Unlikely Allies Work Together to Curb Palm Oil Deforestation

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September brought good news for the world’s forests with the unveiling of the New York Declaration on Forests at the UN Climate Summit. The Declaration, which pledges to end global deforestation by 2030, was signed by 130 governments, including the U.S., Germany, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Perhaps most significantly, it was also backed by commitments from 40 major food corporations to eliminate palm oil grown on deforested land from their supply chains.

That’s a big deal, given that palm oil has been the single largest driver of tropical deforestation in recent years. When the medical establishment deemed trans-fats heart-unhealthy in the mid-1990s, demand for the supposedly more benign palm oil soared, increasing nearly six-fold since the year 2000. Palm oil is now used in nearly half of all foods on supermarket shelves, added to everything from breakfast cereals to margarine to potato chips. It is also an ingredient in shampoo, soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste, and laundry detergents, and is used as a feedstock for biofuels.

Photo by Rainforest Action Network. An estimated 80 percent of forest destruction in Indonesia between 2000 and 2012 was illegal. Palm plantations were responsible for three-quarters of this illegal deforestation.

Palm oil is cheap. It is the highest yielding oil crop in the world, and the most abundant. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that every hour, an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is cleared to make way for new palm oil production — mainly in Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation in the world.

At this breakneck and still accelerating pace, 98 percent of the Indonesian rainforest will be gone by 2022, and along with it one of the greatest remaining biodiversity treasure troves on Earth. The palm oil boom has been a disaster for the orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, the clouded leopard, the pigmy elephant, and countless lesser known endangered species whose homelands are rapidly being converted to large-scale plantations.

It has also been catastrophic for the climate. Indonesia is currently the third largest carbon polluting country in the world, trailing only China and the U.S. Over 85 percent of the nation’s emissions come from forest destruction, which releases carbon stored in trees and ancient peatland swamps into the atmosphere. Once cleared, the peatlands dry out and are often set on fire, smoldering for months or even years, and transforming the greatest carbon sinks on the planet into leading carbon dioxide emitters. These fires were also responsible for the dangerous haze that caused work in Singapore and southern Malaysia to grind to a halt for weeks during June and July of 2013.

The group Forest Trends estimates that 80 percent of forest destruction in Indonesia between 2000 and 2012 was illegal, occurring outside the bounds of the concessions that the government has set aside for commercial development. Palm plantations were responsible for three-quarters of this illegal deforestation.

In 2007, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a campaign to persuade Cargill — the largest exporter of palm oil into the U.S., and one of a handful of traders that dominate the industry — to stop buying oil grown on newly cut forests and peatlands. When Cargill refused to budge, RAN changed its strategy and began targeting the company’s clients, the so-called “snack food 20,” which includes corporations like Hershey’s, General Mills, and Kraft.

This new tactic paid off. Some of the high profile brands began demanding that their suppliers get serious about deforestation. And in September, Cargill announced a sweeping no-deforestation policy and endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, joining other major palm oil traders including the Singapore-based Wilmar and the Indonesian company Golden Agri-Resources. The two leading pulp and paper companies in Indonesia, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited and Asian Pulp and Paper, have followed suit with their own commitments.

Over half of the “Snack Food 20“ have also joined the no-deforestation pledge, including Mars, Nestle, Kellogg’s and Unilever. These companies have also agreed to drop suppliers who produce palm oil on stolen and misappropriated lands, or that use forced or child labor.

“The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in a press release. “Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding.”

But there are still some notable holdouts. The food and beverage giant PepsiCo has not yet committed to protecting worker and community land rights. Kraft, Heinz, Nissin Foods, and Campbell’s Soup have offered no credible public commitment to change their palm oil procurement practices.  Malaysia-based commodity trader Kuala Lampur Kepong and Singapore-based Musim Mas have likewise refused to make commitments concerning palm oil practices.

Gemma Tillack, agribusiness campaign director at RAN, called on investors in these laggard companies to “put pressure on them to address these gaps.” In an interview, Tillack added that, even amongst the cooperating companies, “most still lack comprehensive, time-bound implementation plans.” They also have yet to develop credible grievance mechanisms to allow NGOs, labor groups, and indigenous communities in Indonesia to raise complaints when they observe instances of noncompliance.

