Sunday, August 31, 2014

North Carolina meets new national air standard for particle pollution


RALEIGH–All of North Carolina meets the new national air quality standard for fine particle pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In an Aug. 19 letter, the EPA notified Gov. Pat McCrory that it intends to officially designate the entire state in December as attaining or meeting the new federal standard for fine particles, or PM 2.5, that it adopted in 2012.
Ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread air quality issues in North Carolina. Although high ozone levels primarily occur in the summer, particle pollution can reach unhealthy levels at any time during the year.
Particle pollution, which consists of small particles and liquid droplets in the air, can be harmful to breathe and contributes to haze and other air quality problems. Fine particles can penetrate deeply into the lungs and absorb into the bloodstream, causing or aggravating heart and lung diseases. Persons most susceptible to particle pollution include those with heart and respiratory conditions, older adults and young children.
The EPA lowered the annual standard from 15.0 micrograms to 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter in December 2012, but the state Division of Air Quality’s air monitoring has not shown any areas exceeding the new standard. The EPA previously had designated Catawba, Davidson and Guildford counties as non-attainment for the old PM 2.5 standard in 2005, but it reclassified the counties as attainment in December 2011.
North Carolina has taken a number of steps to reduce levels of ozone, fine particles and other air pollutants. The General Assembly enacted the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002, which required power plants to reduce their nitrogen oxide, or NOx, and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, emissions by three-fourths during the following decade. Those emissions reductions have helped improve air quality across the state because NOx and SO2 contribute to a number of air quality problems, including ozone, haze, particle pollution and acid deposition.
The EPA’s letter to McCrory can be found on the state Division of Air Quality’s website at More information on air quality issues can be found at

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Start School Sustainably

By Wendy Gabriel

green back to school
The author's daughter with her back-to-school supplies.
It’s that time of year again. The newspaper ads and TV commercials show perfectly dressed children with their new schools supplies dancing their way to school.
In reality, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 Back-to-School Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, families with school-age children will spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics. Total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $26.7 billion. If you add in college students, the back-to-school spending total reaches $72.5 billion.
Surprisingly, that total is down from last year, with parents saying they will reuse what they can from last year’s supplies.
Here are some ways to save money and the environment during the back-to-school spending spree:
  • As mentioned above, reusing last year’s usable school supplies is a great way to reduce clutter in your home, save money and save resources. Pencils, crayons, backpacks, reusable lunch bags and so on can be reused again and again.

  • Go through closets and drawers before you shop for back-to-school clothing. Make a list of clothes that are needed. That way, you won’t be buying things you do not need.

  • Armed with your list, visit your local resale or consignment shop. You can find great deals and give that designer denim another go around. If you are shopping for a college-bound child, a resale shop is the perfect place to find some furniture, an ironing board or anything else they may need for their college dorm room.

  • When you absolutely need to purchase new supplies, make sure you find products made with recycled content. Many retailers are carrying sustainable school supplies. Look on the labels/boxes to find the sustainably harvested or recycled-content labels.

It is also important to avoid products that may be harmful to your child’s health. Avoid polyvinyl chloride plastic school supplies. PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium and/or organotins, all of which can be toxic to your child’s health. Look for PVC-free lunch boxes, binders, backpacks and other school supplies. Download the Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ).
Do you have any other eco-friendly back-to-school tips? Be sure to share them below!
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Friday, August 29, 2014

John C. Evans named General Counsel for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources


RALEIGH – N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John E. Skvarla announced today he has named John Evans as general counsel for the state environmental agency. Evans, a 20-year state employee, will succeed Lacy Presnell, who will continue to work in the general counsel’s office during a transition period.
“I can’t thank Lacy enough for what he has done for me, for the department, and for the people of North Carolina,” Skvarla said. “He has been one of my closest advisors and a good friend as well. I am thankful he has agreed to stay on for a few months during this transition.”
Skvarla named Presnell as his first general counsel in January 2013. Prior to his work for DENR, Presnell was an attorney in private practice in Raleigh, including with the firm of Burns, Day & Presnell.
Evans has been with DENR since 2008. He served as a supervisor of senior environmental engineers responsible for the implementation of major air quality permitting programs in the Division of Air Quality. Previously he was an assistant attorney general in the N.C. Department of Justice from 2004 to 2007, and has worked as an engineer in the private sector.
“John has impressed me with his knowledge of environmental law and his strategic insight,” Skvarla said. “These qualities and a tireless work ethic will serve the department well as we continue our mission to protect the environment for all North Carolinians.”
Evans has published numerous papers on environmental topics. He was honored in 2013 by the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law’s Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) for his contributions to protecting North Carolinians’ right to clean and healthful air.
As general counsel, Evans will be the first point of contact in litigation, acting as the service agent for all contested cases, tort claims and other lawsuits involving the department. He will supervise the rulemaking coordination process and provide advice on various issues such as new policy initiatives, legislation, contracts, conflicts of interest, and dispute resolution.
Evans is an honors graduate of the North Carolina Central University School of Law and earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Should I Do With All of My Unwanted Paper Receipts?

