Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's Not Just In The Pacific

I told someone recently that I went to the Surfrider East Coast Chapters Conference in Virginia to talk about marine debris. She said that they probably didn't feel very connected to the issue over there because they are far from the Pacific, that is, from the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'

I yipped "Nooooo- there's one in the Atlantic too! There's one in every ocean, it's because Charlie Moore has done so much research and outreach and gotten media involved that people KNOW about the Pacific Garbage Patch." After a few seconds of digesting- "Ohhhh, I had no idea... I guess that makes sense" she replied.

Garbage is pretty much everywhere on this planet, streaming down rivers and drains and off of beaches. We know that. So it's interesting to think that now that one particular area has been given a name (GPGP) - it exists. That's largely a media thing. I think it's been very useful for our purposes- to describe what is happening with accumulating non-biodegradable trash. But it's critical we don't get too caught up in the one area, because people think it's just There, and, they most commonly ask- Why don't we just clean it up?

The answer really is: because it's EVERYWHERE. (We have to stem the flow. That's way harder and way more complicated than cleaning it up.) So when we talk about the GPGP let's do emphasize that it's the most studied, most well known, likely the biggest due to it's location b/w manufacturers and consumers, but gyres exist in every ocean, so by no means is it the only one. In fact, here is a shout out to sailors- more data collection is needed. If you have a boat, some time, and a desire to get involved in helping out the oceans, give us a shout...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Canada's Possible Plastic Baby Bottle Ban

Canada says BPA toxic, to ban baby bottles with it


TORONTO (AP) — Canada declared a chemical widely used in food packaging a toxic substance on Saturday and will now move to ban plastic baby bottles containing bisphenol A.

The toxic classification, issued in the Canada Gazette, makes Canada the first country to classify the chemical commonly used in the lining of food cans, eyeglass lenses and hundreds of household items, as risky.

"Many Canadians...have expressed their concern to me about the risks of bisphenol A in baby bottles," Environment Minister John Baird said in a statement. "Today's confirmation of our ban on BPA in baby bottles proves that our government did the right thing in taking action to protect the health and environment for all Canadians."

Canada's announcement came six months after its health ministry labeled BPA as dangerous. Health Minister Tony Clement said a report on bisphenol A has found the chemical endangers people, particularly newborns and infants, and the environment, citing concerns that the chemical in polycarbonate products and epoxy linings can migrate into food and beverages.

Baby bottles frequently contain BPA, used to harden plastic and make it shatterproof.

Several U.S. states are considering restricting BPA use, some manufacturers have begun promoting BPA-free baby bottles, and some stores are phasing out baby products containing the chemical. Wal-Mart Canada and other major retailers in Canada in recent months have begun removing BPA-based food-related products such as baby bottles and sipping cups from store shelves.

The scientific debate over BPA could drag on for years. The European Union and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say the chemical is safe. However, the FDA is awaiting word from a scientific panel expected to deliver an independent risk assessment later this month.

The chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans.

Robert Brackett, chief science officer for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said Friday that Canada's precautionary action regarding the use of BPA is disproportional to the risk determined by public health agencies.

The biggest concern with this widely used chemical, traces of which can be found in more than 90 percent of Americans, has been over BPA's possible effects on reproductive development and hormone-related problems.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I love this brochure as it's a metaphor for how our mission is scaling. The "jellyfish bags" image was done by Young and Rubicam Paris, the contents of the birds stomach image on the back pack came from Saatchi and Saatchi in Los Angeles. It was made into a brochure in San Clemente, CA and translated into multiple languages via our global affiliate and chapter network. It then went on the road with Jack Johnson on his recent All At Once Tour.

This is what we mean by connecting the dots. This is what we mean by taking a message to all corners of the world.

This is protection and enjoment of oceans, waves and beaches for all people.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Getting Out the Reusable Bags

On Sunday, October 19, the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation hosted a booth at the Escondido Street Faire. Our goal was to give out reusable shopping bags to those in the community less able to afford them, and encourage people to use them instead of plastic grocery bags. We were able to purchase the bags with a grant from SD County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and a portion of a grant from UPS Mail Boxes Etc.

