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Do people take note of something about Boyan Slat - that English is not his native language but he speaks it perfectly? Everyone on earth who has access to the Internet should be learning a second language, even if it is never mastered. My choice is Spanish, but Chinese would be a great pick. Consider the huge increase in those who hear Boyan's message because he can speak English.

On the subject at hand, the key word is profitability. If his project can make money to support itself then the largest hurdle (not nurdle!) is overcome. I recently watched a fellow make a very strong claim that by the year 2030, solar power will have eclipsed fossil fuels and there will be no turning back. Just as cars put horses out to pasture, electric cars will do the same with gasoline powered cars. Technology gets us into holes but it can also get us out of them. My town will, in a few months, be banning plastic bags. There is no reason to despair.

We live in a time of instant communication. Word of problems and solutions gets out quickly. The biggest barrier is entrenched interest (read wealth) that works 24/7 to propagandize and outright lie about problems that as long as they are disregarded, allow making loads of money. As always, consider the source of what you hear and act as you would want everyone to act out of common interest.

6 days, 18 hours ago on Is There Hope For Cleaning Up The Pacific Garbage Patch?


Captivating captures, though in your case it doesn't capture your signature dazzling smile, understandable since the problem at issue isn't smile inducing. Using your book cover as a size standard, it appears the works are life-size. It might be interesting to weigh one and then calculate how many times over a person can reproduce their own likeness using per-capita plastic consumption for the country in which they live...

1 year, 6 months ago on Do I Look Good in Plastic?


Since I'm not on the go that much, a SP wouldn't make any sense for me,  though I use a small camera that's the same size and probably has just as much plastic as a SP.

BTW - I'm writing this from Lima, Peru. What's good here is that so many things that are encountered on a typical day are made of glass and cotton, clay and wood. What's bad - and let all who rant against government and regulations please note - the air is very dirty and smelly, emission controls are lax and there are many signs telling people not to dump garbage, with reason because litter is a problem. Sorry to say - plastic bagging is something this tourist must continually but politely reject. It's particularly bad because each storefront vendor wants their named bag in your possession - they don't want you combining things in some other vendor's bag.

It's a connected world we live in...get off the plane, turn on the laptop and there's all your stuff from the cloud, exactly as it would be at home, 4000 miles away, even "the plastic fish lady"!

1 year, 6 months ago on It's #BlogActionDay and My Smartphone May Be Violating Your #HumanRights


The experts always know exactly what to do but you, being an average person like the rest of us, set out like Columbus not knowing what will happen - the element of uncertainty makes for photo-scrolling excitement!

Duct tape - another drawback is after the passage time, if you need to remove it, a sticky gooey mess left to handle. I find electrical tape (alas, plastic) often works well.

We've a big jug of white vinegar, I'll remember to use it on the shower head.

1 year, 6 months ago on Lessons Learned from Failed Plastic Plumbing Repair


In the WSJ today there was an article about the shipment of coffee beans changing over from bags made of burlap, sisal, henequen, or jute in favor of "lined cargo containers" woven of plastic. I read through the piece and there wasn't a single mention of plastic as an environmental concern.

It's quite a challenge to do as you do and switch back to non-plastic containers, far easier to simply stay with a non-plastic item that has been in use "for hundreds of years" as the article says. But no.

I think we should all have a kind of lava-light in our homes, but instead of the colored glop of the traditional lava-light, it would have hundreds of multi-colored bits of plastic all lazily circulating before our eyes, and it would be called the WGACA (wuh-gah-cah) Light (What Goes Around Comes Around).

1 year, 6 months ago on Plastic in Austin Hotels and Restaurants


@Tanya  you have identified precisely the issue I face in our community - lots of garbage in recycling. The city absolutely refuses to enforce any rules so this problem is unavoidable as long as that holds.

The reason the city will not act is 1) KIND GOVERNMENT: the proper action would be not picking up recycling bins with garbage in them. No pickup would result in citizens angrily calling the city. The city doesn't want to make citizens angry 2) BUREAUCRACY: the state requires the city to have a recycling program. The city complies by providing gross recycling tonnage figures to the state. Many tons hauled looks good, regardless of what is in it. 3) CONVENIENCE: residents insist on using plastic garbage bags for holding recyclables. There is no way that the guys picking up the bins could open bags to check for garbage, so everything goes. 4) THERE'S GOLD IN THAT TRASH: the recycling company makes a profit, no matter what they collect, just passing on the extra cost of garbage handling to the city.

