Infographic Friday: The Beauty of Flowers

Claude Monet was the founder of French Impressionist painting, a movement centered around a philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions of nature. Much of his art depicts beautiful scenery, and he attributed the richness of his works to the simple beauty of nature.

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Everything old is new again

Plastics recycling can have a big impact on our resources.
Shopping bags, liters of soda, cereal box lining, and lots and lots of water bottles — it’s easy to amass plastic in today’s world, given its omnipresence in the products we use. Most of that, though, goes straight into plastic trash bags and heads to a landfill. (The rate of recycling plastic bottles has held steady since the 1990s at about 24 percent.)

Why Recycle Plastic?
When contemplating whether recycling plastic is really worth it, consider the following:

– It costs more money to drink bottled water than to put gas in your car — up to five times more — due mainly to its packaging and transportation, says the Earth Policy Institute.

– Recycling 1 ton of plastic saves 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space.

– The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.

– More than $1 billion worth of plastic is wasted each year.

– Recycled plastic can turn into a whole host of new and useful products, including durable building and construction products, fiber for carpets, tote bags, beverage bottles, recycling bins, shipping envelopes, and tableware (cups, plates, and utensils). Dolphin Blue carries a complete line of post-consumer recycled plastic tableware, which you can find here.

How to Recycle Plastic
Fortunately, 80 percent of Americans have access to a plastics recycling program, and more than 1,600 businesses are involved in recycling post-consumer plastics. There are seven types of plastic, and not every community’s curbside program recycles all of them, so first, learn what’s what with the handy chart from the American Chemistry Council, found here. Most likely you have #1 (water bottles, peanut butter jars), #2 (plastic bags, shampoo bottles), and #6 (packing peanuts, yogurt containers).

Many stores will recycle plastic bags for you, so check with your favorite grocer, or visit PlasticBagRecycling.org for a list of locations in your state that offer drop-off bins for recycling plastic bags.

When it comes to water bottles and other containers with lids, take the tops off before throwing them in a recycling bin. Lids are usually made of a different type of plastic than bottles, and the recycling facilities aren’t going to take the time to take off billions of lids — and likely will reject the bottles for recycling.

For more information, watch a short video here about the process of recycling plastic.

The DIY Guide to Reusing Plastic
There are ways to make good use of plastic once you’re done with it other than sending it to a recycling facility. Keeping plastic bags on hand and reusing them as long as they’re functional is a great way to reduce your impact. To make it convenient, try storing bags in empty tissue or garbage-bag boxes. This keeps the clutter at bay, and it makes the bags accessible when you need them. Just pull a bag out of the parachute hole and go.

For those with an artistic side, look at plastic products in a new way and see what you can come up with. You might just end up with something as fun and elegant as these cascade chandeliers. And although crocheting is usually done with yarn, when plastic bags are the material, it’s environmentally friendly and pretty darn cool. Check out one woman’s creations here.

Last but not least, it’s simple and easy to stock your office kitchen or home pantry with Preserve Tableware, made of post-consumer recycled yogurt cups, available on Dolphin Blue’s site here.

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Hope for the American Energy Crisis

In an op-ed published this month in the New York Times, Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, declares that our energy productivity and energy security are the best they’ve been since the 70’s. This opinion finds itself in stark contrast of those who think we need to construct the massive Keystone XL pipeline, or create a surge of oil and gas drilling, or start a nuclear power renaissance. Keep reading to learn more about Cavanagh’s article.

Cavanagh says that we have President Obama’s climate action plan to thank for the new-found positivity surrounding our nation’s energy news. Obama’s climate action plan gives top priority to the most productive and lowest-cost options for energy, which includes the “energy efficient resources” that come from getting more out of oil, natural gas and electricity with efficient equipment and vehicles that are used more carefully.

According to government data, energy-saving efforts in the U.S. have resulted in a steady decline in energy use since 2007. In 2012, energy use was lower than it had been in 1999, despite the 25 percent growth spurt the economy experienced since then. Cavanagh states that this trend is the result of factories and businesses producing more products and value with less energy, the main goal Obama’s climate action plan.

