Monday, September 24, 2012

Does being eco-friendly mean giving up sentimentality?

Think about that title for a moment.

What is more important to most? Luxury or the distant, vague future?

Being eco-friendly often means something smaller, less flashy. Doing more to do less. It means giving up the gas-guzzler BMW in turn for the often mocked Prius. It means reading books electronically instead of getting a hard copy. It means sending emails instead of writing letters. It means instead of printing, reading from the computer and turning in assignments through email.

People like to have hard copies. As teenagers, many of us feel more comfortable turning in college applications as a hard copy as opposed to online. We are more comfortable buying hard copies of study guides from Barnes&Noble rather than using an uploaded PDF. We like to have material things.

But what happens when having material things means we are just becoming a giant, wasteful society? If you can print on the back and the ink bleeds through the paper, many people are likely to just throw the paper away instead of dealing with it. We have become used to having high standards and always having those high standards be met.

What happens when having high standards is not living sustainably? Because, the truth is, it isn't. Trees are a finite source, as is paper. Many schools now have a teacher limit for how many boxes of paper they can use throughout the year. As supply decreases, price increases but we are still demanding the same amounts--yet, we don't (and we very soon won't at all) have enough resources to produce what we want.

So, ask yourself.

What's more important? Having a hard copy that you're going to throw away anyways? Or creating a future for you, for your children?

Monday, June 18, 2012

National Pollinator Week!

Exciting week, isn't it?

I know, I know, something like that actually exists?
Up until today, I hadn't heard of National Pollinator Week either. It was declared official by the U.S. Senate in 2007 and has been celebrated by pollinator experts and agroecologists ever since.

So what do we care about pollinators? Well, without pollinators, we wouldn't have chocolate! Or coffee, corn, strawberries, mangoes, berries, honey, tomatoes, pretty flowers, beans--all fruits and vegetables, actually. Thanks to critters like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and some insects, we get most of our foods and keep ourselves full and happy. 

So, next time you're munching into, say, that apple or strawberry or banana or orange or a little summer mango, make sure to be thankful and mindful of those bees that helped that plant develop to produce that piece of fruit!

For more information about National Pollinator Week or pollinators in general, or to look at cool fliers and posters, visit

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Staying "Green" in the Summer!

Now that it's summer in South Florida, there's even more that you can do to stay "green", or environmentally friendly.

For example, you can keep the lights off in your house and just crack open the blinds of your windows so that the rooms in your home can be filled with natural light. This not only saves energy, but can also make a person feel healthier as sunlight contains helpful vitamins.
   - Even during the rest of the year, if you don't need the lights on, shut them!!

Also, you should really recycle. This is the biggest cliche of environmental friendliness, but recycling your products really does reduce waste and releases less pollutants. Especially now that you might be enjoying a cold drink out of a bottle or can in the hot summer sun, toss it in the recycling bin instead of just throwing it away.

Another thing you could do is read electronically. Lots of people might enjoy sitting outside reading a nice novel in the summertime. This sounds like a completely nonsensical way to conserve resources, but reading with an e-reader (Nook, Kindle, iPad, etc.) doesn't waste paper like buying a book does. Those online libraries contain (more and more as we move into the future) virtually every book that a building might.
   - If you don't own an e-reader, getting books from the library is also a valuable way to reduce because once you're done reading, you can give it back to the librarians and someone else can read the same book without producing more.

These are just a few of the things that YOU can do to SAVE THE WOOOORLD!
Thanks for being a good and decent human being and striving to save the planet from ultimate destruction.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to Survive APs and still be green

The month of May is known for being AP month, and a month of hell. AP exams are tough, require lots of studying, lots of your own personal time.

They also require lots of paper. Paper for practice questions, notes, study guides, etc. It is important to keep in mind to Renew, Reuse, Recycle.

  • Print on the backs (double-sided).
  • For practice, you don't absolutely need brand new paper--just scratch paper. Use scrap paper around the house, or old printed sheets that were printed out wrong. What I do is when my I don't print something correctly, instead of throwing it away, I keep it in a stack by my printer for opportunities like this. Copy paper is expensive too, so you save money.
  • Don't print out things like scoring guidelines--you can take the practice test, then look online to check your answers. Try to stay as digital as possible.
  • Study guides like the Princeton Review, Barron's book and Kaplan are needed by AP students everywhere. Don't throw these away! You can sell them to an underclassmen or someone taking the class next year. You save a book and you  make money!
  • Be creative and don't use what you don't need. 

