Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Phone Book: Friend or Foe?

Just like every page that’s ever rolled off the printing presses, every phone book has a story to tell. The first phone book debuted in 1878 as a simple cardboard printout of 50 local businesses that owned a phone line in New Haven, Conn. Over the years, phone books have given dialers a much-needed boost, providing their recipients with a tangible tool for finding long-lost friends, searching out reputable businesses, and even acting as a literal boost to raise up petite patrons.
Most people over the age of 20 have at least one fond memory of growing up with these info-filled books, whether it was to find a pizza delivery while mom and dad were out or attempting the “half-ripped” strength test à la Georges Christen.
Despite the useful purpose these golden standards have served over the past century, phone books have received a bad rap from users claiming they’ve become obsolete or are a “waste of trees.” There’s no denying that the abundance of information available online has taken away from the need to thumb through the white pages, but phone books still have a place in modern society. In fact, the local nature of telephone directories has stimulated local economies to the tune of between $413 billion and $1.03 trillion in U.S. commerce as it relates to personal consumer expenditures, and directory paper is actually derived from incredibly sustainable and environmental resources.
So why all the scoffers? Allow us to debunk a few phony phone book facts:

Myth #1. Phone books kill trees.

The truth? Not only is paper one of the most recycled materials on the planet, but directory paper actually contains fiber primarily derived from residual wood chips and other by-products of the lumber industry, as well as recycled content from newspapers, old directories and other paper-based products. Furthermore, directories are printed with soy-based ink and bound with vegetable-based adhesives that are biodegradable and environmentally safe. Also, strategic partnerships in communities across the country enable directory materials to be reused for innovative products that help grow the local economy, such as hydromulch and insulation.

Myth #2. No one uses phone books anymore.

The truth? Studies have found that more than 63 percent of consumers will contact a business after looking it up in the Yellow Pages, and of that percentage, 38 percent will end up making a purchase. Also, Yellow Pages ads offer local advertisers a good return on their investment — about $24 for every dollar spent in small and mid-sized markets, and $13 for every dollar spent in large markets.

Myth #3. Phone books are wasteful and hurt the environment.

The truth? Phone book publishers are continually evaluating their environmental footprint and have figured out new ways to use fewer raw materials than electronic devices and consume less energy overall. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the power used to make paper comes from renewable sources. In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that the paper recycling rate was 70 percent, where directories represented less than one-half of 1 percent of the solid waste stream. In recent reports, the EPA stopped measuring directories separately and included them with newsprint and other mechanical paper, signaling that directories continue to make up only a tiny, almost immeasurable, portion of paper in the waste stream.

Myth #4. Yellow Pages aren’t relevant anymore.

The truth? Directory publishers are advocates for local business, and remain committed to empowering regional economies while reducing their environmental impact. Since Yellow Pages are locally distributed and focus on local business, sales derived from phone books not only help local economies and create jobs, but they also reduce energy usage by encouraging consumers to buy closer to home.

Myth #5. There’s no way to opt out if I don’t want a phone book.

The truth? You can choose which phone books you do or do not want to receive. You don’t have to opt out completely. Directory publishers have created an easy tool at that allows consumers to choose which print directories they want delivered or stop delivery altogether. Publishers believe so strongly about this tool that they even promote it on telephone directory covers and have published it elsewhere for several years.
Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Dex Media is one of these partners.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Finding Energy in Our Groceries



Finding Energy in Our Groceries

When you think of businesses that can make an impact environmentally you probably don’t think of a grocery store. Oil and gas companies, big box retailers, even paper mills and lumber yards probably pop into your mind. According to the grocery stores, they discard more than 2.7 million tons of food waste per year. The majority of that waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes and puts methane gas into the air, which we all know is not a good thing. In fact, food waste makes up about 25 percent of methane emissions. One supermarket chain in the UK has figured out a way to take all that waste and turn it into energy.
Sainsbury’s, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK, has started doing something that isn’t only financially beneficial to the chain, but beneficial to the environment. The grocery giant wants to start using their food waste to power some of their stores. Financially, it makes sense; every ton of food waste they send to the landfill costs them £150 ($254.00) per ton. Using the food to create energy is actually cheaper in the long run, and it’s better for the environment.

Putting Rotten Food to Good Use

Sainsbury’s sends zero waste to landfills. They have recently partnered with Biffa, a UK waste management company, to put the majority of their food waste to good use. Instead of letting the food waste rot in landfills and send methane into the atmosphere, Biffa turns the discarded food into biogas. Biogas, a renewable fuel, is composed largely of methane. The food waste collected from Sainsbury’s provides enough energy to power 25,000 homes per year. The rest of the food that Sainsbury’s doesn’t sell goes either to local food banks, where it provides meals for the underprivileged, or farms, where it is used as animal feed.
Sainsbury’s has a history of making environmentally sound decisions. There are currently solar panels placed on the roofs of their supermarkets, which make the stores more energy efficient and help them lower their emissions. The chain has been the largest solar power generator in Europe since 2012 and has cut their energy consumption by 9 percent over the last four years, despite consistent expansion.