Some receipt paper is highly recyclable, while thermal paper in particular presents challenges at recycling facilities. Even in the digital age, paper receipts are still a part of the day to day. Following most purchases comes the little white piece of paper showing the evidence of fueling up at the pump, dining out, buying groceries or any other transaction. These little pieces of white paper pile up real fast in a landfill — start accounting for every transaction you make in a day, a week, a month or even a year and you get the idea. So, the big question stands: Are receipts recyclable? Well, it depends. Like many other gray areas in the recycling world, recycling paper receipts is no exception. The good news is recycling this tricky item can be broken down into two different types of paper: regular white paper and thermal paper. Nowadays, many merchants use thermal paper instead of regular white paper and ink because thermal paper requires no ink, making printing receipts quicker, quieter and ultimately more affordable. With this technique numbers and letters seem as though they magically appear on the paper because as the paper passes over a thermal print head, the chemical coating on the paper burns the areas of the receipt where it is heated, producing an image. If you’re still wondering what exactly thermal paper looks like, pay attention to your next transaction and search for the smooth, glossy receipts. That, my friends, is thermal paper. In general, most recycling facilities are able to take regular white paper-and-ink receipts, but thermal-paper receipts are a trickier subject. Because thermal receipts contain certain chemicals to produce the images they do, the paper is not able to be recycled at the plant with other paper, instead requiring a separate system. Make sure to clarify with a representative at your local recycling facility if thermal paper is an accepted item, and if not, it must unfortunately be trashed. So, in short, can we recycle our old receipts? The best practice for this is when in doubt, find out! Never be too shy to call up your local recycling facility and ask if it accepts items you are unsure about. Odds are good that the representative you speak to will appreciate that consumers care enough to even take the time to ask. It’s better to be sure than contaminate other recyclable paper in the bunch. As we’ve all come to know, every local recycling facility is different, so by taking that extra step you’re that much closer to living an efficient, environmentally friendly lifestyle. In addition, this will help you set the record straight on items that you’re not quite sure about but feel too guilty throwing away in the trash bin. Remember: When in doubt, just ask. - See more at:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Understanding the Recyclability of Different Paper Grades

By Maggie Wehri

The EPA recognizes five different grades of paper, each with different recyclability properties.
One of the most common items we recycle on a day basis, paper, can be a tricky recyclable at times. Because paper is made using different recipes, including different types of fiber and chemical requirements, recycling yesterday’s newspaper, the old grocery list or last month’s issue of Vogue is not a simple as we would like it to be.

According to the EPA, the challenge of paper recyclability can be broken down into five different paper grades, including:
  • Old corrugated containers, also known as corrugated cardboard. Paper mills use these materials to make new recycled-content shipping boxes and recycled paperboard for product packaging like cereal boxes, shoeboxes and more.
  • Mixed paper is a broader category, which includes discarded mail, telephone books, paperboard, magazines and catalogs. Paper mills use mixed paper to produce paperboard and tissue, as a secondary fiber in the production of new paper or as a raw material in nonpaper products such as gypsum wallboard, chipboard roofing felt, cellulose insulation and molded pulp products such as egg cartons.
  • Old newspapers are used by mills to make new recycled-content newsprint and in recycled paperboard and tissue with other paper grades.
  • High-grade de-inked paper is made of high-grade paper such as letterhead, copier paper, envelopes and printer and convertor scrap that has gone through the printing process. It must first be de-inked before it can be reprocessed into high-grade paper products such as printing and writing papers or tissue.
  • Pulp substitutes are a high-grade paper, often sourced as shavings and clippings from converting operations at paper mills and print shops. Mills can use pulp substitutes in place of virgin materials to make high-grade paper products.
So, why is all of this paper grade information so important? According to the EPA, paper mills seek to purchase bales of recovered paper that have a desirable compositional quality and that meet specifications resulting in high-quality recycled-content products. In other words, your efforts to sort paper correctly are crucial so these materials can be recycled properly and not become contaminated. With your help recycled paper holds great value and is a better solution than tossing it in the trashcan.
To make recycling easier on the consumer, most municipalities offer single-stream collection programs for participants to recycle all of their materials into one collection container. From an empty Coca-Cola bottle, to an expired telephone book, single stream is designed to be convenient and easy with the average consumer in mind. The intention is to not only increase the amount of recyclables collected, but also reduce the number of collection trucks needed. Ideally, no matter the paper grade you may be attempting to recycle, a single-stream program will take it with no need to worry.