2 Years Later, What You Won't See

Two years later after the horrific BP Deepwater Horizon Spill, and the results are terrifying. New pictures have emerged showing the true result of this spill; it was smoothed over in those first couple of months, buried, never to be talked about again.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster unleashed 4.9 millions barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP did all they could to cover up the true scale of the disaster, covering ends and keeping the public away. Photos released Monday showed how horrific the Gulf became for sea life.
The images were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that Greenpeace filed in August 2010, asking for anything related to endangered and threatened Gulf species. Over 100 photos were released from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showing many animals buried under oil, and many severely endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles covered in oil and dead.
Follow the link below to see these pictures:

Monday, April 23, 2012

We know and we care less?

Environmentalists, unite!.
...Except, a recent study showed that Americans have become less likely to say that they care about the current and future state of the environment. Leading on that, as consumers, we're also less likely to buy organic, all-natural or eco-friendly products. The excuse usually is, "But it's too expensive!"
Well, is the difference of a couple of bucks worth the future of your home?
A Harris Poll was conducted that showed these results. Similar "green attitude" polls have been conducted every year since 2009 and it seems, that in those few short years, we have lost our eco-consciousness.
The results showed that 27% of Americans described themselves as "environmentally-conscious" in 2012, and only 31% say they "care a great deal about the current state, and future, of the environment." The numbers in 2009, showed 30% of Americans as "environmentally-conscious" and 36% as caring about the future. In 2009, 43% of Americans said they cared about the plane they're leaving behind for future generations--the number has dropped to a scary 34%.
Americans now also say they're less likely to reuse things, make an effort to use less water, buy food in bulk and to purchase all-natural or organic products.
While it is true that money is always the biggest deciding factor in these choices, it is also true that it is worrying to think that we live in a society that is not afraid to waste away a planet and leave behind acid rain, increasing temperatures, severe pollution that will cause an innumerable amount of diseases--the list goes on; for their children.

So, really, what has changed from 2009 to 2012? Compared to the 2009 market, today's market contains many more eco-friendly products and tips. It has never been easier to take the small steps to be environmentally-conscious: Turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Unplug electronics and wires when you're not using them. Use reusable bags. Buy a permanent water bottle. Buy all-natural, organic foods. These are not big life changes--they are, and always have been, small changes to your everyday lifestyle.

So why don't we care anymore? As teenagers, this is the planet we will inherit, good or bad. We can't always think of an escape or an alternative Earth--we are here for a reason, and we haven't found life elsewhere--that indicates something. Should we not try to take the steps to protect ourselves, to protect this planet--because it means our survival?

If we don't care, who will?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Coal-Free Chicago?

Chicago has been seeing a lot of activity with the closing down of several coal plants. Late in February, Midwest Generation agreed to shut down two aging coal-fired power plants. The city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, pressured the company to shut down after they were linked to sever lung problems among citizens.
Similarly, GenOn Energy says it will close eight coal plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey rather than installing pollution controls.

This movement could have a strong connection to the increase in the U.S.'s oil and natural gas industry. Recently, an article in the NY Times foretold the U.S. is moving toward energy independence from foreign sources. Over the past couple of years, the U.S. has gone from importing 60% of its oil in 2005 to 45% in 2011.
The energy independence movement has been seen by the increase in oil rigging and drilling--situations such as the BP oil spill and several oil rigs have been evidence of this.
Of course, the down side to this is the effect on the environment. The process used for extracting oil and natural gas, called hydraulic fracturing or fracking, causes a lot of damage to the surrounding landscape and has been shown to cause alarmingly detriment to to rare and endangered species in the area.
Eco-tip: water bottle caps aren't recycled--often, they are thrown away into landfills or disposed of improperly. Start recycling your water bottle caps and check out Caps Can Do, a company that recycles these caps into new equipment.

Monday, March 26, 2012

James Cameron's Deep Sea Adventure

Earlier this month, James Cameron announced his plans to go on the first human dive in 52 years to the ocean's deepest spot, a place nearly seven miles down in the western Pacific.
He has recently just returned and reports no sea monsters, no giant squids and no strange life. Just tiny amphipods--tiny shrimp-like creatures floating across a featureless dark emptiness.
“It was very lunar, a very desolate place,” James Cameron said, upon his return on Monday to a news conference. He says that while "we'd all like to think there are giant squid and sea monsters down there" this trip, he saw nothing larger than an inch across.
However, this will not stop him as he says it is only the beginning. The area he is looking to explore is 50 times larger than the Grand Canyon.
National Geographic, which sponsored the trip, reported that Cameron began his dive on Sunday at 3:15 p.m., landed on the bottom at 5:52 p.m. and was back at the surface at 10 p.m.
“You’re in total darkness for most of the dive,” Mr. Cameron said. “It’s a completely alien world.”

