By Staci Goddard, May 17, 2016

During the presentation at the Burbank Mandated Food Scrap Waste Recycling for Businesses Event, one of the presenters insisted that using compostable cutlery was not ideal.  Granted, I do consider the point valid in the following circumstances:

  • Businesses and individuals using recyclable plastic cutlery that is actually recycled afterwards
  • The dearth of commercial composting facilities in SoCal which are required to break down any utensils that are compostable (but not home garden-compostable).
  • The confusion that compostable utensils and materials cause for recycling and waste-sorting facilities (since certain types cannot be mixed in with food scraps, given the special processes required for breaking them down effectively.)
  • And the ultimate ideal, reusing silverware–is far superior to the aforementioned options for the most part.
Their context of comprehension oriented on the use-to-waste-to-landfill/recycling center cycle.  What of the products don’t follow that path?  How much of that single-use crap ends up in the oceans?
Compostable utensils are hardly the messiah of all that is a utensil.  Production can be problematic because some manufacturers use GMO crops as raw materials. (Thankfully more consumers are being discerning, and some manufacturers are shifting to meet demand.)  Distribution is confusing.  Even though classification systems have improved, consumers seldom know where to deposit their compostable cutlery in order for it to properly compost.  (In other words, not every fork disappears easily in one’s backyard compost.)  Moreover, compostable products often end up in the wrong place during waste processing–and even in the recycling stream!
Still, given the number of fastfood, restaurant, commercial kitchens, businesses, break rooms, and other facilities that provide single-use utensils, compostable cutlery should make for a remarkable improvement over plastic without causing so much ado.  How do we get it there?

The key notion is to have a single-use product made of compostable material that can behave like forks, spoons, and knives are expected to behave while in use–but afterwards it needs to disappear.  AND if it ends up in the wrong place, it should not linger for more than a year.  And no nurdles!

The best case scenario would be for the compostable utensils to all have a requirement for being backyard compostable and marine-environment compostable within a hundred days.  That’s largely what customers expect from their compostable products. That’s what manufacturers need to deliver.  To prevent confusion–that grade of compostability/biodegradability should be the standard across the board.
Until then, we can have our forks–and eat them, too. Help support the Kickstarter for Edible Cutlery devised in India.
And for those of us who are eccentrics, carry a nice suave little case around with a metal fork, knife, and spoon or reusable chopsticks.  Who knows–maybe it can become fashionable.  Some folks have their signature mug.  More folks have signature grocery bags.  Why not have signature utensils?

By Brettney Perr


With the 2013 CPSIA bans on Phthalates, Lead, and PVC in children products, and with subsequent restrictions on BPA–manufacturers have turned to polypropylene, which is extensively used and currently deemed safe among other plastics. But is it really harmless?

I was doing some research for an eco-friendly baby bathtub a while back. At the time only one came up when I performed the search. The tub in question was a great concept and was touted as being “non-toxic, recyclable, energy efficient, BPA and PVC free.” I was ready to press the checkout button when I thought, “Is any plastic really eco-friendly?” Then again is any plastic really safe? So I looked into this mystery “non-toxic, recyclable, energy efficient, BPA and PVC free” plastic. Turns out it’s made out of our friendly plastic Mr.Polypropylene (PP), which is one of the most used plastics!

This #5 recyclable is what replaced the BPA and PVC in those baby bottles. It’s the plastic tub you get from the prepared foods section of your grocery store. It’s your yogurt container, the cap to your glass/steel water bottle, in addition to many, many other things, and it’s even used in Europe! So you figure it’s safe, right? Well perhaps we were wrong. An experiment by researchers in Canada had their research fouled by two compounds, quaternary ammonium biocides, and oleamide, leaching from their polypropylene equipment. The fortunate thing is that they noticed this and raised a red flag about using PP which is now being brought into question in much the same way Mr. Polycarbonate was in the early 90s according to the Environmental Working Group. I wonder about how many crucial experiments have been fouled by these products leaching unnoticed.

