Category Archives: environment

reading the fine print

There is much medical research that touts the benefits of eating a diet high in Omega 3s and DHA, especially during pregnancy. One of the best places to get your Omegas is through fish. Not only does eating fish help lower depression during and after pregnancy, but it is also shown to aid in eye and brain development of the baby. Okay. I’m on board. Time to eat my omegas.

Except…except…I don’t really like fish. I loved fish when we were sailing in the Caribbean and we hauled fresh tuna and mahi aboard for sushi and tuna tartare. But big game fish are off limits during pregnancy due to increased levels of mercury and other toxins. I’ve tried wild caught salmon, catfish, tilapia–yuck, yuck, yuck. So what about taking fish oil supplements? A recent study (which, for the life of me, I can’t find) argued that you have to actually eat the fish to get the benefits. Other studies now show that there is no correlation between enhanced levels of DHA and baby brain development. I say tomatoe, you say toematoe?

Regardless, eating fish is a healthy, low-fat way to get protein. I’m trying to make an active effort to get some canned tuna (ok as long as it isn’t albacore) or sardines in my diet a couple times a week.

open-face sardine melt on homemade whole wheat bread. Cabot, seriously sharp cheddar.

I was excited when I found this new brand of sardines in the grocery store: Wild Planet, wild sardines. The box and their website purports that they are “sustainably caught along the California coast.” Great. But then turn the box on its side and look at the fine print: “processed in Vietnam.”

Are you kidding me? They sustainably catch the fish off of California, ship it to Vietnam for processing, and then ship it halfway across the world to Philadelphia where it ends up on my plate? Sure, they may be practicing sustainable fishing methods, but Wild Planet is not practicing sustainable processing and delivery methods.

Don’t even get me started on the canned yellowfin tuna you can buy at Trader Joes.

 

I’ve been thinking about trash.

I’ve been thinking about trash lately. How much we make; where it goes; how to make less; what happens when it gets to its destination.

We save plastic shopping bags from the grocery store and use those as trash bags. When the space under the sink is filling up with plastic bags, we take canvas bags to the store. When we’re running out of plastic bags, we leave the canvas bags at home. When the trash needs to be emptied, we take it up to the marina trash room and dump it in a big trash barrel. Once a week a trash truck comes and takes the trash. Recycling? Nope. It’s 2011 and there still is no recycling at this marina.

But is there a way to reduce my plastic use. A few months ago I read a quote by a guy who was talking about the food industry’s tendency to wrap cheese in plastic. We are wrapping something with a shelf life of about 3 months with a wrapper that will last much, much longer. Why not wax paper? The same holds true for my trash bags. A lot of my trash is biodegradable: paper, food waste; yet I stuff it in plastic bags where its chance of biodegrading is slim to none.

How about using paper bags for trash bags? Well, all the wet trash (food scraps) would make the bag soggy leaving me with the great risk of dumping a bag load of trash on the marina dock before making it up to the trash room. Plastic bags for food waste? But that defeats the purpose. The biodegradable stuff would be wrapped in plastic.

Any ideas?

the reward

I believe that a gorgeous sunrise is nature’s reward for waking up early. This is what greeted us this morning as I fried up eggs and sipped my hot tea.

I saw my favorite sunrises at sea while we were on passage on s/v Whisper. Passage sunrises were the reward for a restless, sometimes sleepless night, sharing 3 hour watches. Passage sunrises signaled the end of a long, cold night and brought the promise of hot tea and coffee.

en route between Dominican Republic and the Bahamas

Sunrises in Sweden in the summer are amazing. Sunset turns into sunrise and the event lasts at least seven hours. (If you want to see the sunrise, you need to stay up from 11PM to 6AM–and how do you tell when the sunset stops and the sunrise starts?)

3:00AM, Holmsund, Sweden

If you’re watching the sunrise in Philadelphia in the winter, don’t let your eyes stray from it for too long because it quickly turns to a cold, gray winter sky.

anybody want to play soccer in the desert?

A satellite image of Qatar. Lush soccer fields? Nope. It's a desert!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

I’ve been complaining, grumbling, and preaching from my soap box ever since FIFA announced that Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. Hans (no doubt sick of my repeated proclamations) told me to write a blog posting (presumably to engage an audience larger than two).  Without further ado:

QATAR? The World Cup? Do you know how hot it gets in Qatar in June? The average high is 106 degrees! Am I upset that FIFA said no to the US as a host? Yes, of course. But my main gripe is the environmental implications of this choice. Qatar is a desert. Wikipedia describes Qatar as “a low, barren plain, covered with sand.”

