Monday, January 31, 2011

The Economics of Happiness

Last Thursday (Jan 27) I went to a screening of the documentary "The Economics of Happiness at the Cooper Union in downtown Manhattan, New York City. It was a great documentary documenting the need for the world's economy to shift from globalization to a locally based one. There were 8 key facts that they highlighted about globalization.


  1. Makes us unhappy (There is now more depression and stress than ever because we are constantly striving for more. Our happiness is based on "stuff," of which we always want more!)
  2. Breeds insecurity (corporations are raising our children!)
  3. Wastes natural resources (consume, consume, consume)
  4. Accelerates Climate Change
  5. Destroys livelihoods
  6. Increases conflict
  7. Is built on handouts to big businesses
  8. Is based on false accounting

One great quotation from the movie:

"You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet."

So simple - yet so true. After this was said the entire audience released a sigh of understanding and contemplation.

But the film did have a sort of sense of hopelessness. It is great when a movie can make you feel depressed about a subject and then lift you up at the end with an inspirational call to action, but at the end of this movie the message was that we really can't change most of this. It is up to governments and big businesses to change regulations. The U.S. currently imports and exports similar amounts, and that is not something that is going to change by using reusable bags and reducing your waste - this is something that has to change fundamentally with policy and from the top.

However I do highly recommend the film. Here is a link to the website:

No Impact Eater

This week my goal is going to be to eat sustainable. I am going to go all out this week - eating the most local, sustainable, organic, and least processed food as possible. Next week I will choose the changes that I can reasonable stick with for the long term.

We already eat relatively sustainable at home - minimal processed foods and as much local and organic produce as possible. This week I will aim for the following goals:

  1. No corn or soy products: This is actually one of the hardest things to do! We don't realize it, but corn and soy are in everything from Splenda to almost all packaged foods. Our food system right now is suffering from our excessive use of these products. 
  2. Organic: Saying no to pesticides!
  3. Local: This one is the hardest for the time of year. It really is hard to find all local products in the middle of the winter in New York City (where we have recently had a record 56 inches of snow!) I will do my best, but undoubtedly there will be some food this week that won't be local. 
  4. Sustainable: I'm going to use the Good Guide on as much as I can - although many of their products are (understandably) processed and prepackaged.
  5. The fewer the ingredients, the better!
  6. No Aspartame: I just had to add this one with all the health risks I have heard recently about Aspartame. Although it is not directly related to sustainability I am currently an aspartame junkie and would like to kick the habit!
This is my own modified and simpler version of No Impact Man's conditions. (If you haven't seen his movie i highly suggest it). 

I also have a facebook page that I made for this over the summer (when i tried this before). 
I will be writing there this week as well.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

E-waste Recycling

E-waste (or electronic waste) is a huge waste issue. Tons of e-waste end up in landfills each year and leach toxic chemical into our water systems and air.  In fact, e-waste is responsible for up to 40% of all toxins in landfills. Many communities (including my own) have started setting up e-waste drives where people can drop off e-waste to be recycled by paid (private) companies. I even organized 2 of these in the past year. But recently there has been some speculation as to whether these companies actually recycle or just ship it overseas to be pick apart by hand by underpaid workers, including children. 

Following these claims, I am planning to take a "field trip" to the recycling plant of the company we used - WeRecycle. Overall, the company was friendly, but startlingly unorganized.  Many community organizers have held e-waste drives using this company, so hopefully I will find good things. 

Below are a couple of videos on the topic. 

Greenpeace Video on E-waste

What do you think about the e-waste recycling business? Comment below!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Here's another disturbing video. I have considered vegetarianism many times, and ultimately decided that as long as I get my food from local, organic, sustainable, and ethical stores and companies, humans are meant to be omnivores. But I'm not sure I'll be eating chicken for dinner tonight after watching the video above. I found it in this post on Elephant Journal. It's not the first of this type of thing I've seen - reading Omnivore's Dilemma is a pretty good wake up call along with some other YouTube videos that I've seen.

Meatless Monday is a great initiative to start cutting meat out of your diet without completely becoming vegetarian.

Artificial Selection

This video, I have to say, is disturbing. Artificially selecting for body-builderesque cows just seems convoluted to me. And thinking about dinner is possibly one of the last things I want to do while I watch this unnaturally huge cow get shaved to highlight its muscle features. This is definitely NOT SUSTAINABLE.

7 Billion People by 2012

This video is incredible. It outlines the population issues we face, with the Earth projected to reach a population of 7 Billion - 7,000,000,000 - by the end of 2011.

End Message: We need to balance the population's needs with the Earth's.

Composting Toilets

I wouldn't watch this while you're eating, but composting toilets are not as vile as they may seem. In fact, I think they would be part of a sustainable future.

