out Trader Joe’s new sustainability principles? Here they are, straight from their press release:

1. Reducing and removing packaging

2. Sourcing renewable and recycled packaging materials

3. Choosing packaging that can be realistically recycled

4. Avoiding the use of harmful substances in packaging

5. Providing information to customers that increases understanding of how best to recycle or dispose of packaging

That right, your Trader Joe’s obsession?just got affirmed. The best chocolate-dipped, peanut butter-filled pretzels AND a conscious push towards greater sustainability?! It’s almost green grocery heaven.

Trader Joe’s closed their press release by stating, “We view this as ongoing work?in fact, never-ending work. As we continue in this endeavor, we are committed to openly sharing information about our progress.”

Hopefully more companies will adopt that outlook and become better stewards of our planet. In the meantime, Trader Joe’s: keep it up!

Related on Care2:

Forget Lifespan, Let’s Talk About Health Span
Is Your Favorite Tea Contaminated with Toxic Chemicals?
?Study Shows It’s Never too Late to Go Organic

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


How Trader Joe’s Will Save a Million Pounds of Plastic

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Shell to Trump administration: Regulate us already

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When the EPA and the Department of Interior announced plans to scrap Obama-era regulations to curb methane leaks last year, they were transparent about their rationale — they wanted to help the oil and gas industry. The EPA estimated that its revised regulation for new wells would save companies $380 million every year. The Department of Interior touted that its updated rule would “reduce unnecessary burdens on the private sector.”

Now at least one member of the Big Oil club is balking at the Trump administration’s efforts.

At a conference in Houston earlier this week, Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell’s U.S. division, told Reuters that methane leaks are “a big part of the climate problem” and that she wants the EPA to establish more aggressive regulations that plug leaks. Methane, the primary component in natural gas, packs more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. (And leaks mean Shell “has less product to sell,” Watkins wrote in a LinkedIn post).

“We don’t usually tell governments how to do their job,” Watkins reportedly said, “but we’re ready to break with that and say, ‘Actually, we want to tell you how to do your job.’”

Watkins’ comments reflect shifting attitudes in the oil and gas industry. Shell, for instance, has fracking and refining operations in more than 70 countries. But Shell wants to invest up to $2 billion in “New Energies”, and it announced plans to become the world’s biggest power company by 2030 as part of a move, away from its core oil and gas business. An executive at ExxonMobil also said this week that methane regulation has “an important role to play” in “helping industry as a whole rise to the challenge” of producing energy while minimizing the effect on the planet.

“The big oil and gas companies see the writing on the wall in terms of climate change,” said Lauren Pagel, interim executive director at the environmental nonprofit Earthworks. “They spent so many years denying climate change is happening, denying that they caused climate change, they spent a lot of years in denial, and this is their new tactic — that they can be part of the solution.”

The two regulations in the Trump administration’s crosshairs are aimed at curbing methane leaks from wells on public lands and new oil and gas sites on private land. The Department of Interior published the final rule rescinding methane leaks on public lands in September, and the EPA is in the process of rolling back regulations for new drilling.

Methane leaks from well sites and pipelines undermine the industry’s argument that natural gas can help the country shift to a cleaner economy. A recent study estimated that 13 million metric tons of natural gas — enough to fuel 10 million homes — is lost through leaks each year. That’s roughly 2 percent of all natural gas produced in the country.

Leaking natural gas also poses numerous health risks. It contains benzene and a slew of other hazardous pollutants and volatile organic compounds, which have been linked to increased cancer risk and respiratory illnesses. An Earthworks report found that some 750,000 asthma attacks in children are attributable to smog from oil and gas pollution nationally. It estimated that 12.6 million people live within a half mile of an oil and gas facility.

Pagel said that as long as oil and gas companies are in business, strict regulations, such as those to decrease methane emissions, are required to protect public health and the environment.

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Shell to Trump administration: Regulate us already

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Students share motivations ahead of Youth Climate Strike

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Young people around the globe are gearing up for the International Youth Climate Strike on Friday, March 15. Students at tens of thousands of schools are expected to leave their classes and take the streets to demand world leaders act on climate change.

The global movement started last year when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who was just nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, began a solo protest calling for climate change action by holding up handmade signs outside her country’s Parliament every Friday. Thunberg’s actions sparked the hashtag #FridaysForFuture — now a worldwide youth climate movement.

