Yesterday was World Environment Day and it was awesome to see how many more people are becoming eco-conscious. The environmental conversation is becoming more prominent. People want to learn more and they want to get involved. Days like yesterday are meant to invoke thoughts like how we treat our environment, what is our connection to it, and how can our everyday behavior help sustain it?
It’s actually not that easy to grasp and there’s an explanation for this. Environmental science encompasses several sciences. It includes studies of biology, chemistry, geology, physics, ecology, and many other natural sciences, their relationship to each other, and the larger schema they make up. It’s basically a lot to scientifically keep up with especially because the world is ever-changing in nature.
An important discussion in the environmental world (no pun intended) is collecting and analyzing data to interpret human behavior, the damage done to the environment, and how we can remediate that. One way that people can do that now is by Greening At the Local Level and calculating their ecological footprint. This is important because it allows you to understand which parts of your everyday life are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The excess of greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and cause climate change; a later domino effect of changes like food disparities, soil erosion (growing deserts), wildlife adapting to different habitats, and many, many others can be observed around the world.
Now, what is Earth Overshoot Day and how is it relevant? This is the day that our annual consumption demands exceed what the earth can regenerate in a year—within nature’s means.
Formerly known as Ecological Debt Day, the world’s average overshoot day is August 2nd which leaves us at a big deficit. For the rest of each year we are producing more greenhouse gases than the environment can cycle naturally. Every year the overshoot date may change depending on the consumption rates analyzed. See image below for earth overshoot dates in different parts of the world for 2018. This gives humanity a different perspective of the same concept. Making it easier to understand because not only can we relate it to our everyday lives but we can also draw the connection to how we’re responsible.
This year’s earth overshoot date is August 1st. So what are some things you can do to help the cause? The Global Footprint Network is taking a stand to #MoveTheDate. By encouraging people to make small changes in their everyday life, they’re also encouraging that we push the overshoot date back. With doing this, we allow nature to naturally cycle greenhouse gases without an overabundance and that helps the atmosphere from warming.
Some ways to get involved that seem minor but help greatly include:
a plant-based diet
collecting trash locally
talk to your representatives
What are some ways that you help prevent excess greenhouse gas emissions? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an Instagram feature! ✨
Get your reusable bags ready because a plastic bag fee is likely coming to New York City. The fee is part of an effort to prevent plastic bags from polluting our environment. Large corporations, politicians, and everyday shoppers, like you and me, have resisted proposals to charge shoppers for plastic bags (NY Times, 2017). But it is important to learn about why this is beneficial for the environment. We will see that it is not as catastrophic as we think.
Plastic bags are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050 and 80% of that plastic was originally “land-based trash” (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). As if that’s not motivating enough, the economics behind this say that businesses spend up to $4 billion each year on purchasing plastic bags. That’s along with recyclable handling recovery facilities spending amounts ranging from $250K to $750K in maintenance and cleaning due to plastic bags (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2).
The bill to charge 5 cents per plastic bag was originally introduced by City Council in 2014. Ongoing development between the City Council, the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, and the Mayor, included several hearings, amendments, and approvals. It was finally passed over two years later on June 5, 2016.
The law requiring a fee of 5 cents per bag was supported by our City’s Council members as well as our Mayor, Bill de Blasio, so what could possibly go wrong? The plastic bag fee was killed before it even launched. (NY Times, 2017). The new law was rescinded by Governor Andrew Cuomo when he signed a bill that killed the fee immediately. He felt it was “deeply flawed” as it allowed business owners to keep the 5 cents which could amount to $100 million in profits (McKinley, 2017).
Not only did Cuomo insist on revamping the law, but he suggested making the plastic bag fee statewide. Cuomo promises direction, giving some hope to environmentalists and the City Council members who say they felt defeated by state government and “characterized the move as a classic case of Albany’s overreach” (McKinley, 2017).
But what do shoppers think of the plastic bag fee? I interviewed a frequent shopper about the potential statewide legislation. She expressed to me that she did majority of the food shopping in her household and always used plastic bags to take home. When I asked her about a plastic bag fee of 5 cents per bag she stated, “I feel the plastic bag fee should be imposed. It would push more people to start using reusable bags.” We spoke on how the legislation would prevent plastic pollution and she completely supported the cause. A much more optimistic shopper than I had anticipated, Ms. Alamo also was ready to make the switch to reusable bags exclusively.
A consumer’s opinion on the plastic bag fee depends on his or her environmental consciousness. Voters need to understand why decisions are being made and how they actually affect them—without that there may always be a pushback (NY Times, 2017).
The questions that consumers need to be answered include:
• What’s wrong with single-use plastic?
• How are plastic bags affecting the environment?
• How will the plastic bag fee help?