In some cases, however, not all municipalities can support a single-stream collection and resort to a sorted-stream collection model. This collection method requires participants to place each recyclable material in the appropriate collection bin and may ask of residents to sort their paper assortment based on paper grade. While technology continues to advance and enhance the ability to handle, identify and separate paper grades for recycling, not all municipalities are quite there and require a little more effort on the consumer end. All in all, it’s best to check out your local recycling program’s abilities to hold up your environmental civic duty.
- See more at:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ten Speedy Ways to Upcycle Tires

By Falesha Wojitysiak

Tires and inner tubes provide the template for endless upcycling ideas.
In a world always on the go, it is easy to forget that we can find ways to reuse the very things that help us get from point A to point B. From tractors to bicycles, here are some ways to upcycle the tires and inner tubes that move us right along.

1. Wall planter
tires-1.png Need a way to spruce up that shed in the back yard? Take an old tire or two, drill a couple of holes for drainage, and add soil and seeds. Then, watch in amusement as your neighbors try to figure out exactly what you are doing.
The rubber acts as a natural insulator, so your plants will be protected from the chill at night. If you wish for the opening to be filled with foliage, then simply choose a thick-blooming plant. You can always paint your tire beforehand, to make your back yard even more colorful.

2. Hanging planter
tires-2.png Looking for a way to not only keep a tire out of a landfill, but to also show off your macramé skills? Then this project is for you! Just like the previous project and pretty much any one involving tires, you can paint the tire prior to starting to match your theme. Then, plant matching or even contrasting-colored flowers inside the tire and enjoy your masterpiece.
3. Patio table
tires-3.png This is a fun and ecofriendly way of decorating your patio. In times of severe weather, you would only need to remove the glass on the top, as the tires are, naturally, weatherproof. Why stop at a solid color? Add even more customization with freehand painting. This would also work in a home setting as well. Use smaller tires for end tables or stack them higher for a bar type setting.
4. Garden house
Image: RecyclArt
Are you ready to build the ultimate environmentally friendly garden shed? If you have access to quite a few tires, a bundle of reclaimed wood and a few spare windows, then you are not far from it. This building is eco-chic on its own, but if you prefer, it can certainly be painted and decorated. The rubber insulates this building quite well, and it would be a great place to protect plants in the winter. You can add some skylights to the top and make this a hot house to keep the growing season going all year.
5. Toybox
Image: RecyclArt
This is an awesome way to declutter your kid’s playroom. It also gives your child a place to sit while he or she reads. The colors are customizable, and you can embellish the lid as much as you want.
Using different-sized tires, you can create entirely different looks. A small tractor tire would be an excellent place to store larger toys. You could also think about doing this outside to store gardening tools and other backyard equipment.

