Invasion of the Single-Use Plastic Bag

They invade our homes, lurk in our backyards, wander our streets, swim in our ocean, float down our rivers and streams, and find shelter amongst trees and bushes.  They are found in the most populated and the most remote places on Earth.  They need no resources to persist and may indeed outlive the human race.  We cannot ignore them, we cannot escape them and we cannot destroy them.

Gull With Plastic Bag

So what can we do?  We can stop producing them.

Single use plastic grocery bags are the most widely distributed product in the world.  The average family accumulates hundreds of plastic bags per year without realizing the harm single use plastics cause to humans, animals, and the environment.  In fact, it is estimated that, world-wide, approximately one billion plastic bags are used every minute!  It is easy to think of plastic bags as free, abundant and disposable tools for improving our quality of life.  They are in fact environmentally expensive; one cost is that both land and ocean animals die from entanglement or ingestion of plastic bags.  They are persistent; plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to photo-degrade (break up into small pieces), and do not ever biodegrade.  And they reduce our standard of living; plastic bags disrupt our appreciation of nature’s pristine landscapes.  More significantly, they clog storm drains, increasing the chance and severity of flooding during rainy seasons.

The overwhelming prevalence of plastic bags on Earth has created a problem so extensive that many countries around the world are taking action to prevent plastic bag distribution.   As early as 1988 environmentally minded people realized the costs of single use plastic bags far outweighed the benefits.  By 1998, thirty Alaskan villages banned the plastic bag.  Now, in 2011, multiple countries in Africa including: Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa have banned the plastic bag.  African countries are not the only ones catching on: Bhutan, Brazil, Italy, Macedonia and Taiwan have all instated plastic bag bans.  Multiple cities in the United Kingdom, France, India, Canada, Australia and the United States have also officially banned plastic bags.  And those are just the places that have prohibited plastic bag distribution.  Many other countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel and the Netherlands, have implemented a plastic bag tax to slow the proliferation of the bag.

There is clear evidence that taxes and bans do reduce the amount of single use plastic bags in the environment.  In 2002 the government in Ireland introduced a plastic bag fee called PlasTax. The law resulted in a 90% reduction in plastic bag consumption, a huge reduction in plastic bag litter and a significant decrease in oil use. Individual corporations and companies have proven that they can make a difference too. Whole Foods Market banned plastic bags on Earth day in 2008 and has since estimated that reusable bag use tripled in just one year!

The Plastic Bag MonsterHere in California, we are fighting for change with hope and determination.  In 2007, San Francisco jump started the bag-ban trend in the United States.  Upon learning that plastic bags cannot legally be taxed in California, San Francisco became the first city in the state to pass a full ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags in major grocery stores and pharmacies.  Since San Francisco’s legendary decision to ban the bag, a cascade of anti-bag campaigns aiming to eliminate single use plastic grocery bags have swept through California.  A few other California cities that have effectively “banned the bag” include Malibu, Fairfax, Palo Alto and San Jose.  In November 2010, Los Angeles County passed a plastic bag ban affecting unincorporated areas, but as the ban is not applicable to LA cities, the cities are currently working for bag bans independently.  On January 25th 2011, Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that will ban plastic bags and charge a five cent fee for paper bags beginning in 2012.  Also in late January, Santa Monica approved a ban that will be enacted in September of this year!  Calabasas joined the many cities striving towards sustainability by eliminating plastic bags in February.  Most recently, Albertson’s in Carpinteria has agreed to run a pilot program that will test the practicality of banning plastic and paper bags from all Albertson’s stores.  Albertson’s is not the first corporation to take this approach.

Although battles are being won at the local level, the opposition is not going down without a fight.  Oakland, Fairfax and Manhattan Beach have all met major resistance by the American Chemistry Council, the main proponent of single use plastic bags.  The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, as well as the Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling have both filed and won lawsuits against the cities, claiming that the bans were passed without sufficient Environmental Impact Reports.  While plastic bag bans enacted by Oakland and Manhattan Beach are currently ineffective due to this complication, Fairfax avoided being sued by passing a voter initiative to ban plastic bags.

Small-scale successes have given us the hope and the knowledge essential for large-scale change.  Although Californians’ previous campaigns for a statewide ban have failed, defenders of the environment are not giving up.  The movement away from single-use plastics and towards sustainable practices is continually gaining speed. Education campaigns and recycling programs are steps in the right direction, but statistics have shown they are not enough to change shoppers’ behavior. Experience is telling us that in order to get results, make the plastic bag a valuable commodity, or get rid of it.

