Sunday, June 20, 2010

A tribute to Luke Cole

I'd like to get back to some constructive tips in the tourism and travel industries in my next post, but I wanted to take a break to cross post this great contribution on DailyKos today about the pioneer of environmental justice law. It's worth a read in it's entirety here for several reasons, including the tie in between environmentalism and civil rights.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wag of the finger

So I have been doing a lot of travelling lately and I thought I would post two quick observations. Both airlines and hotels have very easy opportunities to recycle and conserve that they miss. First, when airlines come around and collect trash, with the exception of newspapers, airlines simply don't recycle, and many airlines don't even recycle newspapers. How many times do they comes through the aisles at the end of the flight asking you one more time if you have any trash? Are you telling me ONE of those times can't be an attendant coming through with recycling? The implementation would be virtually as easy as the idea. They make one of those trash bins at the front or back of the airplane recycling instead. When they reach the ground the recycling is carried away to a central airport location where recycling is collected. It would be hard to imagine that most airport locations don't have recycling available. Sure they might have to expand their capacity for taking in and transporting that recycling. But what's the worst that could happen, you give a few people a job?

Next, hotels miss obvious opportunities to conserve. First, it should be policy not to collect trash cans with virtually no trash in them. Stop thinking you are doing me a favor and being extra nice by taking my trash from the room when there are 2 pieces of garbage in there! Next, cleaning staff seem to be trained to simply to throw the plastic trash bags into a larger plastic trash bag and move on. That's an enormous watse of oil-based plastic material, and as we know, extraorinarily damaging to the environment. Solution- dump the trash into the big trash bag and unless there is something fowl enough to stink up the room or make the othe rbag unusable- leave the trash bag in there at least until that person checks out.

Two little things about conserving in the travel and tourism business. More to come...

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Ode to Compost- by Pooja Virani

Special Guest contributor Pooja Virani is a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay-

Remember that feeling you had the first time you were covered in cow manure? Well, I certainly do! It was disgust at that green slime running down my arm; disgust at that pungent odor permeating my clothes. Why was I covered in cow poop you might ask? Because I needed it for my abonero, my compost-pile. I have a large bin in my backyard (hopefully it's tall enough to keep the chickens out). I first put a layer of dry leaves to cover the bottom. Then I spread a layer of oh-so-sweet-smelling manure on top, after which I put another layer of dry leaves, followed by a layer of green leaves and rotten lemons, another layer of dry leaves, and finally kitchen scraps. I made sure to water the pile between every layer and add soil as well, just for consistency. The layers alternated between carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich organic matter, as to create the proper chemical reaction that will cause the pile to heat up. What was the point of spending all morning shoveling piles of shit, raking up leaves and rotten fruit, and hoisting buckets of water out of my well? What's the goal? Crumbly, sweet-smelling compost (and this time I really do mean sweet-smelling) – the best all-natural fertilizer you can give your garden. A supplement that puts carbon, nitrogen, and potassium into the soil, enriching it and helping fruits and vegetables grow faster, last longer, and taste better.

Since I was already covered in dirt and sweat by this point, I decided to experiment with manure tea. I put heaping piles of cow dung into an onion sack, tied it shut, and placed it in a bucket of water where it will steep for a week or two, resulting in rich, liquid fertilizer. There was one hitch with this plan. I was getting the cow poop from my neighbor, whose house I reached by hopping a barbed-wire fence. The problem I did not foresee was transporting this bag of manure back to my yard. Imagine the sight of me stumbling around, desperately clutching in both arms, trying to move a surprisingly heavy sack of shit. This brings us back to the point where we came in, the one where I was covered in shit. Oh well, all in a day's hard work!

P.S. Another problem I did not foresee was getting shit stains out of a shirt. I guess I'll have to keep that shirt aside for my "lifting piles of cow shit onto my abonero" days.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Want cheaper gas? USE LESS

Hello wonderful readers, 

The following comes from our dear friend Erin O'S. Please feel free to comment on it!

"Americans’ Diet-Pill Solution to High Gas Prices

I have received countless emails about not buying gas on Wednesdays, not buying from Exxon or not buying in large amounts, but not one suggesting that maybe we should just drive less. The best that these kind of group demonstrations can hope to accomplish is to show that a large group of people care about the price of oil. Not enough to alter their spending habits, but enough to drive a few extra minutes to the next station.  Without knowing it, they are actually crippling their cause by proving how truly dedicated they are to Big Oil’s product; that despite being upset with the situation, they are unwilling to alter their total consumption.  At the end of the day it's the consumers’ demand that keeps prices up.  Unless the government steps up to subsidize gas even more than it is now, the upward spiraling price of oil won't decrease until the demand falls off. (*note: except for elections, the price of oil almost always dips going into an election to make people happier with the incumbent party. But that’s another post for another day.)

