Sunday, July 5, 2015

Making the World a Better Place, One Tree at a Time: Friends of Trees in Oregon

With continued migration to urban areas, cities have become increasingly large. Residents of urban areas have spent more and more of their time in man-made environments. We have become accustomed to living our lives in an industrial world, with poorer air quality, fewer opportunities for wildlife to flourish, and less shade.

Have you ever thought about getting involved in trying to create cleaner, greener environments in your city? People all over the world have begun to recognize the need to restore and maintain natural environments in metropolitan areas, for the sake of our local ecosystems, animals, and ourselves. And they are doing something about it. Here is an example from San Francisco.

San Francisco before and after urban naturalization

Friends of Trees is a non-profit organization whose aim is to “bring people together to plant and care for city trees and green spaces in Pacific Northwest communities.”

Since it was founded in 1989, this organization has planted almost half a million trees and native plants in the Pacific Northwest, providing opportunities for people to buy and plant their own trees and volunteer in their local communities. They’re even partnering with the Portland Timbers, the city's Major League Soccer team, planting a tree for each goal scored during the Timbers' season.

Portland Timbers volunteers planting trees with Friends of Trees
These kinds of non-profits, looking to make the world’s cities and neighborhoods better, healthier places by planting trees and other plants locally, are popping up all over the U.S. and in many other countries around the world.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and would like to get involved with Friends of Trees, a few helpful resources are listed below:

Urban What??

Urban naturalization. Seems like a big word, but it actually is something very important to the urban environment, especially as cities grow and green areas around those cities turn into the expanding jungle of metal and concrete, noise and pollution and the whole host of problems that come with an expanding superstructure. So, what is urban naturalization? Basically, it’s a nature park of some sorts. Cities end up losing so much to city growth, they forget that green areas are not only helpful for the environment it is also helpful in increasing property value, quality of life, and many other things in the urban city.

Now the question is, why should you care. You’re walking through the city, and you get to the waterfront. It is completely full of the city’s past—industrialization. You’ve heard that there are some people attempting to make this place go back to its former glory, and get very excited that one day, you will be able to walk through this waterfront and see huge blossoming trees, birds tweeting, flowers blooming, and other incredible features of a land that should be far away, but is actually inside the city. This is actually something one group is attempting to do here in Portland. While not completely birds and trees and a full approach to urban naturalization, they are attempting to revitalize the waterfronts to be something of its previous glory. Take a look at here, they explain more about it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Next "Wave" Against Marine Litter - Surfers Against Sewage

Across the pond a group of surfers have been making waves on the fight against marine litter. Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental charity which has pledged to protect UK's oceans, waves, and beaches.  Since 1990, this group has campaigned for clean, safe recreational waves free from sewage effluents, toxic chemicals, nuclear waste and marine litter. They also have an array of resources including ways to report pollution and medical response forms from beach and ocean related illness.
One of their primary goals is to reduce marine litter on UK beaches by 50% by the year 2020. They are doing this through a series of marine litter campaigns that break the mold of your typical environmental campaign.

The return to offender campaign seeks out identifiable marine litter and sends them back to manufacturers and distributers.  Challenging all businesses to have an Extended Producer/Distributor Responsibility for all products made and sold in the UK.  It also brings the fight against marine litter to the source, aiming to establish greater stewardship and funding for their active campaigns, educational resources, and better infrastructure for recycling.

The UFOs campaign aims to locate the source of Unidentified Found Objects (UFOs) that are recurrently found on UK beaches.  Through the use of research and social networks they hope to identify, trace, and eliminate persistent items of marine litter.  Even going as far as to call for prosecution of those responsible should they fail develop and implement an affective solution to this recurring issue.

break the bag habit

The break the bag habit has been a huge campaign for Surfers Against Sewage.  After a seeming success of the new mandate that will include a 5p charge on single use plastic bags in the UK, taking effect in October of 2015, Surfers Against Sewage want this to be an across the board law, not just for large retailers.  They are also asking that everyone take the pledge against the use of single use plastic bags in English supermarkets.

These are only a few of the marine litter campaigns that Surfers Against Sewage are using in the fight to raise awareness, environmental stewardship, funding for educational programs, and clean up efforts.  More information can be found at their website. SAS.ORG.UK

Chicken Feather Plastic?!!