So what are “quaternary ammonium biocides” and “oleamide” besides hard to  pronounce?
Lets start with quaternary ammonium biocides. These are anti-bacterial compounds which have a variety of applications, including being mixed in with the plastic that holds your pro-biotic yogurt. If it does leach these compounds into your friendly bacteria colonies in a container of yogurt, doesn’t that seem like false advertising? Not to mention the effects once these get into your body and encounter the friendly bacteria that you tried hard to establish there by eating yogurt in the first place. And what happens when they leach into the environment at large? Are they killing off friendly bacteria? Do they contribute to antibiotic-resistance like most anti-bacterial hand soaps–which caused all that commotion in the news?

On to the other compound leaching from PP: oleamide. This is naturally occurring in the body and causes sleep to be induced whenever one is sleep-deprived.  Upon having insufficient sleep, it collects in the cerebrospinal fluid. If you’re like me, you may be asking why Mr. PP has this compound.  Is he being sleep deprived? Actually it’s used as a slip agent or lubricant as it were. Since this compound is found within the human body, this substance is of great concern.  What will its effect be? Perhaps it plays a role in making people lazy, hallucinate as if sleep-deprived, or the “run-of-the-mill” effect of causing cancer.

Before people go screaming into the streets that Mr. Polypropylene is the devil, what caused these compounds to leach in the first place?  This seems to remain a mystery, but the EWG reports that the Canadians were “conducting experiments on a human enzyme” and that the “substances were leaking from the plastic tubes they used to transfer liquids in the experiment.” Also there is currently research happening to see exactly what the potential effects these compounds can have on us and the environment.

So in conclusion this knowledge is yours to take and do whatever action you want to do with it. I personally did not buy the bath tub because a baby can be very susceptible to these compounds. Many compounds are absorbed directly through their thin skin.  Regardless, I saved money on not getting one anyways; however I still come in contact with this plastic almost daily, so I anxiously await the results on its overall safety (as do product injury lawyers it seems.)  More info can be found at Lawyers and Settlements.com, The Environmental Working Group(EWG), Gaiam, and lastly a report of the leaching study here.

by Staci Goddard, December 24, 2015

The Washington Post several months back released an article that instructed the public to no longer distress themselves with thoughts of their favorite little insectoid pollinators (second to butterflies) being under threat of extinction at the hands of pesticides, particularly those of the neonicotinoid family, although other pesticide families and even certain fungicides also adversely impact bee populations.

What is the Reality of the Situation?

There are honeybees and bumblebees (pardon my gross over-simplification). The European honeybee has been domesticated, and these are reared commercially for use in orchards and agriculture.  The pesticides and fungicides used in agriculture have individually and/or in concert harmed bees of all types.  This harm has revealed itself in a variety of forms:

This idea of bees being “threatened” by pesticides has also been a subject of controversy despite empirical evidence and peer-reviewed scientific studies.  Part of the confusion involves the display of data in mainstream media.

 

The Washington Post article is orients on honeybees. Both honeybees and wild, bumblebees are important for agriculture and for ecosystems worldwide.  (If the bumblebee population declines, to what degree will there still be a global agricultural catastrophe?)  Nevertheless, the issue with bumblebees and pesticides was omitted.

Secondly, the article by Ingraham qualifies success by the total number of honeybees available.  If honeybees are still dying off at the same rate, but honeybee production doubles–then the total number remains the same.  Two can play at that game.

When CCD came along, it roughly doubled the usual annual rate of bee die-offs. But this doesn’t mean that bees are going extinct, just that beekeepers need to work a little harder to keep production up.  -Ingraham

So maybe commercially produced colonies of European honeybees won’t disappear soon, but this increased production of European honeybees is a “quick fix”–not the solution and certainly not the Happily Ever After…

From as much as we can gather:

  • The die-off rate has not decreased for European honeybees that are exposed to pesticides (and certain fungicides).
  • The die-off rate for bumblebees is still problematic

 

 

Hatching

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12th from 7pm – 9pm  #Darwinsaysno #Darwinsays #dnfeed 

Come join us and celebrate the First Year Anniversary of Don’t Feed the Animals!