There is hope. I have started collecting a copy of the annual report that the recycling company gives to the city. The garbage content is getting so out of hand that the latest report for the first time is breaking out the percentage of garbage in the recycling stream (13%!) and it is bound to increase with each year. I'm biding my time until the evidence is overwhelming that something must be done.

1 year, 6 months ago on What Do You Think of Rewards Programs? Are Some Better Than Others?


I don't think it will have much impact on the problem. It has things backwards - rewarding people who are doing the right thing rather than creating a cost for people who are doing the wrong thing. People who are oblivious will not be lured by an insignificant reward that requires they do something extra. 

Not providing a desired service unless something is done right is unavoidable, like "no shirt, no shoes, no service".

There has to be an immediate penalty that cannot be avoided. How to work this into a system where the customer is king, always right, and can go to a competitor right down the block makes this approach a challenge to implement.

1 year, 6 months ago on What Do You Think of Rewards Programs? Are Some Better Than Others?


I've always thought of filters being used to keep debris from getting into the natural water supply.

It's proof of how bad things have become that now it would make sense to have filters to keep debris in the natural water supply (the ocean) from coming on to the beaches.

BTW - I happened across an excellent National Geographic video  about the huge landfill used for the LA area called Puente Hills. Everyone who throws anything in the trash (don't we all?) should take a look. It's in the grand tradition of Beth Terry's visit to a recycling facility of a few years back.

1 year, 7 months ago on Shocking Pictures from Coastal Cleanup Day


Way to go! There is a canal near my place with signs near the bridges over it saying NO LITTERING immediately behind which  is loads of litter. I grab some paper grocery bags and go do what you did, dividing things into what is recyclable and what is not. As you found, stuff can be there for years before being collected - I really prize finding ancient litter, because it makes me proud...I'm able to say to myself - of all the thousands of human beings that pass this way, I am the one and only representative of my species that is picking this up. It's a sad statement, but I have to take a little pride in the act.

Thinking long term - in a million years, or maybe only 100,000, some microbes will have evolved to eat plastics and will they have a banquet! The down side for them will be that humanity will be long gone - hence - no new plastic being made for them to eat! Yes, it's a cruel scenario but nature can be cruel. Also, with us gone, perhaps porpoises or whales will be making a bid to get up on land and see if their intelligence can do better than ours has.

1 year, 11 months ago on The Beauty of Picking up Plastic


@Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator @Clif Alas, I was lured into television broadcasting. My geography degree always made me the go-to guy on any trip where map reading was needed - but now with GPS I'm the loneliest guy in town.  : (

2 years ago on Meet Ericka, My New Intern!


The few, the proud, the geography majors! I am one too - University of Arizona 1972. Since that was some time ago, I pass the torch to you.

2 years, 1 month ago on Meet Ericka, My New Intern!


those kitties are so cute.


Bad news from Peru where my daughter has just married and is moving to Lima. It turns out that when you move, you have to wrap everything in plastic! Check it out (scroll down to see all their stuff wrapped in plastic.

2 years, 3 months ago on Empire State Skyscratcher rocks our feline world


 @BethTerry  @Clif I think most people would find it overwhelming in one go unless they have at least some knowledge of the story. When it aired originally it was in 1 hour doses with the director, Peter Brook, commenting on the action with some basic explanation of terms. The production is so spartan compared to what we're used to that it takes getting used to, but once you do, you realize that the acting casts a spell on you and makes the production. Since the cast is international, the English is spoken with many accents (French, Japanese, Indian, British, etc.) but dialog is everything. In some cases masks are used (for the elephant head of Ganesha, for example). The whole thing is so fantasy-like that bewilderment will almost certainly be the first impression. The central idea to keep in mind is that the whole story is a history of the world being told to a young boy who asks, "who am I, where do I come from?" as do we all!

2 years, 4 months ago on The End of the World is Coming and I'm Still not Buying New Plastic


One big thing is solace - finding others that are attuned and can share the load. That alone provides some substantial comfort.


Another thing is the information glut of modern times. Nobody, but nobody can say "gee, I had no idea there was a problem." and you can thank yourself for being a part of that.


I am an atheist through and through, but don't deny the power of the Bible to affect our thoughts, so consider in Genesis - "The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake...Then he said, 'May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?' He answered, 'For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.' The takeaway with reference to your post - if there is just one person in the world who acts in a way to save it, if only it is you, continue to believe in what you do.


Finally, though I may have mentioned this before, I cannot recommend highly enough to any American, but particularly you, Beth, because of your anguish expressed in this post, to watch the marvelous Peter Brook production, "The Mahabharata" made decades ago and available as a rental in public libraries and for sale. I have a copy on DVD. If you cannot find it, I will send you mine to view.


In eight hours an international cast , not one of whose names will be familiar, brings to life the Hindu epic of one family, the Pandavas, in a cosmic struggle for the survival of dharma (order in the world) vs. chaos and might represented by another family, the Kauruvas. This is no black and white good vs. bad story, but one that in a beautiful and emotionally powerful way with the simplest of scenes and costumes, tells us that we cannot know reality, only an impression of it. What is good and bad? Why keep on living with such horror in the world? Can a person of peace wage war? Can anyone be consistent and never hypocritical? Can one who lives for truth, lie and, if so, be justified in doing so? Most profound of all - can one person, if they had the power, act to destroy the world, knowing full well what they do?


I guarantee you will not see things in the same way if you are attentive to what is said. Let it play through without pause the first time and allow yourself to be bewildered, as I was the first time. Then watch again intently and be drawn in. I have watched all 8 hours several times and will do so again. If anyone thinks their worldview stands on solid ground, I challenge them to take this work of art, drama, and the nature of existence into consideration.


Each of us is only one consciousness struggling to make sense of our being. Those who accept a quick and easy explanation to guide them, have no idea of the depth and grandeur that they ignore for the sake of security and the (only superficial) banishment of doubt.

2 years, 4 months ago on The End of the World is Coming and I'm Still not Buying New Plastic


A technical question - can you tell by looking at the interior of a can whether it is lined with BPA or not? I've seen cans that have a whitish obviously plastic lining and others that appear to be bare metal. Since they aren't going to tell you if there is a BPA lining is there a visual rule of thumb?

2 years, 5 months ago on Confession of an Anti-Plastic Activist Caught Red-Handed With a BPA-Lined Can


What Annie says is true - it takes group action to accomplish things, but the irony is that ultimately it is individual action, what one does in everyday life, that accomplishes the goal. One person doing the right things environmentally doesn't go far, there must be millions doing so. So how to get from individual concern to group action and back to individual behavior is the challenge.


Environmentalism comes from identification with nature. In your case, Beth, it was the albatross, but for anyone to be an environmentalist there must be a value placed on what happens to life, even if it is human life only. But making the connection between us and everything else on the planet is more difficult than it might seem...we really do have a hard time not thinking of people as distinct from all else.


Since we live in an almost entirely artificial world removed from nature, this concern with nature doesn't We must carry in our heads an image of what is beyond our daily experience - the animal choking on a plastic bag, for example, or the pelican helplessly soaked in oil. This kind of image in the head can be very tough to establish and is very unlikely to be presented in advertising.


It's an unfortunate fact that environmentalism is something of an elitist thing. When one is poor and feels helpless to change one's situation, it isn't easy to have a concern for trees and animals and wild rivers. When the national economy tanks, environmentalism drops to the bottom (polls show) of the priority list - betraying that it is considered a luxury that can be dispensed with when push comes to jobs, not the spotted owl.


But those concerned with keeping a job and those who are not well off make up the huge majority of our population, in the US and even more so worldwide. So the toughest challenge is to bring over the millions, the billions who are fighting just to keep their heads above water, let alone have a care for recycling or buying the right things.


This huge mass of humanity is largely immune to appeals such as yours or Annie's or Greenpeace or the Nature Conservancy. Cheap and available is everything, understandably. But among us (you, Annie, me and probably 99% of those reading this) individual effort leveraged into group effort makes sense.

2 years, 7 months ago on Annie Leonard: Don't Just "Be the Change." Make Change!


 @Clif Good news at Panera - when I went there today I noticed that they have installed a new counter for people to dispose of their eating materials and it includes a labeled slot for plastic and paper. Taking a look inside, I was happy to see that most of the plastic is now going into recycling instead of the trash.


I think I will ask them if they might put up a message by the recycling slot that says "Do you prefer not to use plastic? We have mugs upon request" (because they do)

2 years, 8 months ago on Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes


Thanks for the notification on the situation in Illinois. I followed all three avenues of opposition to the ban bans legislation.

2 years, 8 months ago on Please Take Action. Refusing Plastic Bags & Foam Is Great. Banning Them Is Better!


 @abzarndt  You're right about talking to people. I forgot to mention my big accomplishment at the Panera earlier this year: the recycling bin in front of the store was never being emptied by the city. It was usually overflowing and I'd noticed something I put in a week earlier was still there. I noticed Panera employees would come out and empty the recycling bin into their own garbage dumpsters.


I went to city hall and asked why no pickups were taking place. They were surprised, called the contractor and it turned out the contractor was passing over the site. Now they don't and it's never full. Score one for the Cliffer!  : )

2 years, 9 months ago on Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes


I don't go to Starbuck's but I do go to Panera where there tons of plastic is dispensed. Directly outside the front door there is a municipal recycling bin next to a municipal garbage bin.


When I am done with my coffee, I go to the place in the store where people dump their stuff and proceed to pull out as much plastic as I can reach. Judy and I call this "harvesting" and I never fail to build up a stack of smoothie and soft drink cups of all sizes. I then take the big stack and put it 20 feet away in the municipal recycling bin.


Then, I remove the lid from the municipal garbage bin and proceed to do exactly the same thing I did inside Panera - extracting Panera plastic, dumping the remaining liquids and placing the plastic in the recycling bin.


This whole process takes about five minutes. I've been doing it routinely for well over a year.


Once in a great while, someone will say (it's always a woman or a foreign person) "thanks for doing that!"


My questions: 1) Why are people in this day and time so oblivious to the recycling bin right in front of the store? 2) Why are people so oblivious to the recycling bin when it is placed RIGHT NEXT to the garbage bin - to the point that they put recyclables in the garbage?


This Panera is in a very upscale neighborhood where BMW and Land Rover SUV's crowd the parking lot. I'm talking big wealth here - the kind of people who pride themselves on intelligence and accomplishment. But they are blind.

2 years, 9 months ago on Starbucks Trash: Behind the Scenes


It's a bit strange that a billionaire who indulges himself in multiple houses and flying his own helicopter is acting to deny the average citizen the pleasure of a little more sugary water.


That aside, we know that the pricing model is meant to encourage more consumption of anything. Buying two small drinks is quite a bit more expensive than getting the same amount in a larger drink. The issue is that inducement to consume by lowering the cost per unit of whatever is being offered for sale: the Sam's Club idea.


Regarding education - what could be more educational than the awful body state of the average American citizen and the epidemic of diabetes? Fatness is ever present and obvious. If people are ignoring what this is telling them, even when it is true of their own body, they you have to look beyond reason to find the culprit in psychology and physiology. Psychology tells us that satisfied, happy people do not over-consume because there is no purpose to it - it cannot add to their pleasure - peace of mind is a good that requires no purchases. Physiology tell is that humans as animals are designed to over-consume when the opportunity presents itself to tide themselves over for lean periods that, of course, are no longer experienced.


Ergo: combine the market imperative of pushing quantity with the anxiety of modern Americans that seeks relief in physical satisfaction, and the in-built animal gorging imperative and you have an unstoppable problem that leaves education in the dust.


The drink size issue is a tiny indicator of the inherent problem of Western lifestyle - consumption without limit.


All one can do is follow good examples, of which Beth is one. Most will be deaf to the appeal. A different way of life will come, unlikely to appear in my lifetime, but collapse of the present system is a necessary forerunner for it to happen.



2 years, 10 months ago on Will a NYC Ban on Large Sugary Sodas Decrease Obesity or Increase Plastic Waste?


The dream! It's telling you your future!


That dream is laying it all out for you. Your next project is to be a MOVIE - and it will be called - IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE - IN PLASTIC


I won't go on with the plot details, since that is indicated by the nature of the dream...just remember the parts that are scariest and it will assure scared audiences too. Think of what the flick THE BLOB did for Steve McQueen's career!


If you think the book jacket blurb and picture are a thrill, how about your name on the big screen?


But I don't wanna rush you. Congratulations on the book.

2 years, 11 months ago on Compost this Book. But first, check out how cool it is!