  • How do you play soccer in a desert? To play soccer in the desert (unless they’ll be playing on sand, which I doubt), Qatar will have to import sod. Lots of sod. They’ll have to make water, lots of water, to hydrate the sod.

Perhaps I am misinformed. Look! Grass does grow in Qatar!

(Image courtesy of: School of Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton University, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~imw/Qatar-Sabkhas.htm)

  • How does a desert nation make water? Reverse osmosis. How does a desert nation run a r/o plant? Why, oil of course. Oh how convenient. Qatar is dripping in oil.
  • How will the players run up and down the field for 90+ minutes without dying of heat stroke? Simple. Air conditioning. Qatar has promised to build “open air air conditioned stadiums.” Yes. You read that correctly. It sounds like an oxymoron but that’s the plan. And how will they run the air conditioning? Oil.
  • Where will the players and fans stay? In hotels. And how will they stay cool? Air conditioning. Powered by…oil.
  • And how will all these people shower in the desert? Aha! Using that r/o water which is made in the r/o plant which is powered by oil.

Let me pause for a minute to let out a scream of frustration.

In a time when climate change and global warming are finally getting some mention in popular culture, this is a giant step backward. FIFA is basically giving the earth the middle finger and for whatever political and economic reasons, they have decided that Qatar, a desert nation, is the best place to hold the biggest international sporting event in the world.

Qatar, apparently, does not have much of an environmental conscience:

“Qatar has the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person in 2005.” And, get this: “Major uses of energy in Qatar include air conditioning, natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production.” (source: Wikipedia) Can you even imagine how high these figures will rise during the month-long World Cup?

Qatar playing host to the World Cup is akin to Arizona and New Mexico hosting the winter Olympics.

no joy rides without taxation

2000
Pack of cigarettes: $3.30
gallon of gas: ~$1.50

2010
pack of cigarettes: $7.00
gallon of gas: $2.55

In 2000 a pack of cigarettes cost only $1.80 more than a gallon of gas. Today, a pack of cigarettes costs over $4.00 more than a gallon of gas. Why the big jump? Taxes pay a large role in determining the cost of cigarettes. Gasoline is also taxed. BUT, at a much lower rate than cigarettes. Proponents of the cigarette tax say that the health hazards of smoking are proven and documented, thus justifying the high taxes. Using the same knowledge, climate change scientists also state that the environmental hazards of carbon dioxide emitting vehicles is also proven and documented. Perhaps it’s time to consider taxing gasoline in the same manner that we tax cigarettes, as a environmental and health hazard.

Do you want some hormones with your eggs?

Dunkin & Styrofoam cups

I love Dunkin Donuts.  The donuts are basically puffed white flour and sugar, the coffee is weak, but I can’t resist the Mass. based breakfast franchise.  Maybe it’s the pink and orange color scheme that appeals to me or its blue-collar Mass. roots or the feeling of holding hot coffee and a sugar glazed French cruller, but what doesn’t appeal to me is the Styrofoam to-go coffee cups.  I get Dunkin about once a month, but the woman who works down the hall from me stops there every day for coffee and a donut.  Five Styrofoam coffee cups a week, 50 weeks a year adds up to 250 styrofoam cups a year.  Let’s say that 10% of Philadelphians follow the same morning routine. That is 154,000 people.  38,500,000 coffee cups a year! It’s time for Dunkin to switch to paper.  Better yet, it’s time for Dunkin’s customers to bring their own to-go cups.

Sailing for SOS

A big congratulations to a blog friend who hasn’t had Dunkin for a loong time: Lee Winters successfully arrived in Fatu Hiva (a tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) after 21 days at sea alone on his little sailboat.  Lee and I “met” through the Log of Whisper.  He sat at his office job day in and day out dreaming of going cruising.  Our roles are now reversed.    Read all about his voyage and the charity he is raising money for, SOS Children’s Villages, at his website: Sailing for SOS

Hormone injected eggs?

Hans and I buy the majority of our groceries at Reading Terminal Market and Trader Joes.  Last night we needed a few items that were specific to the grocery store (baking powder being one) so we went to the nearby Super Fresh.  We pushed the cart up and down the aisles looking for the best price on almonds, searching out good crackers and salt-free canned tomatoes.  A couple observations:

  • chicken.  Purdue advertises hormone-free, all natural* chicken.  What is that pesky little asterisk?  *The USDA/FDA regulates that no poultry can be injected with hormones or other additives.  So they are advertising the fact that they are following USDA/FDA guidelines.  Do they want a pat on the back?
  • Eggs.  I had a coupon for Eggland’s Best eggs – 50 cents off a dozen.  Yikes! These ones are loaded with Vitamin B6; look over here, these ones have Omega vitamins!  How about some eggs from hens that run around and eat grain and bugs in the ground?

counting my carbon

As Southwest Flight 1073 taxied away from Manchester airport, I thumbed through the in-flight magazine and read a short PR blurb  about Southwest’s new “green” airplane they have developed.  As the airplane started down the runway and I could hear the engines really revving up, I started thinking about how very un-green it is to fly and started feeling guilty. ‘I should have rented a car . . . I should have taken the train, or the bus. Maybe this summer I’ll bike.’ I spent the flight comparing my carbon emissions from 2008 – 2009 to 2009 – 2010. This is what I (very scientifically!) came up with:

2008 – 2009 (living on a small sailboat in the Caribbean).

Water:

  • showers a week – 1.25 gallons per shower – 2.5 gallons/week
  • drinking, dishes, cooking, laundry – 11.67 gallons/week
  • total water usage: 14.17 gallons/week

Fuel:

  • 5 gallons diesel a week
  • 5 gallons gas a week

Air travel:

  • Puerto Rico to Vermont
  • Vermont to Puerto Rico
  • Trinidad to London
  • London to Sweden
  • Sweden to Barcelona
  • Barcelona to Pisa
  • Pisa to London
  • London to Trinidad
  • Baltimore to St. Thomas
  • St. Thomas to Baltimore
  • total hours: approx. 45

Electricity:

  • solar panel
  • wind turbine

Food:

  • lobster
  • mahi, tuna
  • local, island chicken
  • rice
  • beans
  • potatoes
  • fruit, veg.

Basically, from 2008 – 2009 when I spent the majority of my time on my boat in a tropical climate, my daily carbon emissions were very small. The bulk of emissions came from air travel.

So, what happened when I moved to Philadelphia? I still live on a boat and I don’t have a car, so I don’ t think the change will be very drastic.  But, I get all my electric from the grid and I do like taking long showers. Let’s see.

2008 – 2009 (living on a powerboat in Philadelphia, hooked up to water and electric)

Water:

  • 10 minute shower, every other day –  @ 7-10 gallons/min. – 70 gallons per shower – 210 gallons/week
  • dishes, cooking, drinking – 100 gallons/week (estimate)
  • laundry – 35 gallons (he front loader) week
  • washing the boat – 100 gallons/week
  • total water usage: 445 gallons week

Fuel:

  • 0 gallons/week (I bike)

Air travel

  • Philadelphia to Providence
  • Providence to Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia to St. Kitts
  • St. Kitts to Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia to Manchester
  • Manchester to Philadelphia
  • total hours: 20

Electricity

  • plugged into electric at the dock – $40/month

food

  • venison (from VT)
  • chicken (local, PA chickens)
  • pork (local butcher, but from what pigs?)
  • fruit, veg bought at market

Interesting.  The difference in water consumption is HUGE: 14.17 gallons compared to 445 gallons! However I traveled by airplane for approximately 35 hours during 2008-2009 and only 10 from 2009-2010.  Electricity while sailing was obtained completely by solar and wind, but my electric usage is not very high living in Philadelphia.  Food:  I try to buy local as much as possible. I don’t see much of a difference here, esp. since much of the produce in the eastern caribbean is imported from larger islands and central & south america.

What has this exercise taught me? Well, it reminds me of what I already know: air travel is pretty much the easiest and fastest way for humans to contribute to climate change and global warming. No matter how energy efficient we are at home (solar, wind, biking, local food consumption), those frequent flyer miles leave a trail of black soot in our wakes.  This summer, I think we’ll travel by bus, carpool and train. (oh, except to fly to Sweden and the Dominican Republic!)