6. Seating
tires-6.png In all the reuses for tires, seating has to be atop the list. It is just plain logical to use them as seats. They are not hard enough that you cannot stand to sit on them for long and not too soft as to sink into them. Plus, as we have previously discussed, the decorating ideas are boundless. The above design is probably the neatest loveseat swing I have seen! Not only do you feel good about having an inventive piece like this in your home, but more importantly, you are also doing your part to help the environment.
7. DIY tire obstacle course
tires-7.png Every day, old tires are being repurposed into new objects and uses. This is a fun yet simple way to do so. There are so many different ways you can arrange the tires to change the obstacle course, that is, once your children announce they are bored with the current course layout. It’s no secret that the earth has finite resources. Being aware of this, it is smart to take steps to use reclaimed and repurposed materials safely in your projects. It gives them character and conserves resources.
8. Stamps
Image: Borganic
If you scrapbook, these stamps would make an excellent addition to your collection of supplies. Made from old bicycle tires, scrap wood and contact cement, the patterns will look beautiful on any craft you stamp it with. You can use these on plain brown paper for a one-of-a-kind wrapping paper. Work it across the top of parchment paper for unique stationary. Or try combining multiple treads and paint for a border around a room.
9. Mirror, mirror
tires-9.png Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the coolest of them all? Why you, of course! This mirror has the amazing ability of being tough and sweet all at the same time. Decorate it as seen here, or leave it plain and dark for an edgy piece of usable art in your home. As you can see, due to the materials used, you can hang this indoors or out.
10. Inner-tube purse
tires-10.png The body to this little beauty is made from a recycled truck inner tube. The lacings and straps come from recycled bicycle inner tubes. Besides being environmentally friendly, it looks like it could kick another purse’s butt! It has the ability to stretch ever so slightly to accommodate the tons of things you may need to carry. The best part is that it is somewhat waterproof, making this the perfect motorcycling mama bag. Set it down on the ground without fear of ruining the material. If your kids touch it with sticky fingers, cleanup is a snap. If your lipstick melts inside? Flip this bad girl inside out and just wipe it clean. This bag eats Michael Korrs handbags for breakfast.
All images used are copyrighted and used with permission of the photographers/artists.
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ten Chandeliers Made from Recycled Bottles

By Falesha Wojitysiak

Glass bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors offer endless illumination possibilities.
These days, wine and liquor bottles are nearly a work of art on their own, if not for their design, then for their coloring. Crafters and artists know and welcome this fact. They are using glass bottles more frequently as a medium in their crafty creations. Here are some beautiful examples of chandeliers that were crafted in such a way that shows off the uniqueness of the bottle being used.

1. Chardonnay wine bottles
Image: Beyond This
If you are looking for a light fixture that will bathe your home in a warm glow, this would be the one. With 12 bottles being held by a stainless steel ring, it gives the impression of being a more elegant barrel itself. This is definitely a fixture for the home of a wine connoisseur. The exposed bulb in the middle gives this piece extra points on the easy maintenance and upkeep scale.
2. Frosted glass
Image: Beyond This
By taking basic frosted bottles and tinting them pastel, you can create a much different look with basically the same design as the chardonnay bottle chandelier. The light fills the room with the colors of a sunrise all day long. This particular piece would be a great addition to an otherwise minimalist kitchen.
3. Red glass
Image: Beyond This
As you can see, switching both the bottle color and the fixture inside gives this piece an entirely different look. This resulting chandelier is both gothic and decadent at the same time. It could work in a room with monochrome fixtures or one of warm, richly colored woods.
The original center gold candelabra could easily be converted to another color. A wrought iron one would look great here as well, especially if you wanted to go with a darker hue to your décor.

4. Beachy wine bottles
Image: Trumatter
Looking for a cool lighting fixture for your teenager’s room, or maybe one for a beach-themed bathroom? Look no further. By taking plain bottles, spray-painting them light blue, filling them with fairy lights and hanging them by twine, you have the ultimate in shabby chic lighting. This striking element would also look great on the lanai or back porch, especially if your property happens to be beachfront.
5. Water bottles
chandeliers-5.png It is not hard to see how this modest mobile design can be simply converted into a chandelier. It is easy to close your eyes and imagine the soft blue and white reflections cast onto the wall. It is as if water is beautifully rippling down your walls. Being that the materials used for this included only a lamp kit, metal frame, plastic bottles and plastic string, the cost of the project is low, making it all the more enticing.
6. Steampunk setup
chandeliers-6.png Although this would be the perfect light fixture for a bar, it would look amazing in a game room across a pool table as well. Made with Jim Beam bottles and salvaged pipe, this particular chandelier screams testosterone — words not often paired together. Jim Beam not your bag? Most whiskey or bourbon bottles would work here. Alternate the Jim with the different labels of Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker, or soften the look by using a more feminine-type bottle while retaining the pipe.
7. Hanging hurricane lantern bottles
Image: Beyond This
By simply removing the bottom and adding a hanging candleholder, you can turn your empty bottles into a hurricane lantern chandelier. Using candles instead of electricity, this fixture is wonderfully romantic and cost effective. Hang it in the kitchen, over a love seat or above a hammock on the porch — this piece will bring a romantic element no matter where it goes.
8. Retro Coke bottles
chandeliers-8.png Have a Coke and a smile! Retro is in, and if your décor agrees, then this is the chandelier for you. From the vintage glass bottles, to the aged wooden crate, this piece screams antique. The chains are a nice touch, but if you wanted to go a bit more rustic, this would also look good supported by a heavy rope. With the bulbs being easily accessible, this design makes maintenance and cleanup a breeze.
9. Salvaged liquor bottles
Image: SalvagedIF
Even if you don’t work in a restaurant or a bar, chances are you have come across some empty liquor bottles. This particular beauty is made from light fixtures of varying length, wood, chains and bottles. This design is as effortless as it is brilliant. Because of its uniqueness, it will stand out anywhere you place it. I’m sure it would feel at home in a game room, a den or even a trendy living room.
10. TWIRL light installation
Image: Metamorphosi
This is one of the most distinctive examples of a bottle chandelier that I have come across. Made by cutting the bottles into sections, fusing the sections together and then carefully hanging them at corresponding lengths, the craftsmanship on this chandelier is nothing short of amazing. Every one of these is an original. The ring consistency, the coloring and the opacity give each one a completely different feel, with each new bottle yielding an entirely different lamp.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Recycle Golf Balls

