9 Everyday Items You Should Never, Ever Throw In The Trash

By: Guest Contributor, Joe Baker


We’re all responsible consumers, right? Still, when something is broken, the temptation is often to just throw it in the trash and be done with it. Don’t do it! Here are nine items you may be surprised to learn should never go into the trash:

Note: Disposing of household hazardous waste (HHW) properly starts by knowing where your nearest HHW facility is. Use recyclenation.com to find local recycling and disposal options for just about anything you can think of. Then, spread the word to your friends and family.


  1. ENN_BatteriesBatteries are small, and therefore easy to toss in the trash. However, even used-up batteries are full of nasty metals and chemicals that can cause serious problems. Drop any non-rechargeable batteries drop off at your local HHW facility.
  2.  Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are energy-saving, but contain small amounts of mercury, which can contaminate the air we breathe. These should go to your local HHW center, where they will also ensure that valuable parts of the bulbs are recycled.
  3. Glass Thermometers have mostly been edged out by electronic thermometers, but if you do have one lying around, it should go to the nearest HHW facility. The average mercury thermometer contains 500 milligrams of mercury—a serious health hazard if the thermometer is accidentally broken.
  4.  Hair (Human and Pet) may not cause harm when thrown away, but it contains high levels of nitrogen, so why not add it to your compost pile to make great fertilizer? You can also sprinkle it around your garden plants to help keep deer away.
  5.  Motor Oil can contaminate waterways and harm aquatic life, so it’s against the law in most states to pour it down the drain or on the ground. The only proper way to get rid of motor oil is to place it in a plastic container with a tight lid and deliver it to a recycling center, a car service station, or an automotive store.
  6. Oil-Based Paints contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans, animals and the environment. These should never be disposed of in the trash or down the drain; take them instead to your local HHW collection point.
  7.  Old Electronic Devices are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture, so why waste all that work? Take all your old electronics to an e-waste center.
  8. ENN_TiresSmoke Detectors need to be replaced every ten years. Ionization smoke detectors emit a small amount of radiation, so they should be mailed back to their manufacturer (after you’ve removed the batteries). Photoelectric smoke detectors can be taken to any electronics recycling facility.
  9.  Used Tires are not considered hazardous waste, but they are a problem material. In most states, it’s illegal to dump them in the trash or on the side of the road. Instead, tires can be recycled at almost any car dealer or tire service center.


Joe Baker is the Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2 and ThePetitionSite. He is responsible for recruitment campaigns for nonprofit partners, membership growth efforts, and all editorial content. Prior to Care2, Joe was the Executive Director of N-TEN. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, the Advisory Board of GiveForward.org and volunteers for the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.

 Batteries and tires image via Shutterstock.

by Editor


DIY Tips and Tricks for Summertime Savings

With summer upon us, lots of people are looking for ways to keep cool without the cost. Heating and cooling runs the average household about $875 a year—nearly half the home’s total energy bill.

Beyond the energy bill, there’s also a cost to the environment. Did you know that the energy used in the average house can cause about twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the average car? To help us save this summer, experts at ENERGY STAR have shared with us some tips and tricks.

Easy to Moderate Effort:

Energy efficiency doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. Try out these DIY projects for energy savings.

  • shutterstock_92965054Install and properly use a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to save energy all year long. Use it to automatically lower your air conditioning and heating when you don’t need it. Raising the temperature seven degrees when no one’s home and four degrees at bedtime during the summer, along with proper programming in the winter, can save you more than $180 annually.
  • HVAC Maintenance: When was the last time you checked to make sure that your HVAC system was working properly? A few simple moves will make sure that your system is working efficiently.
    • Check your air filter every month, changing it whenever it is dirty (at least every 3 months). Dirty filters block air flow, making your system work harder to keep your house cool.
    • Your car isn’t the only thing you own that needs scheduled maintenance. Have a contractor give your HVAC equipment an annual tune up. Your system will work better, keeping you cooler all summer long.
  • Install ENERGY STAR light bulbs: If you still haven’t switched out your old light bulbs for energy efficient options, an ENERGY STAR LED bulb makeover is a great summer project! ENERGY STAR certified bulbs use 70-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, giving off much less heat inside your home. They can save $30-$75 each in energy bills and last over 20 years, so this is a project that will make a difference for years to come. With prices falling dramatically all over the country, THIS is the time to make the switch to ENERGY STAR LED bulbs!
  • Shade your home: Outfit your home with shades, blinds, curtains and awnings, especially on the south and west sides of your home where the sun is hottest. This simple move will keep the hot rays of the sun out of your home, bringing down the temperature.