The booth was a huge success! As a condition to receiving a bag, we asked people to read and sign the Rise Above Plastics Pledge. We had over 1,000 pledges by the end of the day and gave out over 1,500 bags (families received up to 5 bags). We had the pledge in both English and Spanish, thanks to our volunteer Eileen Webb.

Jenn Sgobba, one of our RAP volunteers who happens to be an elementary school teacher, set up a table for kids to decorate their bags. It proved to be very popular! We are hoping that by making the bags their own, the kids will remind their parents to take their bags to the store. We also traded people for the plastic bags they were carrying filling more than 3 boxes with plastic that we will take in for recycling.

The bags were purchased from Enviro Tote and are made from recycled organic cotton, and are made in the U.S.A.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Disposable Bio-Bombs; A South Texas Tradition!

Disposable Diapers. To me these are the scourge of the beaches here in South Texas. It is not uncommon to walk our beaches here on South Padre Island at the peak of summer and see two, three or even five used disposable diapers lying in the sand. Most of the time in the proximity of a nearby trash barrel. Many times in the immediate vicinity of those who threw them there. I have lived here most of my life and have never understood and probably never will understand why these little bio-bombs can't seem to make it in the trash can or even more desirably taken out with those who produced them.

Rise Above Plastics concentrates on single use plastic containers. Typically these are assumed to mean plastic bottles and shopping bags. What about the disposable diaper? Perhaps this is not a noticeable problem on the West and East Coasts of the United States. In the past few months I have been asking people that I have met from California and other places on the West Coast if this is a problem. The majority can not remember ever seeing a disposable diaper on the beach, must less used, except here in deep South Texas.

So as a fellow Surfrider Foundation Activist who just so happens to live in a region where it is sociably acceptable to throw your used disposable diapers on the beach, in the water and on the floor of the public shower, I bring you some scary facts about what I consider the third leg of the plastics consumption threat; non-biodegradable disposable diapers.

  • The back sheet of these diapers are made of polypropylene. This is a plastics polymer that can be used both as a structural plastic or plastic fiber.
  • According the The Texas General Land Office's Adopt-A-Beach program these diapers may take up to 300 years to degrade. Therefore, as with most plastics, all disposable diapers ever made still exist today! This includes places such as landfills, beaches and in our oceans!
  • In the United States alone, over 18 billion diapers are thrown away each year
  • Over 82,000 tons of plastics are used to make those disposable diapers every year
  • In most countries, including most states in the United States, it is illegal to dump human waste in landfills. It is definitely illegal to dump them on our beaches in all coastal communities. However they do end up in both places with the potential to spread polio, hepatitis, dysentery and other serious disease!

As a "humorous" side note Huggies makes a line of disposable diapers called "Little Swimmers". These diapers are designed so that babies and toddlers can go in the water and not have their traditional disposables soak up the water and sag. On the FAQ section of the Huggies website a question asks,
Are HUGGIES® LITTLE SWIMMERS® swimpants biodegradable?

The answer:
No more or less so than disposable diapers. In modern landfills, most materials, including food and yard waste, degrade very slowly, if at all, due to the absence of air, moisture and sunlight. Disposable diapers make up less than 2 percent of landfills, compared to 40 percent for paper (e.g. old newspapers, office waste).

Awesome! The swimming pants that are made to be disposed of and used in recreational water-use such as at the beach are not even biodegradable and beach friendly.

Mind blowing isn't it!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Collective creativity

I listened to an HBR podcast a few days ago that made me think of our Rise Above Plastics campaign. The podcast is an interview with Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar. He talks about managing and honing a collective creative force... which is what I see when I look at Surfrider Foundation in general, and more specifically, what I see when I look at Rise Above Plastics.

Check that podcast out here Subscribe to podcasts at Pluggd

An activist, Ximena Waissbluth, has given the single-use plastics equivalent of an Inconvenient Truth to almost 100 audiences.

