A Guide to Buying Post-Consumer Recycled Products

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If you’ve been following our series on post-consumer recycled products, then you have a pretty good idea about what PCR is and why it matters so much to me. What you may still be wondering is, “How do I make sure I find and buy PCR products?” And unfortunately, that question is more complex than it seems.

There is no all-encompassing database of PCR products — it just takes good, old-fashioned research to find what you’re looking for.

The Wording on Packages

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Eco-Friendly Dump Truck Toy

Reading product packaging carefully is important. If a product says it’s made from recycled content, look for details. Does it specify whether that’s pre-consumer recycled or post-consumer recycled? (Any kind of recycled is better than nothing, but post-consumer recycling means that when someone dropped an item in the blue bin for recycling, it was actually used to make this new item you’re now contemplating purchasing. Pre-consumer recycling involves taking things like leftover scraps that weren’t initially used and finding a purpose for them.)

Do the claims apply to just the packaging, just the product, or both? How high is the percentage of recycled content, and of that, what’s the ratio of post-consumer recycled content? A product can claim to be made of “recycled content” even if only a tiny percentage contains anything recycled, but the FTC requires that the label tell you exactly how much is recycled (unless the product or package contains 100 percent recycled materials — in which case, that’s probably a pretty good item to consider purchasing!).

The Products Where PCR Thrives

It can be discouraging to find a product that touts its recycled content, only to find that it’s really not so PCR-laden at all. And it can take a while to find an item that fits the bill in all the areas that matter, like functionality, design, and sustainability. There is some good news, though: Lots of different kinds of retailers offer post-consumer recycled goods, from hardware stores and automotive centers to furniture shops and clothing boutiques.

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Boise Aspen 100% Recycled Multipurpose Paper

One category I’m proud to say often leads the field in PCR is office supplies (it is what I built my business on, after all). Recycled paper has come a long way; you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a high-quality, recycled-content version and its virgin-tree counterpart.

Consider Boise Aspen 100: perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, environmentally responsible, 100 percent post-consumer recycled copy and printer paper. In addition to the recycled element, the paper is whitened without the use of chlorinated compounds or chlorine bleach, eliminating some rather caustic and harmful chemical processes. Those kind of additional environmental and human health benefits that aren’t always obvious are often an added bonus when you make a PCR purchase.

Certifications Worth Seeking

When looking to buy products, it can be helpful to see if they’ve been certified by a third party in environmental responsibility. Not all of these necessarily concern PCR, but they can be a good place to start:

Green Seal: Green Seal, a certification that’s been around since 1989, considers the total environmental impact of a product and works to reduce that impact while maintaining the same performance and quality you would expect.

Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF): The Chlorine Free Products Association is an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and standard-setting organization for evaluating chlorine-free products. Only papers made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber can be PCF.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): FSC certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Green-e: An independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

CarbonNeutral: For this certification, a company, brand, or product must accurately measure its carbon footprint, then commit to a reduction strategy and carbon offset program to prove their activities will not result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change.

Doing Our Part

We know it isn’t always easy to find PCR products, and that’s why we do the work for you — asking companies tough questions, verifying certifications, and making sure that everything we offer on DolphinBlue.com is environmentally responsible. On each product, we’ll tell you the percentage of PCR content and clearly explain what that means.

We don’t know any other companies that go to the lengths we do to both verify facts and educate consumers on this issue, but we know it’s worth it. Every time you buy something containing PCR materials, you’re helping to close the loop — reducing our reliance on virgin resources and bolstering the market for recyclables so that more products in the future can make use of PCR content.

We all win when we recycle, and we win more completely when we purchase PCR products, preserving our planet for future generations.

Tom Kemper is the founder of Dolphin Blue, a company founded in 1993 on the belief that we can all be responsible in what we use. Dolphin Blue sells the most environmentally responsible home, family, pet, office, and business products available.

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Green Tips For You To Reduce Your Pets Pawprint

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Is your pet eco-friendly?  It seems like a lot of pet owners overlook their pets when transitioning from their own typical purchases to more environmentally friendly products. We search for ways to reduce our own carbon footprints and completely overlook our pet’s carbon footprint. In fact, a pet’s carbon footprint is about twice the size of an SUV! So how can we help reduce our pet’s pawprint? Here are some tips:

1.)    Ditch the plastic bowls:   

petfoodWhen buying pet bowls, opt for purchasing stainless steel or ceramic bowls, the bowls themselves won’t leach harmful chemicals into your pet’s food or water. It will last longer than your typical plastic bowl so you’ll reduce unnecessary waste going to landfills. (Fact: Plastic can take up to at least 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.)

2.)    Grooming

Look for grooming products that are made with organic natural ingredients instead of buying products that can harm the environment once they get into our water or soil.

3.)    Poop and Scoop                                                                               

Dogs-Friend-Probably one of the tasks many pet owners tend to avoid, picking up after their pets. It’s not the most enjoyable tasks but it has to be done. What exactly do you use to pick up your pets waste? Plastic bags you get at the store?