Larger Effort:

If you are looking for a bigger project, try out one of these energy savers. Some are still possible as a do-it-yourself project, and others are a better fit for a skilled contractor.

  •  shutterstock_134073479Duct Sealing and Insulating: Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central AC or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20%–sometimes much more.
    • Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts that run through your attic, crawlspace, unheated basement or garage.
    • After sealing, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer.
    • Next, look to seal any other ducts in the home. Make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling.
  • Seal and Insulate Air Leaks: Air leaks make it a lot harder to keep the cool air inside during the summer. Find the air leaks around your home (door and window trim are good places to tackle first) and seal them with spray form, caulk and weather stripping. Sealing and insulating your home can save you up to $200 in annual utility bills. For detailed guidance check out Home Sealing Improvement.


See more tips at ENERGY STAR.

Thermostat image and Window insulation image via Shutterstock.

by Editor

The California Spill and the Continuance of Harmful Oil Operations

By: Guest Contributor, Brittany Michelson


Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the May 19th Refugio oil spill rakes in billions of dollars (over 43 billion in 2014) while birds, fish, and marine mammals drenched in oil have washed up on the shores of Santa Barbara County. In the initial few days investigators reported that 9.5 miles of ocean and 8.7 miles of coastline had been affected, but oil shifts with trade winds, and signs of oil damage have shown up further south, in the Malibu region.

“We’re sorry this accident has happened, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community,” Plains district manager said in a public statement. Sorry is a mild response when there are oil soaked wildlife struggling to swim and fly, surfers can’t enter the ocean they love, children can’t play freely in the waves, and families can’t enjoy a day at Refugio State beach, a place that Dana Murray, the senior manager of Heal the Bay organization calls “a treasured and protected beach park and a coastal refuge teeming with sensitive wildlife.” The Chumash Native Americans named the Refugio area “Qasil” meaning “beautiful.” It will also now be known as one of the largest coastal oil spills in California history.

shutterstock_55817818And yet Darren Palmer from the pipeline company referred to it as an “inconvenience.” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said, “This is more than an inconvenience, this is a disaster.” Whether this incident is viewed as an inconvenience or a disaster depends on the level of respect one has for the natural environment and its inhabitants.

According to disclosures, it took Plains about 90 minutes after the oil spill was confirmed to notify the National Response Center, a clearinghouse for reports of hazardous material releases that coordinates response. In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein labeled the response to the spill “insufficient.” They also questioned why the line lacked an automatic shut-off valve.

Plains spokesman Patrick Hodgins said. “We’re going to address the issue, we’re going to investigate it with the federal regulators, we’re going to find out what happened and we’re going to make it right.” But how exactly can a disaster of this scope be “made right”? From the moment the oil started spewing from the ruptured pipeline, our fragile coastal ecosystem incurred serious damage.

The damage has harmed the Gaviota coast, a rare Mediterranean-climate region where northern and southern plants and wildlife meet. Research indicates that there are only five such regions in the world, located at the western edges of continents and unique for their biological diversity.

According to Plains, there was a pipeline inspection this May and the one prior to that was in 2012. Two inspections in three years, for a massive oil pipe that has the ability to destroy miles of rich, biodiverse coastline?

shutterstock_62505043Brigid McCormack, the executive director of Audubon California, said, “Time and time again, we’re reminded that the benefits of putting oil so close to our natural treasures are never worth the risk.”

And yet, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy states that there are four offshore platforms linked to two oil processing plants in this coastal area, and despite the Refugio Oil Spill on May 19, Venoco is proposing to substantially expand drilling and production at platform Holly.