Traceability will play a key role in implementing no-deforestation policies in Indonesia. Fortunately, Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online forest monitoring and support system, has used satellite imagery to create a multilayered, interactive map of Indonesia’s forest lands — a valuable tool for increasing transparency throughout the supply chain. Using this map, GFW is currently advising Unilever about which of its mills are more likely to be engaged in illegal activities like burning and deforestation; information that Unilever will then use to conduct investigations on the ground.

“We supply the data which companies use to better manage their supply chains, and NGOs use to look for violations and issues to focus on,” said Elizabeth Baer, GFW’s global commodities manager. “We think it’s amazing that advocacy has worked and driven these companies to make such ambitious commitments — the pace of change is unlike anything that I’ve seen before in my career. But it’s incredibly challenging for these companies to make good on their pledges within the time frame they’ve promised. So there is a lot of effort, a lot of resources and brainpower being poured in to help them do so.”

In addition to tracking developments on the ground, GFW is negotiating with both food corporations and NGOs to hammer out basic ground rules and definitions for the no-deforestation pledge — like what constitutes a “forest,” and how conflicts between all of the various stakeholders are to be adjudicated and resolved.

Some environmental groups remain wary of corporate motives, and plan to carefully monitor the developments on the ground in Indonesia to make sure that the public commitments don’t end up as exercises in “greenwashing and delay,” as one recent RAN blog put it.

The jury is still out on whether the New York Declaration on Forests will halt the bulldozers that are clearing Indonesia’s magnificent rainforest. Nevertheless, Tillack is guardedly hopeful: “In the last 12 months we’ve seen an unprecedented shift toward adopting responsible palm oil production standards. But the devil is in the details, and now it is time to put these commitments into action. We’ll be working hard to hold companies to account to insure that they are implementing their pledges.”

America's top 10 most endangered rivers in 2014

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American Rivers has released its sad top 10 of the most endangered rivers in the United States in 2014. Topping the list is the San Joaquin River, Central California’s largest river. Why is it in such bad shape?

Well, for years the San Joaquin has been managed badly primarily to meet the needs of agriculture, hydropower, flood control, etc. It has dams, levees, and all kinds of excessive water diversions which have have hurt the river habitats and reduced community access. Over one 100 miles of the mainstream river have been dry for over 50 years and the diversions along the tributaries take more than 70% of the natural flow.


Here’s the complete top 10, with links to descriptions of each river, what threatens it, and most importantly, what must be done to fix the problem.

1. San Joaquin River
2. Upper Colorado River
3. Middle Mississippi River
4. Gila River
5. San Francisquito Creek
6. South Fork Edisto River
7. White River (Colorado)
8. White River (Washington)
9. Haw River
10. Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers

For your pleasure, here’s a map showing all the rivers in the USA (more details and the ability to zoom in here):


Save Turtles From Dying

Dead sea turtles are washing up on Gulf shores by the hundreds. More are falling uncounted onto the ocean floor. They are victims of drowning, caught in shrimp nets and unable to escape.

Shrimp nets don’t have to kill. They can - and should - include escape hatches called Turtle Excluder Devices. But records show that many fishermen are ignoring the rules, and no one is stopping them.

We are calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce the rules already on the books and protect endangered and threatened turtles. Sign before July 29 and speak out against this unnecessary massacre.

Please sign the petition here http://act.oceana.org/letter/l-turtles-gulf/?akid=2134.672325.wZ3H3G&rd=1&source=mailing&t=2&utm_campaign=turtles&utm_medium=mailing&utm_source=advocacy

The Swedish Revolution: Turning 99% of Garbage Into Energy

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Sweden has a passion for recycling! We know this because 99 percent of the country’s garbage is recycled, and less than 1 percent ends up in landfills.

In fact, the Scandinavian country has become so good at managing waste that it even has to import garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.

The Swedish Miracle — How Does it Work?

It begins with the three R’s, but goes much further. At the core of Sweden’s program is its waste-management hierarchy designed to curb environmental harm: prevention (reduce), reuse, recycling, recycling alternatives (energy recovery via WTE plants), and lastly, disposal (landfill).

Incinerator plants are at the heart of the program, but before garbage is trucked there, it is first filtered by home and business owners; organic waste is separated, paper picked from recycling bins, and any objects that can be salvaged and reused pulled aside. OK, so nothing much out of the ordinary there.

What makes Sweden different is its use of a somewhat controversial program incinerating over two million tons of trash per year, producing about 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Pretty useful in Sweden’s cold winters!