Many pet stores have started to sell biodegradable poo bags. Choose these over regular plastic bags.

You can also scoop your pets waste and begin composting it. Don’t mix your pets waste with a compost pile you have for your garden, start a new compost pile just for your pet waste. Canada’s Office of Urban Agriculture has a site with an easy step-by-step photo guide on making a dog waste composter in your back yard.

4.)    Eco-friendly Products

Buy environmentally friendly products. There is now a wide variation of toys, apparel, beds and much more of pet supplies that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Buying pet toys at the dollar store can come with risks. A lot of pet toys do not go through testing to see if the chemicals used to produce the toy are safe for your pet. Fabrics and cushions are treated with flame retardant chemicals and are not bounded to the foam or fabrics, they end up settled into the dust in our homes and are ingested through hand to mouth contact; this can harm not only our pets but pet owners as well.

If you’re interested in buying eco-friendly and sustainable products, check out what we here at Dolphin Blue can offer  you and your pet. Don’t forget to recycle all the packaging that comes with it when you purchase toys, food, apparel, etc.

5.)     Food

Purchase organic and natural food for your pets or go the extra mile and make your own pet food. Search online or throughout pet supply stores for natural and organic foods, they’re easier for your pet’s stomach.  They’re also great pet food recipes online for you to try out.

Owning a pet comes with great responsibility. You are not just taking care of an animal; you are taking care of a companion that will be there for you no matter what. Nurture and love your pet.

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Why I Care About Post-Consumer Recycled Products — and Why I Hope You Will Too

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I personally conducted the very first public recycling event in Dallas in 1992, collecting and bagging 350 50-gallon bags of recyclables. After all that work, I had no success finding a place to accept the materials. That’s when I learned Recycling Economics 101: When we purchase products made from materials we place in bins, recycling works. When nobody is buying products made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) material, recycling fails miserably.

I founded my company, Dolphin Blue, in 1994 to offer post-consumer recycled office supplies and help close the loop — until we complete the process of purchasing products made from the things we place in the recycling bins, we’re allowing the continued increase in landfill waste, resource depletion, and loss of natural habitat for our fellow species.

Spurred to Action

I began thinking about what I could do to protect our planet when I returned to visit my birth home in Fenton, Missouri. It was between 1982 and 1987 when I started hearing stories about young women, with whom I had gone to high school, having inordinate numbers of babies with birth defects.

What was causing these defects? In the years following the Vietnam War, the valley in which I had grown up was being used as a dumping ground for both PCB-laden and dioxin-containing waste oil. The county roads were being coated with the contaminated oil, hauled from service stations’ waste motor oil bays. The haulers, hired by corrupt county officials, openly and regularly dumped the contaminated waste oils on our unpaved county roads. The dust from the roads floated freely throughout the valley.

Knowing that this type of negligent and irresponsible behavior was possible, I began formulating a way that I could somehow counter the damage being done by these ruthless practices.
After 1993’s devastating floods along the Mississippi River, I became determined that any company I ran would do business in a manner that could only function under triple bottom line principles (that is, people, planet, and profit).

The Health and Economic Sense (and Cents) of It All

While the idea of post-consumer recycled content is pretty popular now, it wasn’t always at the forefront of consumers’ minds back in the early 1990s. Needless to say, building Dolphin Blue into a successful business wasn’t easy. I persisted, though, because the cause is so dear to me. The value of reusing post-consumer materials doesn’t so much stem from the use of the materials themselves; instead, it stems more from all those raw, natural resources that are preserved because they don’t need to be mined or cut down or otherwise taken out of their habitat to create something new for humans.

Although we economically measure most everything we produce and consume in our country and world, we fail to measure the value a forest brings to our human existence. Mature disease- and insect-resistant trees, left in healthy forest settings, provide oxygen we breathe; prevent erosion, which reduces the incidence of flooding; and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is currently at such a critical saturation point in our atmosphere that it will cause catastrophic damage if not soon reduced.

162_chromaclosesgap_2It takes as much as 95 percent less energy to produce new products from PCR materials, as opposed to using raw materials to make the same product. Saving energy means using significantly less oil, coal, or natural gas. We see all around us the environmental effects and human health effects of our continual reliance on fossil fuels. As we save energy, we reduce toxins entering the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Recovering post-consumer waste materials, then reusing these materials in production of new goods, improves human health and preserves natural resources for us, our fellow planet inhabitants, and future generations. From a financial standpoint, we can see reduction in insurance premiums and in property damage (remember Hurricane Katrina?).

Even for those who don’t champion the environment, it just makes good sense to protect it via the practice of purchasing products made with post-consumer recycled content wherever possible.

Continuing the Work

I do believe in protecting the environment, and fortunately, I’m not alone. Today, when there are recycling events, it’s not difficult to find someone to take those materials. Much has changed in the 20 years since I began my business, although we still have so much more to do. I’ll continue to work to help people — like those women I grew up with, who didn’t deserve the toxic environment their children were born into — to understand just how important post-consumer recycled content is for our health, for our economy, for our planet, and for humanity.