They save water and the money used to treat that water in waste water treatment plants, prevent pollution and disease, and create fertilizer in an environmentally friendly way. The only problem is that they prevent a slight inconvenience, and all environmentalists know that that is the biggest obstacle in trying to get people to go green.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garbage Land

I've been reading Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte, and it's great. The book describes the process of garbage collection in NYC, how the garbage seemingly disappears by the Big Apple.

There are some really great facts and quotations in the book, and I will post some of my favorites below.

  • "Since 1960, the nation's municipal waste stream has nearly tripled, reaching a reported peak of 369 million tons in 2002. That's more stuff, per capita, than any other nation in the world…."
  • "According to Daniel C. Walsh, a professor at Columbia University's Department of Earth and Environmental engineering who examined a century's worth of city garbage records, per capita rejection in New York peaked in 1940 at 2,068 pounds a year, or 5.66 pounds per day. It dropped to a century-low 712 pounds a year in the midseventies (the economy was in poor shape) and by 1999 rose to 9.28 pounds. The rate, he reported in Environmental Science & Technology, has been fairly steady since 1980." 
  • "While the fatality rate for all occupations is 4.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, garbage collectors die at a rate of 46 per 100,000. In fact, they're approximately three times more likely to be killed on the job than police officers or firefighters." 
  • "The EPA requires landfill owners to monitor their sites for thirty years postclosure to control leachate and methane buildup, which causes fires and explosions. After this period, there is no funding to monitor water or air, to maintain landfill covers, or to remediate any eventual pollution. Over time, landfills pose more of a threat to the environment, not less." 
  • "When organic matter decomposes, it creates methane and carbon dioxide, both greenhouse gases. As it filters up through layers of buried garbage, methane can pick up carcinogens like acetone, benzene and ethyl benzene, xylenes, trichlorethylene, and vinyl chloride.  These compounds are borne on the breeze into nearby homes and offices."
  • "Before the methane collection pipes were in place, Fresh Kills emitted more than fifteen billion cubic feet of greenhouse and carcinogenic gases a year - almost 2 percent of all the world's methane, according to the EPA."
I highly recommend Garbage Land and have decided to focus this blog on WASTE.  I am going to delve into some waste issues that I find particularly interesting and hope that others take interest in them as well.

Royte also makes reference to some interesting companies, organization, and books that I look forward to investigating:

Reviews of Garbage Land
TreeHugger Review
New York Times Review
Garbage Land on Amazon

20/20 Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

Another great example of why the bottled water industry needs to end.

Waste Land Documentary

Wow! This documentary looks incredible! A definite must-see

Waste Land

Here's the official website.

The Story of Stuff

I just can't go without putting some of these amazing videos up - they're just amazing. A little long, but they really help explicitly explain the issues. Visit the Story of Stuff website for more information. Thank you Annie Leonard for making these videos!

The Story of Cosmetics

The Story of Bottled Water

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bike lock that can climb a light pole!

Want to bike around the city to reduce your carbon footprint, but you fear bike thieves who seem to have figured out how to steal virtually every part of the bike? Well here is the solution! A bike lock that can climb a light pole to keep your bike out of danger. Article from TreeHugger.


Like many busy people, i drink my fair share of coffee, but i'm often left at the last sip wondering about its environmental impact. Surely all that coffee cannot be beneficial to the environment. On my journey to reduce my coffee consumption, I am also pledging to learning more about coffee's negative impacts on the environment and how I can help reduce them. To start here's a great image from Big Green Head.


I recently discovered the Care2 website, and it's very interesting.

On the Care2 website you earn credits by doing things like commenting on polls and news articles, signing and starting petitions, and completing the daily action and then redeem them for "gifts that make the world a better place." Overall I think it's a cool website and worth checking out. 

Here's one thing on their website that really made we go WOW! I had never heard of the Butterfly Effect, but I will definitely be researching it now.

"Care2's mission is to help people make the world a better place.
The butterflies on our logo were inspired by a concept in physics that became popularly known as the "butterfly effect", where one small change can cause a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena.*
* The "Butterfly Effect" reference is to a story about the flap of a butterfly's wings in the Brazilian rain forest, that moves the air, that redirects the breeze, that alters the wind, and eventually leads to a hurricane moving up the east coast of America. A small change that results in an incredible outcome."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Something to do with all that banned Four Loko

Very interesting article - briefly explains how some of the Four Loko recently banned will be turned into ethanol.


Welcome to "The Green"! I'll be posting short articles on interesting videos, movies, and projects relating to environmental issues, along with some longer self-researched pieces. I hope this will be a place where everyone can see the exciting and innovative things going on in the environmentally-conscious community!

About Me:
I have been interested in the environment, and science in general, since a very young age. Stimulated by some amazing elementary school teachers, a vacation to the Galapagos Islands, and an obsession with the National Geographic Channel, I have been researching the environment and greening my house, home, school, and friends for as long as I can remember.

Saturday, January 1, 2011