Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Birth Into More Serious Environmental Consciousness

Even though I've been making urban-kitchen compost for some years, from my own kitchen and a multi-user kitchen nearby, and I've been worm-herding (vermiculture/worm castings/worm compost), and using all the compost and all the castings from the worms, I've been hanging back on my own personal vow for environmental right action (my personal commitment to do anything/everything in my power to do "the right thing" to help our ailing environment).

Here's how I've changed recently. It's been a fun trip to change my life this way.way. I get to give back to the environment that has supported me all these years. I've loved doing it. It might help you to know what I've done to date, 'cause if I Here's how I've changed recently. It's been a fun trip to change my life this can do it, you certainly can too!

I was upset when someone told me they were saving all their plastic bags from shopping and from the produce section. I didn't want to save all of those annoying bags, and they make a big mess trying to save them, too. BUT, I saw the Plastic Bag Folding Technique #1 on Ecokvetch under the label Plastics, and I made my storage space under the sink an environmental dream come true: 1 bag now holds all my little triangularly folded plastic bags and I wrote "Please Take With You For No-New-Plastic-Bag-Shopping" on the outside, for my roommates to consider.

Those little muslin bags at the coop are great for a lot of dry goods by the pound, and some produce, too. And my canning jars of all different sizes are helpful for everything which needs careful, more air-tight storage. I've been using alternative shopping bags for a long time. I always use re-freezable cold packs for getting my groceries home in good shape. Does anyone use ice any more?

I consulted with various experts on environmental consciousness and was referred to all the latest on how to separate our recyclables so everything that can be recycled right now, is. I've come to understand what the city takes, what our compost can turn into rich loam soil, what plastic items PSFC takes and when to bring them to the coop, and finally what absolutely has to be trashed. Whew. And I'm still learning. I'm so grateful that PSFC is already taking #5 plastic bottle tops for recycling.
I understand that even (the billions) of plastic bottle tops people throw out are an environmental nightmare for the ocean and landfills. I hope we can collect more and different number bottle tops soon.

Considering the impact that our cleaning techniques in the apartment have, I decided that the world (and my apartment) is full of rags, and I've started using them instead of swiffers. I'm reusing the swiffer mop and just stuffing my rags into the holes formerly used for the environmentally NOT sound NOT-reusable cleaning cloths (and they were an expensive habit to keep paying for. I use water and a bit of cleaning liquid I buy at the coop and even if the rags don't stay stuffed into the holes on the swiffer mop all the time, I can still clean just as well (I think better) by using that mop to push the cleaning rag back and forth on the kitchen/bathroom floors. HA !

Long ago I started using the compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent, but I'm going to have to look up how to recycle the used ones (they have mercury content). I have a feeling the answer to that question will be readily available from someone even as this is being read. And, latest addition to this posting: is the place to tap into for finding out where to recycle in my zipcode. Thank you, readers ! I use nightlights that are darkness activated instead of turning on lights. A romantic twinkle in a dark apartment, right? I'm now recharging my batteries. Yay!

Unplugging all my appliances is the norm (so many use a current all the time to "start" them up quicker), including my cellphone charger. The computer goes OFF instead of SLEEP. Off is good.

What else? Is it over the top in addition to having a low water flush for the toilet, to only flush after a couple of liquid uses? I just put the top down. Hmmm. Too hard core? I don't mind. I don't leave the toilet unflushed when I'm going out. Does it help to know that most people in the world do not have flush toilets; only highly unsanitary privies?

And when I'm using water, well, I have to say, especially when I shower, I actually think of all the people in the world who have never had a hot running water shower. Wow. So, I'm careful about my water use. It's NOT necessarily a renewable resource the way that we are used to thinking about it.

There'll be more; I know I'll learn more. But meanwhile, can you stand hearing that I'm thankful to be stable enough financially to actually have the time and energy and resources to consider all of the above? It may seem pollyanna, but does my privilege to consider these things mean that I can't be aware that there are so many people in the world who don't have this same stability in their lives to be able to work on the environment the way I can?