DNFTA is an environmental non-profit with the mission to use art and media to educate individuals, communities, and corporations with effective means to safeguard the environment and achieve a better and more sustainable future for humanity on this planet.

Featuring Live Performance by Callusoul
Exclusive Refreshments from Pearson Brothers Winery
Hand-painted Merchandise
Repurpose Jewelry by Wenchie, featured on Etsy
U-stream Live on our Youtube Channel: Share your experiences in adopting a sustainable lifestyle and zero-waste practices on http://youtube.com/c/dontfeedtheanimals.  We’ve got some nifty questions, so come steal a little spotlight and help inspire people to make a difference.

Green Gurus: Quiz and question the Environment Experts for solutions and anything that compells one’s curiosity.

And More!

TICKETS – Tickets are available online until 3pm on 12-Sep-2015.  Afterwards they will be available at the venue check-in from 7pm onward. 21 and over only (ID required).

PARKING – Parking lots are north and south of the venue on Centinela by the Vineyard Westside Christian Fellowship signs.  Overflow parking is available at the Grand View Boulevard Elementary School to the south (after the Petco on Centinela).  UBER & METRO are other options from transportation to and from the event.

#Darwinsaysno #Darwinsays #dnfeed @DNfeed_Animals 

 

By Cyndi Hubach, May 25, 2015

Most creatures on this grand blue-green earth have the good sense to avoid us human beings. Some, though, find some benefit from being in our presence (who wouldn’t want to be an American dog or cat?), some we tolerate in our general environs (birds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, etc.), and some, like rats, mice, cockroaches, ants, and the like, are really the uninvited dinner guest that just won’t take a hint.

These “pests” (a relative term–from a planetary perspective; there is no question that it is we who are the pests), have been vexing us for millennia, and as with any complex problem, most potential solutions seem to bring with them some other slew of vexing problems, and so it is, perhaps somewhat predictably, with rat poison.

As I said in last week’s post, the favored rodenticide du jour is a powerful anti-coagulant (known as a SGAR) that builds up in animals to such high levels, that the animals in turn become toxic to predators. Even the lower grade poisons can be a threat to pets and other unintended targets. And though the lethal action of the poison (it’s basically a strong dose of the blood-thinner Coumadin – um, hmm) is said to be relatively painless.  The offending rodent is still a sentient creature that didn’t ask to be born and is just doing its best to get by in this cold, cruel world. Does it really deserve to have its capillaries dissolve and slowly bleed to death? No. It does not.

But what to do? I’m all for coexistence and the beauty and sanctity of all life and all of that, but even I draw the line at rats around the house. But as with so much in our modern, I-want-it-now society, maybe this is another instance where we reach too readily for the easy fix. If we’re anxious, we want a pill to calm our nerves. If we’re thirsty, just reach for the single-use plastic water bottle. If we tire of something, we throw it away—wherever that is. And if we have a rat, we want it gone fast, and that usually means poison.

Sometimes, though, just a little bit of thought and effort can solve an issue in a way that doesn’t cause a host of cascading problems down the line. For example,the first line of defense should be to remove whatever is attracting the creature. If you’ve got a basement full of dog food, or your earthquake survival kit is a corner crammed with cereal boxes, get those rat treats into some pest-proof plastic containers and carefully seal any holes in your walls or vents. (Use ¼” metal mesh.  They can squeeze through anything larger).

In the garden, ivy, large bushes and other dense vegetation create perfect breeding grounds and hiding places for rats. Consider planting drought-tolerant natives instead, which in addition to being unattractive to rats, are actually appealing to critters you might like to see around, like birds, bees and butterflies.

