Friday, August 29, 2008

EASY: Sign This Letter to Help Bluefin Tuna Survive

Looking for an easy way to keep our oceans' habitats from declining? Sign this letter to save the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna from overfishing and extinction.

Just 5 minutes of your time!

Support Sustainable Salmon Fishing -- Or You Might Not Be Able to Find Healthy Salmon Choices in the Near Future

It boggles my mind to realize that most of the salmon that people eat in the world these days comes from unhealthy, irresponsible sources. I'm nauseous when I see cheap salmon for sale because I know it came from farms. For example, big-box warehouse stores are notorious for selling high volumes of unsustainable, farmed salmon. Unsustainable means that the way in which these salmon are farmed cannot continue indefinitely due to the health and environmental consequences of salmon farming. In most cases, only wild salmon in their un-farmed natural habitat are sustainable.

According to an article in Trout Magazine --

"Since 1980, farmed Atlantic salmon has gone from just 2 percent of the world salmon market to 60 percent. Huge salmon farms in British Columbia, as well as Europe, Chile and Washington State, spread disease and parasites to wild fish and dump hazardous chemicals and raw sewage into estuaries. Fish escaping from salmon farms compete with wild salmon and steelhead and threaten to dilute the genetic diversity of famed fisheries such as those in British Columbia’s Skeena River system.

"Fed a steady diet of food pellets, antibiotics and pigments, these farmed fish have fewer health benefits and more dioxins and PCBs than wild fish. But what they lack in quality and taste, they make up for in abundance—the flood of farmed fish has driven down prices and undermined the value of wild salmon. Local fishers and fisheries, their well-being tied to the wild salmon market, now struggle to survive."

What can you do to stop this proliferation of unhealthy salmon breeding, farming, and fishing? You can "vote with your fork" -- says the Trout Unlimited organization, which has as its mission "To conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds."

Voting with your fork means that you only choose wild salmon. If wild salmon can once again become the salmon of choice, then this will help force interest on conserving their habitats. On the website it says:

"If we fail as consumers to demand wild salmon as our fish of choice they will soon be replaced in the marketplace by inferior, chemically laden farm-raised Atlantic salmon. Wild salmon conservation and management programs will diminish as a priority and the wild salmon populations will begin to disappear as well. Salmon is big business and we as consumers control the purse strings - remember to vote with your fork." -- Chef Greg Higgins, Higgins Restaurant and Bar, Portland, Oregon

This is how you do it:

  • Only choose wild-caught salmon -- at the grocery store or restaurant

  • If they don't offer wild-caught salmon, refuse to buy

  • If your budget doesn't allow wild caught, buy something else
  • Carry with you a Seafood Watch card in your wallet -- helps remind you of what seafood to buy and not to buy
  • Reefnet fishing (see a video of how it's done here) of salmon is one of the most sustainable ways to catch wild salmon -- you can look for brands that carry reefnet-fished salmon along with the guidelines from Seafood Watch

UPDATE 9/1/08: You can also go to the Chefs Collaborative website to search for restaurants in your area that prepare sustainable seafood.

Say No to McCain/Palin

If you have not yet decided who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election, Sen. John McCain's choice of running mate -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- should seal it for you. Vote NO on the McCain/Palin ticket. Sarah Palin is bad news for the environment, alongside more bad news from John McCain. She supports drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge and along our coasts, she has not supported clean water initiatives, has been against protections for the polar bear, and declined to protect wildlife.

And how important is the environment as an issue in the grand scheme of things? Well, I rank it tops -- considering it controls your weather, your air, your health, your living conditions, the economy of today and the future, your energy, your food security, your children's future, the preservation of species and ecosystems, the ability for your children to have a safe and quality future ... and the list goes on and on.

Look here at the top 10 reasons why you should vote for the Obama/Biden ticket.

UPDATE 9/1/08: What has become increasingly clear over the last couple of days is that when you step back, the McCain/Palin ticket does not offer the necessary experience, political track record, or voice for change that we need to correct our overspending, mismanaged foreign policy and war, and destructive environmental record. Be a smart voter!

UPDATE: 9/7/08: Yet again, here's this link from Treehugger outlining Palin's blatant disrespect for the environment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Keep Pushing the Outdoor Boundaries

It's hard enough to get kids to want to break away from the computer and video games and go outdoors, so don't let your child's school also become a culprit. As your child goes back to school, read over the schedule to make sure your child is getting recess. Recess is not only an important way to develop social skills and use up pent up energy but also recess gets your child outdoors and ideally into greenscape. This has been proven to improve your child's health, happiness, and ability to focus and pay attention.

If your child's school needs to be nudged back to providing quality recess, you can hook up with the International Play Association is a resource for you, as well as the The National Association for the Education of Young Children, and The National Association for Sport and Physical Education. These organizations not only have resources on their websites but also you can call them and ask for assistance and ideas.