Following last month’s massive youth walkouts in Europe, the March 15 Youth Climate Strike will now bring the school-based environmental action stateside. According to the U.S. website for the strike, the students’ demands include a Green New Deal that will prioritize communities most impacted by climate change, a 100 percent renewable energy target by 2030, and comprehensive education on the impacts of climate change.

“It’s important to talk about what climate change does to marginalized communities, and what it could do to your community,” said Isra Hirsi, one of the U.S. co-leaders of the walkout who also happens to be the 16-year-old daughter of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “I think that’s a really great way to get more people involved.”

As united as Friday’s protests will be in their call for meaningful climate action, the reasons young people have for participating are also grounded in their regions’ unique climate concerns. Grist reached out to Youth Climate Strike organizers around the country to get a sense on why they’re participating and how climate change is impacting their communities.

The following quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Image courtesy of Aditi Narayanan

Aditi Narayanan, 16 – Phoenix, AZ

I have seen the impact of climate change on my community members, such as extreme heat and lack of trees in urban, more low-income, majority-POC areas in South Phoenix. Extreme heat, lack of water, the use of solar energy, and fracking are all huge issues on the Arizona state legislature’s plate right now.

Solar energy is one I care about most, as Arizona is so capable of using solar energy, but big energy companies are disincentivizing consumers from using solar, and in turn promoting fossil fuels. [Adults here] have had mixed responses, but, disregarding some not-so-nice online comments, most have been nothing but supportive.

Chelsea Li, 18Seattle, WA

Here in North Seattle, we definitely are more concerned about the issue compared to other parts of the country. But it’s kind of ironic — we have a fairly privileged perspective. Even though we emit the most greenhouse gases with our lifestyles, we’re not the ones who are most impacted compared to people living on islands that are going to flood or need to be relocated, or climate refugees. I feel like, even though — our community, even in Seattle, does care about the issue, the amount of caring doesn’t match the amount it’s talked about.

Climate change will be brought up in classes, of course, but outside of that, no — it’s weird, to me it’s such a pressing issue! Why isn’t everyone talking about it all the time? I don’t feel like it’s talked about that much. Not only at my school, but outside of that in the greater community either.

Image courtesy of Athena Fain

Athena Fain, 15 – Seattle, WA

These past couple weeks have been spent going to a lot of club meetings, trying to spread the word [about the strike] at my school. I want the strike to be a diverse movement because marginalized people get left out of climate movement, so I’ve been going to the Black Student Union, the Human Rights Club, the Gay-Straight Alliance, and telling them about it.

For me, it’s not just me trying to protect my future, it’s trying to protect my [present]. I’ve been doing climate activism for five years. People in government and people who have power in society, they’re not taking the proper actions. I care about the environment and nature and I love the world around me but the biggest thing I care about is humans. I want us not only to be able to survive but to prosper. If we allow this to continue, that won’t be an option.

Nadja Goldberg, 15 – San Francisco, CA

(Goldberg was one of the students who gathered to ask California Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. She and the group will be marching from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to Feinstein’s office. She says students plan to put sticky notes on either the politicians’ doors or the doors of the building.)

We were there with a small group of people on a Friday, and now we are coming back with thousands. I hope.

Image courtesy of Virginia Gaffney

Virginia Gaffney, 19 – Austin, TX

Texas summers have been getting progressively warmer every year for longer than my entire lifetime. It’s getting to the point where we’re breaking 110, 115 degrees F during the day. We’re going way too long without rain so everything is evaporating, but then it gets caught in the coastal winds because Texas has a significant coastline. It’s all being pushed away. So there are areas that are getting flooded and areas that have been in a drought for a decade.

Texas covers just about every major biome. We have Hill Country, coastal plains, forest, desert, marshland. Because of that [climatic] divide and [with half the state] getting too much rain and the other no rain at all, Texas faces the unique problem of not being able to make any direct action at the legislative level so far because when you tell the Eastern half we need to do something about the drought, they say, ‘What drought?’ And when you tell the Western half of the state, ‘Hey, we need to do something about the flooding, they say, ‘What flooding.’

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Melissa Patterson, 20, Portland, OR

For some students, leaving school for one day is a very taxing ask, so there are some concerns about unexcused absences during the walkout — although, that is what makes the event so powerful. This is a global movement encouraging young people to advocate for a safe future, so in perspective, many young people are eager to miss a day of school to participate. Portland Community College has been receptive to the idea, and local high schools have also been generally cooperative in allowing us to promote the strike.

