W2O Blog

Posted on 11/16//15

W2O and the Massachusetts Sierra Club hosted Heroes of the Oceans at the MA State House last week, honoring those that have helped pass bills banning single use plastic pollution in their towns and cities.

Educating about refusing single use plastic is not enough. The real heroes are those that take up the challenge in their communities and enacting lasting change through legislation. Mindful change matters, but those changes that spark local, city and statewide initiatives, that is what its all about.

Plastic pollution clogs our drains, litters our parks, destroys our oceans and then ends up in us. The plastic ends up in us.

Our Heroes of the Oceans made endless phone calls, spent hours explaining the damage that single use plastic does to our environment, oceans and families, and convinced town chamber, town meeting members, selectman and legislators that now is the time to act and ban single use plastic in our communities. It is hard work getting that done.

 

Best Honorees

The “Heroes” with legislators on the grand staircase at the MA State House (photo: Gretchen Powers)

Posted on 10/29//15

ActionforRisingFall

BE PREPARED!!!
MAKING AND MAINTAINING A HOME EMERGENCY KIT:

http://www.ready.gov/kit
http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1390846764394-dc08e309debe561d866b05ac84daf1ee/checklist_2014.pdf

Kits for purchase:
Www.emergencykits.com
WWW.emergencygobags.com
Www.rei.com
http://www.redcrossstore.org/default.aspx

BE EDUCATED!!!
WATCH A TED TALK AND LEARN MORE
Oceanographer John Englander: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH8Q8Ki9fCA  and important information from NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/goddard/risingseas

TAKE ACTION!!!
HAVE AN HOME ENERGY AUDIT
http://energy.gov/energysaver/professional-home-energy-audits
http://www.resnet.us/directory/search


 

Posted on 10/16//15

Photo by Noelle Anderson

Photo by Noelle Anderson

Is sea level rise something we need to be concerned about right now? If you look at the data from the Union of Concerned Scientists, it seems far off somehow yet, we are seeing the water rise and cities and towns are talking about mitigation to protect vulnerable property. So what is going on? What action can we take?

Sea level rise, caused by human induced climate change, amplifies the effects of tidal height and storm surge associated with all coastal storms. A storm doesn’t need to be “super” to cause significant damage. Most people remember Hurricane Sandy. The iconic images of the massive storm taken by satellite; the bent and twisted frame of the drowned roller coaster sitting placidly in the surf just off the Jersey Shore; the flooded tunnels of the New York City subway system and lower Manhattan are hard to forget. Similarly, we shudder at the memory of New Orleans residents clinging to their roofs awaiting rescue by helicopters during Hurricane Katrina. Yet, we also tend to dismiss such happenings as anomalies. We call them “super storms “ or “100-year storms” and unless we were directly impacted, go on with our lives.

Because of warming seas from human induced climate change, scientists warn that 100-year storms are becoming more frequent. Coastal flood advisories and flood watches due to “astronomical tides” were in effect recently in locations from Key West to Maine, including Boston, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and other cities in between. In the southern part of Florida, a third night of flooding closed roads, flooded sidewalks and led to some of the most extensive tidal flooding they’d ever witnessed. Charlestown has seen consecutive days with road closure due to flooding and lives were lost due to rising waters. Last month’s king tide saw alligators swimming in flooded streets.

One constant piece of this phenomenon, the monthly ebb & flow of the tide, is just doing what it does, albeit with an extra kick when there is a king tide. With sea level rise, the highest tides are only getting higher, due to the thermal expansion caused by the increasing warm air and water and the flooding they bring is getting more frequent. Regardless of whether you live along the coast or in the nation’s heartland, the impact will be both economic and geographic.

Many of our most populous metropolitan areas are located where the ocean meets the land. In fact more than 100 million people live in coastal counties. These counties produce 42 percent of the US economy’s GDP. Besides being financial, military and government centers, these areas are home to the largest ports in our country. A quick glance at the list of the top five ports in the continental US, illustrates the vulnerabilities. They are located in Louisiana, Texas, New York/New Jersey, and account for billions of metric tons in movement of goods, both exports and imports, annually. In the past decade, each one has been impacted by a significant meteorological event, either Sandy or Katrina, and is located in a low-lying area impacted by tidal flooding and sea level rise.

When storms arrive, airports, cargo ports and financial centers close halting the movement of goods and people, slowing the economy and impacting people’s livelihoods. When land is washed away or homes and businesses are destroyed by floodwater, people’s life savings are threatened; they may be left homeless and jobless. These impacts will be more frequent as sea levels rise and storms become stronger.

What can we as ordinary citizens do to help prepare and protect our family, communities, and our society for sea level rise?