The conservancy called on Plains All American and the Unified Command to implement effective cleanup of the spill for as long as it takes. The delayed initial response has caused these additional areas to be affected, which could have been prevented.

The Gaviota Coast is already an endangered area due to urbanization and increasing industrial development, and preservation and conservation efforts were already taking place to protect it.

According to Southern California Public Radio, the timing of the Refugio spill could work to the advantage of environmental groups, as the incident happened days after a federal agency approved Shell’s plan for drilling in the Arctic.

Historically, nature conservation efforts have increased in response to certain devastating incidents. The 3 million gallon oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969 was so disastrous, it sparked the environmental movement and various laws to protect the natural world. Artist Bud Bottoms and his group Get Oil Out helped gather 200,000 signatures to get oil rigs removed from the coast. Though that didn’t happen, legislation was passed to protect endangered species, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and the Environmental Defense Center was formed in 1977, which has been trying to block certain drilling projects.

shutterstock_164523230Since the 1969 oil catastrophe forty-six years ago, these disasters are still happening. The Exxon Valdez accident released 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shores in 1989 and the Deepwater Horizon spill dumped 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

According to federal records, Plains All American subsidiaries have reported at least 223 accidents along their lines and spilled a combined 864,300 gallons of hazardous liquids since 2006, have been subject to 25 enforcement actions, and tallied damages topping $32 million.

The continued refusal to invest in renewables is highly frustrating. “When we have a huge solar spill around here, we just call it a nice day,” said Dave Davis, CEO and president of the Community Environmental Council.

Will the oil industry ever learn? Will they at some point do justice for our precious environment? Will they ever honor the fact that we share this planet with nature and wildlife; we do not own it.

Oil spill on beach, bird and cleanup images via Shutterstock.


Brittany Michelson’s work has been published in several literary journals including Role/Reboot, PoemMemoirStory Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Whistling Fire, Split Lip Magazine and others. She cares deeply about animals and the environment and lives in Topanga Canyon, CA. 

by Editor

Once Lawn’s Ally, Clover Rebranded as Unwelcome Invader

shutterstock_257785771With winter’s grudging departure, the season when many homeowners quest for the perfect, uniform, green lawn — their own shimmering Holy Grail – has finally arrived! But what makes for a perfect lawn? What is it about grass that merits such reverence, such tender nurturing, such expense! And what makes a weed, a weed, and thus deserving of the ultimate punishment?

You may be surprised to learn that one of the most common of lawn interlopers — the Dutch white clover — was once intentionally mixed into grass seed mixtures. Not native to North America, clover was blended into seed mixtures because of the many benefits that it confers to a lawn. It does not outcompete grass for resources, is drought tolerant, grows well in heavy shade, provides nectar to bees, won’t easily succumb to brown spots where Fido did his business, and is even nitrogen fixing.

Yes, the clover you may have been trying to kill has actually been working away to fertilize
your lawn. As a member of the legume family, clover has nodules on its roots that play host to nitrogen-fixing bacteria in a symbiotic relationship. These bacteria take atmospheric nitrogen, the nitrogen present in the air around us, and convert it into a form that the plant can use.

Clover’s decline from helpful addition to pesky weed was no accident. Extensive research on defoliators during World War II led to advances in chemical technology and herbicides — technology that brought the advent of selective weed killers. 2,4-D was one of the potent products of these advances. 2,4-D is a synthetic plant hormone that only affects broad-leaf plants. It causes rapid, unsustainable growth, which exhausts the plant and propels its death, while having no effect on grass.

While 2,4-D was never used in WWII (though it was used during Vietnam as a component of Agent Orange), it did find a home in the suburban lawn, first, as Scott’s Killex and, soon after, in Scott’s Weed & Feed.

The only problem with this new product, which offers so much potential for great profit,
was that broad-leaf herbicides would kill clover. After such an application, lawns planted with grass seed, supplemented with clover, would be left with big, brown, bald spots. After years of selling clover and touting its benefits, Scott’s was faced with the task of rebranding clover as a weed.