Silver Lining

By taking this step Sainsbury’s, is showing the world the potential of finding alternative sources of energy. The great thing about using waste to create energy is that we will always have waste. Instead of trying to find ways to limit our waste, we can learn from Sainsbury’s and Biffa and try and find ways to reuse our waste. We can try to limit it all we want, but the truth is, there will always be trash. It is unavoidable, but the silver lining to that is we may have a cleaner resource on our hands that will never run out.
Do you think US grocery stores and restaurants could benefit from doing something similar?

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Picnic in a (Biodegradable) Box

By Rachel Tardif

Theme-based Boxsal picnic sets utilize post-consumer recycled cardboard and compostable dinnerware.
Who doesn’t love a picnic? It is the perfect green activity — a chance to enjoy tasty food and good company out in the fresh air. Now, thanks to the Dallas-based company Boxsal, you can make your next picnic as stylish as it is green.
Boxsal Office Escape recycled box
Boxsal's "Office Escape" recycled picnic set. Image via
The idea behind Boxsal’s portable picnic boxes is simple: to make picnic supplies that are both fun and eco-friendly. After all, it is easy to throw a few supplies in a bag, but why not have a bit more fun when you are headed outside for lunch?
Each Boxsal picnic set starts with the box itself, which is made from 40% to 60% post-consumer recycled cardboard. Built to be sturdy, the boxes hold up to 20 pounds and can be reused up to 10 times. When you are done, they can be recycled or composted. Each box also includes nifty, foldable dividers to help make wine and cheese packing a breeze.
The company offers several different fun designs, including a briefcase complete with Excel spreadsheet to help you keep track of your picnic details (“Office Escape”, above), and a romantic paint-by-numbers
Each Boxsal picnic box is equipped with the Eatin’ Tool Set, which includes compostable trays, bowls, cups, napkins and cutlery, as well as a compostable trash bag. Like the box, these picnicking tools are reusable and will go back to the earth when you are done with them (just remember to be sure they make it to the compost pile).
Whether you are getting out of the office or taking your sweetheart out on a date, packing up your hors d’oeuvres and sandwiches in a recyclable, compostable Boxsal picnic box is the green — and stylish! — way to travel.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hollywood Bowl Continues Eco-Friendly Traditions

By April Stearns

The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, framed by the Hollywood Hills and legendary Hollywood sign.

The Hollywood Bowl’s summer concert season began in May, and while it’s time to prepare for a summer full of the hottest outdoor performances, the amphitheater is taking action to make this its most environmentally conscientious summer concert season yet.

Since more than 1 million people visit picturesque amphitheater nestled in Los Angeles’ Hollywood Hills every year, conservation programs the Bowl implements can make a major difference. Here are just a few on tap for this season:
  • With limited parking space, the Bowl is teaming up with LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to give attendees an easy public transportation option, which takes them to the event. On the other hand, if visitors choose to travel to the venue by bike — admittedly a tough job if traveling uphill — they will receive the benefit of free parking.
  • The Bowl focuses on reusing any possible materials on the venue grounds to assist in its commitment to be green. There are recycling bins located throughout the grounds, and the staff works to go through waste bins to make sure as few recyclables are mixed with other waste as possible.
  • Since 2007, the Bowl has housed waterless urinals and water-reducing toilets to help cut the use of water at the venue. Next to this, the Bowl also uses an irrigation system that tracks rainfall around the venue and irrigates accordingly. Therefore, the grounds are not watered unless it is acceptable and necessary.
  • To try to keep water as little affected by airborne pollutants as possible, there are stainless steel grates fixed at water intakes and special filters installed to clean the water used for irrigation.
The Bowl, which opened in 1922, has also been certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary because of its environmental plan to keep the venue as natural as possible to help the animal and plant species who live nearby feel at home.
Since the Hollywood Bowl is located in such a natural setting, being environmentally conscientious is important for the owners, staff and attendees of the venue. If they continue to work on and promote various eco-friendly programs, the Bowl can continue to preserve the natural beauty it has had for nearly a century.
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

What can 28,000 rubber duckies lost at sea teach us about our oceans?


