Houston is getting hotter by the minute with frizzy-is-my-style percent humidity. Most weekend afternoons are just better spent inside. Contrary to many places where summer brings people out of hiding, Texas Summer makes you beg for air conditioning.
What better time to catch up on some well made and important documentaries?
Here’s my ultimate summer watch list to boost your awareness and kick start some eco living habits for fall. (Woop – they’re all on Netflix)
Diet is everything
1. Cowspiracy This movie finally explained all the environmental impacts of animal agriculture and how devastating meat, especially beef, production is. I’m lucky I have a simple relationship with food and stopped eating beef and most meats cold turkey the same day I saw it. From what I’ve heard, it has had the same effect on many people.
2. Forks over Knives*
And here came the health side of a plant-based whole-foods lifestyle that I needed to complete my lose-the-meat-education. It also gave me the final inspiration to try and cut all dairy products out of my life. Now that’s harder, as it hides in a lot of things but it’s a work in progress. No more cheese, lattes and ice creams for me! Though yes, the veggies I’m eating at restaurants are probably sautéed in butter and the occasional tsatsiki does happen.
Consumption and corruption (go hand in hand)
3. True Cost This movie has been out for a while and most people know the damaging consequences of fast fashion by now, but it’s still an enlightening watch. It’ll open your eyes to some of the corruption behind cotton production (how Monsanto plays a part) and you’ll never buy Asian-made leather goods again (I hope).
4. Poverty Inc.
Just because you think charity is good, doesn’t mean it does good. Who profits the most from aid? Why is the western world so determined to keep Africa “poor”? This is a great and eye opening watch that made me take yet another look at my consumption behavior. You’ll most likely unfollow TOMS shoes on Instagram immediately.
The power that fuels our car and our plastic addiction
They’re pushing the agenda a bit for ethanol as the optimal fuel, which is highly debatable, but the big topic of the movie is this: why are we as a society completely controlled by the oil industry? It goes all the way back to the beginning of the oil-era and exposes the men who made the decisions that changed our world forever and caused unimaginable environmental destruction.
6. Trashed or Plastic Paradise
I wanted to include one on waste but I haven’t watched one in particular that really got me going “yes!”. I’ll mention two. Plastic Paradise: The great pacific garbage patch, which mostly focuses on the mythical garbage island in the pacific and trash in the ocean. The second one is Trashed in which Jeremy Irons investigates our wasteful ways as a society and the impact all our trash has on our health and planet.
Let me know what you all think of these films! And leave comments with more eco documentaries below, if you have the time :)
*There’s also a great Forks over Knives app ($5) packed with whole food, vegan recipes you’ll love.
The amount of noise in the ocean has doubled each decade since the 1950s.
Why? Because of us (of course).
Noise from human activities is blasting through the ocean constantly. A sound signal created in the Indian Ocean can travel all the way to the coast of Washington State, as sound travels much farther in salt water than it does on land. So whenever there is noise under water, there is no getting away from it (unless you want to jump ashore).
Marine mammals depend on their hearing for many of life’s most basic functions like foraging, finding a mate, avoiding predators, communicating, and navigating their way through the vast waters. All these activities are affected when we introduce noise into the ocean. When their own sound waves used for communicating are disrupted, whales, dolphins and orcas go silent, which can cause, among other issues, young mammals to get separated from the heard as they can no longer hear their mom’s call. Although, this is happening in virtually every ocean basin on the planet, it’s especially serious in the northern hemisphere where most human activities occur.
There are three major contributors to ocean noise.
1. Commercial shipping transport
Commercial shipping is the leading contributor to low-frequency ocean noise worldwide. The noise from engines, propellers and breaking of waves is constant as there are thousands of container ships at any given time on our oceans. Did you know that for example 97% of all clothing we buy in the US is imported? We import so many things from China that container ships often go back there empty.
2. Oil exploration using seismic surveys
Oil and gas explorers use seismic surveys (shock waves initiated by an air-gun blast) to produce detailed images of the various rock types and their location beneath the ocean floor. This information is used to determine the location and size of oil and gas reservoirs. These high-powered air guns blast compressed air about every 12 seconds for weeks to months at a time. (Of course the oil industry denies the serious impact of their methods. As with all oil activities, it’s perfectly safe and great.)
3. US Navy high-intensity sonar-training exercises
It works pretty much the same way as the seismic surveys, except the Navy is looking for foreign threats under the surface, not oil reservoirs. A low frequency active sonar device sends a pulse of energy through the water (a sound wave) that reflects off of objects so they are detected. They’re also testing weapons and explosives under water.
Whenever I blog about environmental threats, I always try to share some ideas on how we as citizens of the world can better the situation. Sure, awareness is key, but actions are what changes things. We can’t rely on the industries to change their behavior, they’ll always put dollars before the environment, and that’s that.