WTE plants work by loading furnaces with garbage, burning it to generate steam which is used to spin generator turbines used to produce electricity. That electricity is then transferred to transmission lines and a grid distributes it across the country.

“Waste today is a commodity in a different way than it has been. It’s not only waste, it’s a business,” explained Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell in a statement. “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment,” she added.

In case you’re wondering, this is not about burning trash in the open air.  Instead, Sweden has adopted a regulated, low-emission process for its incineration plants, which means that start-up costs for new plants can get too expensive for some cities.

The incineration process isn’t perfect, but technological advancements and introduction of flue-gas cleaning have reduced airborne dioxins to “very small amounts,” according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

Check out this video to see how this recycling works:

Making Everyone Responsible — Raising Awareness

How has this small country succeeded in involving all its citizens in the recycling plan?

Sweden’s success in handling garbage didn’t happen overnight.

Starting in the ’70s, Sweden adopted fairly strict rules and regulations when it comes to handling waste, both for households and for cities and companies.

Rules introduced in the 1990s forced companies to take a more eco-aware look at what products they market: by Swedish law, producers are responsible for handling all costs related to collection and recycling or disposal of their products.

How Are Other Countries Handling Garbage?

Japan introduced a Home Appliance Law about ten years ago. It places the responsibility of recycling on everyone from the consumers to the manufacturers. If you need to get rid of a large appliance, you are required to pay a recycling fee. The amount of money depends on the appliance, brand and size of the unit. The cost of recycling a small television, for example, would run you about $19, but a refrigerator could be around $32.

In Italy, Rome has become quite strict regarding the whole recycling issue: if you don’t separate your recycling from your waste and you have a recycling bin within 500 meters from your front door, you can be fined up to 619 Euros, or $833.

In the U.S., San Francisco is the clear leader in the field of zero waste. In 2002, the city made a promise that by 2020 it would eliminate all waste that is neither recycled nor composted; in 2014, they are at the 80 percent mark, which is pretty amazing.

San Francisco’s plan does not involve incinerators; rather, it’s all about mandatory composting, compulsory debris recycling, banning plastic bags and plastic bottles, and mandatory recycling for all its residents.

Other cities in the U.S. are not doing so well: on average across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates only about a third of waste is recycled or composted. In Houston and New York the number is 26 percent, while in San Antonio it drops to 18 percent.

Whether we’re looking at the country of Sweden or the city of San Francisco, the driving force must be to raise people’s awareness of our environment, and the need to protect it. Once we humans start respecting Mother Earth, and taking good care of it, we will all be in much better shape.