It has been challenging to get this movement the momentum it deserves in the U.S. In other countries, it has really taken off. Considering the enormous role our country plays in climate change, the success of this event and future events involved with this movement is vital to the future of young generations.

Image courtesy of Shania Hurtado

Shania Hurtado, 16 – Houston, TX

I live in Houston and recently, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated our city. It was a time when my family and my friends were in a state of fear. It was terrible. This is truly why I’m striking. It’s why I’m organizing the strike. It’s something that affects me personally and we have the power to prevent and we should do something about it.

Climate very rarely comes up in the classroom. It’s come up on occasion. Ninety-nine percent of the research I’ve done on climate change, I’ve done on my own. The school system was very lacking. If schools were involved in teaching climate change then we wouldn’t have this doubt and we wouldn’t have this negligence we have today. That’s one of the biggest parts. Education is power.

With that being said, Texas is strong. We are all so very passionate. Especially because Texas has so much oil and gas, it’s important that we acknowledge this. We really believe that we can make this change as long as our voices are united in one single front.

Gudrun Campbell. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Stark.

Gudrun Campbell, 11 – Charlottesville, VA

I’m choosing to participate because time is running out. We have 11 years to save our planet, and it’s the only planet we have. We cannot spend precious time, of which we have too little, in silence. We must fight for our futures if others will not.

The main local issues are stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline and divesting from fossil fuels. I think stopping the pipelines is important because it’s a way to combat the fossil fuel industry at a more local level and in an achievable and impactful way. The pipelines have also raised issues of environmental racism.

My parents have been pretty supportive from the start. I think I first started getting into environmental activism when my teacher showed us a video of Greta Thunberg giving a speech. She told a room full of adults that they were acting like children. When I got home I showed the video to my parents, and a few weeks later, my mom showed me an article about Alexandria Villaseñor and the school strike, and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’

Sabirah Mahmud

Sabirah Mahmud, 16 – Philadelphia, PA

“It’s really important for every single student in America to have their voice heard. [There are] definitely barriers. People tell us that we can’t change climate change because we’re just kids. Of course, we know we can’t vote but we still have a voice. We still have the ability to stand up for something. We need to stand up for our right to protect our future, and I’m just baffled. It’s often very discouraging.

The strike isn’t just an opportunity to leave school or to walk out, it’s an opportunity to make change. All my life I’ve been asked, ‘What are you going to do in the future? What are you gonna do when you grow up?’ I can’t really think about the future with all this. It’s really ironic. That’s why it’s really important for this to happen, not only just Philadelphia but everywhere. Because we are the young people, the next generation and we need to take action now.”

Image courtesy of Kendall Greene

Kendall Greene, 17 – Atlanta

I’m striking for my future, for the air that I breathe, for the land that my grandparents have been living on, and for the land that my children, I hope, can live on.

I’m really passionate about food and food justice and specifically how marginalized communities are impacted by food and food scarcity and food security (and lack of food security). Just thinking about farmers in Georgia and how they recently dealt with a drought last year and the year before with peaches and pecans. I just don’t know what that looks like long term for farmers and people that rely on that mode of work, being in the South, being in Georgia. I’m really passionate about a lot of the organic farms here and locally-owned farms. I prefer to get my food from farmers markets, and I’m worried about how they’ll be impacted if climate catastrophe is on the way.

The adults in my life have been supportive [of my striking]. My mom has been really supportive. We’re about to go to a talk at a church about the morality of climate change tonight. At my school, they’ve been incredibly supportive — one of my teachers actually introduced this movement to me. I’m the leader of our sustainability group, “The Green Team,” and they’re hosting their own strike during lunch. But I want to connect the whole city of Atlanta at the Capitol.

Additional reporting by Eve Andrews,  Justine Calma, Teresa Chin, Eric Holthaus, Nathanael Johnson, Naveena Sadasivam, Zoe Sayler, Nikhil Swaminathan, and Claire Thompson.

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Students share motivations ahead of Youth Climate Strike

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The World Without Us – Alan Weisman


The World Without Us

Alan Weisman

Genre: Environment

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: July 10, 2007

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Seller: Macmillan

A penetrating, page-turning tour of a post-human Earth In The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity's impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; which everyday items may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe. The World Without Us reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles would give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dali Lama, and paleontologists—who describe a prehuman world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths—Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us. From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth's tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman's narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that needn't depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.

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The World Without Us – Alan Weisman

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Mardi Gras floods New Orleans in plastic beads. One scientist has a gooey fix.