The "don't buy on Wednesday" plans are American's diet-pill answer to the energy crisis. It's taking action that isn't that difficult, but doesn't really do anything either. It does make people feel like they're doing something, which eases their consciences enough so they can eat that forbidden bowl of ice cream or, in this case, take the scenic route home.

And yes, America is unique in that its cities and suburbs were developed later than most European or Asian cities, at a time when engines played a larger role in transportation that foot or horse traffic. (Something which was exacerbated by government-altered lower gas prices, btw.) So, naturally, not everyone can ditch a car for a bike or a pair of running shoes and places that are seemingly perpetually covered in snow and ice are not ideal for mopeds. I'm not saying that every person should switch over to a bike, and mass transportation cannot by any means get you everywhere you want to go- especially if you live outside a city- but that doesn't mean that everyone can't take steps. It isn't a huge lifestyle change to keep your car well-tuned, combine errands, obey the speed limit, carpool, or make your car lighter by emptying out your trunk.

The bottom-line to this is why not? Save yourself some cash (by paying less at the pump), get healthy (by upping your exercise), protect your national security (by reducing our dependence on unstable countries and unstable resources), preventing thousands of lung-related ER visits each year (by keeping chemicals out of our air) and do the environment a favor while your at it. You have literally nothing to lose and everything to gain. So why not?"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Good for Los Angeles, good for Giant!

Los Angeles has banned all plastic bags in grocery stores. You can bring your own or pay 25 cents for a paper or bidegradable bag.

Giant supermarkets have now switched, nationally, to only plastic bags like the ones below. It is a step in the right direction.

In my next couple posts I will go back to the mission of taking on companies who don't measure up. First on my list- Fed Ex Kinko's...more to come...

Friday, July 18, 2008

The challenge

Watch it and take action! More on actions you can take to come...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Save the CRP Program!

Help save the CRP program! Copy the letter below, and send your own copy to your congresspeople and Mr. Schafer. The following are exerpts from article in the Baltimore Sun, link here.

The CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) program pays farmers around the mation to not farm certain portions of their land -- often, land that is not particularly productive, is hilly, or already wooded. Environmentalists like it because it protects habitat and reduces pollution, farmers like it because they are paid not to farm what is usually marginal land anyway, and wildlife is the biggest winner, with more acres on which to roam.

In recent years, farmers have been trying to opt out of the program early to increase acreage being farmed because of high corn and grain prices.

Congress and some farmers are pushing U.S. Ag Secretary Ed Schafer to let farmers out of their CRP contracts early so they can plant more acres. Environmental groups are urging the opposite, arguing such a release would be disastrous for the waterways.

Here's the full text of their letter to Schafer:

July 9, 2008

The Honorable Ed Schafer
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Schafer:

We strongly urge you to reject proposals to allow the penalty-free early release of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Early release of even a modest number of acres from CRP would waste the money American taxpayers have invested in restoring those lands to grassland or other cover and would eliminate the benefits to soil, water, wildlife and the public that the lands provide. A penalty-free early release of the magnitude you are considering – millions of acres – would deliver a devastating blow to the nation’s soil, water, and wildlife habitat, and significantly increase global warming. The resulting damages could cost taxpayers substantially.

The oldest of the farm bill’s voluntary conservation incentives programs, CRP is a federal program designed to reward farmers who take fragile land out of production and plant grasses or trees or restore wetlands on the land in exchange for rental payments and federal cost-share payments. Since its creation in 1985, CRP has been responsible for reducing hundreds of millions of tons of erosion each year, reducing pollution in our nation’s waterways. CRP is also an important reservoir for wildlife, and has had significant benefits for populations of ducks, grassland birds, and other species. Keeping land in CRP is also critical in the fight against global warming. Allowing millions of acres out of CRP prior to the end of the contract period would quickly erase many of the gains that have been made with CRP and will likely create new problems.

Because most CRP lands are marginal for cropping, even if all CRP acres were brought back into commodity production, the impact on aggregate commodity supplies and prices would be modest. On the other hand, the impacts to soil, water, wildlife, the public, and the recreational industry that has developed around wildlife such as pheasants and waterfowl produced on these lands would be substantial. We urge you to protect the taxpayers’ investment in soil quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat and not allow landowners to leave CRP contracts early without fully reimbursing the Treasury for the taxpayer-funded investment in those lands.


Environmental Defense Fund
The Minnesota Project
Sierra Club
Center for Native Ecosystems
National Wildlife Federation
National Audubon Society
Partners for Sustainable Pollination
Environmental Working Group
Pollinator Partnership
Defenders of Wildlife
American Farmland Trust
World Wildlife Fund
American Rivers
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
American Bee Keeping Federation