The dirty dozen: 12 products you should avoid

Greener living is all about making changes each day. Sometimes, it’s about setting aside unhealthy or resource-hogging products. Here are 12 to avoid. So you’ve decided to take the plunge — to embrace lighter living, green your life and do something to help the environment. But where to begin?   The best place to start is by moderating your consumption. You can dramatically reduce the size of your footstep on the planet by making smarter choices in the things you buy and the amount your household uses. It’s not something you have to do all at once: just commit to steady, incremental change. Small steps become big journeys over time.
  Our article, 10 first steps toward lighter living, is a good place to get grounded. If you’re ready to take on taming your shopping cart, we’ve put together a list we call the Dirty Dozen. These are 12 unhealthy or resource-intensive products you should consider reducing or eliminating from your life entirely. Once you’ve tackled these, you’ll probably think of others — and you’ll be well on your way to a lighter, more sustainable lifestyle.   1. Styrofoam Polystyrene foam is actually recyclable, but most of it ends up in landfills or scattered around the environment. Being made of petroleum, Styrofoam is a non-renewable resource — and it’s not biodegradable. Carry your own reusable coffee mugs, skip the fast food, and use glass and metal storage containers whenever possible.   2. Plastic food containers with bisphenol-A (BPA) You’ll recognize these polycarbonate bottles and containers by their #7 recycling codes. Health concerns have dogged BPA for years. If you really must use plastic, choose BPA-free varieties (such as those marked with #2, #4 and #5 codes). And be sure to recycle them when you’re done.   3. Tropical hardwoods Teak and mahogany are beautiful, long-lasting woods. But worldwide demand has driven their irresponsible harvesting from old-growth forests, destroying wildlife and biodiversity in some of the world’s most critical natural habitats. Don’t know where the wood in that magnificent dining table was sourced? Leave it at the store, and look for goods manufactured through certified forestry programs.   4. Aluminum in cosmetics Almost all commercial antiperspirants contain aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium. Both are easily absorbed through the skin. While no definitive studies link them to cancer, some researchers remain concerned about their long-term use — particularly by women. We already get plenty of aluminum in our diet, thanks to anti-caking agents in processed foods. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of alternatives to conventional antiperspirants.   5. Incandescent bulbs With relatively inexpensive CFL light bulbs available everywhere, it makes no sense to buy old-style bulbs for most applications. CFLs don’t radiate light quite the same way as conventional bulbs, so take some time to find out how to live with them. And since CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, be sure to dispose of them properly.   6. Petroleum-based fabric sheets and laundry detergent Sure, fabric sheets smell great. They’re engineered that way — with powerful chemicals. Like most laundry detergents, they’re derived from non-renewable petroleum products. Switch to vegetable-based laundry soaps and seek out less potent alternatives.   7. Overpackaged goods Ask any marketer: the store shelf is a retail battleground. Often, the first casualty is common sense when it comes to packaging. Unusual plastic bubble wraps; huge boxes for small products — competition for your attention sometimes results in a wasteful mess. Rather than contributing to our already overcrowded landfills, vote for more responsible packaging with your feet. Buy something else, and let companies that overpackage their wares know why you’re not a customer.   8. Paper towels and napkins No, you needn’t give up your toilet paper, as our friend Colin Beavan — No-Impact Man — and his family chose to do. Paper is a renewable resource, if properly managed. But let’s face it: we squander more paper than we should. That means wasted trees and all the resources that went into farming them. And that, in turn, means more monoculture pulpwood forests, soil erosion and chemicals used to keep tree-damaging pests away. There are some messes best cleaned up with paper, but couldn’t you use more kitchen cloths and napkins? It takes a little planning, but makes a big difference. If you’re interested in more environmentally friendly paper products, check out Colin’s list at the No Impact Man site.   9. Plastic utensils Like paper products, plastic utensils rate high on the waste scale. While some are marked for recycling, most convenient disposable cutlery gets used once and thrown away. Plastic is forever once it’s in the environment, and the petroleum used to make it is increasingly precious. Consider some alternative strategies: portable metal mess kits for picnics, or simply washing plastic goods and using them again.   10. Disposable batteries There are about 15 billion batteries manufactured each year. Most are alkaline batteries, discarded after a single duty cycle. Once sent to a landfill, they break down and begin leeching chemicals into the groundwater. Convenient, yes — but so are rechargables. With all the electronic devices in our lives these days, it makes environmental (and financial) sense to switch to rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries. They’re less toxic and save you money. But do your homework: not all batteries and chargers are appropriate for a given job. Check out GreenBatteries.com for helpful background information.   11. Commercial insecticides If it’s not good for bugs, it’s probably not good for your family or your pets. In-home pesticide use has been linked to everything from lung disorders to Parkinson’s disease. Household insects are a destructive nuisance, and outdoor pests can become a public health issue. But there are less toxic and nontoxic ways of controlling bugs, from borax (a poison) to essential oils, select plants, and ways to make common insects feel less welcome in your cupboard. Get some tips from Organic Garden Pests, or this article on taking the sting out of mosquitoes without pesticides.   12. Household cleaners Your cleaning cabinet is filled with some of the most powerful toxins on the consumer market. Check the warning labels and lists of unpronounceable compounds: it’s amazing some of these things are sold at all. But old tried-and-true, natural cleaners will often do the trick without exposing your family to exotic chemical fumes and residues. Baking soda, vinegar and salt are the backbone of a cleaner-and-greener home. Take those commercial cleaners to a hazardous disposal facility and start cleaning the natural way. It’ll even save you money.
Contest: ECHELON Helping The Planet?

YES, what a beautiful earth we live in. Let’s take care of it family! This time, by recycling!

                                 

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SUMMARY 
The contest is administered and sponsored by Gisella at Echelon Contests. The contest has two major goals all feeding into the larger goal of increasing recycling in general:

  1. To give Echelon an incentive (the prizes) to learn how to use the recycling system in their town, campus, etc.
  2. To provide a focused way to help the environment.


 WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THIS CONTEST Is that EVERYONE wins! Not only the satisfaction of helping the environment, but if you are not 1 of the main prize winners, JUST for participating, you get 1 of these stickers!

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Our very own recycling logo (With our Triad represented)


HOW TO ENTER:

  1. You have many ways: Find out where are the recycling centers on your town, campus, etc. Or if no bins near, you can file a petition with your neighbors to get them! Encourage people to recycle, bring awareness by printing easy steps on how to recycle and the do’s & don’ts JUST GET CREATIVE! It is up to you!
  2. Take pictures (up to 5) videos, etc. Of what you have accomplished to put this in motion and or showing results!
  3. Worldwide entries OK, we are out to help the entire planet!

HOW WILL THE WINNERS BE CHOSEN

  • The most creative will win, you are all amazing at that so I cant wait to see your entries!

THE PRIZES:

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OK, Spread the word, put your thinking caps on and enjoy the ride!

DEADLINE TO ENTER: October 2, 2010 send entries to admin@echeloncontests.com

Love,

Gisella <3

16 ways to use less plastic

Plastic problem

Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Your food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Your car, phone and computer are made from it. And you might even chew on it daily in the form of gum. While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they’re “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton — it can be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled. How big is our plastic problem? Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling. This plastic waste ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. Plus, most plastic is made from oil. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate.

Just say no to straws

One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don’t need one, and make sure to specify this when ordering at a drive-thru. Can’t fathom giving up the convenience of straws? Purchase a reusablestainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one if they see that you’ve brought your own.

Reusable produce bags

About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If you’re already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you’re on the right track, but if you’re still using plastic produce bags, it’s time to make a change. Purchase some reusable produce bags and help keep even more plastic out of the landfill. However, avoid those bags made from nylon or polyester because they’re also made from plastic. Opt for cotton ones instead.

Give up gum

Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. Not only are you chewing on plastic, but you may also be chewing on toxic plastic — polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats. While it is possible to recycle your gum, it may be best to skip it — and its plastic packaging — altogether.

Buy boxes, not bottles

Buy laundry detergent and dish soap in boxes instead of plastic bottles. Cardboard can be more easily recycled and made into more products than plastic.

Buy from bulk bins

Many stores, such as Whole Foods, sell bulk food like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and granola, and opting to fill a reusable bag or container with these items will save both money and unnecessary packaging. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight so simply check with customer service before filling your container. Also, many cotton bags have their weights printed on their tags so they can simply be deducted at the checkout.

Reuse containers

You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa and applesauce, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away orrecycling them, reuse the jars to store food or take them with you when you’re buying bulk foods. If you have plastic containers leftover from yogurt, butter or other food, don’t throw them out. Simply wash them and use them to store food.

Reusable bottles and cups

Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, and these bottles require 47 millions gallons of oil to produce, according toFood and Water Watch. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills andoceans — but don’t stop there. Bring a reusable cup to coffee shops and ask the barista to fill it up, and keep a mug at your desk instead of using plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups. The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups a year so you’ll be preventing a lot of unnecessary waste.

Bring your own container

Whether you’re picking up takeout or bringing home your restaurant leftovers, be prepared with your own reusable containers. When you place your order, ask if you can get the food placed in your own container. Most restaurants will have no problem with it.

Use matches

If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds' stomachs. If you can't bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.

Skip the frozen food section

Frozen foods offer both convenience and plenty of plastic packaging — even those eco-friendly packaged items made from cardboard are actually coated in a thin layer of plastic. While giving up frozen food can be difficult, there are benefits besides the obvious environmental ones: You’ll be eating fewer processed foods and avoiding thechemicals in their plastic packaging.

Don’t use plasticware

Say goodbye to disposable chopsticks, knives, spoons, forks and even sporks. If you often forget to pack silverware in your lunch, or if you know your favorite restaurant only has plasticware, start keeping a set of utensils with you like To-Go Ware’s bamboo set. It’s sure to reduce your carbon forkprint.

Return reusable containers

If you buy berries or cherry tomatoes at the farmers market, simply bring the plastic containers to the market when you need a refill. You can even ask your local grocer to take the containers back and reuse them.

Use cloth diapers

According to the EPA, 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the U.S. each year. Plus, it takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone. By simply switching to cloth diapers, you’ll not only reduce your baby’s carbon footprint, you’ll also save money.