Plastic Bag In TreeAt Ocean Futures Society we support banning single use plastic bags because we stand behind the principle, “There is no waste in nature.”  This means that in nature everything is recycled in one way or another. Even the harmful chemical defenses of plants and animals are naturally broken down in to harmless raw materials that become available for reuse in another form. With this valuable lesson from nature we conclude that we should only produce materials that can be easily rendered harmless after use and then become raw materials for another use.

We strongly believe it is crucial to stop producing disposable plastic bags that create waste neither humans nor nature can adequately dispose of.   There are more environmentally friendly materials that can be used to carry our groceries and belongings. We are not against the use of durable plastic for long-lasting products, it just does not make sense to use a plastic bag for ten minutes to carry our groceries and then throw it away, liberating it to linger on our planet for thousands of years. We are smarter than that. But it takes a willingness to create change. We need to rise up the challenge and support those companies and cities that are moving in the right direction; the direction we need to follow so we can all enjoy a more sustainable future.

Warm Regards,

JMCSignature_1.jpg

First Photo: Gull with Plastic Bag. © Jamie Persoon

Second Photo: Plastic Bag in Tree. Public Domain

Third Photo: The Bag Monster © Holly Lohuis, Ocean Futures Society

TOMS Shoes: One Day Without Shoes – April 8th

toms-shoes-new-logo-500x5001TOMS (you know, the awesome shoe company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need every time you buy a pair of their shoes) has declared that TODAY, April 8th is One Day Without Shoes Day!  Below is some information from their Website about the day, the cause and the solution.

“One Day Without Shoes is the day we spread awareness about the impact a simple pair of shoes can have on a child’s life. On April 8th, we ask people to go the day, part of the day or even just a few minutes, barefoot, to experience a life without shoes first-hand, and inspire others at the same time.”

-Tom’s

It’s Hard Without Shoes

Through everyday encounters with domestic poverty, we are reminded to appreciate having food and shelter, but most of us all but forget about our feet. Food, shelter, AND shoes facilitate life’s fundamentals. Imagine a life without shoes; constantly aware of the ground in front of you, suffering regular cuts and scrapes, tending to infection after each walk, and enduring not only terrain, but heat and cold.022807_toms_shoes

The problem is large, but the solution is simple. Wearing shoes and practicing basic hygiene can prevent both infection and disease due to unsafe roads and contaminated soil. By imagining a life barefoot, we can all contribute to the awareness of these conditions. On April 8th, communities, campuses, organizations, and individuals are banding together to walk barefoot for One Day Without Shoes.

Take a walk with us on April 8th, 2010.

Facts:

  • In some developing nations, children must walk for miles to school, clean water and to seek medical help.
  • Cuts and sores on feet can lead to serious infection.
  • Often, children cannot attend school barefoot.
  • In Ethiopia, approximately one million people are suffering from Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by walking barefoot in volcanic soil.
  • Podoconiosis is 100% preventable with basic foot hygiene and wearing shoes.

Earth Friendly Companies: Seventh Generation

7thSeventh Generation, a Burlington, Vermont-based eco-concious company was founded in 1988 on the idea that:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.”

-From the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

Two decades later, as the rest of the world is now understanding the importance of sustainability, conservation and preservation of natural resources, Seventh Generation became one of the fastest growing companies in Vermont.

The concept that “Every time you use a Seventh Generation product you are making a difference by saving natural resources, reducing pollution, keeping toxic chemicals out of the environment and making the world a safer place for this and the next seven generations” is echoed in their products.seventh-generation

They now offer a complete line of non-toxic household products including:

  • non-chlorine bleached
  • 100% recycled paper towels, bathroom and facial tissues, and napkins
  • non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaning, dish and laundry products
  • plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic
  • chlorine-free baby diapers, training pants, and baby wipes
  • chlorine-free feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons

img_article_7-truthsSeventh Generation does more than creating these amazing and guilt-free products – they aim to educate their customers about making informed choices about how their daily lives can positively effect the world we all live in.  Their Website has a “Learn” section, which included a blog, forums, and even an “Ask Scienceman” section where people can get answers to questions like, “I love to paint my nails. Recently I bought a brand which claimed to be non-toxic. It had the same overwhelming chemical smell the others have. Is there non-toxic nail polish and remover?”  (click HERE for the answer).

Overall, we LOVE Seventh Generation’s products and their principles and are excited to see what products they put their stamp on next.  We use their products every day and many of the owners of the beach vacation rental properties on Beachhouse.com use them and stock their rental properties with them!  And can vouch for how great the products are – we especially love the laundry detergent – it smells sooo good!  We’d love to hear what your favorite Seventh Generation product is!