American oil use is also in decline, down 14 percent compared to a peak in 2005. The U.S. used less oil last year than in 1973, even though the economy is now 3 times as large as it was back then! This is thanks to better mileage from our vehicles and driving those vehicles less. Greenhouse gas emission, energy costs, and gasoline use have also declined; saving billions of dollars and helping the American economy compete in a global market whilst helping to make the U.S. more secure.

To continue this progress, Cavanagh says that the federal and state governments must keep increasing efficiency standards for buildings, equipment, and vehicles. And the Environmental Protection Agency must reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by implementing standards that focus on energy efficiency to reduce pollution. He also states that utility companies should be rewarded by state regulators for helping customers utilize energy efficiently instead of penalizing those companies for not increasing their sales. Annual rate adjustments should be instituted by regulators to allow for unexpected changes in energy utility sales.

Over the past 40 years, the U.S. has found many innovative ways to save energy; we have more than doubled the economic productivity of our oil, natural gas and electricity. America’s most productive energy resource has been efficiency all along and it starts with the everyday decisions we make at home and at work. By simply trading out our old light bulbs for energy saving bulbs and updating our homes and buildings with energy-saving products and appliances, we will continue to see our energy productivity and energy security increase in America. If we focus on achieving more energy savings, we will also reduce costs and pollution. It seems the future of energy is not as dark as it once seemed.

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Dallas Zoo Creates Unlikely Trio

The Dallas Zoo has just become the new home to two male cheetah cubs named Kamau and Winspear. Some day they’ll be able to go from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds but today they’re meeting their new best friend. To calm the naturally nervous and rambunctious cheetahs, animal care specialists are employing an effective tactic used by zoos; they’re pairing the cheetah cubs with a black labrador puppy.

The two month old lab puppy is named Amani, meaning peace in Swahili, and he will live with the cheetahs 24/7. According to the animal care specialists supervising their introduction, eventually the cheetahs will see the puppy as one of their own, or part of their “coalition”. The dog will be a calming influence on the big cats insuring that they are relaxed enough to be taken into public.

The cheetah cubs are now part of the Dallas Zoo’s Animal Adventures program designed to educate the public about highly endangered species. The traveling outreach program exposes audiences to 30 different animals including a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. Cheetahs could use the exposure. With less than 10,000 cheetahs in the wild, it is extremely important to educate the public on the beauty of the cheetah and to inspire communities to help protect them.

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Sea Otters Saving the Coastlines

According to a recently published study from the University of California, Santa Cruz, endangered sea otters are playing an important role in protecting many vital aspects of the marine ecosystem. Sea otters feed on crabs, crabs who would otherwise eat the marine animals that clean sea grass of algae caused by agricultural run-off from farm pollution.

Thanks to the sea otters, those sea grass cleaning animals stay hard at work counteracting the harmful agricultural run-off affecting the health of costal ecosystems. The otters keep the crab numbers low allowing the sea grass to thrive, according to the UC Santa Cruz researchers. Species like herring, cod, and salmon use sea grass as nurseries, therefore the more sea grass they have access to the more their numbers will thrive.

The appetite of the sea otter is also helping to keep sea urchin numbers low. Sea urchins prey on giant kelp, but since the giant kelp has been able to grow, it is able to act as a shelter to many marine species and also help combat global warming by absorbing 12 times more carbon dioxide than if it was not being protected from sea urchins.

Southern sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction from the 18th to early 20th century when they were sought after for their thick fur. A small population survived in the Big Sur area of California and now their numbers have slowly recovered to approximately 2,800 in the area. Sea otters are just one of the many vital aspects of our marine ecosystem and one more reason it is so important to protect our endangered animals and assist in their recovery with federal protections and activism.

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Infographic Friday: Let Nature Inspire you

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator. He founded a philosophy known as organic architecture, in which he believed it possible to design structures in harmony with humanity and the environment. Fallingwater, Wright’s best known work, is a Pennsylvania home he designed that sits partly on top of a waterfall and is considered to be one of the top pieces of American architecture.