To accomplish this Scott’s removed clover from seed mixtures, told homeowners that it was unnecessary and, even worse, that it would attract bees which would sting children. The rebranding worked! With clever marketing, and the sheer convenience of broad-leaf herbicides, clover became an undesirable and a pest to be terminated.

So perhaps, with clover’s many good properties the enlightened homeowner may choose to relent in their battle against clover. Instead, embrace this long besmirched ally. Even seek out opportunities to make a place for this worthy plant.

Images via Shutterstock.com 


by Katharine Galpin

The NASA Guide to Air-filtering Houseplants

8 of the Strangest Allergy Cures

Relaxing and Eco-friendly Spring Activities

By: Guest Contributor, Kimberly Grimms


Books are out and vacation is here! With children free from school, you’re probably in the quest for brilliant ideas to turn them busy and productive while at home. Admit it, it’s quite a challenge keeping vigorous kids at bay. But to strike out their idle period does not require you to cash out on expensive, yet fun and worthwhile activities during springtime.

Actually, you might be surprised to find out that springtime activities to enjoy with your family abound with just a little play of creativity and resourcefulness. Below are suggestions on how you may transform an otherwise soon-to-be the same old, boring and wasteful vacation into one filled with relaxing and environment-friendly things to do, sure enough to enrich your young ones during school-break.


1. Heads Up For A Home Make-Over!

Why not engage the family to flex some muscles with redesigning your home or apartment? While a new facelift for the home is a bit of a physical activity, all family members getting involved in the planning, decision-making and movement of things is definite to clear-off everyone’s minds from previous routines at school or work. This could also be most beneficial when welcoming some life changes like shifting to customized double-deck beds instead of the previous king-size as the older kids prepare for college. Or maybe it’s high-time now to replace those cutie teddy bear cabinets with more preppy design furniture as your kids cross-over to teen years. With environmental preservation strongly called for nowadays, you may as well integrate eco-friendly decor ideas when deciding to buy new pieces for the home.


Get more hands from the kids for your home redesign.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Hicks via Pinterest

2. Do-It-Yourself Miniature Garden

A miniature garden in your home is always a relaxing sight to behold. Start by hinting your kids on how to create a fish bowl indoor mini-garden. Other creative ideas by your children may spring from there. You may also want to grow with the kids low-maintenance succulent plants to start them up into the activity. A range of gardening options for your kids will allow them to get a feel of their green thumb, and in the end, to discover themselves more.


Possible gardening at your condo balcony or patio.

Photo courtesy of Camille McKen via Pinterest

3. Kiddie Sales Blitz

You may descend from an entrepreneurial lineage so why not hand this down to the kids? Woman’s Day suggests organizing a garage sale as another fun and eco-friendly activity during vacation. This ultimately de-clutters your home from old belongings to other bric-a-brac. By doing so, you’ve taken the first step already to 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. What’s more, kids can maximize their sales blitz with lemonade, pastries or candies booth right at the garage.

You could hold it in the community hall during one weekend and invite friends and neighbors to buy. Motivate your kids to assist in putting up the mini-neighborhood sale by directing the funds earned from their own stuff to create their own savings account. The kids may even find themselves enjoying later as they race up for a bonus award to the best sales achiever.


Teach kids the value of working for their own keep the fun way.

Photo courtesy of Sarah (W.D. Wolf) via Pinterest

4. Popcorn Movie Marathon Challenge

If your family is the movie bunch type, you would all agree easily in setting up a date for a movie marathon challenge and then awarding the winner with the most generous popcorn serving ever! This simple family get-together is a definite formula to unwind as you laugh, cry, sing or scare yourselves through the movie. Moreover, it cleverly saves on electricity as you all huddle up in front of one monitor instead of watching separately from different parts of the home.


Get together for a popcorn movie date night.

Photo courtesy of Randall Wood via Pinterest

5. No-Bake Kitchen Face-Off

One sure and easy way to win kids’ hearts is through sweet goodies. And what could be more fun than having them join you concoct no-bake desserts which beyond doubt they will enjoy eating afterwards. Cooking Light unlids sumptuous recipes for no-bake desserts from mouth-watering tropical sherbet to creamy peanut butter pie, etc. Not only is it easy-to-do, but no-bake cooking can be healthy and power saving, too, as no oven is required.


