World Environment Day 2013

This is a great graphic showing what is wrong with our food system from


Some geologists and archeologists are ready to label modern times as the Anthropocene Epoch, the Era of Man, for the tremendous impact mankind has had on the planet.

The question is, if mankind merits its own epoch, when did it start? Some argue for the Industrial Revolution, which led to the revolutionary release of trapped carbon, gases and other materials into the atmosphere and environment we are now experiencing. Others argue that the epoch might have begun over 11,000 years ago – when mankind began radically altering landscapes and environments through farming.

One of our defining characteristics as humans, what makes us ‘modern’, is our attempt to control our food supply through agriculture, as opposed to hunting and gathering what is available at a given time and place.

We have become extremely skilled at producing food. What we haven’t mastered is distribution, food production that doesn’t cause more environmental damage…

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Plastic bags: a step in the right direction

When seat belts were first installed in cars, not many people wore them. After it was mandated and an enforced law that they must be worn, the number of deaths due to car accidents went down significantly.

        Many people are aware that plastic bags have negative effects on the environment, but reusable bags are still not the popular choice. Disposable bags have been the way we have carried our products out of the store for the past few decades.

        As an environmentalist and community member, Dr. Sherri Mason has proposed a fee on disposable bags for the Fredonia and Dunkirk areas. The proposed fee would initially start at ten cents for all single-use bags (including paper as well as plastic).

        Ten percent of the money would be kept by the businesses and 90 percent would go into the Northern Chautauqua Community foundation.

        Dr. Mason emphasized that keeping the money local was an important part of the initiative. “This fund is already in existence and already has money in it,” Mason said. “The whole groundwork of the fund is already in place, we’re just going to contribute to it, and therefore have more money that we can use in the community.”

        Mason started the idea a few years ago by approaching Walmart first. Their initiative to ban plastic bags started off slow in all of their stores. “They have three stores in California that don’t have bags,” Mason said.  “They have the reusable bags that you can either buy or bring in.”

        She then approached the rotary clubs which are largely comprised of businesses. She found that this business community was very supportive of the idea.

        “If we’re going to do this, I wanted to be a grass roots; get people aware, get them involved,” Mason said. “Bolstered by everyone being very receptive to the idea, I went to the village board, the village of Fredonia, and they were very receptive to the idea, but it has to be a joint thing, between Dunkirk and Fredonia.”

        As consumers, we will still pay for plastic bags in other ways, though they are free at the store.
               “There’s real money associated with plastic bags right now. They cost the businesses money. That’s rolled into the food you buy,” Mason said. “So even though I bring my reusable plastic bags to the store I’m paying for everyone one else’s plastic bag.”

        In addition to paying for them in the store, shoppers end up paying in their communities as well. Plastic bags are consistently getting stuck in fences or being flushed down toilets and polluting the waste water treatment facilities. There is a cost for hiring people to clean those things up.

When she approached Dunkirk officials with the idea of using sustainable material, Mason ran into hesitation. Dunkirk natives, being from an economically depressed area, were at first wary of supporting the initiative, afraid of burdening people that are already suffering financially. To accomodate to their needs, Mason added two free reusable bags to certain families in her proposal. This included families on food stamps.

        The proposal, still in it’s early stages, has a proposed fee increase; one of the ideas proposed includes a double every year but would freeze at one dollar after five years. This way, when people went shopping they would have their choice of the reusable bag or a plastic bag that would be equal in price. This would create more incentive for people to remember their reusable bags.

Though the public has become more aware of environmental issues such as the overuse of plastic bags, not everyone has incorporated the change into their lifestyle.

Mason explained that even if it is possible to recycle everything an individual takes in, that person still creates waste. Even if an individual does everything he or she possibly can, changes must take place on a larger scale.

        “As we change, businesses will respond to that, but not all of it,” Mason said. “I think that’s where legislation has to have a place here; I think most people know that they shouldn’t be using plastic bags, but they forget.”

        The proposal has not been voted on yet but if it is passed, the fees will begin to be implemented in January of 2015.

First public school in Queens adopts all vegetarian menu

Public School 244 is the first public school in the city to go all-veggie. The animal-welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it might be the first all-veggie public elementary school in the nation.

