Archive for March, 2009

Old Tires Get a Second Chance With Green Rubber

Editor’s note: We’re excited about our new partnership with Green Rubber, a company that has developed a method for “devulcanizing” waste tires so that the rubber can be made into new products.  Starting this fall, we’ll be using Green Rubber’s recycled material in the soles of some of our footwear. 

Did you know about 1.3 billion vehicle tires are manufactured every year?

We are so busy thinking about emission and fuel efficiency standards for cars, it is hardly surprising that we pay little attention to what keeps them stuck to the road.  And while rubber does grow on trees, most tire rubber is synthetic and made from oil. In fact a typical car tire contains at least a couple of gallons of oil.

So it makes perfect sense to find new ways of using tires once they are worn out.

Globally, about 1 billion tires are thrown away every year.

There are about 7 billion sitting in landfills. 

Tire mountains are perfect breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects and pollute the water table. They take decades to degrade and can burn for years if they catch fire. At the moment, some old tires can be reused in environmentally-conscious ways –for example, shredded and used as filler in playground and gym floors — but the fact of the matter is that most waste tires end up as a fuel in cement kilns and power plants.

The difficulty in reusing waste tires is that they are made from vulcanised rubber. Vulcanisation is a process that gives rubber the strength and durability that makes it suitable for applications such as tires. Basically it involves adding sulphur and other chemicals to raw rubber and then heating it up.

The problem is that that vulcanisation has long been a one-way process. Once vulcanised, rubber can’t be re-shaped and reused for any other purpose. 

Until now.

At Green Rubber Inc., we have come up with a new way of using scrap tires. We have a patented, environmentally-conscious way of reversing the vulcanisation process so that old tire waste can be reused and made into new products.  We take scrap tire waste, add our patented chemical formula called DeLink and after a short time in a milling process, the end material is devulcanised and ready for reuse.  The process uses environmentally-conscious chemicals and low levels of electricity.

Buying products containing Green Rubber™ means that all that carbon locked up in tires isn’t released into the atmosphere when a tire comes to the end of its working life – a preferable solution to an acute environmental problem.

Andrew Murray-Watson is the Vice President of Communications for Green Rubber.

Go Dark

This Saturday, March 28th at 8:30 pm you are invited to participate in Earth Hour – a global event in which tens of millions of people will turn out their lights to make a statement of concern about our planet and climate change, and demonstrate their commitment to finding solutions.

 

Sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour started just two years ago and is now the largest event of its kind in the world.  Last year, more than 50 million participated and the lights went out in such notable locations as the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Coliseum in Rome.

This year, Earth Hour will be even bigger-already 250 cities in 74 countries have agreed to take part including Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami and Nashville; around the world cities like Moscow, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Shanghai and Mexico City will turn out their lights.

Register now to be counted among the millions of Earthkeepers going dark on the 28th.  And then tell us – how you plan to spend your Earth Hour?  (G-rated responses only, please – this is a family show.)

Water, Water Everywhere …

In August 2008, Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal, members of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, set sail from Los Angeles for Honolulu on “JUNKraft” – a vessel created using 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310 – in the name of plastic pollution awareness.

Along their 2,600 mile, 3-month journey, Marcus and Joel skimmed the ocean surface for marine debris – and came away with 100 samples of visual proof of the toxic soup being cooked up by the pervading presence of plastic in our oceans.

“It gives me a profound sense that there is no place and no life form on earth that isn’t being affected by the onslaught of synthetic chemicals that humans are releasing into the environment.”

- Joel Paschal

To follow the path and read more about JUNK’s journey and discoveries, visit www.junkraft.com.  And keep your eye out for the JUNKriders as they embark on a cycling / speaking tour from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico this spring to continue spreading the word about plastic marine debris impact.

Survey Says …

Climate Change In the American Mind is a new study just released by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.  Over 2,000 American adults were surveyed for their thoughts on climate change, energy policies, the reality and risks of global warming, and political and consumer activism.  Key takeaways from the study include:

  • 69% of survey participants are convinced global warming is happening
  • 51% believe we have the ability to reduce global warming – but were unsure whether we actually will.
  • Over 90% said the US should act to reduce global warming even if it has economic costs
  • 92% supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, and 85% supported tax rebates for people buying energy-efficient cars or solar panels.
  • 33% of survey participants said they had rewarded environmentally-responsible companies by buying their products.
  • 48% said they were willing to reward or punish companies for their climate change-related activities … but 68% said they did not know which companies to punish.
  • 69% of those surveyed believed individual action can make a difference.
  • 70% believed the ultimate solution to global warming will require significant changes in American lifestyles – not just technological innovations.

Agree?  Disagree?  Surprised, encouraged, disillusioned?  Share your thoughts.

Green Stuff We Love: GreenFILE

EBSCO Publishing offers a free environmental research database called GreenFILE – a collection of thousands of scholarly, government and general interest articles that covers all aspects of human impact on the environment.  If you’re interested in digging a little deeper to get objective information on a large array of environmental subjects, give it a try.   It’s a great resource.

