Friends, AMERICANS, Countrymen…Lend Me Your Ears

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I was just reading that the first U.S. recycling center opened its doors in 1896. This prompted my curiosity to kick in, and find out how long our planet might have been recycling. One website reports that recycling has been around since ancient Roman times (as with the origination of many things I suppose)! Recycling Romans found the idea of recycling beneficial for a few reasons:

1. They found it necessary to tear down statutes which commemorate ancient gods and heroes when conquering each new region – the Romans after all were now ruling!

2. What to do with these items? I’m sure they thought to themselves that they don’t want these huge, massive objects cluttering up the countryside, and that by having them in plain sight reminds citizens of previous rulers. Not to mention there are no storage facilities around, right?

3. Why not melt down these metals objects and recast them as A: either new statutes dedicated to historic Roman events and leaders, or B: weapons for the Roman legions (they were so busy conquering, after all!).

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Recycling has certainly evolved over the years, and it is more important than ever that people not only recycle, but make an effort to buy recycled products….we ALL benefit. I’m writing this blog for that purpose, as well as to promote Sunday, November 15, 2009 – America Recycles Day.

“It All Starts With You”

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Arrive, Survive, and Thrive…It’s Not Necessarily a Good Thing

Ever heard of International Day For Biological Diversity (IDB)?  The United Nations declared May 22nd the offical date this year, and Invasive Alien Spieces and their threat to biodiversity is the theme this year. 

Invasive Aliens Species are widely recognized as a major component of human-induced global environmental change.  Globalization allows that the transportation of animals, plants and microorganism to provide a variety of goods and service, travel opportunities, as well as contributing to our personal well-being.  It has also created entryways for invasive alien species to enter, establish and spread to new habitats and ecosystems.  Climate change, disturbance and modification of landscape is also know as casing further spreading and impact of invasive alien species on a wide range of ecosystems. 

These biological invasions by invasive alien species oftentimes result in economic losses and decreased biological diversity and ecosystem function.  In the U.S.  alone, the yearly damage and control cost of invasive species is estimated at over $138 billion….worldwide, the estimate is at 1.4 trillion — annually!  Another shocking statistic?  Invasive alien species have contributed to almost 40% of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known. 

So how do they spread?  Both intentionally and unintentionally.  Natural ecosystems that have undergone human-induced disturbance are often more susceptible to alien invasions because there is less competition from native species.  An example is the red fire ant.  They are more successful in establishing themselves in disturbed areas such as roadsides and agricultural fields.  They rarely colonized intact closed forests.

The movement of ships (and water) provides pathways for the movement of marine organisms from country to country and sea to sea.  Hundreds of species can be found alive in samples taken from a single ship.  People also have been known to introduce invasive alien species when they accidentally or knowingly release fish and plants into ponds, or flush them down the toilet…this ensures they find their way into local water systems. 

Organisms may also hitchhike in or on timber, packaging, machinery equipment and vehicles.  Items such as these are often shipped from place to place without cleaning.  Airplanes also may allow species to move inside the cabin in passenger clothing, luggage, cargo, or aircraft parts.  People may also transport species on soil-contaminated equipment, and bring home plants, plant parts or live animals, or food items such as fruits which may carry invasive insects or microbes. 

Many important crops and trees (including plants for biofuel production) are grown in areas outside their natural distribution for effective food production.  Sometimes when growing crops, biological control (a pest control strategy) using living natural enemies may be implemented.  Oftentimes these exotic species which are used to control pest species, can become invasive pest species themselves. 

To give you a larger perspective of invasive species impact on people and environments, one can look at history:

1.  The Irish potato famine in the 1840’s was caused by a fungus introduced from North America.

2.  The viruses causing smallpox and measles spread from Europe to the Western Hemisphere right after colonization.  The low resistance of indigenous peoples to these parasites played a part in bringing down the Inca and Aztec empires.

3.  The Nile perch:  As the population grew and fishing techniques improved on Lake Victoria in Africa, by the 1950’s overfishing caused a drastic decline in fish stocks.  To reverse this, the British introduced the Nile perch and Nile tilapia.  With no natural predators and lots of prey, they flourished…and 200 species became extinct.  The Nile perch (oilier than the other fish) required the locals to dry them over a fire before eating.  More trees were used to do this, which resulted in deforestation.  The deforestation caused increase erosion and runoff, which raised nutrient levels in the lake.  This promoted infestation by water hyacinth.

Climate change also plays its part in the introduction of invasive alien species.  Increasing ocean temperatures facilitates marine alien species invasions by increasing the magnitude of their growth.  This facilitate a shift to dominance by aliens.  Climate change is predicted to affect marine organism by:

1.  Increasing ocean temperatures

2.  Increasing Sea levels

3.  Changing ocean circulation

4.  Decreasing ocean salinity

So many factors directly alter conditions and contribute in some way as a threat to biodiversity.  I know that the first colonist that landed at Plymouth rock were determined to arrive, survive (that first harsh winter), and thrive – but alien species moving into your own backyard which are able to arrive, survive and thrive, impact your own well-being, your community, and what’s left for future generations. 

Don’t forget the International Day for Biological Diversity this Friday May 22nd!

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Pick 5 for the Enviornment

pick52What did Earth Day and EPA have in common on April 22nd?  They both were telling the planet to take action.  Last week, the Enviornmental Protection Agency launched it’s “Pick 5 For The Environment” campaign in hopes that citizens across the United States will commit to making changes that will benefit the planet. 

So how does it work?  The EPA website gives you a list of 10 items, and asks that you pick 5 things from the list that you feel you can do in your own life to reduce your impact on the enviornment.   After you pick your 5 and pledge them, share with others the actions you’ve taken. 

How simple! 

Time to jump into action!:  www.epa.gov/pick5

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Every Day For Everybody

You may (or may not) be aware that Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22.  But, did you know that it has been around since 1970?  Here’s a little more history on it:

 

The premise:  All people have the right to a healthy, sustainable environmentednposter2009

The mission:  Broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide

The pursuit:  Education, public policy, and consumer activism campaigns

 

The Earth Day Network has more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries. More than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities, and that makes it the biggest secular civic event in the world.  So consider getting involved.  You can do this a number of ways.  Visit the website, and click on the link to find events in your area, or better yet, submit your own!  Secondly, make a NO COAL CALL to demand a moratorium on coal-fired power plants! 

 

If your activism isn’t so ‘active’, you can always take a more ‘passive’ approach!  Two such passive Earth Day activism ideas come to mind.  First, go out to your local movie theatre and see the new Disney movie “Earth” during opening week –Disney is going to plant a tree for each person who sees it.  Second, get online and visit the Nasonex website.  You know Nasonex, the allergy medicine?  If you play their “Don’t Blow It” online game starring Ronnie Nose their giant nose, Nasonex will plant a low-allergenic tree with American Forests.  Nasonex not only will be helping the environment, but allergy sufferers everywhere, as studies indicate that higher levels of carbon dioxide and a warmer atmosphere may increase pollen production.  Its pollen, which as you probably are already aware of, that triggers nasal allergy symptoms.  One of the best ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is to plant trees!

 

So no matter what you do on April 22nd, I think the important thing to remember is that this is one day to remind you of what’s around every day for everybody…..Earth!  And we should take care of it!

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Hanging Out Day

No silly, I’m not talking about playing hooky from school or work!  I’m referring to Project Laundry List’s efforts on April 19th to educate communities about energy consumption,  “Right to Dry” legislation, and most importantly, how to save money and energy by utilizing a clothesline.   

 So what exactly happens on Hanging Out Day is that individuals hang their clothes on a clothesline, with messages on sheets or T-shirts so that everyone will see them, and discuss your statement.   Have you not seen one of these publically displayed clotheslines since Hanging Out Day started in 1995 at Middlebury College in Middlebury Vermont?  Some people hang their clotheslines at conferences or farmer’s markets.  This year, Project Laundry List has partnered with its Right 2 Dry campaign, and launched a petition to encourage America’s First Family to hang their laundry on the White House lawn for the day for a “symbolic photo-op to send the message that line-drying is patriotic, beautiful, and should be encourage whenever and wherever possible” the campaign says.     