By Sophia Bennett

The best way to recycle a functional golf ball is to find an organization that will reuse or refurbish it.
Many golf courses are making strides toward greening their facilities. Programs such as the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf help them create better habitats for birds and other wildlife, conserve water and use fewer pesticides and other chemicals.

Want to do your part? There is one big thing every golfer can do to make his or her game more eco-friendly: Recycle golf balls.

There are many businesses that refurbish the tiny white balls and sell them for reuse. Be sure to buy some of those used golf balls yourself — demand for recycling products is the biggest factor that makes recycling possible. Beyond sport, golf balls can also come in handy for craft projects.

What are golf balls made of?

Golf balls have two main parts: the core and the cover. The core, which makes up most of the ball, is constructed of rubber or (less commonly) liquid. The cover is either a rubber-like material called Balata or a specific type of plastic called Surlyn. The Balata covers are intended for more experienced golfers, while beginners are likely to do better with the Surlyn-covered balls.
Golf balls typically have tiny indentations, or dimples, all over their surface. Early golf ball manufacturers found that imperfections in their balls helped them travel farther and spin better, so they started adding a series of dimples. The rest is history.

The game of golf dates all the way back to 15th-century Scotland, and golf balls have been made of a variety of materials since that time. The earliest golf balls, made in the Netherlands, were wooden. Scottish balls, known as “feather balls,” had feathers in the core and white-painted leather for the cover. For a short time golf balls were made of gutta-percha gum, a sap from Sapodillo and Bully trees found in Asia. The first rubber-and-plastics balls were made in the early 20th century and have been the standard ever since.

How to recycle golf balls

You will find that curbside recycling programs and your local recycling centers typically do not accept golf balls (or most other types of sporting goods, for that matter). That is because there is no true way to recycle a golf ball.
However, there are multiple companies that put golf balls back to use. Knetgolf is one example. According to its website, the company cleans reusable balls, then sorts them, grades them according to their quality and packages them for sale. Customers can buy their favorite brands, including Titleist, TaylorMade and Nike, on Knetgolf’s website.

Balls in rougher shape can be refurbished by sanding off the top layer of finish, reapplying a logo and refinishing them. This process also allows Knetgolf to create custom balls with your company name, logo or even someone’s picture.

To prove refurbished golf balls are a viable alternative for golfers, Knetgolf sent their used product to an independent testing company to be trialed against brand new balls. The testing company found that the used golf balls were nearly as good as new (and good enough that only a top professional golfer was likely to notice the difference). More details about Knetgolf’s study are available here.

Sell golf balls to refurbishers, golf course

Most companies that refurbish golf balls will only accept them in very large quantities. However, the website for Golf Gear USA says it will buy them by the hundreds. Save up your golf balls as long as you can, then send Golf Gear USA an email to see if they are interested.
If you have a small number of golf balls you may be better off contacting a local golf course or driving range. Many of them are interested in old golf balls that their customers can use for practice swings. Call around to facilities in your area to see which are interested and whether they purchase them or accept them at no charge.

Play It Again Sports, which sells used sports equipment, sometimes buys used golf balls. It is a national company, so see if there is a location near you. You can also look for another retail outlet that sells secondhand sporting goods.

If all those options fail, you can try selling small quantities of golf balls on eBay, Craigslist, at garage sales or at flea markets.

If you are willing to give your old golf balls away, see if a local high school golf club or a nonprofit sports organization can use them. Some thrift stores sell used sporting goods and may be willing to take golf balls off your hands.