If these tactics don’t work, there are capture cages that allow you to trap and relocate an unwelcome visitor (though you are most likely creating a problem for someone else). If you must resort to lethal methods, snap or electronic traps kill with more precision than poison, and are at least quick, if not painless. Glue traps, in which the animal is stuck and dies of exhaustion and dehydration are horrifically cruel and should also be banned.

Of course, there was a time when the domestic cat was considered an ideal agent of rodent control, but as I mentioned in another column, like rodenticides, they too are indiscriminate in their lethality (and are prone to fall victim to predators and other dangers as well). But there is a new movement afoot that advocates for a solution that seems downright medieval: the deployment of the barn owl.

It turns out that if you install an attractive owl-sized wooden box on a tall pole, barn owls will come, and “goodbye rodents!” Now, I myself would worry that the owl might be inclined to cart off my small dog or the neighbor’s cat, but owl advocates swear that rodents are the largest animals they target. Barn owls are already being used to control rodents in vineyards and farms in California, and if the idea catches on, they may help keep rats—and our often-destructive attempts to do them in—under control as well.

And like the sparrows, skunks and squirrels that frequent our backyards, they don’t seem to mind hanging out around us, and might even be a welcome addition to the urban ecosystem we call life in the city.

 

May 8, 2015 by Cynthia Hubach

Does anybody know who Tom Lehrer is anymore? For those who don’t (and everyone should), Lehrer was a Harvard-MIT professor-cum-piano-playing wag of the 50’s and 60’s, who skewered everything from the Vatican to the Bomb, in two-minute bursts of subversive doggerel. His rapier whimsy was a favorite of my dad’s, and even at eight, I knew it was funny although it often went over my head.

But there was one song that left me not only baffled, but disturbed. Whatever did he mean by the lilting waltz Poisoning Pigeons in the Parkin which a lovely spring day is spent tossing strychnine-laced crumbs (“it just takes a smidgeon”), at unsuspecting birds? I had long dismissed it as absurdist humor–or–heaven forbid, the hint of an actual mean streak. (Maybe nobody cares about animals, not even Tom Lehrer!) But he was, I see now, just way ahead of his time. “We’ll murder them among laughter and merriment, except for the few we take home to experiment.” We might kill them or we might torture them. Either way, we will casually inflict suffering and death on our foolishly trusting fellow beings.

Half a century on, Lehrer has given up the stage, but our propensity for poisoning has only increased (the extermination business is now a $7 billion industry). Of course, we generally don’t condone pigeon poisoning in the park, but we do seem to value the convenience that comes with annihilating pesky things without getting our hands dirty. Whether it’s a rat that’s found its way into the basement, or a line of ants that just won’t stay out of the sugar bowl, it’s tempting to just toss some poison pellets into the corner or take out the Raid and hope the bothersome creatures will retreat to their lairs to expire away from view. No muss, no fuss.

As we’ve learned from, well, everything in life, most solutions come with both muss and fuss. And so it is, surprise, surprise, with   p o i s o n i n g   things. It turns out that the poison doesn’t always stay where (or in whom) you want it. This issue of “poison creep” has actually had a bit of publicity recently, thanks to the predicament of everyone’s favorite urban apex predator, the Griffith Park mountain lion, P-22. This real-life Hollywood cougar recently came down with a nasty case of mange, most likely caused by ingesting prey that had been weakened by rodenticide, or rat poison.

P-22 is just the most famous victim of a problem that has become ubiquitous in its spread. Recent studies show that these types of poisonings have occurred in at least 25 wild species in California, including mountain lions, hawks, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and northern spotted owls. The really nasty stuff, the poisons known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGAR’s) have been found in more than 70-percent of wildlife tested. Pets, of course, can fall victim as well.

As the name implies, these anticoagulant poisons interfere with blood clotting, causing uncontrolled bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants are especially pernicious because while they are highly toxic, death often does not occur for 5-7 days. The rodents therefore may ingest several doses of the poison, causing the toxins to accumulate in their tissues at many times the lethal dose, and as an extra bonus, making them slow and weak, and especially easy targets for predators.

