At Women Working for Oceans we have been promoting the passing of the Plastic Bag Ban of Massachusetts. Our newest member of the W2O team, Dartmouth rising senior, Phoebe Racine, went to Brookline, a suburb of Boston that has passed a municipal bill banning plastic bags, to interview businesses, find out what people think of the ban, learn how it might influence their choices and affect business when is enacted in December.
On a Wednesday in the ides of November, Brookline was the first town in Massachusetts to enact a ban specifically on plastic bags and polystyrene to-go containers. Brookline’s hope was to start a movement. They wanted to pave way for towns, cities, counties and states throughout the East Coast to pass similar bans. And start a movement they have. Since the ruling, Manchester-By-The-Sea and Great Barrington have followed suit. However, Brookline was not the first to ban one time use plastic bags, only the first to do so specifically. In 1989, Nantucket banned a wide array of plastics, including the plastic bag. Today, four Massachusetts towns have a bag ban in place. In my interview with Town Meeting member, Clint Richmond, he explained that these four towns represent 1% of Massachusetts. As for the other 98% of the state, W2O hopes that Massachusetts will pass Bill H696 and thus enact the first ever, statewide plastic bag ban.
In our push for the bag ban we believe it imperative to explore a ban’s effects on towns who have passed such laws. I went to Brookline to interview businesses and take a lay of the land. What I found surprised me.
The Brookline Town Council set the ban to start December 1st of 2013, allowing over a year for businesses to prepare. At the time, Brock Parker of The Boston Globe reported that, “As many as 90 businesses will have to deal with the plastic bag dilemma in the coming months.” The ban will affect businesses over 2,5000 sq ft in size and franchises with more than two sites within Brookline. In Brookline I spoke to local businesses and in particular businesses who I knew would be affected. I went to CVS, Stop & Shop and Walgreens and was surprised by the lack of knowledge about the upcoming ban. With less than five months before the ban is to start, I envisioned that owners, managers and employees alike would be aware of what was to come. As the first town to enact such a bill in the state, I believed that this was either exciting or unfortunate news for businesses and for people who live or work in Brookline. However, I spoke to several managers and all were unaware that there was a ban set by Town Council. (Maybe a majority of employees are traveling in to work from out of town..)Most felt that the ban would not affect their business.
After calling CVS and Walgreens corporate offices all I hear was ‘I-don’t-know-I’ll-have-someone-call-you-back.’ (Still waiting..) A representative from the CVS Massachusetts district development office did think through the issue with me and said, “I’m not sure. We used to have a Green Bag Tag, (a reward system for using a reusable bag) maybe we’ll go back to that?”
While the reactions from store managers and representatives from corporate spoke with relative lack of knowledge or neutrality, a video published on June 24th by journalist Jonathan Satriale showed an overall positive reaction from Brookline shoppers. Set outside Booksmith in Coolidge Corner, the video “Brookline Plastic Bag Ban Reactions” captures the thoughts and statements of 10 Brookline residents. Susan Davis admitted, “I try not to use plastic bags anyway. I try to bring my own. I think it (the bag ban) will encourage me more to bring those bags.” Gary, however, reminded us, “how many people do you see carrying reusable bags? It’s all fine, but there is always another side of the coin.” Overall most residents interviewed believed such a ban will make them “more responsible.” To watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3aY_nESNIY
Do you think a plastic bag ban in your town would make you ‘more responsible?’ How do you think you’re community would react to such a ban? Please let us know!
Today I am setting you all up for some serious summer reading. Links to this New England Aquarium refresher on Climate Change is a good introduction to the more scientific facts in Science Magazine’s article “Natural Systems in Changing Climates,” and its comprehensive list of articles that include a wide range of topics taking the mystery out of questions about the impact of human induced changes in our climate. Covered topics include the economic impact and human health vulnerability effected by our warming planet. Important summer reading from W2O.
Want to Try Something New? Buy Directly from your Fish Farmer.