  • Be educated. By learning all that we can about climate change and sea level rise, we can support efforts to stem the tide.
  • Be prepared. Make sure our families are ready for a big storm by having a plan and the necessary items on hand to make sure we stay safe.
  • Be inspired to take action. Support legislation that demands action on climate change and reduce your own carbon footprint. Having a home energy audit is a great place to start!

Join us for Boston Waters Rising on October 29th and learn more!

Today’s blog contributor is W2O board member Dianne Brown

Terms Defined

Storm Surge occurs when the winds from coastal storms push water inland. It occurs at all tide levels, but causes the most damage at high tides and king tides. In other words, the higher the water level at the time of the surge, the more water will be pushed inland, resulting in greater flooding. The greater the flooding, the longer it will last, simply because the water will take longer to drain away. The longer the flooding lasts the more human suffering and economic damage it will inflict.

A King Tide The height of a tide is controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon on the earth, which varies during the month, as the moon waxes and wanes. The tide is highest when we have a full moon or a new moon. A king tide occurs several times during the year when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the Earth at the same time the Earth’s elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun.

Sea Level Rise is an increase in the level of our oceans, relative to the land. It is generally measured in three ways: satellite data, tide gauges, and land benchmarks. Sea level rise is occurring because of two phenomena – the absorption of additional heat in our atmosphere by the ocean and the melting of land ice (glaciers & ice sheets). Although scientific estimates vary about the amount of sea level rise we will experience, due to uncertain rates of land ice melt, climate scientists all agree that globally seas have risen an average of 8 inches since 1880 and that they will continue to rise from their present level.

 

Posted on 10/01//15

 

 

TICKETS HERE!W20.WR.2015_fall.evitejpg

Posted on 09/28//15

Getting plastic, especially single use, out of your kitchen doesn’t have to be inconvenient, expensive or a drag. A tiny bit of thought and some help from our plastic free links will set you on your way to living without single use plastic. Once the bug has taken hold, you won’t look back. Good for you, Good for the Oceans.

Facts about Plastic Pollution from 5 Gyres
Plastic Free Living
Plastic Free Product Links
Storage and Gear
Bioplastics-Are they really “GREEN”

Image

 

Posted on 05/25//15

Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Yes, they might be in your toothpaste, face wash, and spa-like exfoliant! Micro beads, tiny plastic particles that give that buffing component to your products and then marketed as making you squeaky clean, are rinsed off of your body, enter our waterways and end up in our oceans. “By the billions,” according to Rachel Abram’s research for the poignant article in the New York Times “Fighting Plastic Bead Pollution.” 

“Once dispersed into the ocean, everything from plankton to whales is ingesting these plastics,” said Tanya Cox, Marine Plastics Officer with Fauna and Flora International (FFI). “In the water, they attract persistent environmental toxins, such as DDT, which work their way up the food chain until they are ultimately consumed by humans. All of a sudden, this not only becomes a pressing environmental issue but one that could directly affect humans.”

photo: savethewater.org

photo: savethewater.org

So, what can you do? Start by saying no to single use plastic and by making sure that your special products don’t include the plastic ingredients that are polluting you and our oceans.

“Checking really is easier than it sounds,” according to the special “Good Scrub Guide” produced by FFI and its partners, Surfrider International and Marine Conservation Society. “Just take a peek at the ingredient list on the back of your product. polyethylene and polypropylene are the two main types of plastic to look out for. To be on the safe side, also check the product is free from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon and you’re good to go.” Still wondering? Check out the  “Good Scrub Guide” or put the “Beat the Microbead” app on your smartphone. Choose well, we only have one ocean and one you!

Download the “Good Scrub Guide” and find the “Beat the Microbead” app  here.

 

Posted on 05/07//15

Thinking of a picnic outing on Mother’s Day?  Make your picnic perfect and plastic free! Plastic is forever! And because it breaks down over time into small pieces, most of it ends up in our waterways and finally our oceans, where it is mistaken for food by the fish that we in turn eat.

A Perfect Picnic along the Charles River, Boston

A Perfect Picnic along the Charles River, Boston

Below are some fabulous links to W2O’s favorite plastic free websites to inspire you to nix the plastic and bring reusables when planning your day at the beach or picnic in your community.  Newly marketed “bioplastics” are not the answer here. Products that are promised to be green aren’t neccesarily compostable unless they are disposed of properly. Lesley McClurg for Capital Public Radio (full article here) explains, “You might buy the tableware believing it’s better for the environment. But, that depends on where you toss it out.” So beware! Products marked “compostable” might not be the best choice.

Consider using stainless steel cutlery and glass containers for your day out. Packing with a bit of thought adds flair, sophistication and makes a ho hum event special. Think about using a wicker basket and lovely blanket with glasses and plates or simply use an old bedspread, reusable bag and any covered containers that you can easily pack and then bring home. Nix the plastics and show off some innovative creativity and style. Start a conversation with your guests about why you made the choice to make your picnic perfect and plastic free!

