plastic

Earth Day with the Home Team

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Dave Deegan

Happy Earth Day!

The first Earth Day was held in 1970. It was organized as a series of “teach-ins” to hold conversations about the serious environmental challenges of the day. Here at EPA, celebrating Earth Day on April 22 sometimes feels like the biggest holiday of the year.

Today, our celebration will be especially memorable as several dozen EPA employees will volunteer their evening hours to be the recycling “Green Team” at Fenway Park.

Since 2008, I’ve been one of dozens of EPA employees from our local Boston office who have occasionally volunteered to help with the Red Sox’ recycling efforts. And the results are impressive – this goes way beyond the novelty of being at a game from a different vantage point. For example, in 2012 alone, the Red Sox averaged recycling approximately 3.4 tons of plastic and other items, and donated or composted 1.4 tons of food waste – at each game. That’s a lot of material being kept away from landfills, especially when you consider that there are 81 home games per season.

But wait. Isn’t climate change the biggest environmental issue? How does recycling relate to that? Building, moving and using the products and food we rely on in our daily lives – and then managing the waste left behind – requires a lot of energy.  This energy mostly comes from burning fossil fuels, which are the largest global source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling everyday objects, such as paper, bottles, and magazines saves energy and helps to slow climate change. The materials that you recycle are used to create the products you buy. This means less virgin material need to be mined or harvested, processed, manufactured, and transported—all of which consume energy.

To make tonight’s game even more green, the Red Sox this year are actually undertaking a carbon-neutral game in addition to promoting recycling of all plastic bottles, cups and containers.

On Earth Day, people often ask us how they can make a positive difference for a clean environment. Recycling is actually one of the best things we can all do in our daily lives. Just as Earth Day in 1970 led to creating major laws including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, maybe the activities held on this year’s Earth Day will spur greater action on the biggest environmental challenge facing us today: climate change.

What will you do to make an Earth Day difference?

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, you might find him working in his yard or being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Super Mommy vs. Toy Packaging

By Sarah White

“Open it please.” Ugh! Those dreaded words again.

My son looks up at me, his eyes wide with anticipation as he hands to me the object of his desire- a newly bought action figure complete with accessories. The toy is entombed in layers of cardboard, plastic and sadistic twisty things.

“Okay, okay” I tell him, “but I’ll need my tools. Go get me the scissors.”

As I contemplate my plan of attack, my son trundles off to look for the scissors. He returns and like an eager apprentice, he hovers beside me eager to assist. In my 8-year-old son’s eyes I am on par with his super heroes. He has complete faith in my mommy super power abilities.

I start with surgical precision, cutting the top layer open. I pull back the cardboard under which is another tight layer of plastic. I see the toy figure smugly beaming out at me. More cutting but the plastic is thick and hard to cut. I reach for a knife from the drawer and begin to pry. My finger catches the edge of plastic.

“Dang it, ouch! band-aid! Go get mommy a band-aid.”

I tear away the plastic, finally ripping it open only to reveal dozens of tightly wound twisties. Drat! Evil, hideous things those twisties. I make a mental note—next time we go toy shopping, we’re buying from a thrift store.

As I curse the toy, I am not thinking of the trees being felled at a rate of 100 acres per minute to box this plaything. I am not concerned with statistics about the 250,000 plastic bottles dumped each hour in this country, making up nearly 50 percent of recyclable waste in the dumps, waste that takes close to forever to decompose. Even the fact that plastic thrown into the sea kills and destroys sea life at an estimated 1,000,000 sea creatures per year fades into significance. I am too busy combating the twisties.

Is it my imagination or is that toy figure mocking me. Mom vs. toy packaging.

I slowly begin to untwist the ties finally emancipating my son’s beloved action figure. My son is thrilled. I take comfort in that in his youthful eyes I still wear a cape and a suit with a big “M” on the chest. One day he’ll realize Superheroes are just toys and I am just a mommy.

About the author: Sarah White is a community involvement coordinator in EPA New England’s Superfund Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Of Many, We Are One

By Jeanethe Falvey

My head was buzzing. I felt enlivened with the energy of possibility, bursting to share what I saw.

I recently had the opportunity to meet renowned artist Chris Jordan and we began a conversation that I’m eager to continue. In his artwork, our individual choices are exposed in their collective enormity. Look closer into this ocean vista and you’ll see that it is only the plastic bottles we use in the United States every five minutes. By facing the simplicity and the magnitude of his images, deflecting our own part is not so easy.

I sat there thinking, this is what it takes isn’t it? “Out of sight, out of mind” stops here.

He spoke of the human ability to comprehend numbers. How easily we are overwhelmed, deflect feeling, and turn away. His words resonated strongly: “instead of hope, let yourself feel and comprehend. Act passionately as individuals and we can shift the collective enormity of our choices toward a different outcome.”

Over one million organizations are working for a better world, just look closer into e pluribus unum. Of many, we are one indeed.

His latest work documents Midway Island’s stunning albatrosses as they face a new and lifeless predator: plastic food. The images bring incredible sadness, but someone else did not create this tragedy. Will we turn away?

Ever since I first heard of the garbage in our oceans, it has been on fire in my heart. Our things – created, used, tossed – are collecting by wind and current into places far out of mind, but not out of sight.

The Pacific garbage ‘patch’ is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Imagine, walking across just one length of Texas seeing nothing but plastic, fishing nets, your trash multiplied by millions?

This is an opportunity waiting. Thankfully, if we choose to see, we have the technology. If we choose to feel, we have the science to understand the gravity. If we choose to act, we are individually equipped with choices, and collectively equipped to make a difference.

As Chris spoke, he said that if there were a single place on earth where all of our garbage went, we could stare and be stunned that it was a mountain larger than Everest, and maybe then we would collectively change. Maybe, this is that mountain.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.