 

Tom Kemper is the founder of Dolphin Blue, a company founded in 1993 on the belief that we can all be responsible in what we use. Dolphin Blue sells the most environmentally responsible home, family, pet, office, and business products available.

 

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How CEO & Founder Tom Kemper “stepped up to the plate” on the Keystone XKL Pipeline issue

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It must have been shortly after the beginning of January 2013, when I opened my email and read a message from 350.org, announcing a Forward on Climate Rally to be held in DC on February 17, 2013.

I was heavily engaged in a physical health battle with Lyme Disease, unable to travel, and was quite frustrated because I longed to be there with all the others who would say “NO” to the Keystone XL pipeline. This has been an issue that grabbed my attention early on, simply because the extraction process is so very destructive, in a place where the land, under which the tar sands oil is deposited, is so delicate and sensitive. Many people opposing the construction of the KXL pipeline were willing to be arrested, and were arrested, to evidence their committed opposition to its completion. Additionally, most economists and scientists who are highly knowledgeable in the science and economics of this type fossil fuel extraction, production, and transport, are all in agreement that the amount of energy needed to successfully extract, produce, transport, refine, and capture the energy through burning this nasty and toxic crude, far exceeds the energy that this very toxic tar sands oil will yield. So, you might ask, “why would someone go to all this trouble to garner such a small return, or, no return on their investment?”

Good question. Some say, “Because Canada needs jobs”.

Since I wasn’t able to travel to DC last February, I began to consider what I would have spent, had I been able to fly to DC to attend the rally. Well, there’d be:

  • Airfare
  • Lodging for 2-3 nights
  • Breakfast x 3
  • Lunch x 3
  • Dinner x 3
  • Cab fare
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Before all is said and done, I’d have spent somewhere between $2500.00 and $3500.00.

I thought some more, and the idea came to me…

since I couldn’t go, I should take the money I’d have spent, and send some students who otherwise would not have been able to afford the cost to attend the rally, sending them in my place!

I called a friend knowing she just might have a way to reach Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, one of the organizations co-sponsoring the DC rally. Margie came up with an email address which would connect me with Mr. McKibben.

I composed an introduction email to McKibben, sharing my thoughts on sending some students to the rally in DC. I asked him if he knew how we might find students from Texas who had expressed an interest in attending the February 17 rally, yet needed financial assistance.

He assured me he would talk with the 350.org staff about finding some Texas students who I would fund. He also stated he would have a staff member contact me shortly, to arrange at least four students attending.

Soon thereafter, my office received that call, ultimately making arrangements to send six Texas college students to DC for the rally.

After putting more thought into our plan, it occurred to me, why not send a camera person to follow the students, and have the students report back to us, sharing with us their DC Rally experience? With some great video footage, we could multiply the intended outcome of the rally, using the power of video and the internet to increase awareness of issues regarding the KXL.

I made a couple calls to find a camera crew in Dallas area colleges and I found two such students at UT/Arlington. Those two students became an eventual crew made up of Elliott Gilbert II and Rustin Rodgers. Elliott and Rustin have continually worked on not just the film for the documentary, they’ve also been so diligent in setting up screenings to create awareness among those who know little or nothing about the KXL pipeline issue.

Many versions of this documentary had been submitted to us for consideration, and, while we kept saying, “needs more this, needs more that, and where’s the part that evokes a call to action?“, Elliott and Rustin continued going back to do more filming and editing. They also, like most kids in college, kept coming back for more money!

Here we are today, fifteen to twenty edited films later, with a documentary entitled “Cry Heard ‘round the World” telling the story of the largest climate change rally in history, and why that rally was formed to shut down the continued assault by Big Oil and other proponents of the disastrous practice of extracting oil from the Alberta Tar Sands in Western Canada.

We DO NOT need any more extraction of oil, particularly tar sands crude that requires more BTUs of energy to extract it, than it’s extraction will yield, not to mention the fact that this toxic tar sands crude will emit 82% more air pollutants and greenhouse gases in the completion process than conventional crude!

We DO NOT need a dangerous pipeline traversing the United States from north to south, through a stretch of land – including federal and state government park lands, peoples’ personal property (taken through eminent domain, not by US corporations, but by foreign multinational corporations) and farmlands — that is required to transport this dirty crude oil across our country, so we can send it to China, for production of more cheap, unsustainable, and poorly-manufactured goods — produced by US multinational corporations, whose executive officers reap ever-higher annual incomes in the multi-millions of dollars, higher corporate profits, and of course, who pay little to NO income taxes and no corporate taxes.

Enough is enough!

NO Keystone XL pipeline!

NO tar sands crude!

Carbon dioxide gas in our atmosphere at 400 parts per million puts us way past the danger zone. We’ve surpassed 350 ppm, the agreed safe limit of CO2 and the level continues rising.

We must all work together, doing whatever we can to do our part in reducing the current carbon dioxide increase trend. Not only for those of us now here on Earth, we must decrease the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere for our children, and, their children.

We must take the money being spent on KXL and redirect it to investment in renewables!

We must begin doing so now.

We must take action.

Please write your Congressperson and your Senator. Do so today, please. For your children and their children’s future.

Click here  for the contact information for your elected representatives.

Watch Cry Heard ‘Round the World Documentary below:

Please share the documentary after you’ve watched it.

Thank you.

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KXL Pipeline – Where do you stand?

 I, Tom Kemper, support these 13 reasons
we should not allow the Keystone XL tar sands oil to flow.

(I’ve borrowed much of the following background and facts of which you may or may not be aware, regarding the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline from various sources. I credit those sources at the end of this article.)

Where do you stand?

52826f4fb70229534d42a60ffc9ee388In January, President Obama, under pressure from environmental groups and a congressionally-mandated deadline, rejected TransCanada’s permit application to build the KXL pipeline, which would transport up to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. An existing Keystone pipeline has the capacity to transport 590,000 barrels of oil into Illinois and Oklahoma.

Already built along much of the 1,700-mile KXL‘s route, the pipeline would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Two main concerns are:

  • risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly ecologically-sensitive terrain
  • the extraction of petroleum from tar sands creates far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude production, dramatically increasing greenhouse gases entering our atmosphere

Citing the threat to public health and how the project would hasten the climate crisis, nurses have been on the front line of protests against the KXL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would transport an additional 830,000 barrels of toxic tar sands oil every day from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Where are doctors regarding their concerns surrounding this issue?

It is projected that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate of extraction and production will require clear-cutting some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir and priceless, pristine habitat.

The KXL pipeline would transport toxic tar sands — extracted from the earth below Canada’s Boreal forest — almost 2,000 miles for refining, then exporting. The President’s approval of the KXL would spur increased production of one of the dirtiest, most polluting forms of oil over the coming decades, resulting in an exponential greenhouse gas emissions increase, as well as a dramatic increase in toxins and pollutants further contaminating our air, our water, and our soils.

Tar sands oil is not only difficult, costly and energy-intensive to produce. Tar sands crude is more toxic and more corrosive than conventional oil. Leaks and spills — which will occur — threaten rivers, aquifers and communities along the planned route.

Indigenous peoples in Canada are leading the charge to stop the largest industrial violation on Mother Earth: the Tar Sands Gigaproject. Northern Alberta is the epicenter where more than twenty corporations operate in the tar sands sacrifice zone, with future tar sands development forecast. Cultural heritage, land, ecosystems and human health of First Nation communities are sacrificed for oil money, in what has been termed a ‘slow industrial genocide’. Infrastructure projects linked to the tar sands expansion, such as the KXL pipeline, threaten British Columbia’s First Nation communities as well as American Indian communities in the U.S.

The KXL pipeline is mostly built, even though the pipeline owned by, and being built by, a Canadian company, has never yet been approved by our President, who has the final say in this matter.

38EACD1C-1B76-4024-BC61-EB6D245BCFE0My wife and I have come to know Julia Trigg Crawford, a landowner forced through an unlawful form of eminent domain, to turn over her family’s land for TransCanada to build a pipeline through the Trigg Crawford farm in Paris, Texas. After fighting TransCanada’s forceful possession of her land all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, Julia was recently informed by the highest judicial body in Texas, that she must obey a foreign corporation’s demand to take her land. This type of forceful land taking has never before happened on U.S. soil. This type of court decision has never occurred either. Money, enough money flowing, changes everything.

It is common knowledge that pipelines such as the KXL leak. When they do, they spew huge amounts of toxic oil. That is what scares these landowners most. They live with a fear that none of us should have to face.

I share with you why I stand firmly against this pipeline never being allowed to transport tar sands oil.

Won’t you stand with me, and all those who are paying a huge price at the hands of this unnecessary violation of our planet and it’s occupants?

Reason #1
unlawful possession permitted, allowed if you grease their palms
What precedent are we setting when we allow a foreign corporation to take possession of our private land? What happened to the “property rights” protectors in our Congress? It’s all about money (campaign finance), and, what used to be sacred, now has little or no value when compared to the money that flows like a pipeline, to the Congressional campaigners!TransCanada has intimidated landowners along the KXL pipeline route into signing contractual agreements for their land. TransCanada fraudulently steals land from private citizens through an unlawful eminent domain process.
Reason #2
no way back to 350 (ppm) if it flows
We’ve been informed by the world’s greatest and most respected climate scientists that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere is safe. The current measurement is close to 400 ppm, and we’re witnessing the devastating results in highly destructive weather patterns around the world. What are we doing to our children’s, and their children’s, future?The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a livable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 ppm to below 350 ppm.From *fifteen of the planet’s most highly-renown climate scientists:The tar sands are a huge pool of carbon, one that it does not make sense to exploit. It takes huge amounts of energy and water to extract and refine this resource into usable fuel, and the mining is horribly, environmentally destructive. Adding this to the damage being done by conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control. It makes no sense to build a pipeline that would dramatically increase exploitation of this resource.When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the earth’s climate and its oceans. Now that we know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy — and that we leave the tar sands in the ground.
Reason #3
extracting this nasty crude makes no cents
Energy industry economists have looked at all the numbers, and many agree that it takes more energy to extract the tar sands oil from under the boreal forests in Canada, than the energy yielded once the complete production cycle has been accomplished. In other words, it is a net energy loser once the ground has been broken for extraction.The planet’s “public citizen” picks up the tab for all:

