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.

photoWhat are you reading that might be of interest to our Ocean Loving members this summer?

Blueberry Pie!

Blueberry Pie!

Scott Wilson of Wilson Farm responded to my query about plastic containers for blueberries with a thoughtful email describing the devotion that Wilson has to being a sustainable and earth friendly company. “Farmers in general are environmentalists by nature and by need.  We think of and treat our environment (our land and water) as one would think of and treat their child: as the most important thing in our lives.  Truth be told, we have been environmentalists since long before it was a cause. As an example, we have been composting our greens since our inception in 1884. It is with the environment in mind that we run our family farm.”

According to Scott, those plastic containers for blueberries are not the norm-they were used to differentiate two products and now that Wilson’s own blueberries are harvested, they are back to the pulp/paper green containers that we are use to seeing. I hope he can find a solution to that issue for next time and nixsay the plastic which as we all know is seldom recycled and not “biodegradable” but just breaks down into tiny fragments that then seep into soil and ocean. Watching..and not breaking up…yet.

To W2O and many other Ocean Advocates, the appointment of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the EPA signals the possibility of change and action regarding our usage of carbon pollution.”Serious efforts” says the White House, with a real powerhouse of a woman (and fellow Massachusetts native) leading the charge for a cleaner planet. Can we have tentative hope that she will be able to implement a serious strategy for curbing emissions that are threatening our health and the health of our planet?

Gina McCarthy at her confirmation as Administrator of the EPA (Washington Post)

Gina McCarthy at her confirmation as Administrator of the EPA (Washington Post)

 

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.

http://www.thebetterfish.com/sustainability/massachusetts-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.

http://www.eandtfarmsinc.com/

Island Creek Oyster

Photo: .http://www.islandcreekoysters.com/

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!

http://www.sky8shrimpfarm.com/

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.

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

 

Taxis under waterA USA Today article by Tom King, CEO of National Grid and Jeff Sterba, CEO of American Water, highlights a new study from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions that asks business to think about investing now to protect customers from high costs related to Climate related damage to infrastructure by becoming “extreme weather resilient.”  We all know that cost to companies ends up as cost to the customer.  Are companies and communities listening to Mother Nature?  “The report found that 55 of the Standard & Poor’s Global 100 companies have already experienced the effects of extreme weather or expect to within the next five years. Condemned factories, loss of power and water supplies, rising insurance and raw material costs, and disruption of supply and distribution chains, are just a few of the many brutal business realities.” Preparedness, updated systems and thoughtful choices today could save millions (or billions!) in the future.

The Boston Globe article on use and overuse of air conditioning and its affect on the environment made me feel guilty of my own consumption in the last week and relieved that the forecast predicts less heat and humidity for the next few days. “According to Stan Cox, author of the 2010 book “Losing Our Cool,” air conditioning in the United States already has a global-warming impact equivalent to every US household driving an extra 10,000 miles per year.” I guess its time to reflect and use less (hard to do and sometimes unsafe when the weather has been a furnace for the last week..but maybe easier to do when there is moderate temps like today and I can just turn it down or off, even though I might have to convince my family that it is ok to feel warm.)

Beating the heat!

Beating the heat!

 

Wilson's Farm (curtesy of big photo.com)

Wilson’s Farm (curtesy of big photo.com)

I am so lucky that I live within a short drive to many wonderful places to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. One of my favorite local haunts is Wilson’s Farm in Lexington, Ma.   It has been around for years and I love its fresh produce, lovely atmosphere and fabulous service.  I feel excitement when I find a parking spot under one of the trees closest to the cute walkway where I always seem to run into someone I know.

But wait.  Shopping in the last few months, I have noticed that like most stores, they have increased their packaging and use of plastics. I use to bring my bags, wander around and pull loose veggies and fruits from the stands and proceed to checkout…arrive home and use my handy dandy “storing fruits and vegetable guide from ecology center.org, which gives tips on how to store fruits and veggies with no plastic.  I was sad to see the blueberries in a plastic container today. “OUR OWN” is written on the label, which is prominently displayed and makes me excited to buy-but then in a plastic container? Rows and rows of beautiful fruit in plastic… I guess I need to find someone to ask about this and the recent changes…I will take the time to find out. I love this place…It is such a shame and I would hate to have to avoid yummy foods that I normally would buy (expensive too-but I feel worth it) or worse, find another place to shop…I don’t want to break up with Wilson’s Farms!

IMG_0823 2W2O seeing another reminder today about why it is important to refuse plastic (yes, support that Massachusetts Plastic Bag Reduction Bill) and polluting waste when ever you have the option to do so. Todays Boston Globe the article “Are Big Blue Bins Bad for Recycling” talks about the limited success of single stream trash collection and outlines the list of “non recyclables.”

“At the plant, six people using hands and hooks pull non-recyclables off the line before the machines take over. Broken umbrellas, Styrofoam containers, wire hangers, plastic bags: all trash.”

Think about what you can do! It could be a simple “no” to a plastic straw, a plastic bag or a styrofoam cup.  It is easier than it seems. We can all play a part in keeping ourselves healthy and the ocean free of single use waste. Summer months mean cold drinks. We all love a frozen drink, iced coffee or tea.  I have been carrying my cup in the car (it tastes great in anything but plastic!) or if I am out and about without, I have asked the vendor to just put my drink in a paper cup. I get some funny looks and comments like “this cup won’t support that” and “it won’t be kept cold” Bullhicky. Icy and cold. I also did a little test the other day..the fear I had was that the cold drink would seep through the paper and ruin my oh so righteous moment of success.  Well, yes, it does seep through, but only after about an hour. If you are like me, you are consuming that cool lovely drink the moment you receive it! So, enjoy…but refuse the plastic.

W2O loves our partners and friends at The New England Aquarium because it supports and funds research that protects what we love. Come to Aquarium for a free evening event July 17th at the Imax Theater Aquarium and learn about how the New England Aquariums’s Marine Conservation Action Fund helped Daniel Fernando on his quest to protect the majestic Manta Ray.

Underwater Flight: Protecting the Manta Rays of Sri Lanka

Daniel Fernando, project leader, Manta Trust – Sri Lanka
With widths reaching more than 20 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and weighing in at up to 2 tons, the graceful and mysterious manta is the largest of the ray species. Sadly, manta rays and their relatives, the mobula rays, are threatened by overfishing due to a growing demand for their gills for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Daniel Fernando, a scientist with the Manta Trust, has been documenting the grave impact of this fishery in Sri Lanka and India, which are among the world’s major exporters of dried manta and mobula gills. Fernando’s study, which was supported in part by the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund, contributed to a major victory for manta and mobula rays in March, 2013, when the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to strengthen trade regulations for these species. Fernando will speak about his research and the race to ensure the survival of these magnificent and highly vulnerable species. Register here.