Sunday, May 25, 2008

Terracycle recycles wrappers!

In the latest edition of Sierra Magazine I just discovered a (transitional, in my opinion) solution to all these non-biodegradable candy wrappers. A new company called Terracycle has figured out a way to collect and reuse plastic bottles, juice wrappers and candy wrappers, working with the companies that package their products in them.
For example, here is how you can help recycle those Clif's Bar wrappers into a purse, as in the illustration from their website:
TerraCycle & Clif Bar Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade, Sponsored by Clif Bar™
Every year millions of non-recyclable energy bar wrappers end up in our landfills. TerraCycle and Clif Bar are working together to change that. As an eco-friendly innovator, TerraCycle is going to convert the used wrappers into unique accessories and other upcycled products.

Once you have signed up for the Wrapper Brigade, TerraCycle will mail out 4 prepaid collection bags to your address. Once a collection bag is filled with 200 wrappers please seal and drop off the filled bag at a UPS drop off location near you.

The Wrapper Brigade program will allow almost any individual and organization to save energy bar wrappers from taking up space in our nations landfills. Clif Bar will donate $.02 per energy bar wrapper you collect to the charity of your choice. If you don't have a charity currently in mind, you may choose from a list of existing charities! There are no signup fees whatsoever. To see if this program is right for you, click here for some FAQs.
However, I don't think this solves the candy wrapper problem entirely, and Clif's Bars shouldn't think it does.
  • You have to have a market for these rather strange-looking products.
  • The quota for collecting Clif's Bars wrappers for this month is already filled, so the next bunch will go back to landfills.
  • This is a great marketing ploy for Clif's Bars - get school classes to collect Clif's Bars wrappers, for example, but the kids have to buy the bars first to get the wrappers!
  • There is a tiny mention of this on the Clif Bar site, but no link, so people don't know how to contact Terracycle - or buy the purse.
But nevertheless, this is a brilliant way to do something with a problem that is very serious. Conceivably other candy companies (like Hershey's) could design a special wrapper product in conjunction with TerraCycle that they sell through their own website.

Congratulations Terracycle. May you be very successful in getting packaging out of nature and landfills!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shopping Organically

I have received invitations to a new webshop, called ShopOrganic where you can get organic products, which is a very fine endeavor, since such products aren't always easy to find in your local supermarket.

However, I've got this bug about packaging, which I've mentioned in several blog entries. I noticed, for example, that they are selling liquid detergents in plastic bottles, rather than more environmentally friendly powders in recycled cardboard containers. So (of course) I wrote them a letter:
Hi ShopOrganic!
Congratulations on your new store. I hope it is successful, since it isn’t always easy to find the products I want in my local Safeway/Vons or other more “sustainable” shops that I have to drive to.
There is an issue that has been bothering me for a while, though, which I would appreciate your addressing, namely sustainable packaging. As I wrote in my blog candy-wrappers and Remembering waxed paper, there are a lot of more or less organic products packaged in decidedly non-biodegradable or recyclable wrappers.
I would appreciate being able to read on your site what products are packaged in, as well as bugging your suppliers about their packaging. If customers were aware of how unsustainable their packaging is, they would put pressure on suppliers by not buying the products, forcing them to find the right solution!
Of course liquids in plastic bottles can be just as problematic, since plastic is usually a petroleum product. But if companies could work out a reuse method, I’d be delighted! For that reason, for example, I buy only laundry products in recycled cardboard cartons, rather than carrying home a lot of just plain water in a plastic jug!
Here is their reply:
Hello Bonnie,
Thank you for your email.
We share your concern about the type and amount of packaging with a lot of products out there. Our plan is to have each product on our site indicate the type of packing and its recyclability (probably a recycle symbol indicating if it is recyclable much like other symbols we have, e.g. kosher, organic, etc). We will also be carry a number of bulk products in the near future; in other words, more product and less individual packing.
We have and will continue to discuss this issue with our suppliers as well.
Also, we use recycled and recyclable packing material, and try to use as little as possible to get our products to our customers in the most environmentally economical way.
Again, we appreciate your email and we are supportive. We will do what we can to help the planet.
Healthy regards,

Gerry - For The Greater Goods (SM)
520.792.0804 x204

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shell, sustainability - and polar bears

A year or so ago, I participated in a survey to decide what should be the symbol for the natural destruction caused by climate change, and polar bears came out decidely at the top of the list. Ever since then we see so many polar bears that we are almost immune to pictures like this one, but the issues don't go away. That the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finally decided to list the struggling polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act is great news, but the protection specifically says that it can't be used as a reason to do anything about the climate change that is threateneing it.

