W2O says Choose to Refuse those “non recyclables” in the Globe today

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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.

Is the Bag Reusable if it has an apple on it?

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Plastic

Plastic

Apple would like us to think that its plastic white bag is a reusable bag. We might use it to take out the trash, but we certainly aren’t carrying it to the grocery store or using it as our “go to” environmentally friendly cool bag…It is Plastic. W2O believes that it is like any other single use bag-a pollutant that clogs our waterways, threatens marine animals and ultimately is a health risk to us.  Isn’t it time for Apple, an innovator on many levels, to make a great branding bag made out of a material other than plastic? Tell us what your think. Vote on our Facebook page.    Steve Jobs named Apple after his apple orchard and said in his commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005 that  “Whole Earth Catalog was the Bible of his generation.” I am sorry he is gone. I would have liked to have had this discussion with him..As our friends at Plastic Pollution Coalition  tell us:  Plastic Pollution is a health risk. Plastic is Forever.

Read more about the M.A. Bag Bill

 

Open Ocean Trading and the “Focus Fish” Initiative

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Open Ocean Trading Company's Focus Fish Initiative

Open Ocean Trading Company’s Focus Fish Initiative

W2O wants to support the replenishing of our New England endangered fish population and wants, at the same time, to support our local fishing communities.  Sometimes we feel like the two ideas don’t always easily go hand in hand, especially with the recent quota cuts for fisherman in the Northeast. Some quotas will force fisherman into selling their boats and permits because they just can’t make a decent living with the current restrictions.  Hearing about a new initiative by Open Ocean Trading gives hope that the future of the small boat fisherman will be brighter.  This new Northeast company, Open Ocean Trading (OOT), is working hard to help small boat fisheries keep fishing.

Friend of W2O, Nancy Barrett, Open Ocean Trading’s Director of Business Development describes the Initiative for “Focus Fish:”

Now is the most critical time to keep these small boat fishermen in business. We must work together to preserve the proud and well-known fishing culture that has been woven into Boston and New England history.

Open Ocean Trading believes the solution lies in the supply chain. Everything starts with the fishermen.  They are the foundation of this fragile industry and if they go, the entire system (processors, wholesalers, dealers) will be pulled down with them.  The fish you and I eat will no longer come from our shores but will be imported from overseas via large vessels where fishery management is sometimes absent. If this happens, our seafood might be less traceable, questions will linger about whether it is responsibly harvested, and it might not be a healthy choice for the consumer. We all like to know where our fish is coming from and local seems like the best choice.

Right now, OOT is helping local fishermen survive by creating a new market for previously marginalized species inside the dining halls of universities and colleges in the Northeast.  These fish, now proudly called “Focus Fish,” are the species we need to focus on now-they are the most sustainable choices both for the environment and for our New England local fishing industry.

The beauty of Focus Fish is that it is varies regionally and seasonally. What is responsible to fish for, here, in New England, is different than what people should concentrate their purchasing power on in the mid-Atlantic or on the west coast.  For example, dogfish on the west coast is considered a “red light” species, but here in New England the stocks are rebuilt, and according to recent data, have become an additional stressor to the Atlantic Cod stocks because their bellies are full of juvenile Cod fish!

By creating a market for Focus Fish in colleges and universities, everyone wins – fishermen survive quota cuts and continue fishing, the supply chain avoids collapse, and college students are introduced to new delicious, nutritious, and local species.

OOT recently held a taste test of four New England Focus Fish; Redfish, Dogfish, Pollock, and Hake, at a local campus dining hall. The students surveyed showed that:

  • 88% of the students said they care about where their fish was caught and who caught it
  • 91% felt that having a role in sustaining local community fisheries was somewhat to very important
  • 94% thought the fish they tried was as just as good, better, or much better than fish they were familiar with eating

Wellesley College, located in Massachusetts, was the first school to team up with OOT to bring Focus Fish to their campus. They believed OOT’s forward thinking approach to the fishing industry reflected their own value of innovation and sustainability.

If you are alumni of a school that shares values about sustainability or have a connection to a school that you care about, recommend that they source Focus Fish through Open Ocean Trading and help sustain the fishermen in your area. Schools can use the supply chain that they already have in place, but now they will know exactly where the fish is coming from.  Using OTT makes a real, measurable impact on the industry while supporting local, traceable, nutritious, and delicious seafood.