Cook up your way to kids’ hearts.

Photo courtesy of ADDitude Magazine via Pinterest

6. Art In A Bottle

There are very good reasons why you should keep those jars. On one afternoon session for arts and crafts, let your children think and experiment with what could be made out of old bottles. Start with candle holder, candy jar, potpourri holder, coin bank, pen canister, and so on. You would be surprised later that the list you’ve drawn up with them didn’t turn out short!


Tons of creative ideas on bottle art for kids.

Photo courtesy of Ashley Joye via Pinterest

7. Decoupage With Paper

Decoupage can be a fun and easy craft for your children to learn and do. It involves making tiny paper cut-outs, which can be recycled from back magazine issues, pasting them together to form beautiful pictures, and finishing off with varnish for added appeal and texture. Since it can be applied to anything, decoupage can be a decorating tool which promises limitless possibilities.


Decoupage is a fun and easy craft kids can learn and do.

Photo courtesy of Ellen Cooker via Pinterest

8. BBQ Cook-outs With Al Fresco Dining

Take much stock of the fine weather during school breaks to minimize on power consumption inside the home. Bar-B-Q cook-outs can be an enjoyable way to perk up your mealtime or spring parties at the patio or covered gazebo for a relaxing outdoor ambiance.


Fine weather is much too inviting for family meals outside.

Photo courtesy of Jean Luc Lutringer via Pinterest

 9. Poetry Reading At The Park

If the Dead Poets Society held their poem sessions at hidden venues in the movie, dare to do differently! Come out to the open for poetry reading or story telling with the kids at the park. You can’t underestimate the difference made by simply lounging under the trees or sitting at the benches in installing a favorable setting for a poem. Aside from breathing the cool natural air outside, who knows, you may even bring out a writer or actor from your kids someday.

9Conducive surroundings at the park creates the perfect setting for a poem.

Photo courtesy of Janet Mills via Pinterest

10. Bike or Hike Your Way To Tour

Have you ever thought of biking your way around in a tour? When a tour itinerary involves closely-woven sites, biking can be an attractive and feasible alternative transport mode. Much more if you have excess energy, you could even opt to go walking in your comfy footwear to visit tourist spots within near range. It’s healthy and what’s best, it’s fuel- and pollution-free.

10Bike your way to tour with the family.

Photo courtesy of Cc C via Pinterest

11. Outdoor Sports Hour

If you happen to be a sports buff, you may be keen on allotting a regular time for outdoor sports among you and the kids. There can be several prospects – water fun, board games, team sports, etc. Outdoor sports assist greatly in conserving power and also lends a hand to proper health and value formation. Apartment Therapy lists brilliant ways to enjoy water sports with the kiddie plastic pool.


 Outdoor play for kids can be real fun without being expensive.

Photo courtesy of Maghann Bass via Pinterest

12. Fly A Kite

Flying a kite seems to have been buried as an old-fashioned play in face of digital games from modern gadgets. But flying a kite creates a different bonding experience as you and your kids struggle together to keep the kite up in the air. Creating the kite is another thing as it summons a collective creative effort from your family.

12Teach and join the kids to fly kite.

Photo courtesy of Veronica Savala via Pinterest


13. Fun Run Together For A Cause

Another way to bond with the family and at the same time contribute to a notable cause is by joining fun runs. These are common, especially during vacation time. Your family will end up not only getting more fit, but also more socially aware of various environmental concerns like river clean-ups, smart use of plastics, tree-planting, and similar advocacies.


Family fun runs can be eco-friendly, too.

Photo courtesy of Maria Barber-Katz via Pinterest

14. Wanted: Tender Loving Care (TLC)

Instead of going to far-off animal-theme parks or zoos, why not try extending more TLC towards the pets if you have at home? If not, try buying for a different experience a new indoor, low maintenance pet like a rabbit, small-breed dog, cat, or bird. Bird chatting or teaching the dog some new tricks together with the kids can turn out to be a hilarious bonding even just outside with natural light and ventilation.


