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This video is longer than most (18 minutes). I am posting it in hopes that AB 1998 gets voted on and passed today... it's our last chance for this session of the State Senate.... fingers are crossed. Thanks Green Bag Lady for turning us on to this video.
On a MUCH happier note, last week my namesake Harmony Grace and her family came for a visit from Albany, NY. We had a grand time. Here is a picture I just couldn't resist sharing with you. Are they (Mary and Harmony Grace) cute or what?!
Styrofoam -- it is a wonderfully light packing material. It protects fragile products in shipping. It is rarely recycled and is hard to contain. (I know you have had a piece break and the static cling has made it hard to get all the tiny piece.) I like the cornstarch "peanuts" that dissolve with water. That's a big improvement. However, check out this latest development: Mushroom-Based Packaging. They are growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls into the forms needed for shipping fragile items. Sounds like a good idea to me. They say it uses 98% less energy than Styrofoam and, in my opinion, the real fabulous thing is that once you are "done" with it you can add it to your garden or compost pile. No more bags and bags of huge Styrofoam trash to try to figure out what to do with. I like it!
Next time I buy something that comes with Styrofoam packaging I am going to make it a point to tell the company about this alternative.
Recently I read an article about bottled water sales. I have to say I got that warm feeling inside when I read bottled water sales were down for the 2nd year in a row. The use of plastic water bottles makes my head spin (like one-use plastic bags). Why solve a temporary problem (water to drink) by creating an even bigger problem (plastic pollution)?
Here's a paragraph from the press release:
Bottled water wholesale dollar sales first exceeded $6 billion in 2000. By 2007, they topped $11.5 billion. Category sales declined to $11.2 billion the following year and to less than $10.6 billion in 2009.
Just to be clear, I am not happy to see companies experiencing declines in revenue. What I hope this will mean is that they rethink their product line to be more sustainable both financially and environmentally. Times are tough, but I see it as a positive sign of the times.
Let's bring back tap water and the drinking fountain! Wanna join my crusade? Comment on this post with a pledge to avoid plastic water bottles and our oceans will thank you (and so will I).
Last Friday I ventured into a Costco with a short shopping list. Toilet paper was on the list. I grabbed the Costco brand Kirkland Bath Tissue and we were out the door. It wasn't until we opened it that I discovered that every single roll was separately wrapped in PLASTIC! In the past the rolls have been individually wrapped in paper which always struck me as unnecessary but to see them wrapped in PLASTIC made me want to scream. I called Costco this morning and expressed my disgust at the "new and ocean destroying" packaging. I made it clear to them that I would NEVER purchase this product again and that I would tell my friends to boycott it until they figured out a less destructive way to package their product.
It just kills me to see plastic being used so excessively. The slogan on the side is "Safe for Septic Systems", seems to me they should add "Unsafe for Oceans and Sea Life". Grrrrrrrr
Years ago I spoke at the University of California, Davis to Ann Savageau's design classes. It was from that visit that I met my soon-to-be intern extraordinaire Carol Shu. Ann and I have stayed in touch and when she told me about her B.A.G. project last year, you know I was excited about it and wanted to support its goal to be truly global. I put Ann in touch with the founder of Conserve India, Anita.
This week I received this email from Ann:
As you know, I just returned from a fabulous two week stay in Delhi, and I credit you for introducing me to Anita and catalyzing this wonderful exchange!
The living conditions of the rag pickers are appalling: many of them belong to the Dalit, or Untouchable, caste. Anita says they are often sexually assaulted and beaten up. They have no schools or health care, and Conserve India provides both of those for about 300 employees. We visited the school and brought gifts for the children, such as soccer balls, jump ropes, toothbrushes, pencils, crayons, etc.
Our newly graduated fashion design majors, Christina Johnson and Jenna Chen will work as interns for C.I. for the next six months. It is a very exciting and a unique opportunity for them, because they will learn many aspects of the business (designing, marketing, merchandising, and pricing, to name a few). No American company of the same size would offer new graduates as much opportunity or responsibility.
I have attached a photo of us in our Indian garb, in an old bazaar in Delhi. Thank you so much for introducing me to Anita! By the way, Carol Shu will begin grad school with us in the fall, and we are so happy to have her back.
What fun to see connections blossom and grow! It is really wonderful to feel like I am a small part of a group of thoughtful committed citizens who are indeed changing the world.
Photo credit: E. Granath (age 8)
Do you ever have the experience of thinking about something and then suddenly being confronted with someone else thinking the exact same thing? That happened to me this weekend. I was contemplating the BP oil spill and the similarity between it and the continual flow of plastic debris into our oceans. Both are petroleum based. The BP spill is acute. It is visible. It is tragic.... and hopefully the problem is now no longer growing in magnitude (fingers crossed and prayers said). The 5 Gyres of swirling plastic is a slow but growing issue. It's insidious. It's harder to see and sadly it only continues to grow with little public outrage and minimal governmental or corporate concern.
So after having this discussion with my husband, I happened to catch this weeks Living on Earth episode titled: The Other Oil Spill. The episode is about reporting what the Researchers from the Sea Education Association (SEA) found on their month-long expedition into the plastic trash of the North Atlantic. The new is bad. Very bad. To quote Giora Proskurowski, an oceanographer with the SEA:
"What we proposed to do was to go far east from Bermuda where we know that plastics exist in the ocean, and try to find the eastern boundary of this region of high concentration in the ocean. And, we were hoping to see diminishing plastic concentrations, but what we actually saw, and actually our very eastern-most surface tow, was where we found the highest concentrations of plastic that have ever been observed in any of the world's oceans."