Cartoon Network also has a Rescuing Recess program you can check out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Invite Two Angry Moms to Lunch

This is taking angry to the next level -- two moms got concerned enough about the lack of healthy foods offered at their children's schools and decided to make a movement out of it, fueling their frustration to make positive change.

These two women, Dr. Susan Rubin and Amy Kalafa, now have a documentary called "Two Angry Moms," which premiered last year but now you can screen it in your area. It can help you to learn how to bring about more healthy and environmentally friendly changes in your child's school cafeteria food -- such as a farm-to-school menu, the possibility of more organic food, a school garden, and better health for your kids. A clip from the documentary is below. Here's an essay from Amy Kalafa about how the movie got started.

Their press kit says one of their goals is to "Create a movement of two million “angry moms” (and dads) who will take a stand for their children’s health and demand a change ... Texas Agricultural secretary Susan Combs said that it’s going to take 2 million angry moms to change the school lunch program."

Our children not only need to eat fresher and healthier food but also need to be in touch with nature and where the food comes from. The more local we can make that food and close the gap between suburbia and farms, the better off we all will be -- environmentally, health wise, and appreciation for good food. And if more schools use their buying power to purchase local, organic food, then it becomes a win-win proposition for everyone. You can also go to the website of Better School Food for more ideas and information.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stop the Sprawl

For years I've rejected the notion that it is good to continue seemingly endless housing construction farther and farther out from cities. Well, the housing bubble put a temporary, semi-stop to some of it, but not enough. If urban sprawl isn't paving over habitats and trees, then it's building where there's no water. In either case, the only way the overbuilding will stop is by regulation -- developers won't stop, land sellers won't stop, and people won't stop buying either.

There's a senate bill in California that would be one of the first to curb sprawl -- all in the name of saving the environment and cutting emissions. SB 375 requires better land growth -- smarter land growth -- that causes land development to place people closer to public transportation and incentives for mixing commercial development with residential so that there are jobs where people live. New transportation funding in California, if SB 275 passes, will only be given if new growth meets the designated smarter growth requirements.

The American Lung Association and American Farmland Trust have both endorsed SB 375, which if passed could become a model for other states -- not just for transportation and emission issues but also managing water and habitat conservation.

Some families may wonder, what happens if there aren't as many new homes and new neighborhoods being built? Then that means you look inward and clean up and rebuild neighborhoods that are closer to work and closer to the city. Turning redevelopment into smarter development is what would happen if new development were curtailed. This also means you work more closely with your local government and local redevelopment agency as a citizen to ask for better oversite, more focus on the environment, and neighborhoods and schools that are family focused.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Virginia's Green Travel Example

I love the story that came out yesterday about Virginia Beach's green tourism initiatives. Restaurants, attractions, and hotels are all turning green by reducing water use, using recycled paper products, cleaning with Green Seal certified products, recycling more, and making building improvements that save energy.

None of this could have happened without the people, community, and government working together.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Inspiration from China

Gearing up for the Olympics and now with the games in progress, much has been written about the challenges China is facing in improving its environmental record and conditions, as well as human rights. An early precursor to understanding China's industrialization and environmental issues can also be found in the 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes.

But, I was inspired -- no matter how political one may call it -- by the Olympic game's opening ceremony and how there was honor to the planet, to its people, and to our future harmony. If you haven't seen those ceremonies, see if your TV service offers a video-on-demand recording.

I do believe that China, like most of the advanced countries in the world, are awakening to their environmental responsibilities -- including conservation of resources and a newfound awakening of preserving a better world for our children.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Greening the Back-to-School Supply List

Over the next few weeks, you'll be making the annual trek to your local retailers to purchase back-to-school supplies. It's a great opportunity to make more eco-friendly choices --
  • Scissors -- Look for scissors that use recycled plastic in the handles. Kleenearth, sold under the Westcott brand name, has handles made from 70% recycled plastic. And Envirogrip, a Fiskars brand of scissors, has 30% recycled plastic handles.

  • Paper -- Many schools ask families to donate a ream of white paper to the school at the start of the year. Choose recycled. It's now available at just about every retailer. And if you see recycled notebook paper, choose that over virgin paper. You can also look for The Forest Stewardship Council logo on the packaging which tells you that any virgin paper used in the product came from a responsibly managed forest.

  • Pencils and pens -- It can be considered a toss up when it comes to pencils. Mechanical pencils are reusable but they also most commonly use petroleum-based plastic. The traditional wood pencil often comes from virgin forests (which can include, shockingly, rain forests) but on the flip side can be made with recycled materials. The best advice, whether you choose mechanical or traditional, is to look for pencils made with recycled materials. The same goes for pens, except you can also choose pens that have refillable ink instead of the disposable kind. Pilot has a BeGreen line of pencils and pens that have incorporated recycled content. Paper Mate's Earthwrite traditional pencils are made from 100% pre-consumer waste materials and are non-toxic. And Zebra Pen has highlighters, pens, and pencils made from 70% post-consumer waste materials.