So what is the solution? First of all, we could do with a slight rebranding of these maligned creatures. Granted, having rats and cockroaches in the house is a health and safety issue and can be intractable (and horrifying) enough to call for lethal measures. On the other hand, they’re all just trying to get by too, and a few spiders in the corners and the occasional ant invasion might not be cause to call in the big guns. I myself seem to have a rodent of some sort in the backyard with a strong taste for homegrown oranges and tomatoes, and at the moment there is enough to go around. So, live and let live, I say.

As a society, we could also stand to relax many of our rigid rules against weeds, germs, dirt and the occasional mouse, the enforcement of which has created a sterile environment that is actually making us sick.We are a part of nature after all, and deciding to live with a few so-called pests on the periphery, if not necessarily in the pantry, might prove to be beneficial to all concerned.

But when it is time for the ultimate solution, there are methods with far fewer cascading negative effects than second-generation rodenticides, including one that is downright medieval. We’ll look at those in next week’s installment…

 

By Cyndi Hubach, April 24, 2015

Nobody loves cats more than I do. My soulmate in cat form, Jack, died almost exactly a year ago, and I still—well, I won’t even tell you what I still do, but suffice to say, I loved that cat.

Nevertheless, that sweet, soft, purring embodiment of unconditional jack2affection that many of us know to be the cat has a darker alter ego lurking just under the surface—a Mr. Hyde or Frank Underwood, if you will—capable of killing without a breath of hesitation or a moral qualm. This murderous inclination presents a quandary for those of us who feel strong bonds with both the pussycat—a beloved companion—and the myriad creatures they dispatch with such cavalier disregard—um, for life on the planet. How do you solve a problem like the killer housecat?

There is no secret about the feline proclivity for carnage. Just about every year, you can count on a new study detailing gruesome statistics of the cat’s lethality. It’s estimated that cats do in billions, yes billions, of birds, reptiles and rodents in the country every year. And that doesn’t count the additional billions of insects they undoubtedly torture for amusement because well, nobody really counts insects.

Technology has only added to the evidence. Go-pro type cameras affixed to the collars of a several dozen indoor-outdoor cats a few years ago showed persistent stalking, hunting and killing by nearly half of them. (Certain individual cats do show less inclination for bloodlust, and I’m certain that Jack was himself, a pacifist.)

Despite these undeniable facts, cat owners are notoriously reluctant to take responsibility for their bloodthirsty felines. “It’s nature. The circle of life,” they’ll intone, nodding sagely. Well, no. Circle of life implies, you know, a circle. Your cat, as the cameras showed and every cat person knows, doesn’t typically kill to eat; it kills simply to kill, hence the designation: “homicidal maniac.” The poor bird or rodent is, more often than not, dropped once it ceases to be amusing—that is, when it dies.

Another counter to this, “well, nature is cruel” argument is: your cat is not “natural.” Unless you live in the deserts of Israel or Saudi Arabia, your cat is an exotic invasive species; it has no more business prowling around your suburban neighborhood than a kangaroo, but here it is, exquisitely adaptable, stealthily killing whatever luckless creature happens to catch its murderous eye. (And it’s not just the potential prey that’s in danger. Outdoor cats have a significantly reduced lifespan. You don’t do your cat any favors by letting her outside.)

Then there is the, “my cat will go crazy indoors” argument. This is hogwash. If the cat is fixed, and given just a little bit of attention, entertainment and exercise (there’s almost no problem a feather toy can’t solve), she will happily lie around your house taking catnaps all day.

There is one slight argument in favor of those beleaguered cat defenders out there. It turns out that “owned” cats (inasmuch as a cat can be owned) commit a bit less mayhem than true feral or stray cats. But while your indoor-outdoor Felis catus may not be the principal cause of species destruction, she is, more than likely, a contributor. We all know that the wild critters of the world need all the help they can get. Please do the birds, butterflies, lizards, mice, and baby everythings out there a favor, and keep your sweet, loving, killer pussycats indoors, where everyone can stay a little safer.