Photo: foodimentary.com

Photo: foodimentary.com

 

Eco Lunchbox has a great selection of beautiful lunch boxes and bags complete with utensils and cloth napkins.

ecolunchbox-picnic-abes

Snazzy ideas from Eco Lunchbox

Life without Plastic has a variety of economical cool plastic free options. Check out their sale items.

Life Without Plastic! the good life!

Life Without Plastic! the good life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hamper, although a bit pricey, is a classic from Crate and Barrel and will last you a lifetime.  Careful that you don’t get sucked into the melamine and acrylic gear marketed alongside the basket. Instead opt for the cool class bottle! Cheers! peterboro-handmade-picnic-basket

And finally, check out the following links to learn more about plastic pollution and the easy steps you can do to start living a plastic free life:

Surfrider Foundation: Rise Above Plastics
Center for Biological Diversity: Ocean Plastic 

Posted on 04/12//15

Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

W2O’s event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity, was a huge success. The Imax was nearly full; our luncheon sold out. Union of Concerned Scientist Senior Analyst Erika Spanger-Siegfried’s explanation of the science of warming oceans inspired conversations about the affects of sea level rise across the globe. The juxtaposition of what actions rich and poor nations are taking to mitigate and prepare for rising seas was clearly shown in George Steinmetz’s moving photography. But success for W2O is measured by what happens after you leave our events. Are you taking the message home to your family and communities? Educating to inspire action is our mission!

Please take a look at the action card, given to each attendee at our event, and consider how you can help reduce emission that have ramifications close to home and as far away as Kiribati, the island nation and home to our event guest Ambassador Baaro.

Han_W20_Apr9_-10

photo credit: Li Han

Founder and Chair of W2O, Barbara Burgess says, “Now is the time to take action to protect our blue planet.” Join W2O, “like us” on Facebook to make sure that you are up to date on all of our events, and tell a friend about what you are doing today to take action on this important issue. Thank you for joining with us to make our blue planet sustainable!

Posted on 03/28//15

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

With our upcoming W2O event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity right around the corner, we are taking another look at our own energy usage and thinking about how to curb emissions right here in our homes. Making everyone’s home energy efficient would go a long way to curbing human induced climate change that leads to our warming oceans and sea level rise. Getting a home energy audit is the first step and it is FREE! All it takes is a couple of hours of following a trained auditor around your house. We stumbled upon Martha Stone-Martins personal testimony of her experience with Homeworks, an energy company from Woburn Massachusetts. The disclaimer to this testimony, which reads like a love letter, is that Martha’s web design business, Linkwell, helped Homeworks build their webpage five years ago. Our personal relationship with Martha validates her testimony which came into our mailbox as a neighbor to neighbor “wow, I loved this” moment completely unsolicited! Here is Martha’s unedited email:

Sorry for the blast but thought I would share this favorable home owner experience. A few years ago, Linkwell did a website/logo for this firm in Woburn called www.homeworksenergy.com. They are a firm that does insulation, weatherstripping etc. But most interesting is they are a contractor for MASS SAVE which offers free energy audits of your home. It took me a year to finally call to do one but it was so worthwhile that I had to share.

You can call MASS SAVE for a list of contractors or go to homeworksenergy.com to schedule.
Blair came to my house (she has been doing home audits for 5 years and has a master’s in sustainable energy) on time, armed with her computer, tools and printer. 3 hours later, I had $1000 worth of free LED bulbs (nice ones that emit warm light), 2 programmable thermostats and a special energy saving power strip. We went room by room with her infra red tool that measured heat loss. Happily we learned that our house has good insulation and the windows are in pretty good shape. But she could have showed you exactly where your walls may needed more or a window needed weatherstripping. She showed me the impact of shutting blinds or curtains in the winter. She checked the flues in both the heating system and the hotwater for CO2 leakage. All the data was loaded to MASS Save and I received a final report with her recommendations. She prepared a quote on site to do a a bit of foam insulation where the exterior walls hit the stone foundation in the basement and weatherstrip the doors. This quote for work which will be done by homeworks came to about $550. But with the MASS Save incentives, it will cost us $64.00.

Blair Kershaw from Home Energy Works writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete the energy audit

Blair Kershaw from Homeworks Energy writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete every energy audit

Homeworks also recommends Window Woman, window-woman-ne.com from Peabody who can renovate existing single pane windows in old homes. That was also a very positive experience. Alison came out and looked at all our old windows that I assumed we would have to replace someday. She commented that in shape single pane windows with storms are almost as energy efficient as new double pane. They offer services to tune up (check glazing, replace ropes with more stylish chains, fix broken parts that hold the window in firmly) as well as restoration and complete replacement. She also pointed me to a storm window person if I wanted to replace some of these.