*Do you know of any other great companies Beachhouse.com’s Blog should highlight?  Send us your ideas!

Surfrider Foundation Announces Premier of Revolutionary Film to Improve Water Management System

KYH2O_LogoA_color-copy-veryOn World Water Day, Monday March 22, 2010, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will premier The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water at The Loft on the campus of UC San Diego. This new short film, narrated by actress Zuleikha Robinson from the television series Lost, dives into controversial problems and solutions related to water management and serves as a practical outline for citizens curious about water issues. There will be three showings of The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water: 4 p.m. (press), 6 p.m., and 7:30 pm. The last time slot includes a free showing of the surf feature, Absolute Mexico.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water – TRAILER 1 from Surfrider Foundation San Diego C on Vimeo.

The film is free and open to all. Government agencies, elected officials, experts, students and the general public will all find the movie intriguing and informative. Following each showing, there will be a Q & A session for the audience to ask questions and learn more about smart solutions to improve water management and the way we use water. Happy hour specials, including beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres, will be served all evening.

From beautiful and climate-appropriate ocean friendly gardens, low impact development and safe water re-use, the video highlights comprehensive solutions for economical and environmentally sensitive water management reform. “These approaches to meeting our water demands will simultaneously achieve multiple benefits like pollution prevention, energy conservation, wildlife and habitat restoration, flood mitigation and more. The video, created by Surfrider activists, presents a truly holistic integrated vision of water management meant to provoke debate and reform,” according to Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Coordinator.

“With the communities of San Diego County under Stage 2 mandatory water restrictions, this film comes at an important time,” said Belinda Smith, Co-Chair, Know Your h2o. “We really want people to understand that by following the solutions offered, we offer water managers, and communities the unique opportunity to rethink and fix our outdated water management system.”

The basis for the Surfrider Foundation’s Know Your h2o program, the film will be a centerpiece in Surfrider Foundation’s campaign to bring holistic solutions to water management. As Southern California enters another year of drought conditions, changing the way we use water is imperative to the sustainability of our San Diego communities.

Founded in 1992, Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter is the largest within the national Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education. San Diego chapter membership totals 5,000 people throughout the county. Nationally, Surfrider Foundation membership includes more than 50,000 concerned lovers of the ocean and beaches. More information can be found at www.surfridersd.org or by calling (858) 792-9940.

2010 RockWater Race – 3rd Annual Relay Race From Mountains to Ocean to Benefit Surfrider Foundation

rockwater3flatWHAT: RockWater – A 28.9 Mile Race, from the mountains to the ocean, along the Santa Ana River Watershed to help keep our oceans, waves and beaches clean.

WHO: You and up to 6 of your friends – a combination of runners and walkers, bikers (beach cruisers and mountain bikes, no road bikes) and skateboarders.

WHERE: The race covers 28.9 miles starting at head of the Santa Ana River trail at the border of Orange and Riverside Counties and finishes at the Santa Ana River mouth in Huntington Beach CA.

WHEN:  Race Date: March 20, 2010 - Race Starts @ 9:00AM  Teams are expected to check in at the start by 8:30 AM.

WHY: A watershed is any river, gully, canyon or pathway that drains to the ocean. Watersheds are everywhere and anything on land can find its way to the ocean via a watershed. This means that if you throw something on the ground it may eventually end up in the ocean. Drop a cigarette butt or plastic fork, and it will end up in the ocean, on our beaches, or in the stomach of a fish, sea bird or other marine animal.

Registration is now open for the third annual RockWater relay race hosted by Surfrider Foundation’s Newport Beach Chapter on Saturday, March 20th. RockWater is a 28.9-mile relay race that follows the path of the Santa Ana River, from the Orange and Riverside County line to the river mouth in Huntington Beach, and raises awareness about the river’s connection to our oceans, waves and beaches.

“This is a fun and active way to learn about our local watershed,” said Dudley Tabakin, Vice Chair of Surfrider Foundation’s Newport Beach Chapter. “We hope it will bring greater awareness to the surrounding communities, who may not be knowledgeable of the impact that urban runoff has on our beaches and ocean. If you throw your trash out on the street it will end up in our ocean and on our beaches.”

Teams may register up to seven members to run, walk, bike, or skateboard the trail – or a combination of these. Each team must also have a driver and vehicle to transport team members to relay changeovers. Registration is $100 per team and includes a race t-shirt. Prizes are awarded for first place teams in each category, as well as for collecting the most trash on route and the ‘Wooden Spoon’ is awarded to the team finishing last. Proceeds from RockWater will benefit the Surfrider Foundation’s Newport Beach Chapter and its ongoing efforts to educate the community about the importance of clean water.

CLICK HERE FOR RACE RULES, INFO ON HOW TO ENTER, AND MORE INFO

Save our Beaches: Rain Gardens – An Easy Way to Minimize Storm Water Runoff

Every day water mixes with common household (cleaning products, fertilizers) and environmental pollutants (oil, pesticides) that flow from our homes, offices, roads and landscapes and, eventually, into our oceans.  Compound this daily, times our population, and multiplied over years and years, and our oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds are paying the price.

And when you stop and think how much of a part our water plays in our everyday lives, it behooves us to keep it clean.  On The Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens page of their Website, they reports that, “runoff from residential landscapes affects the quality of our oceans and the quality of our lives. The sediment in water reduces clarity; nutrients increase algae populations and red tides; bacteria close beaches; debris can choke and suffocate aquatic species; and pesticides picked up off a landscape can poison fish consumed by humans — all of which degrade the natural beauty, and our enjoyment, of the ocean.”

One of the ways that each of us can do our part to minimize polluted run-off from reaching our waters is by opting to plant a rain garden in your yard instead of a conventionally landscaped garden.

Rain gardens incorporate native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope of your yard.  The natural design temporarily holds rain water runoff that flows from the roof of your house, patios and the rest of your lawn, allowing your garden to drink from the accumulated water…water that would usually run off into the streets and gutters, picking up pollutants along the way, and eventually landing in our oceans.

Want to make a rain garden at your home or office?  Here are some rain garden tips:

  • Dig a 6 – 12 inch ditch where you want to make your rain garden – typically on the downside of your property so that the water drains away from your house – or you can check to see if your space has a natural depression – any small valley or dip will work perfectly.
  • If you are creating your own ditch, orient it so that it runs parallel (lengthwise) to the widest part of your house – this will help maximise the amount of rainwater runoff you will be able to capture from your roof.
  • Size:  the square footage of your rain garden should generally equal about 20% of the area draining into it – for example, if your roof covers 800 square feet, a rain garden designed to collect all of the roof’s runoff should cover 160 square feet.
  • Any native plants will do well in a rain garden – and they will not need fertilizer to thrive.  Opt for shrubs and grasses over trees and trees tend to hog all of the water.
  • Create your garden at lest 10 feet from your house or basement in order to avoid water damage to these structures.

As rain gardens gain exposure and popularity, many landscaping companies are becoming rain garden advocates and experts and home improvement centers often host “how to” seminars on rain gardens if you need more information.

Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground, making them an easy and beautiful way to help preserve our oceans and waters.

At the Beach: 25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day

What: The 25th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day. Now is your chance to be one of the tens of thousands of Californians that will gather along the beaches, shorelines, and inland waterways of the state to clear away the debris that has been deposited over the past year.

Last year, 73,461 Coastal Cleanup volunteers (a 20% jump from the previous record for volunteer turnout) collected over 1.6 million pounds of trash and recyclables. Covering over 2,800 miles of coast and inland shoreline in 45 counties around the state, the 2008 cleanup also had the largest geographic reach ever achieved.

When: Saturday, September 19th, from 9am to Noon in most locations.

Where: Cleanups will be held at over 750 sites on California beaches, bays, rivers, creeks, parks, roadsides, and highways. Contact your local coordinator for exact locations and other site-specific information, or, for further details, visit www.coast4u.org.

Why: “Coastal Cleanup Day is an opportunity for every Californian to feel their connection to our coast, no matter where they may live,” says Eben Schwartz, Outreach Manager for the California Coastal Commission. “By pushing the Cleanup into every corner of the state, we can clean up a lot of trash before it has a chance to reach our ocean, and in doing so, bind every Californian to one another through our collective stewardship.”

How: Pre-register with your local Coordinator, or show up at any drop-in site (find one close to you at the county contact pages).  Or you can call 1 (800) COAST-4U or visit www.coast4u.org for more information. You can further support Coastal Cleanup Day, by shopping at any Northern California Whole Foods market on Tuesday, September 22nd – 5% of all sales from that day will be donated to the Cleanup Program.

California Coastal Cleanup Day 2009 is supported by the California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Foundation, and the Ocean Conservancy. This event is made possible by the hard work of hundreds of local non-profits and government agencies throughout the state and tens of thousands of volunteers annually.

*content is from CA.gov and the California Coastal Commission site