Kiss Me, I’m an Earthkeeper

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a toast to some of the brewing companies working hard to make their beers green (as in organic-green, not leprechaun-green):

Eel River Brewing Company in Scotia, CA (the country’s 1st certified organic brewery) is located in a former lumber mill; all the power used to brew is produced using scrap lumber and other mill leftovers.

Uinta Brewing Co. in Salt Lake City, UT boasts an energy-efficient facility that runs entirely on wind power.

Green Valley Brewing Company (the certified organic brewery of Anheuser-Busch) uses 100% organic barley malt supplied by family-owned organic farms and its packaging is made from recycled materials.

Bend, OR’s Deschutes Brewery sources its hops from a certified Salmon-Safe hops farm which uses healthy practices to help keep the Pacific Northwest rivers clean for native salmon.

And remember — whether you’re drinking green today or any other day — to please drink responsibly.

Earthkeepers’ Guide to Organics

Courtesy of our friends at Men’s Fitness, here are some tips on how to make organic food choices worth the investment:

Foods worth buying organic

  • Bell peppers:  One of the Environmental Working Group’s so-called “dirty dozen”—12 types of produce that have the highest level of pesticide residue. Their company includes celery, peaches, nectarines, and cherries.
  • Apples:  Ninety-two percent of the apples tested by the EWG were positive for pesticide residues—and 72% of those had more than one type of bug-killer on their peel.
  • Peanut butter:  Chemicals tend to concentrate in oils—one reason residues from up to 28 different pest-killers have been found in p.b.
  • Strawberries:  Bugs love supersweet fruits, so it’s no wonder that random F.D.A. tests found trace amounts of 38 different kinds of pesticides on these luscious, soft-skinned treats.

A good rule of thumb for produce: if you’re going to eat the skin, consider buying organic.  If you’re going to peel the fruit or vegetable, you’ll end up stripping off much of the residues anyway – not worth the extra money.

Foods not worth buying organic

  • Milk:  Any residue from cattle feed ends up in milk fat, which gets removed if you drink low-fat or skim. And, contrary to popular belief, all milk—organic or not—is free of antibiotics.
  • Chicken and fish:  The USDA hasn’t created official guidelines for what constitutes “organic” fish. Also, meats in general don’t have as many residues as produce.
  • Olive oil:  Fewer synthetic chemicals are used in the production of olives than in other conventional crops to begin with—so you’re not getting that much bang for your buck if you buy organic.
  • Yogurt:  Like milk, any trace amounts of residue in yogurt would come from the fruit mixed in, not the yogurt itself.

To read the entire article, visit the nutrition section of mensfitness.com.

SUVs Are Not the Devil

The following is from Auden Schendler’s book, Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution – a current Earthkeeper favorite.  This particular piece illustrates how environmental  “tunnel vision” – even well-intended – can in fact be damaging to the greater cause.

It has long been in vogue to hate both sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and their drivers. The environmental community encourages commando citizens to paste I’m Changing the Climate, Ask Me How bumper stickers onto the biggest offenders. A group called Earth on Empty, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, was “ticketing” SUVs for “failure to pay attention to your own behavior,” among other crimes, and the Sierra Club, after dubbing the Ford Excursion the Valdez, had a hand in the company’s decision to mothball the beast. (That and the fact that it got 3.7 miles per gallon in city driving during one test.) A few years ago, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt joined with NPR’s Car Talk guys on a campaign with bumper stickers that read: Live Larger, Drive Smaller: Not Everyone Needs an SUV. Throughout the nation, the SUV has superseded DDT and big dams on the environmental blacklist. And the religious community has even come up with the WWJD campaign: “What Would Jesus Drive?”

There are good reasons for the anti-SUV bias. Since every gallon of gasoline burned puts twenty pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, gas-guzzling SUVs are major contributors to global warming. Each five-mile-per-gallon increment in improved fuel economy keeps ten tons of CO2 from being released over the lifetime of a vehicle.

Global warming aside, sport utility vehicles spew 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than passenger cars. Those pollutants are precursors to smog and cause asthma and other illnesses. If SUVs got gas mileage equivalent to that of passenger cars, we’d save one million barrels of oil each day. The list goes on.

But despite the strong case against SUVs, the war against them is probably a mistake on the part of the environmental community.

Read the rest of this entry »

Semantics at Sundance

Our Earthkeeper-on-the-street reporter Annabelle Gurwitch asked folks at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival the provocative question, “Earthkeeper, is it one word or two?”

Who says festival-goers aren’t deep and philosophical?

I Say “Earth,” You Say …

Louie Psihoyos, Shar Jackson and other attendees at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival indulge in an Earthkeeper word association game with our own Earthkeeper-on-the-street reporter, Annabelle Gurwitch: