Monday, January 31, 2011

Gasland Screening at Cooper Union

Thursday, February 3 @6:30pm
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
7 East Seventh Street, New York, NY

Director Josh Fox will present his documentary film that has received a long list of awards, most recently having been short-listed for an Oscar. The film GasLand chronicles the devastating impact of gas drilling on the lives of people across the country. Sponsored by the Institute for Sustainable Design and NYH2O.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Plastic Atlantic Plastic Nightmare

You've likely already heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.   This huge mass of plastic garbage in the North Pacific, discovered by Charles Moore in 1997, has been much discussed online and in other media.
Need we on the East Coast feel left out?  No, there's plenty of plastic trash in the Atlantic, too. It is now known there are five major mostly-plastic garbage patches, or gyres, in oceans around the world. 

Ours is called the North Atlantic Gyre.  It is our very own creation, the result of throw-aways from our everyday lives.  The most common items in gyres are bottle caps.  Other ingredients include plastic bags, plastic packaging, tampon applicators, cigarette lighters, toothbrush handles, plastic cutlery, etc.  Through habit and inattention, we have recorded in the ocean a veritable inventory of our plastic daily lives.

There is no such thing as throwing something "away."  It's all still there.  In the Pacific, baby birds die, stomachs distended with plastic.  In the Atlantic 1/3 of fish test positive for plastic particles.  How long will it be until we hear that island and coastal people who rely on the ocean for food are full of plastic too?  And then there are the harmful chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) that leach out of some plastic products.  Via our gyres we have in effect decided to store these toxins too in our oceans.

So far no consensus exists on what we can do about our plastic ocean.  Many think it is impossible to clean up such a huge problem.  Others suggest that, due to currents and gyre rotation, up to 50% of gyre contents are deposited on beaches within three years.  If so, beach cleanup IS gyre cleanup, according to 5 Gyres.  

Whether or not their view is correct, participation in a beach cleanup is highly recommended.  The list of items found on beaches is uncannily similar to the contents of gyres.  Cleanups occur yearly in September world-wide, including many Metro NY locations.  Picking up & cataloging plastic trash from a beach that could be a place of beauty is a sobering, revealing, and unforgettable experience.

Measured against what we're doing to the ocean, the convenience we gain from using plastic packaging, and from carrying our produce home from the co-op in $30,000-worth of plastic bags a year, is simply not worth it.  ("Convenience will kill you," goes the all-too-apt line in this fine short music video.)

We need to get serious yesterday, or, since that's not possible, now, about eliminating our use of disposable plastics.  Otherwise one day—here comes the nightmare—our oceans filled with plastic, we may try in vain to protect ourselves from plastic rain, and, like the baby albatrosses, we may end up stuffed so full of plastic we're unable to take in real nourishment.

photo by Kent K. Barnes/kentkb on flickr

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Got Shoes?

I always have a hard time deciding what to get rid of when doing an early spring cleaning, but it helps a lot if I know my things can be used by someone else, rather than going into the trash.

I think we’ve all had shoes that didn’t fit right or that we've stopped wearing, but are still in good condition—you can give them to Soles4Souls. You can read the FAQs to answer any questions you may have and use the locator to find a drop-off location near you.

If your sneakers are too worn to be used by someone else, the parts can still be used. Look into Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program, where parts of running shoes, etc. are made into weight room floors, playground surfaces and more.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Local Wildlife Seminar

Councilmember Brad Lander, Windsor Terrace Alliance, and the Humane Society of the United States cordially invite you to a
special free workshop:

How to Resolve Common Urban Wildlife Problems:
Effective and Humane Solutions for NYC Residents

Saturday, January 22, 2011 – 10am to 1pm
Holy Name of Jesus Parish, 245 Prospect Park West,
in the St. Joseph's Conference Room

Having problems with raccoons, squirrels, opossums, pigeons or other urban wildlife? Some wild animals are both adaptive and opportunistic, which allows them to survive quite well in NYC despite the close proximity to people. However, conflicts can develop when urban dwellers and wildlife try to live within the same landscape. Led by a wildlife expert from The Humane Society of the United States, this interactive workshop will focus on practical, effective and long term solutions to common urban wildlife problems.

RSVPs appreciated, call (718) 499-1090 or email

Image courtesy of Texas Wildlife and Parks

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two Bedbug Lectures

Another type of environmental concern--how can we prevent or eradicate bedbugs in the least toxic way? The answer is diatomaceous earth, food grade, not the kind you use in swimming pools. It can be sprinkled on mattresses (underneath sheets), on sofas or chairs (underneath the cushions) and around edges of rooms. Googling will give you more information as well as vendors.