I've changed so much since I've started considering recycling and reusing. And it feels good. Thanks never hurt anyone; I thank myself for doing all this and I think of all the other folks who are trying really hard as well; our efforts are thanking Mom Earth. I love to make the effort; it gives me more energy to do more, and I hope this effort is contagious !

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York: Solar City

The recent heatwave may have convinced more naysayers that global warming is real. Those of us already convinced will be glad to hear of more energy efficient options, especially on a large scale. A recent CNN article reported that two-thirds of the one million rooftops in New York City are suitable for solar power.

Right now, the city only gets a small amount of it's energy from solar. Increasing our solar energy use would not only decrease the amount of pollution our energy use generates, but reduce the stress on our energy grid, which is always a worry, especially in times of extreme heat. Consider also that once the initial installation of solar panels is made, the energy itself is free. Solar panels can be used on individual homes as well as larger buildings. Learn more about solar energy options for New York City.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why NYS Must Ban Fracking

Why NYS won't be protected if fracking takes place:

On July 8, 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study (dSGEIS)—the proposed permitting conditions for the hydraulic fracturing of horizontal wells in New York State.

While the dSGEIS may appear at first glance to be a significant improvement over the previous document (released by the DEC in 2009), the Catskill Mountainkeeper's investigation into the text's fine print has identified massive deficiencies. These include failing to present a mitigation plan for the inevitable public health impacts associated with fracking, and a blatant disregard to adequate drinking water protections.

Additionally, this document presents the industry with a clear road map for fracking in the Catskill Park, the Delaware River Watershed, and throughout the Southern Tier of New York.

The Handling of Toxic Wastewater Still a Major Problem
The plan by the DEC to track the solid and liquid wastes that are generated in connection with fracking sounds positive until you read that they are leaving the tracking of these wastes up to gas industry operators. We’ve all seen what happens when the industry is asked to police itself. Even more upsetting is that the DEC is still not classifying some of the waste that normally qualifies as hazardous, as hazardous, meaning that fracking waste could be sent to treatment facilities that are unable to properly treat it.

Protection of Primary Aquifers is only for a Limited Time
The DEC is proposing to prohibit fracking in primary aquifers that serve as public drinking water supplies but this “prohibition” is only limited to a couple of years after which the state could “reconsider” the bans. In addition, the DEC does not lay out the conditions under which “reconsideration” would be reviewed.

Bans on Drilling in State-Owned Land Inadequate
The ban on drilling in state-owned lands looks good until you read that while the state will prohibit well pads above ground they will allow drilling under these same lands.

Cumulative Impact Requirements Incomplete
References to how an area would be affected by the cumulative impact of many, many wells is only addressed for some aspects of that cumulative impact but the DEC has failed to lay out a comprehensive, focused plan to review and analyze the consequences of a full build out.

Regional Areas of Geological Risk Not Protected
The DEC has not addressed fracking in areas of special geological risk, such as those with fault lines that are potential pathways for the upward gradient of contaminants into aquifers because they claim that contaminants can’t rise into aquifers. However, independent scientific studies have proven that upward migration of contaminants is not only possible, but also likely. The DEC based their assertion on industry studies that looked at just 5 days in the fracking process.

Open Waste Pits Not Outlawed
The DEC has sidestepped banning deplorable open waste pits because they say that the gas industry has asserted that they are unlikely to use open pits for the storage of wastewater. Instead of prohibiting open pits out right, which should be done, they have proposed a system where a lone DEC employee could grant approval without doing an individual environmental impact study.

So what’s next?
We are waiting for the dates to be released for the public hearings that the DEC will schedule to collect comments on their plan.
Getting a large turnout to these hearings is critical—we will let you know as soon as we know the dates and locations of these meetings and we urge you to plan to be there.

Note: This has been excerpted from a press release by the Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Humane Laws for Hens Ready for Votes

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reached this morning with the United Egg Producers (UEP_, which could result in a complete makeover of the U.S. egg industry and improve the treatment of the 280 million laying hens used each year in U.S. egg production. Thanks to your support over the years, through our state ballot initiatives and legislative and corporate campaigns, we now have a new pathway forward to ban barren battery cages and phase in more humane standards nationwide.