Rachel Dorfman, an intern for Surfrider, came up with a ban-in-a-box including some key elements for moving forward at a regional level on single-use plastics bans.

Elizabeth Wiles, another activist, went on the road with Jack Johnson and brought the idea of Rise Above Plastics to tens of thousands of people.

The Rise Above Plastics blog has been re-invigorated with a cadre of six new authors, each bringing a fresh perspective to this issue.

The point is that this idea, the idea of helping people rise above single-use plastics, is owned by many people. Further, many people are shaping and growing the idea. That's an excellent characteristic to have. It's why Wikipedia is so successful. It's why Surfrider keeps growing organically all over the globe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Plastic bag? 20 cents please...


$180,625 to fight 20-cent bag feeGroup wants issue on ballotLast updated September 11, 2008 10:02 p.m. PT


Paper or plastic or canvas bag has become a high-stakes question in Seattle.

The American Chemistry Council has reported spending $180,625 in August to fight a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic bags that was approved by the Seattle City Council in July.

Most of the money was likely used for signature gathering in an effort to put the issue on a future citywide ballot. The Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax has turned in about 22,000 signatures. That averages out to about $8 per signature. The King County Elections Office will verify the signatures before the initiative can move forward.

The American Chemistry Council is a trade group representing plastics manufacturers. It is based in Arlington, Va.

The group also has been lobbying aggressively against a 25-cent statewide bag fee proposal in the California Legislature.

Backers of the Seattle bag fee say it is needed to help protect the environment. It is set to go into effect in January but could be delayed if the question goes to voters.

The aim is to discourage the use of paper and plastic shopping bags by requiring grocery, drug and convenience stores to charge 20 cents per bag.

In a related action, the City Council also banned plastic foam food and drink containers. The rule also goes into effect Jan. 1.

People can avoid the fees by bringing their own reusable bags when they shop.

The city says it will launch an education effort to help people figure out the best ways to use cloth bags and remember to take them when they go shopping.

The city also plans to give residents a couple of free bags.

The 20-cent-per-bag "green fee" is expected to raise about $3.5 million each year.

Seattle Public Utilities needs about $500,000 to run the program.

The remainder will be used to offset expected increases in the city's solid-waste rates.

P-I reporter Kathy Mulady can be reached at 206-448-8029 or kathymulady@seattlepi.com.© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Breaking Bad Habits

Rise Above Plastics. A simple concept, right? All one has to do is stop using single use plastic bottles and start using reusable shopping bags at grocery and retail stores. Well at least that's the start. Wow, now that is a perfect example of easier said than done!

To be perfectly honest, I think breaking my smoking habit was a hell of a lot easier than weening myself off of single use plastic containers. Quitting smoking was easy. I started to take Zyban, picked a quit date and changed nothing. I kept smoking as I normally did and on the day that I decided to quit, I just stopped buying and smoking cigarettes. Done.

Yet for the past year or so I have really been trying to cut myself off of these stupid shopping bags and plastic bottles. I have a huge selection of reusable shopping bags in my front hallway in my house and a few in my truck yet still I forget them 60% of the time at those locations. The result, My grocery bill grows by a few dollars every time and I gain one more green bag to be left behind the next time I leave the house.

On the plastic bottle front I am a little more successful and that may be because that there is a water mill a 1/2 block from where I work and it takes no time to go down there and refill my jug every day. Of course it also gives me an excuse to take a long break from what I am doing. At home, we use a Brita filtration system and it is really no longer an issue especially since we rarely drink soft drinks anymore.

But those damned bags!! They are everywhere! It's not enough to remember to bring them with me to the grocery store or a retail store, that is only a fraction of the places that use them. I walk into the hardware store, there they are. I walk into the industrial marine supply company, here you go. I walk into a restaurant to pick up carry out, you guessed it, there they are again. I am not surprised at all that 14,000,000,000 bags are used in the US alone each year. They are constantly being offered to you and are utterly inescapable.

So what is the solution? For me personally, I have started to leave my bags in a bucket on the passenger side floorboard of my truck so I see them every time I climb in or get out and it seems to have helped out. I think I forget them only 20% of the time now.

What about everyone else and you? I don't know if this is even a problem for those who read this blog. I am assuming that many who come here have made a conscious decision to stop using the single use bags and are looking for more stats and numbers to be able to educate others with. That is why I initially started to subscribe to it. And that is where I think lies the key; not to force it upon others but to subtly educate one or two people at a time and let them make the decision on their own.

Forcing others to conform by implementing penalties or bans, in my opinion, is counterproductive. The hair on the back of my neck stands straight up and my face turns red when someone tries to force me to do something I don't understand, or want to do in the first place, and I know that I am not alone. I did not quit smoking because someone made me do it although many have tried. I did it because I saw my Father die of Lung Cancer. BIG WAKE UP CALL!! The man that raised me, was the big bad FBI agent, was in perfect health and my excuse to not face the dangers of smoking died in a matter of months right in front of me. At that moment I was very educated and very motivated.

We need to take all the videos, pictures and statistics that we see and ingest and keep them in the back of our head and when temptation strikes us or when an opportunity to politely influence another arises, we are armed with the right tools to help them and ourselves break our plastics habit.

In order to rise above plastics, we need to help everyone rise above ignorance as well!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Walmart bottled water among 10 polluted brands, study finds


October 15th, 2008, 9:30 am · posted by Nancy Luna, Staff Writer and Blogger

(updated 12:30 p.m. with more comment from EWG, and statement from bottled water industry)

If the latest bottled water study was meant to scare consumers, then this one is sure to get the job done.

Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group released a report this morning stating that 10 popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals.

In many cases, some of the brands had levels “no better than tap water,” the report said.

“Americans paid $12 billion to drink 9 billion gallons of bottled water last year alone,” the watchdog group stated. “Yet, as EWG tests show, several bottled waters bore the chemical signature of standard municipal water treatment — a cocktail of fluoride, chlorine and other disinfectants whose proportions vary only slightly from plant to plant.”

The consumer watchdog group went on to name the two biggest brands that performed poorly in its study: Sam’s Choice sold by Wal-Mart Inc. and Acadia of Giant Food supermarkets.

The report did not list the other brands tested because it did not “want people to take away from the report that one bottled brand is safer than another,” said Bill Walker, a spokesman for the group’s California chapter.

EWG, instead, recommends consumers drink tap water, he said.

In California, Walmart’s bottled water bought in the San Francisco area was polluted with disinfection byproducts called trihalomethanes, which exceeded California limits for bottled water, the study said.

“Consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified,” the study concluded.

Both retailers defended their bottled water stating they meet health standards and requirements, according to an Associated Press report. The International Bottled Water Association called the EWG report faulty and misleading.

“The report provides results from of a market basket testing program that the EWG conducted on ten brands of bottled water in nine states and the District of Columbia. This is certainly not a representative sample of bottled water products, which the report acknowledges,” the trade group said.

Letter of the month

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wal-mart Commits to Reduce Plastic Bags

Announced as part of the Cinton Global Initiative, Wal-mart commits to reduce the plastic bag waste it generates by one-third. More here from treehugger.com.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Tale of Entanglement

There will never, ever be enough videos to educate about the impact we're making on the globe.

In my mind, it's pretty clear... we're competing with Dancing with the Stars and Grey Anatomy.

We're competing with Yahoo, Goggle and eharmony.

We're competing with the top issues in our collective minds.

When I say we're competing with those things, I mean that in order to get our message across we need a combination of tonage (lots of hits, views, interactions) and targeted media (messaging that makes people go, "hmmm" and change their daily habits). The challenge is that... every other message is also trying to do these things. Thus, we're all competing for mindshare. Check out the above links and you'll better understand the challenge we have.

So, it's with that spirit that I post yet one more educational video for you to view, pass along, agree with or not.

A Tale of Entanglement from Plastic Ocean on Vimeo.