There’s an up and coming effort in the United States to get a step closer to the farm. More so, there’s certainly an effort to buy what’s local and think sustainably. So, why not try something new and buy directly from your fish farmer? Remove all doubt in what you’re buying! (Oceana reported that at least 25% of all seafood is mislabeled! eeek!) If you buy from these farms you’ll come home with the most sustainably harvested and freshest fish while supporting an American made product. Even better, you won’t have to sacrifice taste!
The list below is intended for Boston residents, like myself, who are looking for the best and most sustainable seafood available nearby! Remember, while these farms have limited offerings, many of these fish are awesome substitutions for much less sustainable species.
Australis: Turner Falls, Massachusetts
The best source for barramundi! An awesome, closed system farm.
E&T Farms: West Barnstable, Massachusetts
A great source on the Cape for tilapia! They also grow veggies and make honey on site! They’re an aquaponic system-meaning they’re a closed system farm and they grow more than just fish.
Island Creek Oyster Farms: Duxbury, Massachusetts
A great source for oysters and philanthropy! Island Creek Oysters have started their own foundation that helps to start aquaculture systems throughout the developing world. I just visited the farm on Tuesday and accidentally sat in on their team meeting. Oops.http://www.islandcreekoysters.com/
Sky8 Shrimp Farm: Stoughton, Massachusetts
A recirculating aquaculture system just 20 minutes outside of Boston. It’s a new business so their gourmet white shrimp are not widely available yet. However, this is a place to look out for!
While this list can certainly help you buy your seafood, are you unconvinced that these species are worth trying? Chef Barton Seaver wrote up an awesome guide to using species that you might normal not think of, simply because they might not be the most popular choice. http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/seafood-substitutions/
More on Seafood Fraud: http://oceana.org/en/our-work/promote-responsible-fishing/seafood-fraud/overview
Want to double check a species of fish you’re buying? Seafood Watch is the go to site, they even have an app.
W2O intern Phoebe Racine is a member of the Class of 2014 at Dartmouth College. She studies Environmental Studies and Anthropology. This summer she is conducting a research project on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems, and is interning at the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, and Women Working for Oceans.
I’m Phoebe Racine, a rising senior at Dartmouth College and I’ve chosen to spend my summer doing research and then some more research. With two Dartmouth advisors, the lovely Anne Kapuscinski and Kim Locke, I have been reading deeply into the literature of food energy, but more specifically the energy that goes into and out of fish farming-aquaculture. At the Center for Healthy and Sustainable Food at Harvard, I’ve been working for Barton Seaver, where I’ve also been researching food energy and additionally nutrition. Finally, with Women Working for Oceans I’ve been able to see more of the action! I’ve attended state meetings in support of the State Bill to ban plastic grocery bags and have begun to write articles for blogs. Kapuscinski and Locke work extensively on Integrated Food Energy Systems, Seaver is a renowned seafood chef turned restorative seafood extraordinaire and W2O is a Boston-based nonprofit that works towards bettering our ocean through education and advocacy. You could say I’m lucky to have such (cough cough intimidating) cool bosses!
But here is something I’ve learned through many hours of internet searches, countless articles and papers read, and multiple phone calls and meetings-putting fish on the table is confusing! What’s healthy? What’s sustainable? If I want to eat fish, which fish should I choose? These are just few of the questions I still think about and fuss over. However, today I have more answers than I had yesterday and I want to share with you some of my takeaways. Hopefully, you’ll find these both interesting and surprising!
1. 36% of all fish caught end up feeding pigs, chicken and farmed fish.
What this means: Livestock need certain levels of protein in their diet and for a long time these “trash fish” have been the cheapest way to get that protein.
What you can do: avoid eating carnivorous or omnivorous farmed species like shrimp, and in the case of land animals, do your best to eat grass fed or cage free.
2. More than “75% of global fisheries are traded while only 7% of meat, 17% of wheat, and 5% of rice is traded.” (Costa-Pierce et.al. 2011)
What this means: The fish you’re eating likely has hefty food miles attached to it! Ouch. However, there is hope, see number 4.