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A herd of dragons, followed by a brass band, and a float full of Star Wars characters rolled down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans earlier this week, pelting onlookers with shiny beads. When it was over, misthrown necklaces dangled from tree branches and pooled in streetcar tracks.

It’s a scene that played out dozens of times across greater New Orleans over recent weeks. And boy does it make a mess. The Mardi Gras season came to a close on Tuesday, but beads remain scattered everywhere, clogging the city’s sewers. Last year, New Orleans vacuumed 93,000 pounds of plastic beads out of its storm drains.

Someday, historians may look back on our current fossil-fueled plastic era — the geological layer peppered with K-cups, water bottles, and straws — as one particularly bad Fat Tuesday binge.

But at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, molecular biologist Naohiro Kato is working to fix the local version of the plastic problem: Kato has figured out how to fashion biodegradable beads and doubloons out of algae.

Naohiro KatoPaige Jarreau, LSU

Kato isn’t exactly into plastics — his research is all about finding medicines in algae. But back in 2013, a student forgot to put a test tube of algae back in a freezer. The next morning, they found a layer of oil had separated from the warm scum and floated to the top of the tube. You need oil, usually pumped out of the ground, to make plastic beads. But the algae in the test tube had pumped this oil out of the air — weaving together carbon-dioxide and water to make the hydrocarbons.

Starting with algae grown in a kiddie pool, Kato then managed to make a few doubloons and beads.

Plastic beads and doubloons made from algae oil will break down over time, rather than clogging sewers for decades.Paige Jarreau, LSU.

This is just one example of an ongoing revolution to replace petroleum-based chemistry with biology. In the 1950s, scientists broke open the secrets of polymers and, in a frenzy of discovery, figured out how to turn oil into hundreds of different kinds of plastics. Plastics to insulate wires, package food, grease engines, form medical devices, and of course, to shape into a trillion colorful party novelties that drunk tourists would drop in the French Quarter. Now scientists have begun unlocking a new treasure of secrets — working with living cells this time, rather than organic chemistry.

“How big of a deal could bioplastics be? Yeah, I think it could be huge,” said John Cumbers, the founder of SynBioBeta, a network of researchers and inventors involved in this new frenzy of discovery.

Cumbers noted that one startup, Mango Materials, has been capturing methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) and feeding it to bacteria. The bacteria then transform it into bio-polymer molecules, which can be made into plastics.

This isn’t just an exciting frontier for startups. Big companies have already demonstrated that biomaterials make sense. In the 1990s, DuPont began a moonshot effort to get yeast to build 1-3 propanediol, a molecule that’s incredibly difficult to make from petroleum. They succeeded, and soon it was replacing petro-chemicals in cosmetics, soaps, and fabrics. It won a presidential green chemistry award in 2003. Most of this propanediol goes to make a fabric called Sorona, which is woven into denim, carpets, wrinkle-free suits, and underwear. Compared to similar textiles, Sonora produces 60 percent less greenhouse gases over its life cycle, according to DuPont.

This biomaterial performs better and is cheaper than the alternatives, and so “we’ve been growing like gangbusters,” said Mike Saltzberg, who directs DuPont’s biomaterials efforts.

But that’s not always the case. The more environmentally responsible option is often more expensive. “When people say, ‘I’m not just looking at performance and cost, I’m also looking at the environment,’ that really gives bioproducts the advantage,” Saltzberg said.

Take Kato’s bio-beads. Right now they’d cost about a dollar per necklace to mass produce, which is a lot more that the competition (a dollar can buy you a dozen). But if you captured the byproducts of the algal supplements he’s working on, you might be able to make it much more cheaply. For example, you can sell algal fucoxanthin, a compound with potential medical properties for $50,000 a pound. And after you take out the fucoxanthin, you still have 98 percent of the algae you started with.

“That means, we can produce biodegradable Mardi Gras beds from almost all of the microalgae we cultivate,” Kato said. “A football-field size of pond can produce 130,000 pounds of biodegradable Mardi Gras beads, which is more amount than that clogged in catch basins in New Orleans last year.”

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Mardi Gras floods New Orleans in plastic beads. One scientist has a gooey fix.

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How the U.S. got addicted to plastics

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This story was originally published by Undark and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In the closing months of World War II, Americans talked nonstop about how and when the war would end, and about how life was about to change. Germany would fall soon, people agreed on that. Opinions varied on how much longer the war in the Pacific would go on.

