We all know that plastic and especially plastic bottles are one of the major source of pollution of landfills, rivers and oceans. Since the authorities fail to stop plastic production and ban plastic based products, people have started their own initiatives all around the world to make something constructive out of plastic pollution.
In all continents, people have started building sustainable houses out of recuperated plastic bottles and the results are both surprising and amazing!
This is a double win for the environment and the communities who live of their environment. The twofold positive effect comes from the fact that the bottles used to build these houses are picked up from the beaches, rivers or any surroundings where old plastic bottles can be found. This has a majorly positive impact on the environment as it helps cleaning it from the plastic bottles who take over 400 years to start even disintegrating.
The second positive aspect is that the plastic bottles houses or structures are fairly quick to build and cheap as less “traditional” building materials are used.
The building projects also generally involve quite a few people which strengthens the community bonds and provides great instances of community solidarity.
So all in all these projects are definite win-win for the environment, the people and the community at large who benefit from a cleaner environment.
Here are a few inspiring initiatives all around the world:
In Georgia, a group of students build a greenhouse with plastic bottles:
In Panama, a whole Eco-Village is being build with houses and buildings made with plastic bottles:
In Colombia, Oscar Mendez, Architect is building houses with blocks made of discarded plastics!
In India, the Samarpan Foundation is also building houses with recuperated plastic bottles and shows the building process:
In Mexico, a man build his own island out of plastic bottles!!
On Earth Day, maybe more than any other day, you might be thinking about this beautiful planet Earth we are lucky to live on. You might see some breath taking landscape photographs or timelapse videos showing some wonders of natural beauty. And, for some, things might not go any further. But, for some, the journey into realisation starts today. Realisation that we all need to start acting meaningfully to help save the wealth of natural diversity that makes our planet the natural paradise it is. Paradise is planet Earth!
We all know but too well that the planet is in danger and that we are in danger together with many species that are disappearing one after the other. Our governments have complex political and economical agendas that prevent them from taking the necessary actions to improve this critical situation.
Change is needed but governments can’t implement it. So what?! Are we just going to stay there doing nothing and watch everything around us die? We think that we have no power but we have the power to change things! We are the ones who can implement change! How? There are many different ways but the common idea is that change has to start within each one of us. Changing our consumer habits to clearly send corporations the message that we do not want to destroy the Earth (for our children) so they can max up on profits.
Buying is voting. When you buy products you vote for what you’re buying. Full stop. And this is where our power is!
The Zero Waste philosophy is one of the ways we can start stirring the ship back in the right direction.
The Zero Waste (ZW) philosophy is a responsible lifestyle that enhances health and reduces wastes to a bare minimum. I am a true believer in the ZW lifestyle and well before I came across the ZW documentary a week ago I realised that I was well on my way to a ZW lifestyle. Seeing the documentary confirmed that I was definitely in the right direction. I am extremely glad to see that Bea Johnson and many other ZW defenders have started a whole movement! It makes me hopeful that more and more of us are realising we now need to change our ways and move towards a healthier lifestyle for ourselves, for all the beautiful species around us and for the valuable natural ressources.
Here is Bea Johnson’s presentation of the Zero Waste Philosophy she has adopted with her entire family since 2008. This is a family of 2 adults and 2 children living in California and generating about 1/1.5 liter of waste a year following the ZW lifestyle! Simply inspiring!!
Are you, like many of us, wondering: “Can I actually do anything to get healthier and stronger and at the same time be good for my environment?
My reply is: yes you can! And it’s simpler than you think!
Here are 12 easy steps to get started:
Start shopping with recyclable bags or bag packs. This will stop you from using highly detrimental plastic bags!
Stop buying mainstream cosmetics which are full of toxic ingredients such as Aluminium (deodorants), Fluoride (toothpaste), Bisphenol A or BPA (plastic containers), Phthalates, (lotions, perfumes, nail polish, hair spray etc). These toxic ingredients are in about 75% of mainstreams cosmetics.
Buy (organic) and cook your own food! This will stop you from buying unhealthy frozen ready meals and will reduce the packaging down to zero! This will also provide you with the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and will be your best protection against cancer provided that you consume primarily organic foods!