Use golf balls for craft projects

With their uniform shape and size, golf balls are great for craft projects. Use them to make Christmas tree ornaments shaped like snowmen, or glue them together to make caterpillars, ants and other critters. White golf balls can be painted, or see if you can find colored spheres for your various projects.
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

State officials provide funding for 37 water resources projects

State officials provide funding for 37 water resources projects

RALEIGH – The state recently awarded more than $2.2 million in grants for 37 projects that will help North Carolina towns and counties restore streams, reduce erosion, study future water supplies and benefit other water resources.
The N.C. Division of Water Resources awarded $2,244,877 as a part ofits 2014 spring grant cycle for the Water Resources Development Project Grant Program. Money for the grants was generated by appropriations from the General Assembly.
The division awarded:
· Ashe County New River Soil and Water a $65,000grant for a stream restoration project at Bowlin-Peak Creek.
· Bladen County Soil and Water a $4,000 grant for the Butter-Richardson community drainage study.
· Burgaw a $25,000 grant for a stormwater management plan.
· Haywood County Soil and Water a $1,500 grant for awater management project adjacent to Raccoon Creek.
· Haywood County Soil and Water a $23,948 grant for astream restoration project on Richland Creek.
· Henderson County a $199,000 grant for the second phase of a dam removal on the Big Hungry River.
· Jonesville a $41,750 grant for the second phase of the Yadkin River Greenway Bridge.
· Lenoir a $50,000 grant for a downtown stormwater facility at Harper Avenue.
· Wilmington a $45,000 grant for waterfront planning.
· Washington County a $19,000 grant for the Lake Phelps Hydrologic Study.
The state awarded $756,788 in funding for the shallow draft navigation channel and lake dredging projects in Brunswick, Carteret, Dare and Mecklenburg counties. A total of $1,013,891 was awarded to soil andwater conservation districts in Alleghany, Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Lincoln, Macon, McDowell, Polk, Surry, Watauga and Yadkin counties as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
The EQIP program is part of the N.C. Natural Resources Conservation Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to address natural resource concerns and delivers environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, and reduced soil erosion. For more about EQIP, go to
The water resources program provides cost-share grants and technical assistance on a competitive basis to local governments in North Carolina. Applications are accepted for general and recreational navigation, water management, stream restoration, beach protection, land acquisition and development of water-based recreation facilities.
There are typically two grant cycles each fiscal year with application deadlines of July 1 and Jan. 1. Units of local government and local political subdivisions are eligible for these grants. The full list of grant recipients can be found at: For more information, contact Jeff Bruton,state-local grant program coordinatorwith the N.C. Division of Water Resources, at 919-707-9006, or