Amid the geopolitical turmoil, a small number of people and newspapers chattered about the dawn of another new age. A subtle shift was about to change the fabric of people’s lives: Cork was about to lose its dominance as a cornerstone of consumer manufacturing to a little-known synthetic substance called plastic.

In 1939, the future arrived at the World’s Fair in New York with the slogan: “The World of Tomorrow.” The fairground in Queens attracted 44 million people over two seasons, and two contenders laid claim to being the most modern industrial material: cork and plastic.

For decades, cork had been rising as the most flexible of materials; plastic was just an intriguing possibility. The manifold forms of cork products were featured everywhere, from an international Paris Exhibition to the fair in Queens, where the material was embedded in the Ford Motors roadway of the future.

Meanwhile, plastic made a promising debut, with visitors getting their first glimpse of nylon, Plexiglas, and Lucite. Souvenirs included colorful plastic (phenolic resin) pencil sharpeners, molded in the form of the fair’s emblematic, obelisk-shaped Trylon building. Visitors also picked up celluloid badges and pen knives, and a Remington electric razor made of Bakelite, along with plastic ashtrays, pens, and coasters.

In the months after the fair, as U.S. entry into the war became inevitable, the government grew concerned by American dependence on cork, which was obtained entirely from forests in Europe. The United States imported nearly half of the world’s production.

People in their 50s today remember when a bottle cap included a cork sliver insert to seal it. But in 1940, cork was in far more than bottle caps. It was the go-to industrial sealant used in car windshield glazing, insulation, refrigerated containers, engine gaskets, and airplanes. In defense, cork was crucial to tanks, trucks, bomber planes, and weapon systems. As the vulnerability for the supply of this all-purpose item became clear with the Nazi blockade of the Atlantic, the government put cork under “allotment,” or restricted use prioritized for defense. Information about cork supplies became subject to censorship.

In October 1941, the Commerce Department released a hefty report detailing the situation, titled: “Cork Goes to War.” Besides outlining the growing industrial use of cork, the report highlighted Hitler’s efforts to scoop up Europe’s cork harvests and the need for a systemic American response.

Part of that response was an intense research and development machine that ramped up the nascent synthetic industry to fill gaps in defense pipelines. Some were synthetics first developed by America’s enemies:Chemists at Armstrong Cork, an industry leader, crafted new products using materials research from Germany. Many synthetics were developed during the mad scramble to replace organic items that the blockade made expensive. To pay for the research and offset rising materials costs, Armstrong trimmed employees’ use of items like carbon paper and paper clips; the company’s accountants noted 95,000 clips used per month in 1944, a 40 percent decline since the war’s start.

In 1944, a book titled Plastic Horizons, by B.H. Weil and Victor Anhorn, documented the promise of plastic. A chapter titled “Plastics in a World at War” opens with a paean to the blood toll of war. But then the authors trace how war bends science to its needs for new both deadly and life-saving items: Physicists turn to aircraft detection, chemists to explosives. “Nylon for stockings has become nylon for parachutes. Rubber for tires has almost vanished, and desperate measures are required to replace it with man-made elastics.” That section concludes, “Plastics have indeed gone to war.”

In one dramatic example, the authors describe how plastics came to neutralize Germany’s secret weapon: a magnetic mine designed to be laid on the ocean floor and detonated by the magnetic field surrounding any vessel that passed over it. To counteract that, Allied scientists created plastic-coated electric cables that wrapped around the ships’ hulls and “degaussed” them, rendering the mines ineffective. Thanks, polyvinyl chloride!

The book got a glowing review in the New York Times, which noted that America was experiencing a chemical revolution.

Early plastics, as the book explained, covered a wide range of natural or semi-synthetics like celluloid and synthetic resins that could be molded with heat and pressure.

After the war, chronic shortages of common materials like rubber, cork, linseed oil, and paints forced chemists to scramble for substitutes, further speeding the embrace of plastics. Profitable bottling innovations included the LDPE squeeze bottle introduced by Monsanto in 1945, which paved the way for plastic bottles for soaps and shampoos, and the “Crowntainer,” a seamless metal cone-topped beer can.

There was also a shortage of tinplate for metal caps. Industry was quickly adapting to finding substitutes. Giles Cooke, the in-house chemist at one manufacturing leader, Crown Cork & Seal, was dabbling in research on synthetic resins for container sealants through the 1940s. In beverage bottling, cork’s quality remained unmatched. You could taste the difference between a cork-sealed bottle and one sealed with plastic. Recognizing that it would takes decades to replace cork as a sealant, Cooke and his colleagues hedged their bets with patents on both silicone film container liners and rubber hydrochloride.