Don’t buy juice

Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make your own fresh-squezed juice or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.

Clean green

There’s no need for multiple plastic bottles of tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner if you have a few basics on hand like baking soda and vinegar. So free up some space, save some cash, and avoid those toxic chemicals by making your own cleaning products.

Pack a greener lunch

If your lunchbox is full of disposable plastic containers and sandwich bags, it’s time to make a change for the greener. Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in bags, put them in reusable containers you have at home, or try lunch accessories like reusable snack bags or the Wrap-N-Mat. You can also opt for fresh fruit instead of single-serving fruit cups, and buy items like yogurt and pudding in bulk and simply put a portion in a reusable dish for lunch.

Total Animal Population Down More Than 50% in Just 40 Years

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Feel like you see fewer animals around than you did as a kid? It’s not your imagination. The World Wildlife Fund has studied animal statistics and found that the overall animal population has decreased by more than 50% in a span of just 40 years.

Yes, it’s time to be alarmed. From 1970 to 2010, the wildlife population dropped a full 52%, nearly twice what previous estimates had assumed. You can’t lose half of all animal lives without destroying ecosystems. Likewise, you also can’t destroy ecosystems without losing half of all animals alive apparently.

The WWF’s previous estimate of 28% has been found to massively underrepresent the extent of the recent die-out. The WWF explains that they were relying mainly on data about creatures in Europe and North America, while the damage being done in other contents is even greater. Animal populations have declined by 63% in tropical regions, with those living in South and Central America dropping 83%.

The types of wildlife that have suffered the most are the species that live in freshwater environments. Fish and other creatures that normally dwell in lakes and rivers have lost more than 75% of their numbers over the span of a few decades. Given the current figure, there’s no reason to believe that these trends will stop either.

What’s to blame for this unfortunate trend? Well, what isn’t to blame, really? Between global warming, reduced water supplies, destruction of natural habitats and species getting hunted for food, it’s hard out there for an animal right now. Surely, it’s no coincidence that all of these causes of death can be traced back to humans.

You don’t need to be an animal lover to be concerned about this sharp decline – it has a huge impact on humanity’s financial and physical wellbeing. The world currently relies on these disappearing animals for both income and nourishment. The fishing industry alone employs nearly 700 million people and supplies the world with 15% of its protein intake. Experts expect that the most impoverished people in the world will suffer the most without these creatures.

Technological advancements and overconsumption have allowed the human population to soar over the years. However, this apparent “prosperity” has come at a cost – specifically the lives of more than half of all birds, fish, and land-dwelling animals. By monopolizing on the same resources that animals need to survive, we are pushing them out of existence.

Those who assume that what is happening is in any way a natural occurrence are sorely mistaken. Ken Norris, the Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, perhaps says it best: “The damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” Saving our planet, as well as all of its species, will require deliberately choosing a new way to live – let’s hope we understand why it’s important to make that choice.

5 ways to help save the bees

Honey bees are an important part of our ecological fabric, but their population is dwindling. See what you can do to help save the bees.

Photo: MightyBoyBrian/flickr

Pollinators like bees are critical to our world’s food supply, and their numbers are dwindling. What can we do to help save the bees? We rely on bees to pollinate over 30 percent of our food crops, but Colony Collapse Disorder threatens the world bee population and the future of our food supply. Plants like apples, avocados, squash, cucumbers, and many other food plants that we commonly eat need pollinators in order to grow. Luckily, it’s not all gloom and doom! Here are some ways that you can take action right now to help the dwindling bee population. Don’t spray pesticides. Pesticides are a major culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder, and the best way to help bees is to stop spraying the stuff! Buy organic. Support organic farmers who use natural farming methods that are bee-friendly. Don’t support industrial honey. Large-scale honey operations are more focused onoutput and profit than with the health of the bees. If you’re going to eat honey, make sure it comes from a small operation. You can often find small beekeepers at your local farmers market, and they’ll tell you all about their beekeeping adventures! Plant a bee-friendly habitat. Pollinators need a place to pollinate, and by providingbee-friendly plants in your yard, porch, or window box, you give them a place to just be. Plants like fruit, herbs, melons, and even some trees can attract bees to your yard or garden. Get heard! If we’re going to help save the bees on a large scale, we need to let decision-makers know how we feel. Check out this petition aimed at the EPA calling for a ban on pesticides that harm bee populations.