Posts Tagged ‘plastic bags’

On Tuesday, Whole Foods announced it would stop offering plastic grocery bags, giving customers instead a choice between recycled paper or re-usable bags. I am not sure I am completely satisfied with the recycled paper portion of their solution, but still, it’s progress, and one piece of news that will make the folks at Algalita happy. I have written extensively before about the important work done by Algalita researchers.

I just heard from Bill Francis, Secretary of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, about the beginning of their new research expedition in the Pacific Ocean. ‘This is the first day of a four week research trip, that can be tracked on Algalita‘s website. The voyage of the ORV Alguita, captained by Charles Moore, and crew of volunteers and members of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation is documented daily via the ‘2008 Gyre Voyage’ blog. The voyage will include sampling, documentation of contamination, and an update of the database, which will help document the continuing change in our oceans from plastic intrusion.’ To give you a taste of Captain Moore’s current expedition, here is their first diary entry:

First day at sea

And were off!

We left Hilo last night, January 20, at dusk, just a few hours shy of nightfall. A full moon cast a bright, silver sheen over the gently rolling swells, making the first night watch a stunningly beautiful spectacle.

Our first planned sampling spot lay just off the southernmost point in the United States; Kamilo Beach. Kamilo beach is also the most polluted beach in the United States, a considerably less glamorous yet no less interesting selling point for this crew. Just a few days before our departure, we’d braved the 2-hour, treacherous drive out to Kamilo to see for ourselves.

What we saw there must be seen to be believed. A picturesque, volcanic coastline, far from any visible development, clear blue waters and spectacular beaches – entirely covered in plastic debris. (Photos of Kamilo here. Can you find it on the map using the coordinates on the GPS in one of the pictures?)It is precisely spots like this that exemplify the need for a better understanding of how far reaching the marine debris issue really is. And a powerful visual reminder as to why were embarking on this month long journey…..
It’s moving on the plastic front
Somewhere around midnight, we witnessed an active lava flow erupting from the slopes of Mauna Loa, rousted from our rocky slumber by the Captain. The view was well worth the wakeup call – a fiery red glow emanating from the coastline.

By sunrise, the wind was blowing 35 knots, too powerful to begin sampling, so we continued on, taking a highly productive detour to try our luck at scouting out some sashimi. As the photo here suggests, mission accomplished: Jeff with the first of 6 small Ahi, known as Shibi, filleted in less than 5 minutes. And consumed tonight for dinner.

Satisfied with our haul, we began fishing for plastic. We out set the Manta Trawl to collect samples off the leeward side of the Island, an area one would expect to find little in the way of plastic debris due to the wind currents. We found however clear evidence of small plastic particles, along with a host of fish eggs and Copepods. There is truly no “pristine’….

Later in the afternoon, we prepped for our first dive, a chance to test out our equipment and refresh our scuba skills during calm seas. The area was relatively barren of life, save for countless Jellies and Salps of various shapes and sizes. Joel, Jeff, and Marcus practiced working the underwater video equipment, Anna had a much needed “brush up” dive, and Charles spotted the most interesting creature of us all, a large ctenophore.

We’re now on track again, westward bound. In about 4 days, we should reach one of our main study areas, an area yet to be sampled for plastic debris. Though just one day into our journey, the reality of finding trash in such remote areas of the ocean underscores the message: There simply is no “away” in a throwaway culture.Aloha from the Captain and Crew of ORV Alguita.

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In line at the local grocery store. ‘Plastic?’. The guy ahead of me doesn’t think for a second. ‘Yes’, and gets his two or three items quickly bagged, and leaves. My turn. The lady asks, ‘Do you want a plastic bag?’. I am buying a half gallon of milk, that’s it. That’s when I had to tell her. The ‘Circle of plastics‘ thing. ‘People are so unaware’, she tells me. I leave her thinking.

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Still preoccupied, I ended up in the 10 Items Only checkout lane, with double the amount of allowed articles, and the realization of the green bags missing. What to do? I was so tempted to succumb to the plastic bags. But then, I remembered the images from the ‘Synthetic Sea’,

and my green conscience would not let me. I let the people behind me go ahead, after apologizing profusely. And I retrieved the green bags from my car. That will be two less plastic bags for the fishes and the birds.

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Drastic Plastic‘, the article I wrote for Environmental Graffiti this week, has made a strong impression on me. Now, I cannot throw away a plastic bag without thinking about all the birds and fishes dying of a slow death because of me. Yesterday’s trip to Whole Foods gave me plenty of opportunities to cringe. Fruit and vegetable section: plastic bags. Bulk section: plastic bags. Fish and seafood section: plastic bags. Checkout counter: plastic bags. I go home, and Prad tells me the city does not recycle plastic bags.

Now I try to minimize the problem by putting the fruit and vegetables directly into my green bag (when I remember to bring it). That’s not enough. There is still the issue of the bulk and the seafood. I am thinking of bringing empty yogurt containers, next time. At least, I will have done my share. Still. it does not solve the bigger problem. I asked the Customer Service man about Whole Foods intentions. They are ‘thinking’ about all these issues. When will they do something about it?

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Here is the link to my post in Environmental Graffiti this week:

‘Drastic Plastic’

After you read it, you will never want to use plastic bags ever again . . .

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Too much thinking about my green blog. Green Guru stopped me, just as I was stepping out the door, my hand still on the handle. The same handle that holds our empty green bags. We joked that I was having a green senior moment. The trip to Whole Foods was very jolly. I was still laughing when I got out of the car. If not for Green Guru, I was heading to the store . . . without the bags.

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Late night errand at Longs drugstore. My basket was overflowing, and I realized at the checkout counter, that the thought had not even occurred to me, to bring a bag with me. We are such creatures of habits. The green bag for Whole Foods, yes. But for Longs? Of course, I redeemed myself by declining the clerk’s offer of a plastic bag. And walked out, with my arms full of toiletries.

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Another article of substance in the New York Times, this time on ‘Human Behavior, the Politics of Global Warming and the Ubiquitous Plastic Bag’. I especially like the sentence at the end. ‘Plastic bags are a small part of the picture. . . But you think, if we can’t change our behavior to deal with this one, we can’t change our behavior to deal with anything.’ I agree. The plastic bag problem is symptomatic of a set of values. The values in question are so ingrained in our modern DNA that they are almost impossible to change. I am a perfect example.

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I was tired, could not think anymore, after eight hours straight of working on strategy for new startup. Plus I had not slept well the night before. Target was tempting me with its promise of more Dominique Cohen jewelry, and who knows, maybe some Libertine deals on the sales rack. I debated, I remembered my blog talks. Maybe I could swim instead? It required energy and braving the coolness of the water. I went for the easy way instead, a car trip to Target. One hour of mindless shopping left me with one more dress for my closet, on sale and only ten dollars, from Isaac Mizrahi, and a fake pearl bracelet from Dominique Cohen. The fun was more in trying things out. I relieved some of my guilt by proudly declining the clerk’s offer of a plastic bag. The sweet man seemed puzzled that I would not want a bag. I figured I would slip my usual speech about, “These are going straight to my closet, why would I need a bag, better save the environment.” This is middle America, I thought. We’ve got a long way to go. On my way home, I questioned the dress. I bought it because it was such a good deal, but purple and turquoise, I am not so sure . . .

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My mind bustling with so many exciting projects, I forgot the green bags again. Prad had placed them on the door knob, as usual. Still, that was not enough for me to remember. Needless to say, I felt major guilt at the Whole Foods checkout counter. Tonight we are having a bid dinner party, so it was not just one, but six plastic bags, that I brought home.

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