A company in Mount Crawford, Virginia has invented a way to turn chicken feathers into a biodegradable plastic. The company is called Eastern Bioplastics, and they replace the petroleum in plastics with a strong protein in chicken feathers called, keratin. There is an abundance of chicken feathers from the 8 billion chickens that are consumed in the united states each year. Instead of adding these feathers to the landfills, Eastern Bioplastics are repurposing them into sustainable, earth-friendly products. 

Eastern Bioplastics turns chicken feathers into bioplastic pellets which are distributed to other companies which make sporting equipment, office furniture, and automotive parts. Another use engineers are experimenting with is the use of chicken feather plastic to make electronics and circuit boards. Every year the world throws away 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronics, much of which are cellphones, tablets and computers. If our electronics are made with bioplastic, instead of filling the worlds landfills with tons of materials that will never go away, we’d be throwing away something that would decompose fully in three to six months

Eastern Bioplastics has also recently created a product using chicken feathers called, Environmental Bioprotector. It is a fluffy, powder substance that is oil absorbent and can be used to clean oil spills. This substance can absorb seven-times it’s own weight, and does not absorb water. The environmental bioprotector sits on top of the water and absorbs the oil that is mixed into the water, once it’s absorbed, the oil it can easily be skimmed off the surface of the water.

Eastern Bioplastics has found a way to reduce bio-waste, reduce plastic waste, and create products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. According to their website, switching to bioplastics could reduce the carbon footprint by 50%. Eastern Bioplastics also urge companies to make the switch to bioplastics because it has economic and financial benefits. They are creating a profit from a product that was previously waste, and has no cost to use. Eastern Bioplastics claim that products created from bioplastics have a greater market appeal, because it’s sustainable, and that is something today’s consumers care about. As well they are not disrupting the global food supply, and their bioplastic can be used in existing machinery so companies won’t have to make any expensive updates. Eastern Bioplastics have proven that we can have a great commercial shift now. That companies could stop the production of new plastic, switch to bioplastic, and continue to make products without skipping a beat. 

Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi, are also creating ways to stop plastic pollution in it’s tracks. They are developing a type of bioplastic that can dissolve in sea water. Their hope is that they could use this bioplastic for food packaging, grocery bags, water bottles, plastic food utensils— all the things that regularly end up in the ocean, because roughly only 18% of plastic actually gets recycled— and then the plastic that accidentally ends up in the ocean will dissolve in approximately 20 days. Because the bioplastics are made from organic materials, they will not give off any toxic byproducts when they dissolve in the ocean. 

From the blog posts I’ve done this term I’ve tried to prove that solving the problem of plastic pollution is something we have the capability of doing now. We have the technology to clean the oceans, to stop the production of new plastic, and reuse the waste piling up in our landfills without upsetting our current lifestyles. Scientists, engineers, and environmentalists have already created, tested, and proven that we already have successful, sustainable alternatives that can replace our current products that are hurting the environment. The only thing we have left to do now is to implement these new technologies. 

I think the biggest challenge is going to be standing up to corporate giants who have the corner on oil based products and fuel, and prove to them that today’s consumer no longer wants those things. Today’s consumer cares about the environment, they are concerned about global warming, and pollution, and depleting resources, and they are ready for change. If consumers were given more choices, corporations would see that people would spend their money on sustainable products. If you agree and would like to see a change in our current systems here are some ways you can take action!


people who are taking initiative, 


in local initiatives in your communities, 


The corporate giants and law makers,

  • Tell big companies you want more choice in the products you buy. Twitter has been a great resource in getting companies to listen to their consumers, the more of us tweeting at big corporations, the more they will listen. Here is a successful example of a company changing their advertising based on the demands from their consumers. 
  • Contact your law makers and tell them you want alternative fuel sources
  • That you want laws that hold plastic producers accountable for the damage they are doing to our environment, 
  • And laws that reduce the production and use of plastic in our communities. Portland and Los Angeles are great examples of a cities that are taking responsibility for their plastic pollution with their plastic bag ban.  


to help reduce landfill waste, 

  • by choosing to use reusable shopping bags and water bottles. 
  • Choose to separate your garbage at home into recycling, compost, and landfill waste. 
  • During your work week, bring your own reusable coffee cup to your morning coffee shop 
  • or bring your own reusable containers and silverware to your favorite lunch time restaurants. 
  • If you forget to bring your reusable items, forgo the plastic lids and straws on your drink cups, and ask for paper options. 


the things you’ve learned on social media,
  • The internet is a powerful tool that allows our voices be heard. Like our Facebook page, and follow us on google plus.