In the end, Plastic Horizons undersold its subject. Its closing chapter hardly seems to anticipate the ubiquity of plastics we see today, along with its formidable waste problem. “In the future, plastics will supplement rather than supplant such traditional structural materials as metals, wood, and glass,” the authors wrote.

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“There may be no Plastics Age, but that should discourage no one; applications will multiply with the years,” they continued. “Plastics are indeed versatile materials, and industry, with the help of science, will continue to add to their number and to improve their properties. Justifiable optimism is the order of the day, and the return of peace will enable the plastics industry to fulfill its promise of things to come.”

By 1946, the transition to plastics had reached a new threshold. That year, New York hosted a National Plastics Exposition, where for the first time, a range of strong, new materials and consumer products headed for American homes were on display. One observer noted, “the public are certainly steamed up on plastics.”

The World of Tomorrow indeed.

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How the U.S. got addicted to plastics

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6 Ways You Can Help Endangered Species (Starting with a Call to Your Governor)

Extinction is a natural phenomenon. Thank goodness. Unless you’re a six-year-old kid, chances are you’re relieved that dinosaurs no longer roam the earth.

But scientists estimate we’re losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate. To put that in perspective, the normal rate is one to five species per year.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. It might be hard to imagine, but were it not for a landmark decision in 1973, the situation could be even more dire.

Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act ?which boasts a 99 percent success rate? is under political threat.?That means things could get worse really quickly.?We need to band together to help protect endangered species in whatever way we can.

Urging your governor to stand up for the Act?is one way to?help,?and there are lots of other things you can do to make a difference to the planet and its inhabitants.

How to Help Endangered Species

The sad reality is that 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk as a result of human activity. On the bright side, this means we have the power to?turn the tide on extinction by changing our behavior.

A somewhat idealistic outlook, I’ll agree, but imagine if everyone made?a few simple changes to the way they lived.

Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting an off-the-grid Luddite existence. I love outrageously overpriced coffee as much as the next person.

What we need to do?is look beyond our immediate reality?and consider?that our actions and choices impact the world around us. It may not always be apparent when you’re rushing to work, dropping off kids and chasing deadlines, but we’re all connected.

These are things we should all do to protect endangered species. If we don’t, it won’t just be at the expense of the animals. The food on our plates is at risk too.

Image?Credit: Net Credit

1. Call Your Governor

Call or email your state’s governor and urge them to?stand up for the Endangered Species Act. Earthjustice has a form that makes it easy to send a quick email voicing your support. Never called an elected official before? This handy guide can help you get ready.

2. Learn about Endangered Species in Your Area

Endangered animals don’t only exist in far-flung places, like the Amazon Rainforest or Indonesia. Habitat loss, poaching and pollution affect hundreds of species in the USA, too. Take the time to learn about the wildlife, birds, fish and plants in your area.

Sometimes grasping the proximity of a problem?can help spur us into action. When you know your lifestyle choices have a direct impact on the wildlife in your area, you’ll be less inclined to opt for convenience.

3. Nurture Your Backyard Ecosystem

Find out how you can help the ecosystem in your own backyard thrive. Plant an environmentally friendly garden, use natural pest control methods. Capture rainwater for irrigation purposes. Favor plants over lawn. Do everything you can to make a place pollinators want to hang out.

4. Stop Using Plastic

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. produces 32 million tons of plastic waste a year. No wonder 700 marine species are at risk of extinction because of plastic. Ditch the convenience of single-use plastic and opt instead for more sustainable alternatives.

5. Buy Local

Large-scale food production invariably uses agricultural practices that are harmful to the environment. One easy lifestyle change you can make right now is to support local farmers. Even if they’re not certified organic, their practices will be a lot better for the planet.

6. Slow Down When Driving

Urbanisation has forced a lot of animals into built-up areas. Along with their natural predators, these guys?now also have to be on the lookout out for human hazards, like cars. Drive the speed limit, and you’ll have a better chance of stopping in time.

When you see signs warning you of endangered animals crossing, pay even closer attention.?Remember, they need to get where they’re going just as much as you do.

Take Action

Small changes can add up, but we also need large-scale action to protect endangered species.?Join over 104,000 supporters and sign and share? petition demanding that Congress take bipartisan action to protect endangered species.

If?you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You?ll find Care2?s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Ways You Can Help Endangered Species (Starting with a Call to Your Governor)

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These Products Will Turn You into a Zero-Waste Superstar

Let’s not beat around the organic bush. Living a zero-waste lifestyle takes effort. I mean, you’re basically thumbing your nose at convenience.

The thing is, convenience comes at a price, and it’s a lot more than the cost of your Starbucks grand? double-mocha with extra cream.?Convenience?means leaving a trail of single-use plastic in your wake.

None of us sets out to do harm. We’re just opting for easy in a world that’s too busy. Unfortunately, easy invariably comes with consequences. Imagine knowing your straw was responsible for?this:

5 Zero-Waste?Products

Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle might take some effort, but it’s not hard. If everyone carried these five items with them, we’d stem the tide of trash that we’re washing into our rivers and?oceans.

1.?Collapsible Coffee Cup

Given the amount of coffee and tea we indulge in on a daily basis, keeping a cup in your bag is a no brainer. The problem is, most reusable cups are unwieldy, especially if you’re a grand? double-mocha kind of person (and who isn’t?).

The solution: Get a collapsible coffee mug. They’re leak-proof and much easier to stow than their bulky, full-sized cousins. How ingenious!

2.?Bamboo Straw

Biodegradable straws are de rigueur in a lot of hippie and health-conscious establishments, but most mainstream outlets are still all about the bottom line. That approach doesn’t allow for anything other single-use plastic straws.

The solution: Invest in some reusable straws. (One for you and the rest for your envious table mates.) You get all different types (stainless steel, silicon, glass, etc.), but I like bamboo, because it’s best for the environment.

3.?Filtered Water Bottle

More and more companies are turning plastic bottles into jackets, but that’s not a good enough reason to grab a bottle of Evian with your lunch. Plastic water bottle pollution is worse than you think, with only one in every six bottles being recycled (or downcycled, really). And that’s just the tip of a two million-ton iceberg.

The solution: A filtered water bottle is the perfect workaround. You get to be a better human and have filtered water on tap. There are plenty to choose from, so it’s up to your budget and personal taste.

4.?On-the-Go Cutlery Set

More and more restaurants and eateries are joining the sustainability movement. It’s gratifying to see them providing wooden utensils rather than the usual plastic cutlery we’re accustomed to. But, like with straws, the movement is still in its infancy.

The solution: Buy an on-the-go cutlery set. It’s worth spending the money on a quality kit, as a poorly made knife or fork that doesn’t do the job is enough to ruin a good lunch.

5.?Lunch Box/Food Container

Making your own food from scratch is better for your health, your budget and your zero-waste efforts. But let’s face it: not everyone has the time or the inclination to spend the weekend meal prepping.

Maybe going to your favorite deli for lunch is how you indulge in ‘me time.’ Perhaps enjoying a meal out with friends and family is your preferred way to socialize. I get it.

The solution: Get a lunch box/food container and ask the deli to serve your meal in there instead of their plastic takeout containers. And when you go out for dinner, guess where your leftovers go?

Using these five items will drastically reduce the amount of trash you create on a daily basis. If this is all you did, you’d make a significant difference to the environment. You could stop there and still feel really good about your zero-waste efforts.

If you want?take your mission?next level, though, you could switch up your beauty routine, shop at zero-waste stores and even try your hand at a little apartment composting.

The next thing you know you’ll have been living a zero-waste for a full year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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These Products Will Turn You into a Zero-Waste Superstar

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‘Moment of reckoning:’ U.S. cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yogurt containers, and other items into recycling bins.

But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded onto trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility, and burned, according to the city’s government.

It’s a situation being replicated across the U.S. as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse.

The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper, and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the U.S.

About 200 tons of recycling material is sent to the huge Covanta incinerator in Chester City, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia, every day since China’s import ban came into practice last year, the company says.

“People want to do the right thing by recycling but they have no idea where it goes and who it impacts,” said Zulene Mayfield, who was born and raised in Chester and now spearheads a community group against the incinerator, called Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living.

“People in Chester feel hopeless — all they want is for their kids to get out, escape. Why should we be expendable? Why should this place have to be burdened by people’s trash and shit?”

Some experts worry that burning plastic recycling will create a new fog of dioxins that will worsen an already alarming health situation in Chester. Nearly four in 10 children in the city have asthma, while the rate of ovarian cancer is 64 percent higher than the rest of Pennsylvania and lung cancer rates are 24 percent higher, according to state health statistics.