Friday, August 22, 2014

Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus

Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags

By Angel Canales

ABC recycled bags 8 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Sword and Plough founders U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Nunez and Betsy Nunez at the Sword and Plough offices in Downtown Denver, Colo. Angel Canales/ABC News
DENVER–Serving in the military while also being the CEO of a fashion company can be an intimidating but also a rewarding experience. It’s also a perfect match for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Núñez, 24, who saw a need and filled it, helping her fellow veterans along the way.
“It has been challenging at times but the two roles complement each other. As an officer in the US Army your job is to lead soldiers and to motivate them to accomplish a task. As the CEO, my job is to ensure that we’re accomplishing our social mission while keeping the team excited about what we’re doing,” she says.
Núñez is the CEO and co-founder of Sword and Plough. Sword and Plough creates bags and other accessories out of repurposed military surplus, like shelter halves tents, laundry bags and sleeping bag covers.
HT recycled bags 1 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Cadet Emily Nunez (now 1LT Emily Nunez Cavness) gazes at the horizon with a fellow paratrooper as an Airborne operation takes place in the distance, July 2010, at Fort Benning, Ga. Thomas England - Sword and Plough
Although Núñez was committed to a career in the military, she and her sister Betsy Núñez, 26, co- founded Sword & Plough in 2012.  Growing up in a military family Emily followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Army. She currently serves as an Intelligence Officer with the Group Support Battalion in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado. Prior to joining the military, Núñez enrolled in the Army ROTC at the University of Vermont and and Middlebury College in Vermont in 2008. It was there during her senior year that the idea to launch her entrepreneurial venture was born.
The idea to create her fashion company came to Núñez after a talk at the Middlebury’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship. During the Social Entrepreneurship Symposium at Middlebury Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund talked about businesses that had incorporated recycling into their business model. Núñez took note and put her social entrepreneur spirit to work. She began to think about what around her was routinely wasted and could be recycled and turned into something powerful. ”I was aware that there was a lot of military surplus that was wasted, thrown away or burned,” Núñez says.
HT recycled bags 4 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Emily and Betsy Nunez at the Sword and Plough launch in April 2013 holding carrying the signature tote and urban ruck bags. Carlisle Cumberlink
Emily told her sister Betsy about her idea to turn a military shelter halves tent into tote bags.  ”When she first told me about her idea I was so surprised and happy that she shared that with me. I knew this was something that could be very special and could become something really unique,” Betsy says. From that conversation the sisters continue to build on the idea and business model.
Sword & Plough’s name comes from the biblical phrase to “turn swords into ploughshares” from the Book of Isaiah.  For Emily and Betsy it means re-adapting military technology for a peaceful civilian purpose. The sisters are giving these fabrics and materials another purpose as stylish designs. “Some of the materials we use have been used by the Army and military since the Civil War,” Betsy says.
Emily and Betsy never went to school for business and they didn’t have any experience in fashion either but that didn’t stop them. “It was a challenge to start the business but at the same time it was a huge opportunity,” she says. The sisters thank the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship for helping them every step of the way.
To build the company, they sought out support and mentorship from other groups. They attended the Dell Summer Social Innovation Lab in July 2012. During the three-week program, they were able to build their business plan, supply chain, brand name and a prototype bag.
HT recycled bags 3 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Emily and Betsy Núñez unveil and announce their upcoming Kickstarter launch at the Kairos Global Summit at the New York Stock Exchange as one of the 50 most innovative student-run companies in the world. Courtesy of Sword and Plough
The idea caught on and last year Sword and Plough participated in Mass Challenge, the largest startup accelerator and competition in the world.  Some 1,200 young companies from all over the world applied for 120 spots.  Sword and Plough was selected and they were awarded $50,000 to grow their business. Preparing for that pitch was nerve-racking, Betsy says. At the time, Emily was serving in Afghanistan and they practiced over Skype how they were going to prepare their pitch.
ABC recycled bags 6 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Chad Romero, U. S. Navy veteran and Sword & Plough sewer constructs S&P Dopp kits. Chad Romero was a U.S. Navy ABHAN Aviation Aircraft Director on the flight deck of the USS Pelelui. Angel Canales/ABC News
The company’s social mission is to empower and promote veteran employment, strengthen military civil relations and reduce waste. All items are made in the US and the company works with veteran owned, operated and staffed manufactures. “I really wanted to create a product that would physically touch civilians in a beautiful way and to remind them of veterans and the sacrifice that they made but also the challenges that they encounter as they transition into civilian life,” Emily says.
HT recycled bags 5 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Then 2LT Emily Nunez stands in front of her Battalion''s Task Force mural painted on T-wall, which was used as protection against incoming mortars in August 2013.
For Emily, veteran employment was their main company goal. During her time at the Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, she heard about veterans having difficulties finding meaningful employment. “I spent a lot of time with soldiers of all different ranks and services and many of them told me about friends of their who were getting out of the military and faced challenges as they tried to find employment and that experience always stuck with me,”  she says.
ABC recycled bags 7 sk 140813 16x9 608 Army Officer Recycles Military Surplus and Creates Fashionable Bags
Dieter Schneider, U.S. Navy veteran and Inventory Control & Account Manager, uses a brute vertical knife to cut surplus for an upcoming S&P production run. Angel Canales/ABC News
The company’s launched started on Kickstarter in 2013 with a goal to raise $20,000.   Their campaign exceeded their goal and raised over $312,000 and so far have provided jobs to 35 veterans and recycled over 15,000 pounds of military surplus.
Emily and Betsy are  happy to be accomplishing a social mission with their company. “I want Sword & Plough to be a leader in the field of social entrepreneurship that is able to communicate effectively the awesome skill that veterans bring to communities. As a fashion brand over the course of the next five to 10 years we want Sword & Plough to be known as a strong American heritage brand,” Emily says.
Second Tour is an ABC News digital series profiling the lives of military veterans who are doing unique things in the civilian world. For more stories,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