So with the MASS Save 40 free LED lights and the rest I just purchased onsale at Lowes last weekend ($15 LED floods for $5 and $10 LED reg size for $5), and a few cranky hours with a teenager on a ladder, we are all LED. All warm light, all dimmable. Looking forward to our next energy bill.

DSCN4614

Martha Stone-Martin
Principal, Linkwell Services, LLC
www.linkwell.com

 

Posted on 03/08//15

Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

With our upcoming event on April 9th, Rising Waters: The Impact on Humanity, W2O is researching island nations and their struggles for acknowledgment and help regarding their plight of losing their homeland and livelihood as a result of rising seas.  How do we, living so far away from most of these coastal communities, help raise awareness that carbon emissions have directly affected the most vulnerable populations?

The topic of sea level rise is gaining momentum in the press and being discussed across the globe. Cities everywhere are making sea level rise adaptation strategies.  The Guardian has announced that it “is embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it. In the first, an extract taken from the introduction to THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein, the author argues that if we treat climate change as the crisis it is, we don’t just have the potential to avert disaster but could improve society in the process…”

“We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts…There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth. The good news is that many of these changes are distinctly uncatastrophic. Many are downright exciting.”

Over the winter break, W2O was fortunate to have a terrific intern game to learn more about how W2O works and what messages we use to communicate protecting our  oceans. We asked intern Lizzie Savage to choose an island that is in eminent danger from encroaching seas and give us a sense of the challenges that these communities face. With gratitude to Lizzie, we have this profile to share:

The small island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, was once known for its white sandy beaches, and expansive coral reefs. However, in the past decade or so, Tuvalu has become more popularly known as one of the many small island countries whose population risks extinction due to sea level rise.  Tuvalu has been recognized as highly “vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, including “coastal erosion, flooding and inundation, increasing salinity of fresh ground-water supplies, destruction of primary sources of subsistence, and destruction of personal and community property.”  Each one of these impacts contributes to making life on Tuvalu more difficult and increasingly uninhabitable.

No matter the circumstance, having to leave the life you know and love in your home country for a new and daunting life somewhere else is not easy. Although the living situation in Tuvalu has become increasingly burdensome and unsafe, inhabitants have a hard time bearing the thought of leaving, and for good reason. “We don’t want to leave this place. We don’t want to leave, it’s our land, our God given land, it is our culture, we can’t leave. People won’t leave until the very last minute,” explained Paani Laupepa, the former assistant secretary of Tuvalu’s Ministry of Natural Resources.  Tuvaluans are faced with extreme hardships, such as frequent flooding that reaches to the middle of the island destroying crops and trees, or salt water seeping through holes in the ground creating puddles one to two feet deep which often surround homes and offices. Living a life in Tuvalu is not easy, but for many it is their home, and home is not something you easily give up on. Generations upon generations have built their lives, and endless memories in Tuvalu and have planned to continue doing so for generations to come. The sad truth though, is that if nothing is done to prevent further sea level rise, the island nation of Tuvalu will not be around long enough to be a home for future generations.

As climate change poses threat to the lives of Tuvaluans, some seek a life elsewhere. For most, this elsewhere is New Zealand. “New Zealand has agreed to welcome 75 immigrants (from Tuvalu) annually,” assuming that the they are of good standing, have basic English skills, are in good health, under 45 years old and have a job offer in New Zealand. This gesture, however, will only make a small dent for the nation of Tuvalu, whose population is nearing 10,000 people. “In 2001, the Australian government was asked to consider accepting migrants from Tuvalu. It refused to commit to [the] request.”  In order to ensure the survival of this small nation, and others among it, larger and more powerful countries will have to step up and be open to sharing their communities with those who are being displaced from their own.
New Zealand recently granted residency to a Tuvaluan family who claimed that if they were to return to their lives in Tuvalu they would be putting themselves at risk. The family had been living illegally in New Zealand for many years while simultaneously trying to gain work visas and status as refugees.  Gaining residency in New Zealand is extremely difficult because the International Refugee Convention does not consider those who suffer as a result of climate change to be refugees. The Convention “doesn’t provide an open ticket for people from all the places that are impacted by climate change. It’s still a very stringent test and it requires exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.”  The Tuvaluan family who gained residency in New Zealand was the first to do so on humanitarian grounds.
Although there is only one success story in regards to humanitarian based residency appeals, it represents hope for more similar stories of its kind in the future. As many small island nations continue to suffer as a result of climate change, more and more families and individuals will begin to seek residency elsewhere.  In order for these nations to find safety and a new home, the developed nations of the world must open up both their hearts and their borders to the ever-growing number of climate change refugees.