  • the violent destruction of ecosystems
  • the loss of habitat
  • loss of water and air quality
  • the decimation of fellow species
  • the compromise of human health
  • the livability of our planet for future generations

while the oil corporations, protected by our elected representatives (whose campaigns were funded by the very same oil corporations), walk away laughing all the way to the bank, knowing they can pocket huge profits on such a scheme that makes no financial sense. Only when the heavy environmental and social costs are borne by “we the taxpayer”, do these type of boondoggles transfer our hard-earned money to these fat cats’ bank accounts.

Reason #4
manufacturers of more cheap goods produced in China will smile all the way to their bank
The oil that is to be pumped from the Canadian tar sands to Port Arthur, Texas refineries is headed to China, so the Chinese can power their infrastructure to make more cheap, throw-away goods for us. We become more and more dependent on cheaply-manufactured goods being produced at wages 1/40th of what would be earned here, and in a country where there are little, or no, environmental protections for clean air, clean water, and natural resource sustainability, much less any concern for human health and safety.
Reason #5
impending spills, their harmful effects on our environment, humans and wildlife
Because the friction created by pushing extremely thick, heavy, crude wears down the inner lining of pipelines, they eventually spill. According to TransCanada’s Keystone 1 pipeline records, it was predicted to spill once every seven years. It spilled 12 times its first year and more than 30 times over its lifetime. The KXL is built to spill, and when it does it will have a devastating impact on employment and the economy, according to Cornell University.The Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration told Congress that pipeline regulations weren’t designed for raw tar sands crude. Regulators had not yet evaluated what measures are necessary to ensure that raw tar sands pipelines could be built and operated safely, and that PHMSA had not been involved in the environmental review of the KXL project.Oil firm Enbridge ignored warning signs for more than five years along its 6B Line. When the 6B Line spilled into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July of 2010, it caused the most damaging onshore oil spill in US history. The 6B pipeline transported only 80,000 barrels of oil daily, less than 1/10th of the projected minimum to be transported through the KXL!
Reason #6
are we thinking when it comes to our (children’s) future?
In the last year we’ve witnessed destruction caused by the worst cyclone ever to hit landfall, fueled by sub-surface ocean temperatures 9 degrees above normal; the largest tornado ever recorded; record droughts; and other unprecedented weather anomalies. What will it take to convince naysayers of the obvious results of our continued addiction to the profits generated by, and the economies grown on, our fossil fuels habit?Renown former NASA climate scientist *Dr. James Hanson, who refers to the KXL as “the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” and dozens of prominent scientists signed a 2013 letter stating “the actual and potential environmental damage (are) sufficiently severe to reject Keystone — to protect climate, human health, and the multiple ecosystems this project threatens.” Hansen has said that if all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere it means “game over” for our planet.In simple terms, a Keystone pipeline pushing tar sands crude would generate the carbon emission equivalent of 40 million more cars or 50 coal-fired power plants every year.We, the human occupants using the earth’s generous abundance of natural resources, must wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependence in the next decade. We simply can’t continue drilling, excavating, and burning every ton of coal, oil, and gas the fossil fuel industry finds. If we continue doing so, the “carbon arithmetic” of CO2 buildup spells disaster, not just for those of us now occupying planet Earth, it also insures an unlivable planet for those as yet unborn.Allowing tar sands crude to flow through the KXL pipeline will keep America addicted to oil — a good deal for Koch Industries, the refiners and suppliers of large volumes of Canadian tar sands oil — a bad deal for Americans. The KXL pipeline would lock in a larger market for higher-priced tar sands oil, which, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, emits up to 82% more carbon pollution than conventional crude oil.What more evidence is needed to say NO to this disaster in progress?
Reason #7
human health is less important than providing the fuel to fire the furnace for more cheap goods
TransCanada refuses to disclose its lethal mixture of chemical dilutants used in transporting the viscous tar sands oil through its pipeline. The potential to cause grave harm to human health and environmental stability associated with the secret concoction of chemicals is too risky to allow the KXL tar sands crude to flow. Thick, dirty, tar sands oil, with its corrosive properties, pose a far greater hazard than conventional oil – a major reason for National Nurses United (NNU) opposition.According to NNU, toxic contaminants in the massive volume of water needed for extraction are infecting clean water supplies. Towns near Alberta continue experiencing spikes in cancer deaths, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism. Pipeline spills near Marshall, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas have produced respiratory ailments and other adverse human health conditions. Pollutants from tar sands refineries are linked to heart and lung disease, asthma, and cancer.Petcoke — the carbon residue of tar sands refining — standing in piled mounds to be exported for burning, have produced toxic dust storms leaving residents gasping near Detroit, Chicago, and other U.S. cities.Canadian scientists are alarmed at mercury “wafting” into the air from tar sands production. Chronic exposure events are linked to brain damage in humans breathing the mercury-contaminated air.Nurses regularly witness an explosion in the numbers of asthma sufferers, particularly children. More than 40 percent of Americans live in areas heavily-influenced by air pollution with levels of particulate pollution causing higher incidents of heart attacks and premature death.Keystone multiplies carbon emissions and speeds up climate change resulting in more polluted air, while higher air temperatures increase bacteria-related food poisoning, such as salmonella, and animal-borne diseases, like West Nile.The KXL pipeline threatens Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, the drinking water supply for more than 12 million people living in 60 drought-stricken East Texas counties. TransCanada has indicated that up to 700,000 gallons of tar sands crude could leak out of the KXL pipeline without triggering it’s real time leak-detection system. The pipeline’s cross-border section threatens the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in western North America, upon which millions of people and agricultural businesses depend for drinking water, irrigation and livestock watering.Today, the tar sands have become a topic of national and international controversy as stories of cancer epidemics in the community of Fort Chipewyan; massive wildlife losses related to toxic contamination; environmental degradation; and increased vocal resistance from impacted communities; have shattered the ‘everything is fine’ myth propagated by the Canadian and Alberta government financial beneficiaries. Already the Athabasca Delta has been completely altered –from a pristine boreal forest, with clean rivers and lakes — to a devastated ecosystem of deforestation, open pit mines, and watershed where fish regularly exhibit tumors and birds landing on contaminated tailings ponds die instantly. Sounds like another West Virginia makeover, as has happened in the last two decades with relentless destruction wreaked by mountaintop mining of coal, in the process known as “mountaintop removal”.
Reason #8
who is for it, who opposes it?
For the KXL: the American Petroleum Institute, managing the tag-team comprised of the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, and other fossil fuel giants. Cheering them on is the far right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and politicians they influence, no doubt with campaign contributions that flow like tar sands crude.In opposition to the KXL: standing with NNU are every major environmental group, farmers, ranchers and community leaders along the KXL route. First Nations leaders, clergy, Canadian unions, and U.S. transit unions — none, by the way, being what we might refer to as, “well-funded”!
Reason #9
what impact does the KXL pipeline and Tar Sands Oil have on the progression of the installation of solar, wind, and other emissions-lowering forms of energy production?
A policy with scientific integrity and commensurate with the magnitude and urgency of the problem of global climate disruption would call for leaving the tar sands in the ground. If the tar sands crude can find a way to market, the tar sands will be fully developed. If we can’t say no to this dangerous pipeline and it’s highly toxic content, where will we draw the line? If we allow essentially unlimited development of fossil fuel sources, including unconventional sources such as the tar sands, what hope will there be for expediting the necessary phase-out of fossil fuels, and the fundamental transformation to a clean energy system? And what hope would there be for meeting the U.S.’ responsibility to seek the prevention of disastrous climate change?The United States should instead implement a comprehensive oil savings plan and reduce oil consumption by:

  • increasing fuel efficiency standards
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase hybrid cars
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase renewable energy
  • creating incentives for consumers to purchase environmentally sustainable biofuels

and

  • expanding smart growth development models to meet our transportation needs.
Reason #10
jobs, what jobs?
According to the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create 6,500 temporary construction jobs, and leave only “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The same assessment conceded the KXL would support only 35 post-construction jobs. Claims that the pipeline would employ tens or hundreds of thousands of people are not true. A Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would kill more jobs than it creates by reducing investment in the clean energy economy.From NNU: If the threshold issue is jobs, nurses should support the pipeline as a full employment act — in the volume of additional patients sickened by the pipeline’s health hazards and toll from accelerated climate change. Nurses see an inseparable link between environmental justice and the health of our communities and planet. Once again, I ask, why are the medical doctors so silent on this issue?
Reason #11
environmental impact:
The Environmental Impact Statement done on the KXL pipeline was conducted by the State Department, not the EPA. Controversy erupted last fall over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to a key lobbyist for TransCanada. Paul Elliot was a top Clinton campaign official during her 2008 presidential bid. The EIS found that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, failing to properly analyze direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the KXL project.The Alberta tar sands are found under a region of Boreal forest and wetlands similar in size to Florida. The bitumen— the unrefined product excavated from tar sands—must either be strip-mined or melted and pumped up after the ground has been heated with steam for several months. Both forms of tar sands extraction fragment and destroy the Boreal forest, killing nesting migratory birds and other species. Toxic waste from the mining operations is stored in vast, man-made dams—called tailings ponds — currently covering more than sixty-five square miles. In addition to the damage caused by the increased tar sands extraction, the pipeline threatens to pollute freshwater supplies in America’s agricultural heartland and increase emissions in already-polluted communities of the Gulf Coast.Tar sands oil threatens our air, water, land, and economy. Tar sands development will increase already dangerously high greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands oil has no place in the clean energy economy. We must stop this dangerous project.The environmental impacts of tar sands development include:

  • Irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment
  • reduced water quality
  • destruction of fragile pristine Boreal Forest and associated wetlands
  • aquatic and watershed mismanagement
  • habitat fragmentation
  • habitat loss
  • disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife, particularly bird and Caribou migration
  • fish deformities
  • and negative impacts on human health in downstream communities.