3. “At present, approximately 40% of all consumed fish and shellfish are farmed, and a 70% increase in aquaculture production by the year 2030 is predicted (FAO 2004).”
What this means: Aquaculture is fast growing field, which, overall is a wonderful thing! However, many of our farmed seafood products come from developing countries with looser regulations. Farmed seafood in developing countries have a whole host of pros and cons that deserve a book rather than a blurb on a blog post.
What you can do: Look at where your farmed fish is coming from. If it doesn’t give you a real location, than I say don’t buy it.
4. The LARGEST Recirculating Aquaculture farm is located in the U.S.! It’s called Blue Ridge Aquaculture and is located in Virginia.
What this means: Recirculating aquaculture is a type of fish farming that recycles more than 95% of its water. It therefore significantly limits pollution into the surrounding environment, recaptures nutrients, and halts the spread of disease and invasive species.
What you can do: There is an awesome, healthy, relatively sustainable source of fish that could be only minutes away from you! Buy American farmed fish if you can, you’d be supporting a growing field that’s rapidly improving its science.
5. Did I just say healthy? Why yes. “Fish are the most valuable foods for human nutrition, disease prevention, and brain development of any foods since they have the highest nutrient density (highest protein and oil contents in their flesh) of all food animals (Smil, 2002). ”
What this means: Fish are awesome sources of protein and nutrients!
What you can do: Don’t be afraid to eat fish. It’s widely agreed upon the the health benefits of eating fish at any stage in your life far outweigh the costs.
6. But isn’t seafood expensive? Not always! Canned seafood is actually a great and (often) cheaper alternative.
What you can do: When buying canned seafood make sure to go for a BPA free can with a brine or water base rather than oil. Since oil is not soluble in water omega-3s are maintained at the same levels as you would find in regular fillets.
Fish, let alone food, can be a confusing topic. I hope I’ve provided you either some clarity or some information (also some links below) that is easy to keep with you.
All my best, Phoebe Racine
Join W2O us tomorrow 11-4, for a celebration of World Ocean Day on Central Wharf right near (and sponsored by) the New England Aquarium. Family activities including a scavenger hunt, cooking demos, and live blue fun for the whole family. Tell us how the Ocean makes you feel. More information HERE.
Last week, W2O members visited Block Island, RI for the BlueMind 3 conference hosted by Ocean activist and scientist, Wallace J. Nichols. The conference included a variety of interesting ocean passionate folks including artists, educators, ocean advocates, and neuroscientists. Yes, neuroscientists! And they were the stars of the show, explaining to us that the ocean effects the brain in specific calming ways and reminding us that the message of hope for saving our oceans comes from communicating that beautiful feeling that comes over us when we are near or in its precious, powerful, magical presence.
Some memorable quotes from speakers at the conference:
“We speak of saving the ocean and the earth. In reality, it is the other way around. The ocean and earth save us! Engaging hearts and hands accesses the mind. The extent of labor leads to the love and success of a project” Ocean Matter’s Laura Parker Roerden
“I am in awe of the tenderness at this conference.” Artist Ran Ortner
“The rythm of the ocean is ominous, heavy yet delicate and transparent.” Artist Ran Ortner
“Beauty is the great connector. We don’t need to impact everyone, we only need to impact the right person and sometimes that is the person right in front of you” Photographer David Pu’u
“We need to remember the architecture of what we are doing.” Photographer David Pu’u
“The word “sustainability” means only what we can sustain and the status quo. We need to search for abundance and restore the resources because if we are the problem, we are also the solution.” Conservationist and Chef, Bart Seaver
“We don’t (do conservation and awareness) to speak louder, we do it because it might make a difference.” RI Poet Lisa Starr talking about conservation and caring for the ocean
“Choosing Block Island is giving us a bird’s perspective. On and island, we can come together and take in Island wisdom.” Wallace J. Nichols introducing Block Island resident Lisa Starr
“Truly stating facts does not result in people making change.” Dr. Helen Riess
“You won’t surf like me, you will surf like yourself.” Van Curaza-Operation Surf and Van Curaza Surf School
“Why do we call this Planet Earth? It should be called Planet Ocean!” Cartoonist Jim Toomey
W2O Board Member, Linda Cabot remembers her “Ah Ha!” moment when she realized that there were other women out there that were as passionate about the subject of protecting our blue planet as she is. “I remember thinking, Oh My God, there are other women who care and have come together to find a solution!” She joined W2O because of similar mission and goals that she had set out to accomplish when establishing ” From the Bow Seat”, originally a film to help her daughters understand the environmental issue of the Gulf of Maine, but now a educational tool to inspire high school students with an Ocean Awareness Essay and Art Contest and scholarship award. In the film, Linda and her daughters interviewed biologists, fisherman, lobstermen and conservationists. “Persistence and optimism are good qualities,” says Dr. Steve Kress, an ornithologist from the film reintroducing the Puffin to Eastern Egg Rock Maine. “No species should be lost. People can restore species and this is what restoration is about. If you go into this (conservation), you have to stay in for the long run. It sometimes takes decades to see results but then the rewards are all around us.”