Consider changing all your kitchen plastic containers (and of course recycling them) for glass or wood containers that are natural and will keep you away from BPA and other toxic chemicals linked with plastic containers.
Start buying your food locally this will ensure its freshness and reduce the transportation costs and greenhouse emissions of food imports from other continents.
Think of second-hand shops for clothes, you wouldn’t believe the stuff you can find there and the prices! This also contributes to lowering packaging and eventually reduces production and use of color dies that heavily pollute our waters.
Opt for naturalremedies instead of chemical based ones, this will help your immune system get stronger again and will reduce packaging and costs. Avoid antibiotics and antidepressants at all costs. If you have a headache think of drinking lots of water first, most headaches are due to dehydration.
You don’t need a receipt for everything you get so when asked by your cashpoint or your train ticket machine if you need a receipt, opt for none. This will reduce paper consumption and make you gain time!
When the weather is nice from spring to autumn, try to go to work or to the shops cycling or walking if they are within walking distance or consider starting a car sharing pool with your friends/family/neighbours to go the local grocery shops. This will reduce greenhouse emissions and strengthen your community ties.
11. Choose to eat season fruits and vegetables! Do you really need to eat strawberries out of season? What most of us don’t think about is that buying fruits out of season means that these fruits (or veg) are transported by planes across continents and this creates an unnecessary trail of massive pollution via the megatons of fuel spent to transport these tons of (out of season) fruits and vegs.
12. Last but not least, if you stopped eating meat just for a day or two a week this would reduce the greenhouse emissions worldwide by half!
It is very easy for you to think a little about your daily habits and to adapt them slightly. I have done so and I feel great! I haven’t been sick in over 2 years!
Of course you don’t have to stress about implementing any of this, the changes can be done over weeks so you can enjoy the process!
India Declares Dolphins “Non-Human Persons” (February 2014). Some may consider this as an image cleansing gesture in a country where women’s rights are far from meeting any consideration standards, however it sends a clear message towards the protection of the cetaceans.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered the cessation of the Japanese whaling program called JARPA II in the Southern Ocean, as it deemed the whaling program was not for scientific purposes (March 2014). This is a victory for the Sea Shepherds efforts and valiant campaigns against whaling for the last eight years!
Shark fin soup sales drop (May 2014) after China bans Shark fins soup from official banquets and government receptions in December 2013. Again, some may think of China’s shark fin ban off official menus as a national image cleaning up gesture, but we have
to admit that it has a positive influence on shark fin sales, which have lowered since. This is good news for sharks and for the ocean ecosystem as a whole!
On June 3d 2014, 19 year-old Aerospace Engineering student Boyan Slat unveils the eagerly awaited results of his Ocean Cleanup project and confirms that the project is feasible! This is most certainly the best news of year 2014.
The European Union reaches an agreement, allowing its member states to restrict or ban GMO crops in their territory (June 2014).
On November 12th 2014 Seaworld reports a 28% income downfall compared to last year’s third quarter. A 30% drop in their shares price followed the day after the announcement. Since Blackfish official Premiere on July 19th 2013, Seaworld’s shares performance have gone down by 51%. This together with the closure of Rimini’s dolphinarium in Italy (May 2014) marks a raise in popular understanding that dolphinariums mean dolphin mistreatments and violent slaughter.
Overall, 2014 was a pretty good year for landmark events not only showing a raise in consciousness about key life themes but also showing a genuine will from the people to enforce a change in society worldwide.
There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.
Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.
The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.
The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch. In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.
A very good example of plastic recycling has been made by “Method” a producer of cleaning products who marketed a dish soap whose container is made partly of recycled ocean plastic.
According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.
I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.
Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.
Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:
Actions speak louder than words. In the same way, pictures and videos can speak louder than a million words. This is why I would like to share this sublime video entitled “Celestial Lights” from Ole C. Salomonsen as it shows in a stunningly powerful manner how amazingly beautiful nature is. Nature is sheer genius and for me pure inspiration, this is why we need to protect it. We come from nature and we are part of it.
Nature together with the existence of many species have never been so much in danger of extinction, there is a lot to do to protect Life. Thankfully some people do care and act about it and thanks to these people’s solidarity and efficient campaigning, some great steps forward have been achieved.