However, for those who want still more information, there are two upcoming lectures:

Plague! Bed Bugs: Myths and Realities
Tuesday, January 18 at 6:30 PM

Museum of the City of NY
Bed bugs, it seems, are all over New York City. In your mattress, your couch, that futon in the free pile at the end of your block. What is worse, they may have overrun your newspapers and even your TV screen. What's hype and what's reality? How big a problem are bed bugs, really? What is the city doing to stop them, and what can you do before they take over your apartment?
  • Entomologist Louis Sorkin of the New York Entomological Society

  • Renee Corea, former Director of New York vs Bed Bugs

  • David Cain, Managing Director of Bed Bugs Ltd

  • Yasmine Hecker, CEO of Prep 4 Bed Bugs
Discuss of how the recent plague of bed bugs is affecting city life and culture. Co-sponsored by the New York Entomological Society.

Reservations required. Call 917-492-3395 or e-mail
$6 Museum members; $8 seniors and students; $12 non-members


Community Bed Bug Forum:
How to Prevent and Combat Bed Bugs in Your Home

Tues. Jan. 18, 6pm
Health Professions High School auditorium

345 East 15 St., (bet. 1st & 2nd Aves.)

sponsored by
Community Boards 2, 3, 5 and 6
and the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
with Councilmember Rosie Mendez

For more information please contact
Jessica Nepomiachi at
or at (212) 677-1077

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Good Enough to Drink From, and Then Eat

Office parties and picnics are always a problem for the ecologically minded--we'd rather not use disposable paper plates & cups. The biodegradable ones carried by the coop are an interesting option, but they have to be discarded in compost, not regular trash, as they won't biodegrade in a landfill.

Here's something new & interesting -- cups made of jello that can be used at parties or picnics, and eaten after you drink from them. While we're not trying to endorse Jello in particular, the idea is clever, and we'd like to see more innovations like this. BTW, the company says this product is vegan, made without the animal products found in most gelatins. Read about more it here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Electronics Recycling in Brooklyn

My toaster broke down with finality last night and I was wondering how long I would have to hold on to it before an electronics recycling event came up. (For those who want to know why I don't have it repaired--it is very old and seemed to have a burning smell last night and I am very careful about not using risky electronics as I know two people who have had fires in their homes.)

Anyway, back to the recycling events--there are ones in Park Slope as early as January 16. For the full schedule of other boroughs see the Lower East Side Ecology Center
  • Sunday, January 16, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm
    Prospect Park West & 3rd St., Brooklyn, NY

  • Saturday, January 22, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm
    Habana Outpost, Fulton St. bet. S. Portland Ave. & S. Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY
For those of you following the LESEC poster series (which you can print and post in your building lobby, there's a nifty new poster about a toaster (!), and recycling metal items in NYC.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Concerns About Lead in Shopping Bags

A recent article in the Tampa Tribune has triggered concerns that some reusable shopping bags contain lead. The Tribune’s investigation found that inexpensive bags made in China came up positive for lead, including those sold in Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Walmart and Target. It is unclear if the lead came from dyes or printed ink on the bags.

Lead is always a concern, but the amount of lead that may rub off the bags was supposedly minimal. The issue seems to have more to do with leaching during breakdown in the landfill, but that hasn’t stopped the plastic industry and related lobby groups from inflating consumer fears.

Senator Charles Schumer has called for a federal investigation. However, rather than targeting reusable shopping bags, a better call would be to support the "Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010" and overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has failed to regulate chemicals in numerous consumer products, not just shopping bags.

Worried consumers who have switched back to disposable plastic bags may not have considered the adverse health effects of plastic in the landfill and in the home. Plastic NEVER breaks down completely and leaches numerous toxic chemicals into the soil, air, and water.

Reusable bags made from nylon or other plastic materials are more apt to contain harmful chemicals and harbor bacteria. The best choice is an organic cotton bag made in the USA or Europe.

The reusable bags that the COOP sells [Chico Bags and EcoBags ] are lead-free according to their websites.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Italy Bans Plastic Bags

Beginning 1/1/11, shopkeepers in Italy can no longer give out plastic bags, though they can use up their remaining stock. The environmental group Legambiente estimates each Italian consumes about 300 plastic bags a year, and that 180,000 tons of gasoline would be saved if everyone used just
10 bio-degradable bags a year for their shopping.

Other countries with bans include:
  • Mexico City last year banned shops from giving out plastic bags that are not bio-degradable.

  • France also imposed a similar law.

  • China has adopted a strict limit on plastic bags, reducing litter and eliminating the use of 40 billion bags.

  • In Tanzania, selling the bags carries a maximum six-month jail sentence and a fine of 1.5 million shilling ($1,137).

  • Mumbai, India, outlawed plastic bags in 2000

  • Cities in Australia, South Africa and Taiwan have imposed bans or surcharges.

  • Ireland was able to reduce plastic bag use by 90 percent after imposing a fee on each one--money from the fee went to environmental work.

Information from CNN Online. Photo courtesy of Warminster People.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Never doubt . . .

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

image of NYS Adirondacks courtesy of Marcy Hall Haislip