Inspire kids to extend some TLC to pets at home.

Photo courtesy of Otaku via Pinterest

15. Ra,Ra,Ra! Ala Mardi-Gras

Numerous local parades and fairs are put up during school breaks along with the fine weather. Join in the excitement and revelry of local community celebrations like fiestas, trade festivals, and carnival fairs with your kids while you all get to appreciate more local culture and history.

15Let kids cheer with the crowd from ladder seats during parades.

Photo courtesy of Gabby B via Pinterest


There may still be lots of activities you could think of for the kids’ school-break. Whatever your options may be, it’s important to keep learning and fun present in any bonding experience. But regardless of place, time, and resources, essential family bonding is achieved when everyone comes to spend time together.


Kimberly Grimms is a futurist who spends most of her time monitoring social behavior in search for new consumer trends. Connect with her on Twitter @kimberlygrimms


by Editor

Make Every Bite Count

Wake Forest University recently launched the Make Every Bite Count campaign that calls on colleges and universities to make a commitment to preserving and celebrating agricultural biodiversity in their own regions.


You can help promote agrobiodiversity, as well as your regional cultural heritage, by choosing to grow, buy, and celebrate indigenous and endangered foods:

  • Inquire. Ask regional gardeners and farmers about heirloom plants and heritage animals that may have been grown or raised in the past. Generational growers may also practice saving seeds and could have access to seeds that hold significance as part of the regional cultural heritage.
  • Connect. Visit farmers markets, restaurants, botanical gardens, seed banks, universities, or research centers to learn about the range of species that exist. From the ingredients a chef is using, to the rare fruit trees in a greenhouse, you can find out what is already being grown and what has the potential to be produced.
  • Celebrate. Take a memory trip with friends or family who have access to cherished recipes that include heirloom varieties and heritage breeds. Prepare and celebrate dishes that stand the test of time.
  • Share. Promote heirloom and heritage foods from your area by saving and sharing seeds or providing offspring for sale.


For more information, or to join the Make Every Bite Count campaign, visit sustainability.wfu.edu.

Read more at ENN.com!

Start the conversation – What is your university doing to help promote sustainability and agrobiodiversity?

by Editor

REVOLUTION: Facts & Figures from the Documentary

Need something to do tomorrow in order to celebrate Earth Day? Check out this new documentary titled REVOLUTION which opens worldwide tomorrow!

REVOLUTION takes the fight to save the oceans to the next level and hopes to inspire audiences to help save our oceans and our planet. Filmed over four years in locations spanning 15 countries, from the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea to the rainforests in Madagascar, REVOLUTION is the response to the pleas of leading scientists who insist that by the middle of this century, we could have no fish in the sea, no coral reefs, no rainforests and a planet that can’t sustain many forms of life. Two thirds of the world’s species could be gone by the end of the century if we don’t act now. Directed and produced by Rob Stewart, a leading conservationist and award-winning filmmaker, REVOLUTION is an empowering firsthand look into the most important issues facing us today. The film trailer can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21hGAKv_0Bs. Read and see more at The Revolution.


REVOLUTION: Facts & Figures


Fact: The last time something of this magnitude happened was the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction which took place 65 million years ago, and it is estimated that 75% of all species vanished.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretaceous–Paleogene_extinction_event#cite_note-15:

Jablonski, D (1994). “Extinctions in the fossil record (and discussion)”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B 344: 11–17. doi:10.1098/rstb.1994.0045.


Fact: Most of the “Big Five” mass extinction events can be directly attributable to ocean acidification.

Source: J.E.N. Veron. “Mass extinctions and ocean acidification: biological constraints on geological dilemmas.” Coral Reefs. 2008.


Fact: Properly managed coral reefs can yield an average of 15 tons of fish and other seafood per square kilometer each year.


Cesar, H. 1996. Economic Analysis of Indonesian Coral Reefs. Washington, DC: The World Bank.