I have been having some interesting correspondents recently. Today I received a reply from Peter E. Slaiby, General Manager, Alaska, Shell Exploration and Production Company regarding a petition email I sent to him through some source (I've searched and searched and can't figure out which...) about Shell Exploration Plans in the Chukchi Sea.
From: []

Thank you for your email to Malcolm Brinded in which you expressed concern about Shell’s exploration plans in the Chukchi Sea. Mr. Brinded has asked me, as the General Manager Shell Exploration in Alaska, to respond to you.
The first point I’d like to make is that leasing is just a first step in the enegy development process. As we progress our Chukchi program, Shell will meet with the leadership of the Sierra Club and other stakeholders to discuss how we can work together on the important issues raised in your note. These encompass the impact on native cultures and impact on biodiversity, including polar bears. Shell is committed to developing the Chukchi in a manner that addresses these issues to become a win for all, including the local communities. We will provide public updates as we progress these conversations.
The second point I’d like to stress is that Shell is already vigorously pursuing other alternatives for energy, including wind and advanced biofuels. But renewables currently provide less than one percent of all energy consumed, and the switch to renewables cannot practically be accomplished for decades to come. Due to population growth and increased prosperity in countries like China and India, world energy use by the year 2050 may be twice as high or higher than today, even with dramatic increases in efficiency and conservation. Fossil fuels currently make up about 80 percent of the world’s global energy mix, with nuclear and hydropower comprising most of the rest.
With continued strong world economic development and stringent international measures, the global community might reduce the fossil fuel share to 65 percent by 2050. We will need to explore and develop all the fossil fuel sources we can for at least the balance of this century. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimates that the Chukchi basin holds 15 billion barrels of oil and 77 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. U.S. citizens currently depend on imports for 65 percent of their oil. These new resources can bolster our country’s energy security at a time when the world’s energy supply is severely strained.
Shell has developed unprecedented plans to explore with extraordinary sensitivity to the Arctic environment. Shell is unwavering in it’s commitment to responsible development of the Alaska offshore. If polar bears become listed under the Endangered Species Act in the future, Shell will work with stakeholders to determine what additional mitigation measures are needed. Shell has complied fully with federal regulations designed to protect any listed species and will continue to do so in the future.
I believe that Shell understands and has acknowledged the challenges in Arctic exploration and production, more than any other energy company. I hope you will accept our willingness to work with stakeholders, such as the Sierra Club, to find the best path forward for developing oil and gas from the Chukchi Sea. We believe that with a thoughtful approach and mitigating risks through best practices, we can safely explore and develop these resources - to the benefit of Alaskans’, the United States’ and the world’s energy supply.
Since I found that entirely unresponsible - and out of character with the Shell I had believed in - I responded with this email (slightly edited):

Dear Mr. Slaiby:

I have been a fan of Shell ever since the turn-around on the Brent Star affair (when I was living in Denmark.) I was so impressed, that I included a positive mention of Shell in a little website I made several years ago: (with a link to Shell’s new sustainability report.)

Shell’s interested in Environmental Management meant that it was often mentioned during my courses in Environmental Management at the Aarhus Business School in Denmark, and I have been impressed as Shell has been investing in both solar and wind.

But I was distressed to read the recent Wall Street Journal article Shell Quits Wind Venture about how Shell will be no longer participating in an offshore windfarm in Britain, which is an important part of the British sustainable energy plans.

And your reply about your plans for exploration in the Chukchi Sea the disturbs me as well, since it shows that you really don't understand that Shell is a part of the problem, not the solution!

If Shell really wants to live up to its words on sustainability, and play its part in slowing the global warming that is ruining polar bear habitats, the forests of the west where I live (because bark beetles no longer get killed by winter frosts) etc. etc.) then it has to stick its neck further out than a little glitter of solar and a tiny breeze of wind energy. Shell has to be a leader.

Shell – no one – must ever be allowed to drill more in the arctic areas, providing exactly what is causing the demise of the polar bear habitat, etc. etc. Shell and all the others must stop defiling the boreal forests of Alberta with its not only expensive but damaging oil sands extraction, which apparently uses more energy that it produces.

Instead, Shell must become a leader in producing sustainable biofuels, and finding other ways to power the world. Instead of saying that India and China need more coal-powered energy, which is rapidly making life a pestilence because of air polution, support them in their efforts to develop solar and wind resources. If these are too expensive now, they won’t be as soon as the economies of scale start working.