They didn't just find higher concentrations, they found 26 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer which is 10x more than ever recorded before! Aye Caramba! As explained by Giora Proskurowski, " . . .we can be 2,500 miles from land and pull out 23,000 pieces of plastic and it is our habits of one-use consumer plastics that's doing this."
We must STOP solving a temporary convenience problem with a permanent, even larger and much more difficult problem. PLEASE. If you live in California, support AB 1998. It is due to be voted on in August. Regardless of where you live, use a fabric bag, try to avoid single-use plastic (think metal water bottle and drinking fountains), and if you have a favorite product that uses plastic call, email or write and ask them to change their packaging. We have to take action and responsibility for this epic and growing situation.
NOTE: The SEA voyage mentioned in this post was the first federally-funded research expedition on plastics in the North Atlantic. (A small but hopeful sign.)
Last week The Green Bag Lady, Misses Stitches and I gave away close to 100 fabric bags in front of the two grocery stores in Gualala. As you can see, we had fun! The house is quiet after the visit... sniff sniff... but the bags (and memories) live on.
Yesterday as I drove across the bridge into the town of Gualala a man was walking the other way carrying a Green Bag Lady bag! I have seen this man walking many times before with a plastic bag. It was fabulous feeling to see the bag in action. THANKS Green Bag Lady!
This picture was taken June 6th on Bowling Ball Beach. My husband and I were there to renew our wedding vows. At first I was tempted to walk by the plastic pieces, leave it -- not have it enter our romantic moment -- but alas it was impossible for me to ignore.
As you know by now, in addition to being passionate about organic cotton, I also can get pretty worked up about plastic grocery bags and plastic water bottles. I just KNOW they will one day be the icons of our short-sighted insanity.
So, last week when the news came on the radio: Reusable Grocery Bags Contaminated with bacteria, my first thought was "I bet that study was funded by the plastic industry." So, I did a little digging... and sure enough... the study was brought to us by the American Chemistry Council. Just who and what is the American Chemistry Council? Well... in addition to their own home page, they are the ones behind the oh-so-lovely Plastics Make it Possible web site and also this gem: Stop the Bag Tax. sigh.
I decided to read the entire report. I like to know what the "science" is behind the "news". The timing of this release coupled with the impending vote on California AB 1998 is just too suspect to ignore.
What I learned:
They say that 80 of the 84 bags collected were woven polypropylene, but that seems highly unlikely. Most of those 99 cent at-the-counter "re-usable" bags are actually made of NON-woven polypropylene. I have emailed the authors to clarify. (I will report back what I hear...assuming I get a response. In the meantime, I am going to assume they meant non-woven polypropylene bags. To get such a fundamental piece of the study wrong was my first red flag.)
Don't get my husband started on how much he HATES this "eco" alternative (maybe I can get him to do a guest post for me on the topic). My problem is that non-woven polypropylene is still made from plastic.
People know cloth is washable. Is non-woven polypropylene washable? It doesn't feel like fabric and I completely agree with the study that BIG washing instructions should go in each of these sorts of bags. Non-woven polypropylene, although not single-use, still is made with fossil fuels and they don't last all that long. My friend Jane regularly washes hers and she found they last less than 6 months. Improvement, I guess... but my washed fabric bags have lasted YEARS and show no sign of needing replacement. Now THAT is a solution!
What the press left out was that "Attempts to isolate Salmonella and Listeria bacteria from the bags were not successful in this study, but this may only represent the limited number of samples that were collected."
Get this, the study actually tainted non-woven polypropylene bags with meat juice and put them in a trunk in the mid afternoon for 2 hours to see if bacteria grew. BIG surprise...HELLO! It did! My take away - don't eat meat.... and if you do, don't be stupid about it. Would you leave meat in your trunk for 2 hours? If meat juice spills, clean it up!
The other tidbit left out of the "news" story was that the report showed that "Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by >99.9%." Funny that the "news" was about fear and contamination rather than oh say, "Washing your reusable bags can keep you and your planet healthy" - oh, you're right, that probably won't sell as many papers. Fear sure is sexy. I have to admit that I resent the fact that this important statistic from the report which is featured both in the summary and the conclusion of the full report was missing entirely from the University of Arizona's own press release. Hummm... I am not someone who leans towards conspiracy theories but really?!
Why is 1998 a good number you ask? Well California Assembly Bill 1998 is the bill to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. It has made it through the California Assembly last week and its next stop is the state Senate! If all goes as we hope, this could mean the end of plastic bags in California! If passed, the bill goes into effect January 2012. I am very hopeful and proud of all the people who have gotten it this far.
The other reason why 1998 is a good number is that it was the year Sus and I got married. Tomorrow marks our 12th anniversary. As we do every year, we will be making a pilgrimage to Bowling Ball Beach to renew our vows. This year, after the vow exchange, we are heading off on a weasure (work+pleasure) road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to southern California. We plan to meet with customers, friends, family and on the 12th I will be giving a lecture to the Surface Art Association and then we will be heading home. We believe this is the closest thing to a vacation we have taken with just the 2 of us in 12 years! Should be fun! Back to packing.... and prepping. Have a great week!!!
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.