The first great news is surely the decision to finally place five species of highly traded and endangered sharks (oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three species of hammerheads), both manta rays and one species of sawfish on the protected list at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting held this month in Bangkok, Thailand. This was one of the first strong engagements to admit the criticality of sharks and rays situation and to finally protect them.
On March 8th 2013 another great step forward was achieved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who heard people’s outcry and petitions and voted unanimously to reject the US Navy’s request to maintain military testing, sonar and bomb deployments throughout Southern California, Hawaii, Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. Many dolphins and whales have been killed already but should the CCC have approved the maintenance of the Navy’s project, millions of cetaceans would have been killed in the next 5 years so this is great news for the life preservation of many cetaceans in these areas so thanks for signing the petition everybody!
The other step forward was also achieved in Thailand when Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that Thailand is ending the sale of elephant ivory. This is a fantastic step towards elephant conservation there. Once again this was achieved thanks to people’s mobilization and especially WWF actions and campaigns gathering thousands of petition signatures.
In December last year, thanks to a WWF “I Will If You Will” campaign for Earth Hour 2012 which gathered the voices of 120,000 Russians and presented it to the government, the Russian Parliament voted a long-awaited law to protect the country’s seas from oil pollution.
Last but not least, we will mention the fantastic work achieved by the Sea Shepherds team who returned to Melbourne last Monday after “Operation Zero Tolerance” which is their most successful campaign to date. Their courage, solidarity and perseverance saved the lives of hundreds of whales in the Antartic and showed yet again that when people get together to defend the right cause they can have a positive influence on events or history. As many environmentalists, I was also delighted to hear that Germany finally dropped their warrant against Captain Paul Watson.
To conclude, I would say that we can all make a positive difference in this world, there is no right or wrong way to do so. As Zachary Scott rightly said, “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do” so if you want to do something about what is happening you can.
We have a voice and we can use it! Here are a few petitions to sign should you want to use your voice to make a positive difference:
Shark finning is described as such: “Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins. The rest of the body is generally discarded in the ocean; […] Sharks without their fins are often still alive; unable to move normally, they die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators.”
Sharks are fished out of the water, their fins are being cut on boats whilst they agonize in excruciating pain and then thrown back out into the water without being able to swim properly, they are then pretty much doomed to die.
I wonder how we would like it if some predator would hunt us out, cut our legs and arms off slowly whilst still alive and then throw us back into nature without arms and legs?
Shark finning needs to stop not only because this is a barbaric practice but because the shark population is being depleted and several shark species are in danger of extinction.
According to the report of the IUCN that the Shark Specialist Group published in 2007 after 7 years of experts’ studies “32% of the world’s pelagic sharks and rays (20 species) are threatened.”
On the current IUCN Red List numbers speak by themselves; 15 species of sharks are critically endangered of extinction whilst 11 species are endangered.
Shark finning is one of the main causes behind shark depletion. China is often pointed at as the most important market as shark fin soup is a delicacy there and is thought to have curative properties. The great irony of the situation is that far from being curative shark fins can actually be toxic!
Wildlife non-governmental organization “WildAid” warned that eating too much shark fin soup can cause sterility in men. Pregnant women are advised not to eat shark fin soups during their pregnancy and whilst breast feeding. The reason for this being the presence of mercury in shark fins due to industrial pollution absorbed by the smaller fish that sharks prey upon. The presence of Mercury in the ocean stems back from industrial contamination of lakes and rivers, mercury being used in the manufacture of batteries, plastic and paper.
The situation is not only highly ironic but ironically tragic I would say. So what can we do to help stop this?
I truly believe that we need to work on education, passing on the right information and multiply initiatives worldwide. Some Chinese newspapers have published articles about the dangers related to eating shark fin soup regularly or for pregnant women. I would like to know more about what else is done there and I am starting to work on a “long haul” awareness project which would ideally be diffused in China too.
I think that the more we campaign and petition about the subject the more people will be aware of what is happening and will be in grade to take informed decisions for themselves in their own conscience. The idea is to work on the demand of the markets. If the demand drastically decreases the markets will die off by themselves. I am fully aware that it will take years before seeing a noticeable positive change of population habits but we have to clearly bear in mind that the 26 species of sharks and rays that are in danger of extinction do not have many years ahead of them before they are totally extinguished from the planet. We need to act and fast!