In 1991, Wright was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as the greatest architect of all time. He drew his inspiration from the world around him and from the beauty he found in nature and perhaps that is why his art continues to inspire us today.

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D is for Donate, F is for Food

It’s that time of year again; back to school time! And whether you’re a student, teacher, or parent, you’re busy getting ready to have a great school year. You may have already bought the school supplies that you need from Dolphin Blue, but before you present your new teacher with a shiny apple on the first day of school, chew on this food for thought.

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recently released a report revealing that 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Americans throw away about $165 billion worth of food each year, filling up landfills with food waste that accounts for a quarter of harmful U.S. methane emissions. But even though we waste a mind-boggling amount of food, one out of every six Americans is food insecure, meaning they aren’t sure where they will get their next meal or if they will get one at all. Luckily, you and your school can help make a difference this year.

Schools all over the country are implementing food donation programs to help offset American food waste and food insecurity issues. Thanks to recent legislation and the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, public schools and food donors can donate unused food items without liability or risk. Elementary schools are donating unopened cafeteria food to local shelters and food banks. Colleges and universities are implementing new donation programs fueled by student volunteer groups who pick up unused food from campus dining halls and deliver it to local soup kitchens.

Reducing food waste by 15 percent could save enough food to feed more than 25 million people each year. Limiting food waste also saves energy and precious resources like land and water. So, after you get your lunch packed and your notebook ready, take a lesson from thoughtful students around the country and learn how you can start a food donation program at your school. Call your local food bank to learn more about how you can help reduce food waste and start making green waves today!

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Infographic Friday: Chief Seattle’s Inspiring Words

Former Vice President Al Gore’s book, Earth in Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, quotes an inspirational speech from Chief Seattle of the Squamish tribe. In 1854, Chief Seattle delivered his now famous speech to Isaac Williams, then Governor of Washington, while negotiating the sale of land that would some day become the city of Seattle, later named in the chief’s honor. Chief Seattle’s speech is revered by many for its heartfelt message and focus on respect and preservation of the environment.

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Shark Facts to Sink Your Teeth Into

Megalodon

Dr. Jeremiah Clifford holds the jaws of a large great white shark while standing in the reconstructed jaws of a megalodon.

Last week, you may have tuned in to Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week which kicked off with a two-hour documentary titled, “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives”. The megalodon, a prehistoric shark from the Miocene era, could grow more than 50 feet long and dwarf even the largest great white shark swimming in today’s ocean. Unfortunately, Discovery Channel’s megalodon documentary was more of a mockumentary in the sense that its scientist were really actors and the 67 foot long megalodon they were chasing (nicknamed Submarine) was not really terrorizing folks off the coast of South Africa because megalodons haven’t existed for millions of years.

This year’s Shark Week has sparked a bit of controversy with its Reality TV feel. So if you’ve been wanting more bite for your buck, keep reading to learn some little known facts about sharks.

  1. Sharks don’t hunt humans. Sharks are highly-specialized predators whose feeding strategies evolved long before humans entered the water. With over 350 shark species around today, fewer than 10 are considered dangerous to humans.
  2. Sharks can detect electrical fields. Special organs in their snouts enable them to pick up electrical pulses emitted from the muscle movements or beating hearts of potential prey.
  3. Female sharks can impregnate themselves. Through a form of asexual reproduction called parthenogenesis, shark embryos can grow and develop without fertilization.
  4. Sharks rarely get sick. Shark tissues have anticoagulant and antibacterial properties which scientists are studying in the hopes of discovering treatments for various medical conditions, including cystic fibrosis and forms of cancer.
  5. Humans are a shark’s most dangerous predator. Scientists have estimated that for every 1 human killed by a shark, there are 25 million sharks killed by humans.

An alarming number of sharks are killed every hour due to the gruesome act of shark finning and the harmful effects of bycatching in fishing equipment. The shark is a vital ocean predator that plays a huge part in balancing our delicate marine ecosystem. Learn how you can stop shark finning and get involved in shark conservation efforts.

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