Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Environmental Events Coming Up

Here are some of the events coming up at the Coop, with environmental topics. Click the links to find out more details from the Coop's web site. Both events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday March 31st
The Case for Solar Power in New York
Launched by Solar One in 2008, I Heart PV (Photovoltaic technology) mobilizes citizen support for pro-solar policies and educates New Yorkers about the potential and benefits of solar power here in the five boroughs.

Saturday April 4th
Greening and Cleaning Your Home!
Learn simple recipes for making homemade green cleaning products, and how to identify common household items that can reduce your indoor air quality.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ecokvetch on Facebook

Ecokvetch, the face of the Park Slope Food Coop's Environmental Committee, is now on Facebook. If you're a Facebook member, become a fan of Ecokvetch!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bottled Water: Sales, Gimmicks, and Greenwashing

Awareness of the environmental and political issues surrounding bottled water has been increasing, and bottled water sales have started to drop. That trend is accelerating. From England comes word that sales have “plunged.” by 9% in 2008. Bottled water spokesmen have tried to blame the drop on cool weather last summer, something that is not likely to fly with environmentalists, whose campaigns to raise awareness of the waste and pollution generated by bottled water have been welcomed by expressions of support and by actions across the Continent and the world. Examples are The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities urging their member municipalities to stop spending public money on bottled water, universities ending contracts for bottled water in their facilities, and upscale restaurants no longer serving bottled water to their patrons.

Novelty Waters:
Bottled water companies have responded to environmental awareness campaigns and the resulting decreasing sales with various attempts at greenwashing, such as lighter, thinner bottles, carbon offsets, etc. New companies have tried entering the still lucrative market with novel pitches, such as Tap'dNY, which sells and promotes New York City tap water.

Another such company is California based Aquamantra, which sells spring water with one of four different affirmations printed on the bottles. The company's website claims that “the thoughts inherent in those words permeate the liquid, influencing the taste and beneficial properties of the water.” The idea is based on the claim that Buddhist monks were able to change the molecular structure of water with their thoughts.

It's not our place to pass judgment on the claims themselves, or to doubt the ability of positive thoughts to affect change. But we do have an alternative suggestion. You can accomplish the same effect by affixing a printed or artfully drawn affirmation onto a glass, reusable bottle, water filter, the spout of your tap, or wherever else it will be able to work its magic on the water you drink. You also save yourself the expense of the bottled water and spare the planet the environmental destruction that bottled water entails.

New #1 PET Bottles: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
Aquamantra is promoting what it claims is a breakthrough in its bottles. In a recent press release the company proudly announced that in May 2009 it will introduce “the world's first 100% biodegradable-recyclable bottle.” "This is the product," says the company's founder and president Alexandra Teklak," that consumers have been waiting for. Now everyone can feel good about drinking refreshingly convenient bottled water again."

The bottles are not made from cornstarch or other bio-material, which can also have big carbon footprints. Rather they are a form of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which the company claims can be recycled along with regular #1 PET bottles and which biodegrades both aerobically and anaerobically within 1 to 5 years, making them suitable for composting and able to degrade in landfills.

This is possible, according to the company that makes the bottles, due to a process that “expands the molecular structure of the plastic, altering the polymer chain and adding nutrients and other organic compounds which weaken the polymer and attract microbial activity.”

So is this the breakthrough that will make everyone “feel good about” buying bottled water again? The new bottles, if they live up to their billing, will make some difference in the overall profile of landfills, and perhaps marginally in their volume. But it will not alleviate the tremendous pollution to air and water caused by the manufacturing of the bottles (for all we know it may increase it) nor will it lessen the fossil fuels used to transport the products or the pollution caused by those bottles that are disposed of by incineration.

PET bottles have till now been considered the most suitable type of plastic to use for beverages, without the leaching issues that may exist with other bottles. But that assessment may change. A recent study found that PET bottles may be leaching estrogen-mimicking hormones.

And as for bottled water itself, it is still essentially a theft of a public resource for private gain, and still ultimately undermines the urgency governments feel to direct resources toward our excellent but threatened public water infrastructure.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

World Water Day: March 22

World Water Day is this weekend, and there are several water-related events around the city:

- Visit the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday, March 21 for their World Water Day Resource Fair held in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Live from 11am-4pm. View interactive displays, activity stations, and live animals, and see a special performance by the Arm-of-the-Sea puppet theater. For more information, see http://www.amnh.org/programs/specials/worldwaterday/.