I guess that sending email petitions does bring our distress to the attention of decision makers, but it takes much more to change their confused logic, if Shell believes that it "has developed unprecedented plans to explore with extraordinary sensitivity to the Arctic environment. Shell is unwavering in it’s commitment to responsible development of the Alaska offshore."

No matter how sensitive their plans are, they are still aiming to contribute to the cause of the demise of the polar bear (and a whole lot of other messes we've got ourselves in.) Professing that they will follow government regulations isn't nearly enough, when that government is headed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

So please continue to sign all those petitions, and contribute what you can, even though you think you've seen enough cute polar bears.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fire on our mountain

Big Horn Fire
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
If you look carefully on the left you can see wisps of smoke behind the closest hill. This is the Big Horn "Incident" which started very close to Mt Baldy Village, about 6 miles from here.

The area hasn't burned since the late 70's, so there is a lot of brush and trees. Luckily it is moving toward the west (into Los Angees County) and away from the village, which is a lovely old resort town at about 4000 ft on the road up to Mt Baldy.

If you click the picture, you can get to the Flickr original, where I have a link to the incident information.

Although we actually had some rain on Monday, Tuesday and today are warm and dry, and there are pretty strong winds blowing as well. That means we've got the makings of a bad fire season, like the ones we had 4 and 5 years ago, which burned a number of houses at the "interface" between the wilderness and Upland, unincorporated San Antonio Heights and Claremont, and other cities along the edge to the East. (See the book Wall of Flame about the fires in October 2003.)

If we're in for another bad fire season, there is less and less water available to fight the fires, since the Sierra and Colorado snow caps melt earlier. What have we done to our beautiful Earth?

When I called Mom on Monday, she had just been seeing all the natural disasters this week on TV - Myanmar flooding, tornados in the midwest, fires in Florida, earthquake in China... and now our little fire (- I hope it stays little!)

Monday, May 5, 2008

The path less traveled

The path less traveled
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
I do have another hiking parner! My husband, John, and I decided to discover what's on the other side of our mountain (the Angeles National Park, San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains.) Particularly because we've been reading - and mostly seeing pictures (like these on Flickr taken just a couple of weeks earlier) - of how fantastic the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has been this year. We'd also read that mid May is the end of the season, so if we were to experience it, it had to be now!

Now John has very bad knees from years of running, and usually says he doesn't like walking. But he gamely went along on the longest hike possible at the reserve, which turns out to be just about 2.5 miles, which doesn't sound like much, but it took us about 2 hours walking briskly, with many photo-op stops! We went up to 3020 ft at the highest (but then the information center was probably at 2500, so it wasn't as great I suppose.)

But it was wonderful to get out walking. We also took one path down from the highest point that was on the map, but evidently not used as much, because the view is pretty much th same the whole time, instead of walking along a ridge. But we found it like Robert Frost's "road less traveled" with no one else around, just tiny "Desert Spiny Lizards" like skinks, which kept running along the path in front of us, popping into or out of the many animal holes in the path. At one point a bird went running down the path in front of us - maybe a road runner? and three hawks (John says, crows) were playing in the sky around us as they swooped to catch insects for lunch. And all of this was accompanies by the song of larks high in the sky, which we couldn't get our eye on.

On our path less traveled, the poppies closed in on the path, popping up even in th middle of the path, so that in some sections, they formed a center median.

Although we didn't see the incredibly golden fields of the highest season (miid April, I guess, when there has been enough rain) we saw poppies everywhere anyway (not just in the reserve) as well as many other wildflowers, large and small, and enjoyed the stiff 72 degrees breeze in the warming sun.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Phone Photos

This is my very first phone photo. All 7 I took (which you can see if you click the picture) are really horrible, but there has to be a first. Maybe I shouldn't shake the camera?

I don't know how many times I've seen a pretty view, and thought I wish I had my camera with me. That happened to me today when I was walking up our main street in Upland, Euclid Ave, in the center median that had a mule-drawn trolly about 125 years ago. (The mule pulled the trolley all the way from the Ontario station to San Antonio Heights, and then climbed on a platform on the back to get a ride back down the hill. The elevation is from less than 1000 to over 2000 ft.)

And then it occured to me that I did have a camera with me, the new cell phone that came yesterday. But I guess I have to work on my technique!

I guess now I'll be there taking pictures of passing celebrities, accidents and strange signs. But I don't expect artistic excellence!