The New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags covers all of these questions in detail. It provides information for each legislation option, giving business owners choices with how to apply the plastic bag fee including pros and cons. The legislative options also explore the tedious details with strengthening existing recycling, enforcing manufacturer responsibility, bag fees, etc.
What’s wrong with single-use plastic and how are plastic bags affecting the environment? The report answers exactly that, plastic bags are already creating a number of problems we can see for ourselves today (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). They are made from fossil fuels from being manufacturing to being distributed to businesses. They are found littered on land, in small waterways, and in large bodies of water. Plastic pollution affects wildlife by disturbing natural habitats and life cycle events. This can be from littering or due to chemicals leeching out from the plastic (NYSPBTF Report, 2018: 2).
With considering that heavy load of information, we need to start thinking like conscious consumers. But people are afraid of what could be the negative results from a plastic bag fee. Assemblyman Luis R. Sepulveda says, “A 5-cent tax is a burden on many of our poor people and many of our seniors” (NY Times, 2017). Some are concerned with paying and some do not want their convenience to be tampered with.
In 2016, the state of California imposed both a “flimsy, single-use plastic bag” ban and also a plastic bag fee that charged consumers 10-cents for a “thicker, reusable plastic bag” (LA Times, 2017). Although there was initially push back, ideas of reusable bags causing bacterial outbreaks, and thoughts of low-income families not being to afford a plastic bag, no one went broke. The plastic bags in collected litter in California also went down from 7.4% of plastic bags in litter to 3.1% of plastic bags in litter. (LA Times, 2017).
California has shown New York City it is possible. Instead of worrying about the mass hysteria of shoppers, we need to consider our city’s environmental health. With 8.5 million people, it is New York City’s duty to follow standards that protect our environment.
This year, it seems that New York’s Governor Cuomo may finally be getting it. A recent article by the New York Post stated that Cuomo is “considering a statewide ban on plastic bags to help curb unnecessary trash” (New York Post, 2018). Although it isn’t a commitment on a plastic bag fee, it is a step in the right direction. Could you imagine New York City becoming a leader in the environmental movement?
Sources Alamo, Liza. Personal interview. 01 May 2018. Campanile, Carl. “Cuomo considering statewide ban on plastic bags.” New York Post, Mar 2018. May 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/03/05/cuomo-considering-statewide-ban-on-plastic-bags/. McKinley, Jesse. “Cuomo Blocks New York City Plastic Bag Law.” The New York Times, Feb 2017. May 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/nyregion/cuomo-blocks-new-york-city-plastic-bag-law.html. The Times Editorial Board. “It’s been a year since California banned single-use plastic bags. The world didn’t end.” The Los Angeles Times, Nov 2017. May 2018. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-plastic-bag-ban-anniversary-20171118-story.html. United States, Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags. New York State, 13 Jan 2018.
I get asked the same series of questions very often: How did you stop eating meat? Do you still eat fish or eggs? What else do you eat? Do you miss meat? Why did you stop eating meat? The list goes on… This article should serve as an answer to all of the questions I receive and hopefully it will also serve as encouragement to going meat-less.
First and foremost, I want to mention that everyone’s experience when transitioning to a new diet is unique. Each of our physical body’s has its own set of requirements to be satisfied and properly nourished. The difficulty can range for everyone and not every food alternative will work for your palette. With that said, food can be a very personal subject.
We have been conditioned to believe a mass-producing meat industry is normal. For meat eaters, there’s this perceived convenience due to what they actually can’t see. Some of these thought-provoking things include: filthy living conditions for livestock, overconsumption of fresh water, high methane emissions, etc. If more meat eaters were aware of the process it took to get meat onto their table, they would most likely source it differently or change their overall eating habits.
As if the blindfold we live behind isn’t bad enough… current trends of accessibility to meat enable society’s meat eating habits. Citizens have more purchasing power with meat as opposed to plant-based foods. It reminds me all too much of environmental justice situations where our economy and governing systems idle on the communities that need change the most. Like when low-income communities or communities of color experience contaminated water supplies or landfill placement in proximity to them.
So why did I stop consuming meat? I use social media oftentimes to express that my reasons are multifaceted and there really is no one simple answer. The reasons are numerous and their severity vary in intensity:
Majority of animals in the meat industry are given a lot of antibiotics and are sometimes even force-fed to make them gain weight.
Cows have to endure being impregnated by human intervention (rape if you ask me) to produce milk as well as having heir newborn calfs taken from them so humans may have milk. Other animals can be in cramped or confined conditions that oftentimes are not as clean as they need to be. Animal abuse should never be tolerated, especially before animals are sacrificed for meat.
Environmental effects (and climate change)
Producing meat is a large uses of our fresh water. From the amount of water animals need to survive, to the amount of water necessary in production of meat, and even down to the water in vegetation that more and more livestock animals need to eat.