 So what will that do?  The hope is to raise awareness to the numerous homeowners’ associations, landloards, and local governments which prohibit or restrict people from drying their laundry outdoors.  The Project Laundry List states that “in California alone, about seven million people can’t hang their clothes in public because of the policies of about 40,000 community associations”.  

Some other statistics that may surprise you is that six to ten percent of residential energy use is for the running of clothes dryers.  It’s right behind your refrigerator and lighting for energy consumption.  That totals 65.9 billion kilowatt hours in US households – not including gas dryers!  I guess the bottom line is to consider drying your clothes -  indoors or out of doors.  The benefits include:  positive20proof20of20global20warming4 

 

  • Reducing carbon dioxide emissions
  • Clothing that smells better and lasts longer
  • No fossil fuels used
  • Cutting energy costs painlessly

HANGING OUT DAY – April 19, 2009

Project Laundry List is North America’s premier laundry line educational and advocacy organization. Project Laundry List runs the Right to Dry Campaign, Stop the Ban Campaign and the Campaign for Cleaner Energy Alternatives.

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The One Call You Should Answer

Did you know that recycling the 100 million cell phones that are no longer used annually would save enough energy to power 18,500 US Households for a year?  This is the statistic (and I would imagine the motivation) the EPA is providing citizens this week during National Cell Phone Recycling Week! 

 

How it works:  cell phone manufacturers, service providers and retailers are increasing awareness and recycling rates for cell phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).  These Plug-In partners are conducting in-store promotions, contests and giveaways while providing in-store and online recycling opportunities to assist consumers in “eCycling”. 

  

Why it’s necessary:  EPA reports that only ten percent of cell phones get recycled annually, and part of the reason is that people haven’t been educated on where to recycle them. 

 

Benefits:  Recycling cell phones reduces greenhouse gas emissions and conserves natural resources.  There are also valuable materials that make up your cell phone and accessories such as copper, precious metals, and plastics (which, as you may or may not be aware – required energy to extract and manufacture).  So what’s the end result?  Statistics from 2008 show that Plug-In partners collected 11 million cell phones for reuse and recycling.  For the cell phone recycled, partners saved enough energy to power over 2, 035 US households for a year. 

  

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Your role:  donate or recycle your unwanted cell phones, PDAs and their accessories.  Simple!

 

A Shout out to:  the players in the “Recycle your Cell Phone.  It’s an Easy Call” Plug-In to eCycling partners – AT&T, Best Buy, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia Office Depot, Samsung, Sonly Ericsson, Sprint, Staples, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

 

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Kicking Butts

This title alone conjures up images of a fight, and I suppose in actuality it is referring to one. However, I’m not speaking of a physical fight, but what I’m referring to is the fight against tobacco. The conflict still continues to this day. Although today it is verbal – “Stand Out. Speak Up. Seize Control Against Big Tobacco” – these are the words of Kick Butts Day 2009. Which just so happens to be today, March 25, 2009.   

 

The tobacco war in 2009 is aimed at recruiting the youth of today, and the message is to get kids to participate in education activities and events nationwide.  I wonder why….perhaps it’s the fact that 20 percent of high school students smoke these days.   So what does the tobacco crusade look like in this day and age?  Youth are going out into the community putting on Kick Butts Day Carnivals, filming Public Service Announcements, contacting members of Congress, and working on passing local ordinances.  Probably a good thing that the battle continues, as nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people annually, and the health care costs are right around $96 billion each year. 

I know we have all heard the tobacco message numerous times, but it bears repeating with statistics like this!  So here’s to Kick Butts Day, and may the youth of today continue to kick butt on and off school grounds.

 

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Kick Butts Day began in 1995 by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids , and works to help parents, teachers, health advocates, and youth leaders educate kids on the harmful effects of tobacco products. 

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