For more info on Open Ocean Trading: www.openoceantrading.com  and a great video of how a local fisherman uses Open Ocean Trading to maintain a healthy, profitable product: http://www.openoceantrading.com/videos.html 

 

 

Thank you from W2O and The PIPA Trust

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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.

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

Bud Ris with Dr. Teura Toatu, Executive Dir. of The PIPA Trust

 

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 Helps the Ban on Plastic Bags Move Forward

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Legislature Marks Earth Day by Advancing Ban on Plastic Bags
BOSTON – On Monday, April 22, the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, held a special hearing on proposals to ban plastic carryout bags. They immediately voted to advance the bill, taking this critical first step. The bill will now move forward and could face a final vote within the next few weeks.
Plastic bags have been singled out as a one of the most visible and dangerous types of litter. The bags take up to 1000 years to degrade, and when they do, they break up into smaller and smaller bits, never going away. They are deadly to wildlife, which mistake them for food or become entangled in them. Turtles, whales, seals, birds, and fish are the most susceptible to ingesting them, suffering a painful death as the plastic wraps around their intestines or they choke to death. Some animal species, already threatened due to issues such as overfishing or habitat loss, could face extinction.
Plastic bags also don’t biodegrade; they simply break into ever smaller plastic bits, never disappearing from our environment. These small bits, known as micro-plastics, attract toxins and carcinogens, which eventually enter the food chain, and displace food supplies in the world’s oceans.
“Like urban tumbleweeds, plastic bags end up airborne in trees, clogging storm drains and polluting our oceans. Every time we utilize a plastic bag we are contributing to leaving our planet worse for the generations that will follow us,” said State Representative Lori A. Ehrlich, (D-Marblehead), the lead sponsor of H696 “This legislation will put Massachusetts on the map as a beacon for responsible consumer behavior and environmental stewardship.”
“Over 380 billion plastic bags are used every year by Americans, and only about 5 percent are recycled. The widespread use of plastic bags has serious consequences for the environment: littering our coastlines, using up the equivalent of billions of gallons of petroleum and killing millions of animals every year. It’s time to ban this dangerous product and encourage the use of more sustainable alternatives,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
“This is a major step in the right direction for Massachusetts. With this ban, we would become one of the leaders among governments acting to protect the world we live in. We don’t have to accept plastic bags choking our oceans, rivers, birds, and animals. We can start being part of the solution,” stated Representative Denise Provost (D-Somerville).
Reps. Ehrlich, Provost, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge each sponsored similar bills to ban plastic bags.
Numerous cities and countries around the world have enacted plastic bag bans. In fact, Nantucket, Massachussetts was one of the first in the world, enacted over 20 years ago. In the last year, Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea joined with their own plastic bag bans. Every county in Hawaii has passed a ban, but passage of this bill would make Massachusetts the first state to pass a statewide ban.
This bill would ban single use plastic bags from chains and large stores and would require paper bags to be comprised of recycled material. Many grocery stores have already implemented these policies, so this would not have a significant impact.
The Massachusetts Sierra Club and other public interest organizations have been attempting to pass statewide legislation to ban plastic bags. “Public support for banning bags is overwhelming,” said Phil Sego of the Sierra Club. “Readily available sustainable substitutes make banning plastic bags a common-sense policy to protect the environment.”
“Nothing we use for five minutes should harm our oceans for generations to come,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Massachusetts.  “It’s time to say goodbye to the plastic bag.”
Also testifying in favor of a ban were Women Working for Oceans (W2O), Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Brookline Town Meeting Member Clint Richmond.
Article submitted for publication to the Boston Globe by The Sierra Club

NO to Plastic Bags-Protect What We Love on Earth Day

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Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

Meg Steiner, Barbara Burgess, Mary Alice Karol and Ellen Curren at the State House

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!

PIPA “Lists” of Particular Importance

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Scientist Randi Rotjan's supplies for her PIPA expedition

Scientist Randi Rotjan’s supplies for her PIPA expedition

 

Keith Ellenbogen's map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition

Keith Ellenbogen’s map and dive plan for the PIPA Expedition

 

I am inspired by a current Rhode Island School of Design art exhibit that is called simply, “Lists.”  The show presents lists from artists that were written in great detail before and during a project or artistic journey.  When I attended the W2O event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” today I was struck by how much effort it must have taken Scientist Randi Rotjan and underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen to mount the PIPA expeditions for the New England Aquarium.  This is a “List” worthy, massive artistic and scientific undertaking. Along with other scientists and photographers, Randi and Kieth kept lists and double checked to make sure that only the most necessary equipment took the trip on the relatively small vessel that travels 5 days at sea from Fiji to reach the remote Phoenix Islands and the Island Nation of Kanton. And these last details only after years of planning, fund raising, researching and coordinating with other conservation organization.  The time, effort and expense are well worth the results and revelation that come from exploring the islands, learning about the small community living on them and studying this laboratory of intact coral reef system and ocean marine life. The area is now free of commercial fishing and damaging habitat destruction and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the deepest and largest World Heritage site on Earth.

Today’s event, “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” was magical in image, informative in content and inspiring to all of us. Our take away “Action” today: Please put ocean protection on your “philanthropic dance card” and  support the PIPA project.

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen

Census of Kanton Island Residents curtesy of Keith Ellenbogen

MSC Labeled Swordfish Please, Hold the Shark

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Image from sustainablesushi.net

I caught the ending of an interesting program today on NPR that explained and questioned the labeling of fish by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).  I see the labels in Whole Foods and other retail outlets and have always just taken for granted that the label was a signal to me that what I was purchasing was “sustainable.”  I am like you-I want to do the right thing and buy fish that are not endangered or in decline. I also want to support fisheries that care about sustaining species of fish for their own livelihood and our culinary enjoyment. The labeling of fish by the MSC seems like a great idea but doesn’t always fulfill the promise of sustainability.

Unilever, one of the largest producers of frozen fish, and The World Wildlife Fund devised the MSC labeling at the height of the Atlantic Cod decline in the 90s.  “The MSC does not certify fisheries itself. Instead, a fishery that wants the label hires one of roughly a dozen commercial auditing companies to decide whether its practices comply with the MSC’s definition of “sustainable.” Sounds like a wonderful idea….

The comment that struck me as I listened today made my heart sink; ( I won’t get the quote just right and can’t find it anywhere in the article) “When you buy swordfish for dinner are you ok with the fact that three sharks were caught along with it?”  The sharks caught are usually release but the stress causes many of them to die anyway.  My taste for my favorite fish suddenly makes me not hungry. “This touches on one of MSC’s three fundamental rules, even though studies show swordfish are plentiful. The second rule says that a fishery is not sustainable if it does not maintain “the integrity of ecosystems” — which means, in part, that it’s not sustainable if there is too much by-catch,” says Steve Campana, who runs the Canadian government’s Shark Research Laboratory, near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

MSC has engaged the interest of the public by contracting with big companies such as Walmart and Target, which are drivers of change for sure-so maybe this is a good thing for some that are just starting their journey about caring for our fish and oceans.  If labeling is done well, we should rejoice that this system has become popular. But this consumer is now concerned that she doesn’t know enough to trust what she reads and will be questioning labels and doing some more research on this important topic.

 

The Other Cliff-Tap the Breaks on Climate Change

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The big new today, of course, is not new news at all. We are all feeling the effects of climate change and thankfully it is a “hot” (pun intended) topic in the press.  Graphs and headlines that show that 2012 was the hottest ever on record are scary but hopefully will squelch the skepticism that still exists about whether or not our own actions are contributing to last year’s extreme heat and drought. Scientists are convinced that last year’s record temps are caused by “natural variability but “many of them express doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases” (NY Times 1/9/13).

Tucked away in the Op-Ed section of the NY Times Thomas Friedman makes the analogy that we need to “tap the breaks” on climate change because we are “driving towards a cliff in a fog.”  I won’t get political here but we all know that a cliff is a cliff and we can’t go over it-whether financially or environmentally.  Mr. Friedman puts it eloquently: “Indeed we are actually taunting the two most powerful and merciless forces on the planet, the market and Mother Nature, at the same time. We’re essentially saying to both of them: “Hey, what’ve you got, baby? No interest rate rises? A little bitty temperature increase? Thats all you’ve got?  I just hope we get our act tougher before the market and Mother Nature each show us what they’ve got.”

What We Should Be Doing Anyway

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Derek Speirs for the NYTimes

My favorite New Years quote (NYTimes 12/28) comes from Dr. Frank Convery, an economist at the University of Dublin, and refers to the strides made by Ireland to reduce their overwhelming fiscal deficit while creating low carbon emissions with the introduction of a carbon footprint tax.  By introducing the tax and changing behavior, Ireland has reduced its emission by 15% since 2008.  Dr Convery: “You don’t want to waste a good crisis to do what we should be doing anyway.”