N.C. Coastal Resources Commission Science Panel to meet Aug. 28 in New Bern

N.C. Coastal Resources Commission Science Panel to meet Aug. 28 in New Bern

RALEIGH – The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel will meet Aug. 28 in New Bern tocontinuework on an update of the panel’s 2010 sea-level rise study report.
The panel will meet from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the conference room of the New Bern-Craven County Public Library, 400 Johnson St., New Bern. The meeting is open to the public. Members of the public may speak during a public comment period scheduled for 2:45 p.m.
The science panel provides scientific advice to the state Coastal Resources Commission. The panel was created by the Coastal Resources Commission in 1997, and is composed of coastal engineers and geologists

Dell Reconnect

Dell Reconnect Computer Recycling Program Turns 10 Years Old


Dell Reconnect Cake
A half-chocolate, half-vanilla cake from Sweetish Hill Bakery celebrates Dell Reconnect’s 10th anniversary.

Over a barbecue dinner of fried okra, warm potato salad, brisket and chicken, Dell and Goodwill came together in Austin, Texas, to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Dell Reconnect program, a partnership they created to responsibly recycle computers.
Dell Anniversary Party
Guests dig into Texas barbecue at the Dell Reconnect 10th anniversary party in Austin.

Dell Reconnect began in 2004 when Dell partnered with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas to offer computer recycling of any brand and in any condition to consumers within Goodwill stores. The idea was for people to always have a convenient and safe place to drop off their old computers that ensures their equipment is responsibly disposed of at no cost, and with no restriction on type of computer. Now, Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, based in Boston, has most recently signed up, bringing the total to approximately 100 partners in 44 states across the country. All together, there are more than 2,000 participating Goodwill donation sites where consumers can bring their old computers when they no longer want them.

A Needed Service
Before Dell Reconnect came to Goodwill Industries–Knoxville Inc., locals only had one opportunity a year to recycle. “The line was three to four hours long,” says Liz Nother, CEO of Goodwill Industries–Knoxville. “We knew anything we could do to alleviate that would be helpful.”
Since Knoxville began hosting the Dell Reconnect program in 2009, the city and county have stopped holding that one-day recycling event, as it’s no longer needed and allows their community to conveniently drop off their old equipment at any time along with the regular household goods they donate throughout the year. “It’s great to know computers aren’t going into the landfill — not everyone was able to recycle that one day a year,” Nother says.
While Houston had more opportunities for people to discard old electronics, the program has been so popular in the past eight years that they’re planning to expand and move to a bigger location.
Steve Lufburrow, president/CEO of Goodwill Industries of Houston, praises Dell’s commitment to take any brand of computer. “They have spread not only through Texas but 90-some-odd places throughout the country,” he says. “It’s a win-win. It makes our donor feel confident [in the recycling process] that Dell’s involved.”

A Sense of Security
That confidence donors have isn’t misplaced — Dell makes sure each step of the process is done in an environmentally responsible way.
“The partnership is about as powerful as you can get in regard to recycling,” says Sam Schmitz, president of Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Stateline, noting that non-working equipment is never sent overseas to end up in a landfill.
Goodwill Industries of San Diego County has hosted Dell Reconnect for 10 years, almost since the very beginning. Partnering with a company they could trust was a big factor in deciding to offer the program. “Auditors come by to check to make sure things are right,” says Mike Rowan, CEO of Goodwill of San Diego. “That third-party accountability is important.”
Before Dell Reconnect began, they often couldn’t sell computer parts they received through donations because they didn’t have anyone with the technical knowledge to make those parts working again. Now, they have a team that refurbishes computers, offering good-as-new machines to consumers at reasonable prices.

The Next 10 Years
When the Dell Reconnect program began in 2004, no one knew exactly where it would go. “We were testing in the early days and learning as we went along,” says Beth Johnson, manager of U.S. recycling programs for Dell. “It was a leap of faith we took with each other.”
That leap landed them on solid ground, with more than 374 million pounds of used electronics recycled since the inception. Moving forward, they hope to raise more awareness about the program and participation within the program.
The Denny Herrin Band provides musical entertainment at the Dell Reconnect 10th anniversary party.

The night ended with dancing to the Denny Herrin Band, plenty of celebratory cake from Sweetish Hill Bakery, and scoops of the famous Mexican Vanilla from Amy’s Ice Creams — as well as a commitment to continue expanding computer recycling across North America.
“We’re celebrating a relationship,” Johnson says. “We’re proud of how far we’ve come, yet we’re still looking ahead. We’re going to support the program with as much rigor and vigor as we did the first 10 years.”

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

Home Electronics Disposal