The recently released State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) on the KXL pipeline backpedaled on their earlier claim that the pipeline would have no significant climate impact. The report concluded that KXL could create climate pollution equivalent to nearly six million cars, or eight coal-fired power plants.

Reason #12
the Tar Sands crude will create a glut of oil, making gasoline we need for our cars less expensive at the pump, or, will it?
Contrary to the myth, KXL would contribute little to U.S. energy independence. The oil is headed to Texas ports for a reason – to be shipped overseas. TransCanada balked at a Congressional proposal to condition approval on keeping the refined oil in the U.S., and reports say TransCanada already has contracts to sell much of the oil to foreign buyers. The gas price argument rests on the bump in supply the KXL will bring to market. KXL would deliver around 830,000 barrels a day. Not all of that would be used in the U.S. The pipeline delivers to a tariff-free zone, so there’s financial incentive to export at least some of the oil, because area refineries are primed to produce diesel, for which there’s little stateside demand.The KXL pipeline will drive up gas prices, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Reason #13
THE PIPELINE VIOLATES TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY
The Indigenous Environmental Network has drafted the Mother Earth Accord with traditional treaty councils to oppose the KXL pipeline and preserve the integrity of First Nations and tribal lands across Canada and the Untied States.For more on the Mother Earth Accord, click here.We, the consumers of the toxic tar sands crude and all other forms of fossil fuels, being the occupants of the planet that is paying the heaviest price for our unwillingness to face our addiction, must wean ourselves from fossil fuel dependence in the coming 20-40 years. If we do not break our addiction, we will be responsible for the continued devastation and destruction that will make our only planet, our only human home, unlivable for future generations.

Why save for your kids education? An education won’t matter on a planet where it may not be possible for a human to live.

* the climate scientists who signed the letter to President Obama:

James Hansen Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Ralph Keeling Director
Scripps CO2 Program Scripps Institution of Oceanography
John Harte Professor of Ecosystem Sciences
University of California
Jason E. Box Professor
Byrd Polar Research Center
John Abraham Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas
Ken Caldeira Senior Scientist. Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution
Michael MacCracken Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Climate Institute
Michael E. Mann Professor of Meteorology Director, Earth System Science Center
The Pennsylvania State University
James McCarthy Alexander
Agassiz
Professor of Biological Oceanography
Harvard University
Michael Oppenheimer Albert G. Milbank
Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences
Princeton University
Raymond T. Pierrehumbert Louis
Block
Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago
Richard Somerville Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
George M. Woodwell Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist
Woods Hole Research Center
Mauri Pelto Department of Environmental Science
Nichols College
David Archer Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago
Dr. Ted Scambos Lead Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center
University of Colorado at Boulder
Terry L. Root Senior Fellow
Stanford University
Alan Robock Professor II Distinguished Professor
Department of Environmental Sciences
Rutgers University

Credits for portions of this blog and sources from which I drew inspiration:

http://theenergycollective.com/jamesbushnell/275011/economist-allowed-oppose-xl-pipeline
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-marx/reject-the-keystone-xl-pi_b_4761072.htm
http://www.nrdc.org/energy/keystone-pipeline/
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-02-17/the-questionable-economics-of-the-keystone-xl-pipeline
http://alternativeenergy.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=001628
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/james-hansen-keystone-xl_n_3015136.html
http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2014/02/03/keystone-xl-pipeline-national-interest/
http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/about-2/why-oppose-kxl/
http://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/in-letter-to-congressional-leaders-top-climate-scientists-oppose-keystone-p
http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/blog/entry/10-reasons-to-oppose-the-keystone-xl-pipeline1/
http://350.org/18-top-climate-scientists-call-president-obama-reject-keystone-xl/

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Should the Tar Sands Oil Flow?

keystone pipeline protestors

If you are a parent or a grandparent, if you have not taken a stand in opposition to the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, what in the world are you thinking? You have an obligation to your children, and to your grandchildren to leave them a planet on which they will be able to live. We all owe that to those who will need, just as we needed, a planet that is as livable as we’ve enjoyed.

I often ponder the question, “Why would a parent sock away money for their child’s, or, their children’s education?

Most parents would say, “Because I want my children to have an opportunity to get a good job, with the hope of making a good living.”

I ask you, the parent, to consider this question, “What kind of life, or, better yet, what kind of living can our children possibly have when the livability of our planet may be so dire and so horribly depleted that no amount of money will make a difference in how an occupant of planet Earth will live?