A shipping container filled with rubber duckies was lost at sea in 1992, and the bath toys are still washing ashore today.
Photo: poolie/Flickr
In 1992, a shipping crate containing 28,000 plastic bath toys was lost at sea when it fell overboard on its way from Hong Kong to the United States. No one at the time could have guessed that those same bath toys would still be floating the world's oceans nearly 20 years later.
Today that flotilla of plastic ducks are being hailed for revolutionizing our understanding of ocean currents, as well as for teaching us a thing or two about plastic pollution in the process, according to the Independent.
Since that fabled day in 1992 when they were unceremoniously abandoned at sea, the yellow ducks have bobbed halfway around the world. Some have washed up on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest; others have been found frozen in Arctic ice. Still others have somehow made their way as far as Scotland and Newfoundland, in the Atlantic.
The charismatic duckies have even been christened with a name, the "Friendly Floatees," by devoted followers who have tracked their progress over the years.
"I have a website that people use to send me pictures of the ducks they find on beaches all over the world," said Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a retired oceanographer and Floatee enthusiast. "I'm able to tell quickly if they are from this batch. I've had one from the UK which I believe is genuine. A photograph of it was sent to me by a woman judge in Scotland."
This map details the extent of where the ducks have traveled so far:
Map of the Friendly Floatees rubber duckies
Perhaps the most famous Floatees, though, are the some 2,000 of them that still circulate in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre — a vortex of currents which stretches between Japan, southeast Alaska, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands that the plight of the duckies helped to identify.
"We always knew that this gyre existed. But until the ducks came along, we didn't know how long it took to complete a circuit," said Ebbesmeyer. "It was like knowing that a planet is in the solar system but not being able to say how long it takes to orbit. Well, now we know exactly how long it takes: about three years."
Today the North Pacific Gyre is also home to what has been called the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a massive island of floating debris, mostly plastic, that the gyre stirs like a giant pot of trashy soup. (A short documentary about the gyre paints a pretty grim picture.) Though the rubber ducks have helped raise awareness about the gyre, most of what makes up the garbage patch is hardly so cute. Most of it consists of tiny plastic fragments and chemical sludge, but just about anything that floats which people discard can be found there.
Some of the trash got there the same way the rubber duckies did, via lost shipping crates. Though no one knows exactly how many shipping containers are lost at sea every year, oceanographers put the figure at anything from several hundred to 10,000 a year, a startling estimate, though still only a tiny part of a global trash problem.
"I've heard tales of containers getting lost that are full of those big plastic bags that dry cleaners use," said Donovan Hohn, an author of a book called "Moby-Duck," which immortalizes the journey of the 28,000 rubber duckies. "I've also heard of crates full of cigarettes going overboard, which of course end up having their butts ingested by marine animals. In fact, one of the endnotes in my book lists the contents of a dead whale's belly: it was full of trash. Plastic pollution is a real problem."
Today we know that there are as many as 11 major gyres across the world's oceans, and all of them are potential vestibules for the world's trash. And if the Friendly Floatees are an example for anything, it's that plastic trash endures for a very long time and that it's a global issue.
"The ones washing up in Alaska after 19 years are still in pretty good shape," added Ebbesmeyer

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Lego pieces that won't stop washing up on the beach

Activist and author blogs about politics, energy and Earth's resources.

The Lego pieces that won't stop washing up on the beach

In 1997, a cargo ship was hit by a rogue wave off the coast of England, losing a container of nautical-themed Lego kits in the process. Those pieces have been washing up on shore ever since.
(All photos: Legos Lost At Sea)
In 1997, a particularly large wave hit the container ship the Tokio Express while she was underway in the seas south of Ireland and the southern tip of England, knocking a few of the large containers loose into the waters. One of those opened containers held Lego kits — in a beautifully cosmic bit of irony — held millions of pieces with nautical themes, from tiny plastic octopuses, sea dragons, divers flippers, spear guns, sea grass, and even scuba gear. The container plummeted to the sea floor, probably spilling Lego kits all the way down, and settled on the bottom, content to slowly burp out any remaining Lego pieces with the shifting currents. Not long after the accident, residents of Cornwall, England started finding the Lego pieces washed up on the shore.
Lego pieces that washed up on shore.
And today, nearly 20 years later, they're still finding the nautical Lego pieces on the beach. Finding and collecting the pieces has evolved into a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Cornwall resident Tracey Williams maintains a Facebook page, Lego Lost At Sea, that maintains nearly daily postings and has about 35,000 fans.
Black octopus
One of the small details that I like best about this story is that, thanks to the shipping manifest for Tokio Express, we know exactly how many pieces went into the drink when that large wave struck: 4,756,940. Exactly 4,200 black octopuses were sunk, 353,264 miniature daisies, 26,600 life preservers and 97,500 scuba tanks. This gives hunting and collecting the pieces a nerdy bit of exactitude and probability. Finding a black octopus makes for a very good day.
Lego pieces display

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