December 2010

The Paperless Professor

Today I read about a 68-year-old college professor who has been paper-free for more than a decade.  This Tennessee professor of religion pledged over 15 years ago to keep his classes paper-free, and he has stuck to that pledge. 

I wonder if he has ever calculated how many reams of paper he has saved?  How many tons of toxic chemicals from the production process he has spared?

In 1994 when Gerald Smith made his pledge, it was big news.  The graphical internet was still in its infancy, and many people had not yet heard of email.  AOL had only just released version 1.5 for Microsoft Windows 3.11.

EPA Considering A Triclosan Ban

If you have ever tried to find a liquid hand soap which doesn't contain triclosan, you know how ubiquitous it is.  Unfortunately it's also an irritant, an endocrine disruptor, and a toxic residue in wastewater.  Triclosan has already been banned in Japan and Canada, and the EPA is finally considering a ban on it here in the States.

The most frustrating aspect of triclosan's ubiquity is that it is useless.  It has little to no impact on germs in the (very weak) concentrations you find in over the counter liquid soaps. 

And there is little need for an antibiotic in hand soap anyway; the mechanical action of washing your hands, combined with the surfactant (making things not stick to each other) action of the soap itself is what does the trick.

Seattle Breaks Up With The Yellow Pages

Seattle has instituted some tough restrictions on yellow pages, those commercial phone books filled with ads for local businesses.  White pages will continue to be printed and distributed free to all Seattle residents, because it is a state law.  (Raise your hand if you didn't know that!  I did not know that.)  But in a significant move towards becoming a Zero-Waste City, Seattle is requiring that the yellow pages be delivered on an opt-in basis from now on.

This is an important move, and it was made with a surprising degree of finesse.  Despite significant push-back from the producers of yellow pages, like Dex and The Yellow Pages (it's a trademarked name).  From the publisher's perspective, commercial phone books are a big money-maker. 

As a yellow pages producer, you charge every company for the ability to appear in your pages.  And your rates are linked to circulation rates.  The more homes you deliver your phone books to, the more you can charge your clients. 

Bees Don't Need This Poncho

So it turns out that for the last few years, while we have all been scrambling to find the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, and blaming everything from cell phones to the modern industrialized nature of bee husbandry, the EPA had knowingly approved a bee poison for use on crops.

Isn't the EPA a government agency designed to prevent this kind of thing from happening?  From killing all the bees with a bee poison?  Isn't that why it's called the Environmental PROTECTION Agency, instead of (say) the Environmental Destructo Agency?

In a whistleblower leak worthy of Wikileaks itself, an EPA employee has leaked documentation to the effect that the EPA knew that Bayer's pesticide clothiandin (sold under the brand name "Poncho") would kill bees.  But they approved it anyway, even though it has been banned for use in many European countries (because it kills bees).

10 Ways to Reduce Your Garbage Output

Many of us are charged per bag or pound of garbage we make. Lots of us are also simply concerned about generating too much trash and want to stop doing so. There are some people in this country who generate no trash! But how do we get there? Here are ten ways we can at least start to reduce how much garbage we put out each week.

10. Buy in Bulk When Appropriate

This often means less packaging (as well as cost!). Just assess your own purchases and see which items are better in bulk when you shop.

9. Re-Fill

If you can buy refillable items, such as ink pens and soap dispensers, all the better! Our soap refills come in recyclable pouches that are really easy to use.

8. Don’t Toss Paper