Large livestock populations emit a large amount Methane from their excrement. Methane is more dangerous than Carbon Dioxide, allowing the atmosphere to heat quicker.
Big spaces of land are also turned into grasslands for livestock, this causes the environment to experience a loss of land that could provide for a more biologically diverse community.
In human’s history, meat was not an everyday delicacy. It was one that was recognized as a sacrifice of the earth and was ritualistic. Not only was it consumed way less frequently as it is now, portions were also not as big as they are now. The push for consumerism has taught us not to value the life of an animal to be quite frank.
Now, how did I stop eating meat? I honestly tried more than once to become a vegetarian and the first time, I relapsed. It was hard because I attempted to do it without any planning or prior research. But that attempt helped me to establish that I would no longer eat red meat (beef, lamb) or pork (pig).
To make it more of a successful experience, for my second attempt I transitioned slowly. In 2015, I began experiencing digestive issues and it was the perfect scenario to motivate me. Just as the human body takes time to heal, it takes time to adjust to new habits such as a diet change. I began eating chicken less frequently and intentionally looking for more alternatives to add to my diet. I found that: foods like mushrooms were tasty and provided awesome texture; vegetable mixes were underrated especially when you tried new ones together or made a homemade vegetable soup; and potatoes are filling plus can be eaten in many different ways. I stopped eating chicken too but I was still eating seafood.
I began limiting my seafood intake to only fish… and it difficult. Fish was my favorite of everything I was going to stop. So, just as I had done with chicken, I ate fish less and less frequently but also made sure I was adding to my alternative choices. At this time, I was already developing favorite snacks and meals.
Early this year, I completely stopped consuming dairy (milk, cheese) and eggs. Although I don’t have any inclination to drink milk and have been drinking alternatives for some time, I am extra careful when ordering drinks and reading ingredient labels. I have learned that reading labels becomes an art as a person with a vegan diet.
So the last and final question, do I miss meat?, and my answer is yes. There are times that I get an indirect craving for meat but it’s my body asking for something else nutrient wise . Earlier on, when I did give into temptation, meat simply tasted raw no matter how well cooked it was.
And now I can’t even stomach to smell meat being cooked. I hope this brought some insight and thought to you.
Throwing electronics in the trash comes with a $100 fine in the city of New York. This includes items like mobile phones, televisions, DVD players, printers, video game consoles, tablets, or any other electronic waste that has no place in a landfill. The Department of Sanitation is not responsible for collecting these items even if they are left on the curb. It is the consumer’s responsibility to properly dispose of any electronics they no longer want.
So how does one responsibly get rid of their unwanted electronics?
1. Contact the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program you can send your electronic(s) to
2. Best Buy retail stores take electronics to be recycled—to be certain, contact the store you wish to visit and inquire about the electronic you want to recycle
Or! You can attend one of these E-Waste Collection Events hosted by LES Ecology Center. The events are taking place mostly on weekends between 10am to 4pm, although each is at a unique place in NYC. By using the calendar on our Events page, you can view the dates & locations of upcoming collection events or click here for LES Ecology Center’s calendar. Bring your electronic waste!
We know for sure that humanity has a devastating impact on all life. Science is proving over and over how much our lifestyle/consumer choices collectively affect the planet at large. With so many countries contributing to environmental pollution, different sources of pollution and differing pollutants, the issue is a complex global one. So how are we to solve such a big issue? We have to think about it on a local scale.
I attended a City Ecological Footprint Webinar hosted by Global Footprint Network and it got me thinking about how we can be more aware of our personal daily impacts. Here are some things to first learn and consider:
The earth’s biocapacity is the amount of living things it can support with current sustainability practices (agriculture, fishing, greenhouse gas emissions) and its ability to replenish itself
The U.S. government always wants to to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) which is literally increasing the United States’ citizen buying power or our consumption
With an ever increasing demand for GDP growth, there is an equal increased demand for resources within the environment to create products but growth does not equal sustainability
Earth is already in overshoot meaning it’s beyond its biocapacity; it physically cannot sustain the current the lifestyles that developed countries have and developing countries are lacking
The problem with finding an immediate solution is that national governments and international governing bodies alike work too slowly
With that being said, it’s clear why the answer lies at the local level. Change is happening quicker and more readily at the bottom. Corporations have more to lose when making green decisions. The solution is really within the changes that ordinary people can make in their everyday lives. Here are some changes you can make to be more green:
If you’re interested in finding out more about your personal affect on the environment, you can use this Ecological Footprint Calculator from Global Footprint Network. It asks questions about your everyday life and shows which areas are causing the most damage to the earth. I hope you’ve gained something today. 🌱
Stay green, bloomers.
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