Fact: Since the Industrial Revolution we have released approximately 1 quadrillion pounds (1,000,000,000,000,000) of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Source: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120801_esrlcarbonstudy.html

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA, partners: Earth’s oceans and ecosystems still abosorbing about half the greenhouse gases emitted by people.” Aug. 1, 2012.


Fact: 21% of the air in our atmosphere is oxygen, which animals need to survive. At least half of our oxygen comes from phytoplankton in the oceans, which function as the lungs of the earth. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the ocean’s food chains, supporting everything from whale sharks to humans.

Source: Hellum, “Why Zooplankton are important (marine food webs)” Dec 5 2012


Fact: Studies have found that phytoplankton levels have diminished by up to forty percent over the last fifty years in 8 out of 10 ocean regions. If this depletion of phytoplankton continues it will basically starve the ocean, because phytoplankton is the food source for everything that lives in the ocean.

Source: http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/phytoplankton-iron-ocean-acidity.htm

Marshall, Jessica. Rising Ocean Acidity May Deplete Vital Phytoplankton. 14 January, 2010.


Fact: The Great Barrier Reef has declined in coral cover by 38 percent over the last 25 years. Coral cover in the Caribbean has declined by as much as 90 percent.

Source: J.E.N. Veron. “Mass extinctions and ocean acidification: biological constraints on geological dilemmas.” Coral Reefs. 2008


Fact: It took four million years for corals to rebuild reefs after the last extinction.

Source: Revolution and Global Reef Project. Retrieved from http://www.globalreefproject.com/blog/


Fact: Southeast Asia’s coral reef fisheries alone are estimated to yield US$ 2.4 billion annually.

Source: Multiple reports: http://www.icran.org/peoplereefs-fastfacts.html via:  

Burke, L., Selig, E., and Spalding, M. 2002. Reefs at Risk in Southeast Asia, World Resources Institute


Fact: Every year we discard approximately 40 billion pounds of dead fish as by-catch, because it wasn’t the species we were targeting.

Source: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome. (2012). State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012. Retrieved from www.fao.org


Fact: Deforestation is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, and contributor to ocean acidification.

Sources: Undated: http://whatsyourimpact.org/greenhouse-gases/carbon-dioxide-sources ; Le Quéré, C. et al. (2013). The global carbon budget 1959-2011.


Fact: Tropical forests are home to more than half of the world’s species, and produce a third of our oxygen.

Source: Undated, author not cited http://www.rainforestconcern.org/rainforest_facts/why_are_rainforests_important/


Fact: Madagascar has already lost 90% of its forest.

Source: Undated, World Wildlife Foundation, http://www.wwf.mg/ourwork/cssp/species_report/factsmada/


Fact: 75% of the world’s forests are gone due to deforestation.

Source: Think Global Green, December 2014. Retrieved from http://www.thinkglobalgreen.org/deforestation.html


Fact: Canada hopes to build pipelines to transport the oil out of Alberta, expanding the tar sands 20 times. The latest Tar Sands Keystone pipeline was just vetoed by President Obama.

Source: Gregory Korte, USA Today, February 25, 2015 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/02/24/obama-keystone-veto/23879735/


Fact: The Earth’s population will increase from nearly 7 billion in 2013 to approximately 9 billion by 2050 and we are already exhausting the capacity of the planet to provide for us at our current level of population and consumption.

Sources: UN Press Release: World population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 with most growth in developing regions, especially Africa” (PDF). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. June 13, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2015. “UN Press Release: World population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 with most growth in developing regions, especially Africa” (PDF). United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. June 13, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2015.


Photo credits: © Rob Stewart


by Editor

Monoculture Threatens Margaritas


Tequila’s soaring popularity is creating agricultural risks that may force its own collapse if current production practices continue.

A bit of background

Tequila has been made from the agave plant in Mexico for hundreds of years. The agave is sometimes called the century plant because of a myth that it blooms once in a century and then dies. Well, there’s some truth to this. It does die after it flowers, but it actually takes roughly 8 to 10 years to mature.