Video is from

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Plastic in our ecosystems

The following photos are courtesy of Dr. Sherri Mason of the chemistry department at SUNY Fredonia. Mason is very active in sustainability efforts on campus and was responsible for putting together many of the Earth Month events in April (see my post on keynote speakers!)

After an interview this week (stay tuned for blog post!), she sent me these amazing photos of plastic in our ecosystems. The haunting images display the dangers of allowing plastic pollutants to continue to flow into our bodies of water. 



This photo was taken by Marcus Eriksen during an expedition. He found plastic in this fish’s stomach after he caught it. This photo was used during his presentation (see post below!)




Keystone XL Pipeline has been delayed

According to the Huffington Post, the Keystone XL Pipeline will take longer and cost more as it continues to wait government approval.

“The company (TSX:TRP) had been sticking to its late 2014 or early 2015 start up target, but the longer the regulatory process dragged on, the more difficult achieving that target became. It is now looking at a late-2015 start-up for the pipeline, which would deliver 830,000 barrels per day from Alberta to U.S. markets, if and once it is built,” according to the Canadian Press.

The current project was estimated to be $5.4 million and it is too early to say how much it will rise, according to CEO Russ Girling.

The article explains, “So far, TransCanada has sunk US$1.8 billion into the project. It figures that if Keystone XL doesn’t go ahead, it can recoup about half of that amount by using some equipment and materials in other projects. Money spent on things like engineering work, however, would be out the window.”

For more info or to read the full article, go here.

Climate change legislation , what do you think?

Though a few months ago Obama mentioned climate change in his State of the Union address, the federal government has still to act in an affective manner on the issue of climate change. Even so, there are many growing non-profit and public initiatives to raise awareness. Do you think legislation will be passed under the Obama administration?


Vegetarianism: How it can save the planet

The following post was written by my friend Courtney. She has an amazing blog on fitness called Get Fit or Die Trying. The following post is about how vegetarianism is not only good for your health, but for the planet as well. Thanks, Courtney! 


Yeah, I’m a vegetarian. No, I’m not going to shove my ideas down your throat. But I will tell you how becoming a vegetarian not only helps save the planet, but also 100 animals a year, per person.

Almost 8 years ago, I was a freshman in high school. My english class was doing thesis papers, and my best friend was doing hers on vegetarianism. While I thought it was interesting, it wasn’t until I actually read facts about it that I became genuinely interested. A lover of planet earth and mother nature, I knew that this was something I could do to help out in a small, but impactful way.

What most people don’t realize is that the animals they are eating were not found in nature, they were raised. Somewhere, a massive farm was built on land to raise and house these animals. Fresh water is used in their feeding process. More land is used to harvest hay and other crops to feed these animals. Massive amounts of waste is created by these animals, often placed in areas that can contaminate our own food and drinking water.

I know many people don’t agree with PETA many times, but this is a statement by them on the impact of these animals:

“Plainly put, the sheer quantity of animals required to feed people’s taste for meat, dairy products, and eggs makes humane, environmentally responsible practices impossible. Profitability dictates that the meat, dairy, and egg industries crowd the largest number of animals into the smallest space possible, leading to massive water pollution, soil erosion from the amount of crops needed to feed these animals, and other eco-nightmares.”

Though slightly biased, this information is all based on actual fact, which is hard to dispute. Think about these other alarming facts and statistics:

  • Researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid.

  • A German study conducted in 2008 concluded that a meat-eater’s diet is responsible for more than seven times as much greenhouse-gas emissions as a vegan’s diet is.

  • Producing a little more than 2 pounds of beef causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours and uses up more energy than leaving your house lights on for the same period of time.

  • According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them.

  • Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80 percent is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states.

  • A study in Texas found that animal feedlots in that state produce more than 7,000 tons of particulate dust every year and that the dust “contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed.”

  • Farmed animals produce more than 10 times as much excrement as does the entire human population of the United States.

If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to vegetarianism or veganism, let this be even more motivation. Help save your planet in a huge way!

Credit to for all of this amazing information!