Green Teen: Noise Pollution and the BP Oil Spill

Noise pollution is affecting our forests. A few years ago, it was discovered that in areas where there was a lot of human-made noise, a species of hummingbird would increase in population, while another species of jay would decrease in population.
These same researchers have found where human-made noise is heavy, there will be more flowers but fewer trees.
According to Clinton D. Francis, an evolutionary ecologist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, this is a domino effect. The pine trees that were seen less and less relied upon the scrub jays to spread their seeds. The black-chinned hummingbird specifically searches out areas where there is a lot of noise and no jays because these birds eat their eggs and nestlings.
On another note, bringing back the BP Oil Spill that happened April 2010, scientists say they have definitively linked damage to deep-sea corals in the Gulf to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. This coral community that was once vibrant with rich hues is now dull and brown, and according to scientists, it's because of the oil spill. The oil found on the corals matched the oil that was spilled back in April 2010, turning half a football field of corals into a graveyard.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Killer Whale Enslavement Law Suit

You are meant to be free, to roam the earth. You are meant to travel freely from China to the Cape of Good Hope with your kin. You are meant to live a carefree life, with nothing but hunting the oceans for your prey and swimming along the family that has been beside you since you were born.
But you are captured, enslaved. You are forced to live in a small tub, a fish bowl. These humans make you jump in the air, twirl, carry them, jump through hoops and feed you small pieces of fish as "reward."
You are a killer whale. You are meant to be king of the seas, but you are reduced to nothing, to a circus clown, existing to perform tricks and live a miserable existence in a tiny space without any contact from your own kind.
We've all seen the Shamu shows at SeaWorld. Everyone "ooh's" and "ahh's" at the wonderful trick this giant beast can perform. Look, the whale can splash us with water and swim around a tiny tank because that's what it's born to do, right?
Wrong. And that's what PETA has filed a lawsuit against in October. The lawsuit will witness the faceoff between the Lawyers for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against the SeaWorld lawyers. According to the animal rights group, they are basing the case off the fact that the five killer whales are being held in slavery or involuntary servitude in violation of the 13th amendment of the Constitution.
SeaWorld is calling this lawsuit a "baseless publicity stunt by PETA" which is known for being inappropriate and extreme. However, this is one thing many people all around the world can agree with: keeping these giants in tiny tubs for their existence benefits no one but the people making the money.

The big thing here is they brought in the Constitution, which has always applied to humans ("...all men are created equal..."). PETA filed a 20 page report on behalf of the five whales: Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises. The statement released by PETA at the time contended that the constitutional protections and rights granted are not only limited to humans.

Many would beg to differ and one can see why. The Constitution is and always has been applicable to only humans (however long it may have taken to grant equal rights for all), never nonhumans and this is where PETA will face the most opposition and criticism. However, one can hope that their case does bring hope of a free future for the captive killer whales. Our very own Lolita in the Seaquarium faces this everyday.

Eco-tip: invest in a permanent water bottle, rather than using a new plastic one everyday. You save millions of tons of plastic waste as well as hundreds of dollars for yourself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Death of the Amazon and New Innovations

Deforestation, forest degradation and climate change could be weakening the resilience of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem. What does that mean? Well, it could potentially lead to loss of carbon storage and changes in the rainfall patterns and river discharge. All of this was a comprehensive review published in the journal Nature.

An international team of researchers looked at the effects of disturbance and climate change on how the Amazon Basin functions, based on 100 previous studies. The results showed though the Amazon was resilient to individual disturbances, multiple interacting disturbances (such as fire, logging, deforestation, fragmentation and global and regional climate change) undermines the forests' resilience.

On the other hand, there are some really cool new technologies, such as a new aquatic 'bicycle pump' called the Searaser. The Searaser takes to the seas and turn wave power into clean electricity and pumps the saltwater to an onshore generator. The green energy company Ecotricity has recently acquired this device. The prototype has been tested and praised.

"Searaser uses the rise and fall of a large float to pressurise the water" ( but unlike other wave power devices, it doesn't generate the electricity in the hostile environment of the sea--devices that do this need to completely sealed. The fact that the water and the electricity generating equipemtn never meet is amazing and is done in Japan.

Hopes are high for this new device and could significantly contribute to replacing coal and gas powers that help drive global warming so much.

Eco-tip: Try switching to re-usable cloth bags when grocery shopping. Plastic bags are rarely recycled and are extremely harmful to the environment since they do not degrade and are well known to kill, strangle and choke wildlife. Paper bags lead to massive deforestation every year.