Linda, an artist, writer, filmmaker, mother and ocean advocate (and Overseer at the New England Aquarium) is inspired by the power of the women of W2O and happy to have collided with the group’s “positive energy”. She sits on W2O’s Membership Committee and lends her artistic flair for outreach to our W2O community.
Leave Only Footprints” transported us to a faraway, magical place where we were immersed in the beauty of an exotic under water world.
Speaking to a sold out audience, photographer Keith Ellenbogen, Randi Rotjan, Ph.D. (New England Aquarium’s Associate Research Scientist), and Heather Tausig ( VP of Conservation, New England Aquarium) provided an inspirational narrative about the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA).
These incredible story-tellers took us on an educational journey to the remote island nation of Kiribati and introduced us to the untouched and bountiful marine life of The Phoenix Islands. PIPA is one of the largest and most ambitious marine protected areas ever created by a developing country. It is also one of the largest marine protected areas (MPA) in the Pacific Ocean.
Thank you to all of you who took action and added ocean preservation to your philanthropic dance card!
More than $12,000 was raised!
Your support of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area
(PIPA) Trust is so very much appreciated!
Here is a wonderful photo of Bud Ris, President and Chief Executive Officer, New England Aquarium and Dr. Teuea Toatu (PIPA Trust Executive Director) acknowledging the gift W2o made possible.
Together we are making a difference!
W2O Co Founder, Barbara Burgess and three other W2O Board members headed to the Boston State House today to testify to our State Legislature’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of the Plastic Bag Reduction Bill #696. What better to way to honor Earth Day than to stand up for what we believe in to protect our oceans by stating our views on the pollution and harmful effects to human health by those aerodynamic plastic bags choking our waterways, strangling our marine life and ending up in all of us. W2O joined The Sierra Club, Environmental America and other groups in support of the bill put forth by Democrat Massachusetts Representative of the 8th Essex District, Lori Ehrlich.
Some reminders of the issues at hand and a link to how you can help!
- PLASTIC IS FOREVER (still ringing in my ears from our “Plastics in the Oceans, Plastics in You event and eloquently put by Dianna Cohen from Plastic Pollution Coalition-plastic breaks down into tiny bits that are ingested by our fish and wildlife and then in turn is ingested by us and IT NEVER GOES AWAY
- Plastic clogs our waterways, costs municipalities in clean up efforts, and end up in our oceans, collecting in huge gyres that can never be cleaned up
- “Biodegradable” doesn’t exist when speaking of plastic (bags or any kind) and companies that tell you that their bag is going to “break down” are not telling you the science. In order for a bag to decompose, it needs the perfect conditions of sun, heat and lack of moisture. Most bags are in our trees, landfills and waterways and are not basking in the sun for hundreds of days waiting to break down. Just refuse plastic bags!
Act now! Use this link to the Sierra Clubs easy guide and Write your legislator and Protect What YOU Love!