In my view of where the quality of life on Earth will be going in the next 10 to 100 years, here’s my analysis of what we will most likely experience, unless we promptly and seriously, curtail our consumption of Fossil fuels:

We must quickly, and dramatically reduce our dependence on crude oil. The damage we are causing in the extraction, production, refining and transmission processes, are so completely and quickly destroying forests, grasslands, soils, freshwater and saltwater ecosystems — as well as the quality of air we need to breathe — that are all so vitally important to the health of our planet and ultimately to human health. The quality of air we need to breathe is continuing to deteriorate. As well, the ability of humans to enjoy safe and nutritious foods depends on the continued health of all ecosystems. When our major ecosystems fail, we will ultimately fail.

We must promptly and significantly reduce our dependence on coal. The decimation and destruction we are causing in extraction processes such as mountaintop mining (mountaintop removal) in West Virginia, are so thoroughly and violently destroying forests, streams and rivers, healthy and productive soils, the freshwater and saltwater ecosystems that are all being dramatically, and negatively altered, and that are so vitally important to the health of our planet and ultimately to human health. The continued burning of coal is so heavily burdening our lungs’ ability to support our need for clean, breathable air.

We must rapidly and substantially reduce our dependence on natural gas. The damage being caused in the extraction, transmission, and production processes are so thoroughly and devastatingly altering the forests, grasslands, productive soils, the freshwater ecosystems and drinking water aquifers that are all so critically important to the health of our planet and to human health and existence. The continued poisoning of our groundwater, our aquifers, and surface waters is so completely in violation of any reasonable manner of behavior expected of a caring and humane society. As with crude oil and coal — both forms of fossilized carbon — the emissions inherent in the extraction of, and processing of natural gas, are wreaking tremendous harm on human health and our ability to breathe the quality of air we need to sustain a healthy existence.

green-house-gases
The detrimental and harmful effects on humans and all species due to the continued accumulation of and increase in the amount of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, are wreaking damage that is fast approaching a level of destruction from which we may not be able to recover. The climate change occurring may not be reversible. The degradation of the quality of our air may be beyond the point of having breathable air in another 30 years. The damage being caused to marine ecosystems may be ultimately cemented when the majority of our last living coral reefs disappear into extinction in another fifteen years. As climates shift beyond natural history’s well-preserved record, we will continue witnessing record numbers of species struggle to find food as they return to birthing and feeding grounds that are increasingly out-of-sync with those species’ long-established genetic memory. As we lose each fellow species, we are that much closer to our final demise.

We can turn this around, and, we must do so now. Not later. We must not push this into 2015, and beyond. Today we must begin reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

We must be the ones who determine what our world, our only planet, will look like and what it will provide us and our children. We cannot leave that decision to those who are driven only by money and greed.

We must invest in renewable energy technologies such as solar photovoltaics on our rooftops. Both the roof on our home and the roof on our place of work. Every major metropolitan area of the US has a residential solar PV lease or purchase plan available to all electricity users. Tax credits are available from the Feds, and local utility providers offer rebates. A typical home of 2000sf can produce between 4kW and 8kW of power for an investment of less than $8000. In many cases, that will power much of our needs. Wind generated power is a bit trickier, and still doable. Electric vehicles are real, they’re here, and they’re reliably getting upwards of 150 miles per charge, with charging and supercharging stations abundantly available in metropolitan areas and along most major interstate highway systems — many charging stations are less than 100 miles apart.
If you’ve not yet changed your residential lighting to LEDs, do so. LED lighting can use as little as 1/10th the wattage of incandescent, with no degradation in light quality or brightness.

If you really want to invest in your kids future, be proactive. Get up and make a difference.
Be the change that you seek in the world. In your children’s world.

Everything we humans do…

  • Growing our food
  • Bringing water into our homes and businesses
  • Protecting our self and family with shelter
  • Breathing for life-giving breath

These all require energy, currently, mostly fossil fuel energy, to be available to us for our survival.

Growing our food requires diesel, gas, and oil to till, plant and harvest with combustion-engine powered farming equipment.

Water could not exit our faucets without fossil fuels to power the plant that produces the electricity to run the water utility plant, pump the water through the supply system, to enter our homes and our places of work. If we draw water from a well, it must be pumped, most likely powered by fossil fuel generated electricity.

Our homes are built with power supplied by the utilities which are using coal, or, to a lesser extent, natural gas, and to an even lesser extent, wind or solar. Most homes on the US grid are powered by coal-fired power.

The quality of the air we so vitally need for life is critically dependent on what’s being emitted by our power generating, industrial and transportation processes and systems. At this time, we’re poorly managing the quality of air we need long-term for quality of life.

All of the above systems can be, and ultimately, must be powered by renewable energy sources, not fossil fuels. You can be proactive in making that transition now, sooner than later. Please do your part in making that happen.

Call your local power utility provider and ask to sign up for their wind-generated power option, or their solar power option. If they don’t have those options available, click here to find a power provider who does provide wind-generated power.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming tomorrow.

 

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