This just in from Greenpeace: Mega-grocer Safeway has done what Chicken of the Sea is too chicken to do: source its canned tuna only from fisheries that do not rely on destructive fish aggregating devices (FADs). Way to go, Safeway! [Link]
Walking to the grocery store the other day, I watched as a man took a final drag off his cigarette and then threw it onto the sidewalk. Sights like that are so common, seldom do they even register in my brain.
But in that moment I was struck by the bizarreness of this banal act: Why is this form of litter socially acceptable?
I'm a child of the '70s, so I remember Woodsy Owl's "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" campaign well. And after observing litter patterns firsthand in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, I've come to the conclusion that in general, Americans seem to have internalized the fact that it's not great to throw crap on the ground.
But there seems to be an unspoken exception for the cigarette butt, which according to LitterButt is the most common form of litter. For some reason, people who would never dream of putting a candy wrapper anywhere but in a garbage bin think nothing of flicking their cigarette butts into the gutter. Why is that?
LitterButt suggests that smokers don't consider butts litter, and think that they will naturally decompose. Because, you know, some of them look sorta cottony. For a nice explanation of why that isn't true, see this helpful page from Virginia Clean Waterways.
"So what?" smokers may ask. Well, the nonprofit's website also explains that butts pose a threat to wildlife: "Studies conducted
by Clean Virginia Waterways show that the chemicals in cigarette butts easily
leach out of the butts, and are deadly to water fleas (a small but important
animal that lives in most freshwater lakes and streams as well as the ocean)." In addition, birds and marine creatures often ingest cigarette butts, mistaking them for food.
So my question is, How can we make throwing cigarette butts on the ground socially unacceptable?
In Japan, it's considered less OK than it is in the States. Campaigns and signs (like the humorously unclear one shown above, from Kimonobox.com) urge smokers not to drop their butts on the ground. Personal ashtrays (I saw the one pictured below, by NEU, on Japan Trendshop) are also common over there—and they offer a solution to the problem that butts can't go in garbage cans because of the fire hazard. What would it take to make them popular over here?
And/Or... what would it take for municipal garbage cans to have enclosed ashtrays on top?
Another interesting idea came from a designer I met the other night. What if cigarette boxes had a built-in butt-disposal compartment? This is unlikely, of course, since a larger package size would usher in a whole set of additional associated costs, but it certainly seems worthy of exploration.
When the professional namers come in, you know you're in trouble. That's the angle a recent Washington Poststory took to cover a research article in the July 31 issue of Science on efforts to rebuild global fisheries.
It's a phenomenon suffered by numerous species—including the slimehead, a.k.a. orange roughy (left), and the toothfish, a.k.a. Chilean sea bass (which isn't even a sea bass at all)—that have been given new, hipper names by seafood marketers forced to champion erstwhile "trash fish" because what used to be mainstays of restaurant menus are being fished to death. Then, of course, the pattern is repeated.
The Science article isn't all gloom and doom. Apparently the average exploitation rate has declined in some ecosystems, and, as the abstract notes, "increasing efforts to restore marine ecosystems and rebuild fisheries are under way."
The topic of sustainable seafood is endlessly fascinating—and complicated by the fact that oftentimes we don't know what we're buying, thanks to the naming issue. One of the people I find most articulate in this area is Casson Trenor, who has written a book on sustainable sushi and who is currently in Vietnam taking part in a standards-setting process on catfish, a.k.a. delacata. (Read his interesting blog post about it here.)
The catfish dialogue is part of the creation of a new aquaculture certification body set to be up and running in 2011, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, whose aim is to serve as a credible environmental and social standards maker for seafood. According to the FAQ on the ASC (which lives on the website of the World Wildlife Federation, one of its funders), most existing certification programs in this area "are not effective at making the aquaculture industry more
sustainable." ASC says its standards will "be
measurable, based on sound science, created by a broad and diverse
group of stakeholders, and developed through a transparent process."
I'll be interested to learn more about the process—and about what's wrong with the current certifications—as it develops. Hopefully the ASC will help consumers see through the murky waters of confusion as to what constitutes sustainable seafood.
December 2010 I haven't actually bought anything from Po-Zu yet, but I appreciate their awareness of the fact that many vegan shoes are made of petroleum products and aren't necessarily better for the environment than leather footwear. Po-Zu seems to set a high bar for itself when it comes to ingredients and supply chains.
March 2010 After running out of dish soap, I started using our good old bars of Sappo Hill out of necessity. But you know what? Our dishes are just as clean, and when I pick up the soap at our grocery store, the only packaging on the bars is the price tag. And did I mention the soap is awesome? We love the oatmeal bar.
February 2010 TMI alert: If you're a squeamish guy, read no further. I'm done with tampons! Instead, I'm using the DivaCup.
January 2010 Mr. Wallet Mouth and I both love Pact. Its underwear is made of organic cotton, and the company donates 10% of its sales to worthy environmental causes. Not only that, but the company is serious about eco-friendly packaging. Each pair of undies comes not in a plastic bag but in a little cloth pouch made from fabric remnants. I'm also impressed with how responsive Pact is over email; when I asked a packaging question, I got a nice reply from the CEO.
December 2009 After reading about Skoy Cloths, the biodegradable paper-towel alternative, on Fake Plastic Fish, I bought a bunch for stocking stuffers and my own kitchen, and I'm now a fan. They're lasting a long time, despite repeated washings in the laundry, and they arrive with minimal packaging.
October 2009 I was already of fan of Straus yogurt (see June 2007), but now I love it even more. According to Michael Straus, a son of the company's founder, Straus yogurt "is made, cooled, and set in stainless-steel vats, unlike most yogurts, which are poured while still hot into plastic cups to cool and set." As someone who's concerned about plastics and chemical safety, I'm happy to hear that!
July 2009 I'm using a lot more baking soda now that I'm making more of an effort to clean the house in a nontoxic way. But from now on I'll be buying Bob's Red Mill, since Arm & Hammer engages in animal testing.
July 2008 Started feeling extra-good about buying one of my fave meat substitutes, Tofurky, after learning that its maker, Turtle Island Foods, is an independent, family-owned company (Unlike Boca Foods, which is a subsidiary of Kraft, and Morningstar, which is owned by Kellogg).
April 2008 I'm going to start buying my canned beans from Eden Foods, for two reasons: it uses custom-made cans that don't contain bisphenol A, and it's an independent, family-operated company.
February 2008 From now on, whenever I order takeout or ask for a doggy bag, I’ll make sure to avoid #6 polystyrene containers (and, of course, Styrofoam).