- On Sunday, March 22, join UNICEF's Tap Project in Battery Park. This one mile walk will help raise awareness and support for children worldwide who suffer from a lack of readily available clean water.F or more information, see http://inside.unicefusa.org/site/TR?fr_id=1140&pg=entry.

- Take action against water privatization and in support of the right to a clean, safe water supply for all people. Nonprofit group Food & Water Watch is urging the U.S. to declare water a human right at the 5th World Water Forum underway in Istanbul, Turkey. To contact your congresspeople in support of this issue, visit http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=26890.

Image from hypergurl's Flickr pool.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Protect NYC's Watershed

Please join us on Saturday, March 21 at 11am at the Park Slope Food Coop for a lecture/discussion about NYC’s upstate watershed and current dangers posed by companies vying for gas drilling rights.

• Carolyn Zolas, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter’s Watershed Coordinator
• Assemblyman James Brennan, who is co-sponsoring legislation to halt this drilling.

The hydraulic fracturing drilling process releases toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, and could endanger NYC's water supply. There will be Q & A with the speakers after the lecture.
Non-members welcome.

Park Slope Food Coop is at 782 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11215 bet. 6th & 7th Aves.

To learn more, read Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's recent report on this issue.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Family-Friendly Green Fair

Looking for something environmentally-friendly to do with the kids tomorrow? Head on over to Families First's Green Fair!

Have fun with crafts and music and food while you learn about greening your home and our world. Plant a plant, make a bit of eco-art, learn about composting and energy savings, green home and cleaning products, and nosh on green snacks (in the spirit of St. Patty's Day). Fun for the whole family!

Clothing Swap: Children's clothing sizes Birth-5. Bring a bag and take a bag, or pay $5 to shop.
1:00 pm -- Singalong with Lloyd Miller!

10:00 am-2:00 pm
$15 per family

At Families First
250 Baltic St., Brooklyn

For more information, visit Families First.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

FLOW - A film about the world water crisis

Every 2nd Friday, Future Visions movie and discussion series presents films at the Community Church in Manhattan. This month's film is FLOW, Irina Salina’s award-winning documentary examines what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st century - The World Water Crisis. Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.

Friday, March 13 at 7pm
The Community Church
28 East 35th St, Manhattan
Suggested donation $5

For more information, contact the Community Church: http://www.ccny.org/

Friday, March 06, 2009

Greenwashing by Scott Toilet Tissue

Followers of our blog already know that Scott toilet tissue contains no recycled content, unlike the other brands of toilet tissue the Coop carries. Recently, I accompanied a friend shopping at one of his favorite big box stores. In the paper products aisle, I told him about avoiding Scott products, and he was open to considering other brands.

But then, look! The giant package (20 rolls?) of Scott T.P. had a big recycling symbol on it. I was surprised but pleased that perhaps the company had finally seen the error of its ways. However, upon reading the fine print, I realized that the happy recycling symbol was letting you know how proud the company was that just the cardboard core around which the T.P. is wound, was made with recycled content.

My surprise turned to disgust at this blatant greenwashing. Because in fact, all smooth gray cardboard, such as the kind used in cereal boxes and T.P. cores, is made of recycled paper. In Terrachoice's list of the Six Deadly Sins of Greenwashing, this is known as the Sin of Irrelevance: Could all of the other products in this category make the same claim? Absolutely. Therefore the claim is irrelevant, and merely an attempt by Scott brand to mislead consumers regarding the environmental benefits of its product.

This is one more reason to join the Greenpeace boycott of Kimberly-Clark (parent company of Scott brand) and demand that they drastically increase the amount of recycled fiber in their tissue products.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Growing Up Green: Guiding Youth from Gardening to Green Collar Jobs

Kick off the spring gardening season at Brooklyn Botanic Garden with this daylong conference on how to help youth use gardening to enter the new green collar economy. This free event features a keynote address by Maurice Small, Coordinator of City Fresh, who will tell how this community-based enterprise is improving local access to fresh food in Northeast Ohio through youth training and mentoring in urban agriculture. Visit exhibits and workshops covering such topics as “Starting a Children’s Garden Program,” “Cooking Up a Healthy Future,” “Drip Irrigation for Community Gardens,” and “Emerging Green Collar Jobs.”

“Growing Up Green: Guiding Youth from Gardening to Green Collar Jobs,” the 28th annual Making Brooklyn Bloom
Saturday, March 7
10 a.m-4 p.m.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden

No pre-registration is required, but you must arrive at 10 a.m. to register for the day’s workshops.

For more information, call 718-623-7250 or visit www.bbg.org/vis2/2009/mbb/