The HSUS and UEP have agreed to work together to advocate for federal legislation that would:
  • Require a moratorium at the end of 2011 on new construction of unenrichable battery cages—small, cramped, cages that nearly immobilize more than 90 percent of laying hens today—and the nationwide elimination of barren battery cages through a phase-out period;

  • Require phased in construction of new hen housing systems that provide hens nearly double the amount of space they’re currently provided;

  • Require environmental enrichments so birds can engage in important natural behaviors currently denied to them in barren cages, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas;

  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as "eggs from caged hens" or "eggs from cage-free hens";

  • Prohibit forced molting through starvation—an inhumane practice that is inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year and which involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to manipulate the laying cycle;

  • Prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses—a common problem in the industry that is harmful to both hens and egg industry workers;

  • Require standards for euthanasia of hens; and

  • Prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these above requirements.

This agreement now needs to be voted on by senators and congressman to become law. Please contact your U.S. senators and representative today and urge them to support this federal legislation to end barren battery cage confinement and provide more humane standards for laying hens.

Some of the provisions would be implemented nearly immediately after enactment, such as those relating to forced molting, ammonia, and euthanasia, and others after just a few years, including labeling and the requirement that all birds will have to have at least 67 square inches of space each. (Currently, approximately 50 million laying hens are confined to only 48 square inches each.) The bill would require that all egg producers increase space per bird in a tiered phase-in, resulting in a final number, within 15 years for nearly all producers, of at minimum, 124-144 square inches of space each, along with the other improvements noted above.

In order to protect Proposition 2 (a landmark laying hen welfare initiative passed in California in 2008 that many of you worked on), all California egg producers—with nearly 20 million laying hens—would be required to eliminate barren battery cages by 2015 (the date Prop 2 goes into effect), and provide all hens with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas. This will also apply to the sale of all eggs and egg products in California. And this agreement to pass comprehensive federal legislation on hen welfare puts a hold on planned ballot measures related to laying hen welfare in both Washington and Oregon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips for Using Less Plastic

Last Tuesday, we looked at the work of former sea captain Mary Crowley, who is trying to remove plastic debris from the ocean, specifically from the north Atlantic gyre. Some people think the focus should be on reducing our plastic use and waste and cleaning up what is already there is futile. Captain Crowly thinks you can do both.

Mother Nature Network is featuring 19 ways to reduce plastic usage, some of which are easier for coop members than others, as we have access to a variety of options.

What else can we do at the Coop and as individuals to reduce plastic usage and waste?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Don't Let Cuomo Frack New York!

After months of study, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released their report, and Governor Cuomo has indicated his approval of hydraulic fracture drilling in parts of New York State other than the watersheds of NYC and Syracuse. But what about all the other cities and towns, not to mention farmers and rural dwellers who rely on wells or local water supplies? What about the organic farms that supply the Park Slope Food Coop and others? Unfortunately there is no part of New York State that is not a watershed for somebody.

You can make a strong statement by calling Governor Cuomo’s office to tell him that his plan to push hydraulic fracturing in New York State puts New Yorkers at too great a risk and must be abandoned. You can reach the Governor’s office by calling (518) 474-8390 or (212) 681-4580.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Non-toxic cat litter, hold the plastic bag.

At last! The search is over. Here's a cat litter that’s non-toxic, affordable, and actually works-- and it’s not packaged in plastic.

Beth Ann’s Finest All Natural Cat Litter, which is sold in a compostable brown paper bag, is made from 100% biodegradable, non-GMO corn, from Iowa family farms.

If you'd like the Coop to carry Beth Ann's Finest All Natural Cat Litter, add a request to the product request book at the Entrance Desk.

You can also order it directly from Beth Ann or pick it up from NYC Pet on 5th Avenue.

* Originally published on Plastic Albatross.