To prevent the agave from flowering, farmers closely monitor their crops and cut off any flower stalks so that the agave will continue to grow. When the agave’s sugar content is high enough for fermentation (at least 24 percent), the plant is harvested. Leaves are cut off and discarded. The heart of the plant, or piña, is then carted off and sold to tequila producers. The piña gets its name from its resemblance to an enormous pineapple, weighing in at roughly 50-100 pounds. The piñas are then roasted, mashed, fermented, strained, distilled, and sometimes aged, to make tequila.

Wait, don’t no flowers mean no seeds?

It might be reasonable to assume that the farmers would allow a selection of plants to flower to produce seeds for the next crop. But in the case of the agave, they don’t have to.

Agave is a succulent, one of those wonderful, strange plants that are so adept at asexual reproduction that, in many species, a single leaf has the potential to sprout roots and grow into a fully functioning adult plant. The agave, for example, sends out shoots, known as pups. Fortunately for farmers, the agave becomes especially eager to create pups when its means of sexual reproduction is disrupted in some way, such as by cutting off its flowering stalk. This is ideal for farmers, who can collect the pups to populate their fields in lieu of seed stock.

The problem

Using shoots or pups is cheaper, faster and easier than growing from seed. Unfortunately, the cost of convenience is the absence of genetic diversity of the agave stock. In 2007 it was estimated that that 99 percent of all cultivated agave were the products of pups. In genetic terms, most cultivated agave plants are clones. Without sexual reproduction, there is no genetic exchange between plants. This genetic sameness produces precarious conditions for the health of future crops, as genetic diversity creates obstacles that pests must overcome, thereby slowing their spread and damage.

In the last 30 years, tequila has ballooned in popularity, with producers scrambling to keep up with demand. In less than a decade, the
industry has seen propagation boom from 40,000 acres cultivated with Weber Blue agave to nearly 120,000 acres. This created an overabundance, and thus a flooded market. Prices for agave plummeted from $4 per pound to pennies, highlighting the risks of trying to predict the market when it takes 10 years for a crop to be ready for harvest.


But after planting 120,000 acres with a single strain, of a single crop, of which 99 percent of plants are vegetally propagated genetic clones, the tequila industry now has more to worry about than simply forecasting demand. This kind of agricultural management takes the concept of monoculture to a new level. It practically warrants a new word!

Monoculture makes crops vulnerable, and the predictable consequence is disease. This is why big agribusiness spends so much money on fungicides and pesticides. Just look what monoculture did to the Gros Michel banana. Today, the world consumes Cavendish bananas. But prior to the 1950’s, the Gros Michel, which was said to have been the most flavorful of all banana varieties, would have been in your local grocery store. Then came Panama Disease, caused by a fungus, which tore through the world’s banana plantations and very nearly resulted in the extinction of the Gros Michel.

With monoculture brought to the genetic level, Weber Blue agave today is an easy target for pests, with weevils, nematodes, fungi and bacteria ravaging the fields. Weevils boar into the hard husk, creating access points into the plant for the fungus and bacteria. Once an insect is inside the plant, pesticides are largely ineffective.

The best course of action for producers of Weber Blue agave is to work with seed stock, and intercrop with some of the other 10 heirloom varieties of agave that are viable for making tequila. But government standards prevent this from happening. Only liquor produced within the area surrounding the town of Tequila, and made with Weber Blue agave, may be called tequila. Other varieties can only be called mescal.

To avoid the inevitable consequences of monoculture, the simple and obvious solution would be for the government to modify regulations governing these designations. But the industry is loathe to do so for fear of compromising the integrity of the product and losing its designation as “tequila.”

Just as the Gros Michel banana was considered to be the most delicious of all strains of bananas, so is Weber Blue regarded among agave varieties. But if the Weber Blue agave meets the same fate as the Gros Michel, a great many tequila lovers will have reason to mourn.

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Zapata, A., & Nabhan, G. (2003). Tequila: A natural and cultural history. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Stewart, A. (2013). The drunken botanist: The plants that create the world’s great drinks. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Margarita and Agave images via Shutterstock

by Katharine Galpin