The dilemma with what to do with items earmarked for recycling is playing out across the U.S. The country generates more than 250 million tons of waste a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with about a third of this recycled and composted.

Until recently, China had been taking about 40 percent of U.S. paper, plastics, and other recyclables, but this trans-Pacific waste route has now ground to a halt. In July 2017, China told the World Trade Organization it no longer wanted to be the end point for yang laji, or foreign garbage, with the country keen to grapple with its own mountains of waste.

Since January 2018, China hasn’t accepted two dozen different recycling materials, such as plastic and mixed paper, unless they meet strict rules around contamination. The imported recycling has to be clean and unmixed — a standard too hard to meet for most American cities.

It is “virtually impossible to meet the stringent contamination standards established in China,” said a spokesperson for the city of Philadelphia, who added that the cost of recycling has become a “major impact on the city’s budget,” at around $78 a ton. Half of the city’s recycling is now going to the Covanta plant, the spokesperson said.

There isn’t much of a domestic market for U.S. recyclables — materials such as steel or high-density plastics can be sold on but much of the rest holds little more value than rubbish — meaning that local authorities are hurling it into landfills or burning it in huge incinerators like the one in Chester, which already torches around 3,510 tons of trash, the weight equivalent of more than 17 blue whales, every day.

“This is a real moment of reckoning for the U.S. because of a lot of these incinerators are aging, on their last legs, without the latest pollution controls,” said Claire Arkin, campaign associate at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “You may think burning plastic means ‘poof, it’s gone’ but it puts some very nasty pollution into the air for communities that are already dealing with high rates of asthma and cancers.”

Hugging the western bank of the Delaware River, which separates Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Chester City was once a humming industrial outpost, hosting Ford and General Motors plants. Since the war, however, Chester has been hollowed out, with an exodus of jobs ushering in an era where a third of people live in poverty.

The industry that remains emits a cocktail of soot and chemicals upon a population of 34,000 residents, 70 percent of them black. There’s a waste water treatment plant, a nearby Kimberly-Clark paper mill, and a medical waste facility. And then there’s Covanta’s incinerator, one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Just a tiny fraction of the trash burned at the plant is from Chester — the rest is funneled in via truck and train from as far as New York City and North Carolina. The burning of trash releases a host of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and particulate matter, which are tiny fragments of debris that, once inhaled, cause an array of health problems.

It’s difficult to single out the exact cause of any cancer, but a host of studies have identified possible links between air pollution and ovarian and breast cancers, which are unusually prevalent in Chester. A 1995 report by the EPA found that air pollution from local industry provides a “large component of the cancer and non-cancer risk to the citizens of Chester.”

“There are higher than normal rates of heart disease, stroke, and asthma in Chester, which are all endpoints for poor air,” said Marilyn Howarth, a public health expert at the University of Pennsylvania who has advised Chester activists for the past six years.

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Howarth said residents now risk a worsened exposure to pollution due to increased truck traffic rumbling through their streets, bringing recycling to the plant. Once burned, plastics give off volatile organics, some of them carcinogenic.

“It is difficult to link any single case of cancer, heart disease, or asthma directly to a particular source. However, the emissions from Covanta contain known carcinogens so they absolutely increase the risk of cancer to area residents.”

Covanta say that pollution controls, such as scrubbers in smokestacks, will negate toxins emitted by recyclables. After passing through the emissions control system, the plant’s eventual output is comfortably below limits set by state and federal regulators, the company says, with emissions of dioxins far better than the expected standard.

The company also argues that incineration is a better option than simply heaping plastic and cardboard in landfills.

“In terms of greenhouse gases, it’s better sending recyclables to an energy recovery facility because of the methane that comes from a landfill,” said Paul Gilman, Covanta’s chief sustainability officer. “Fingers crossed Philadelphia can get their recycling program going again because these facilities aren’t designed for recyclables, they are designed for solid waste.”

Covanta and its critics agree that the whole recycling system in the U.S. will need to be overhauled to avoid further environmental damage. Just 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S., with campaigns to push up recycling rates obscuring broader concerns about the environmental impact of mass consumption, whether derived from recycled materials or not.

“The unfortunate thing in the United States is that when people recycle they think it’s taken care of, when it was largely taken care of by China,” Gilman said. “When that stopped, it became clear we just aren’t able to deal with it.”

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‘Moment of reckoning:’ U.S. cities burn recyclables after China bans imports

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Cork vs. Cap: Which Wine Stopper is Better?

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Cork vs. Cap: Which Wine Stopper is Better?

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