Isn’t it kind of obvious how we can reduce shipping transport? Exactly, we need to stop importing everything. The threat to marine life caused by shipping was actually one of my biggest reasons for starting the not made in China challenge in 2014. We can all do our part by focusing on buying locally made products and locally grown food (all you have to do is read the tag). We can also simply buy less. If something is imported from far away, and you don’t need it, leave it.
The shipping and transport industry has a huge responsibility too, naturally. Other than redesigning the ships to create less noise, simply traveling at lower speeds would reduce the noise level significantly.
If ships traveled slower and we reduced our imports from far away, we would use less heavy fuels to power shipping too, which brings me to our next action item.
I am of the opinion that we need to keep it all in the ground, and that most certainly applies to off-shore reserves as well. We need to use less, and with that search less.
Now you might think of your gasoline usage and argue that you can’t get an electrical car or improve your car situation in any way. All right, I hear you (you’ve told me a thousand times). There are still many things you can do to reduce oil use, like carpooling, using the car with the best mileage when both cars are available (most American households have two), using public transport, biking or walking.
Changing your electricity provider to one providing only renewable energy also makes a huge difference. Many eco systems, not just under water, suffer from the consequences of oil and gas exploration (spills, seismic surveys, pollution, pipelines) while, contrary to popular belief, wind power turbines aren’t really a threat to anything in nature. In fact, wind turbines are only responsible for 0.01% of bird fatalities (the main killers are buildings and power lines).
Then there’s plastic. Plastic is made from fossil fuel, you know. Every straw, every cup, every wrapper, every bag, every utensil, every net is made from either crude oil or natural gas byproducts, resources we’ve pumped out of the ground. And although plastic never degrades naturally (that means it lasts forever), the majority of Americans treat it like it is a disposable item. Since scientists predict there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050, reducing plastic use also helps marine life in that they don’t swallow it (leading to hormone disturbances or death) or get entangled in it (leading to suffocation or serious handicaps).
Lastly, it’s not easy for us normal folks to stop the Navy from doing high-intensity sonar-training exercises under water. That said, we can sign petitions that forces the Navy to use more whale-friendly technologies (like magnetic sensors and passive sonar) and we can support organizations fighting to regulate the Navy’s activities and what areas they’re allowed to operate in.
If only one person decides to take action, sure it’s just a drop in the ocean. However, if we all take responsibility, imagine the difference we can make! And the amazing thing about noise pollution is that the second we stop making it, all the pollution is GONE.
I recommend watching the documentary Sonic Sea (trailer below) that inspired this post and learning more about our oceans at NRDC.org (Natural Resources Defense Council). You can stand up to ocean noise by signing up here.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a new roadmap last week for addressing ocean noise, under which NOAA would finally begin to manage it, though there are no concrete plans. Read the roadmap here. (The public has until July 1 to comment on it.)
I believe most of you reading this blog are in agreement with me that buying locally made products supports and maintains a strong local economy. I also believe that price is the only reason an American would buy a made in China product over a made in USA one.
Imagine that you have a choice between two identical sweaters, one made here, one made in China. The price is the same, the quality is the same and they’re sitting next to each other on the same shelf at the store. I bet you would pick the one made in USA.
Now, let’s say the imported sweater is ten dollars cheaper. Some of you would now switch, some would not, claiming that ten dollars off of an 80 dollar sweater doesn’t matter. But what if the made in China sweater was free? Yes, completely FREE of charge! Now, which one would you pick?
Hold that thought for a second and let’s turn our heads toward developing countries, applying the same logic. What do you think happens when companies like TOMS overflow a developing market with free shoes? What do you think happens when your donated clothes arrive in a less fortunate country? Do the people there still go shopping for locally and sustainably made?
Let’s talk about TOMS a bit, just because they’re probably the most famous of all “social entrepreneurs”. You think you’re doing a great thing, buying one overpriced pair, while TOMS donates another to a child in need.
Unfortunately, the reality looks a bit different. Instead of helping, you’re actually:
Buying a pair of shoes you don’t need i.e. wasting resources (come on, admit it).
Making the American CEO of TOMS richer.
Importing a pair of shoes from China. (Go ahead, check the tag. Pretty much all pairs are made in Chinese non-fair-trade-certified factories and shipped across the ocean disrupting marine life.)
Helping destroy local shoe making businesses in developing countries.
Oops. Not so great.
Now, I don’t think TOMS was started with some evil intention to keep third world countries poor, nor do I think you wanted to help them do that, when you bought your shoes. I simply think TOMS misunderstood their own efforts and lots of people believed (or believe) in their concept.
For generations “we” have tried giving aid to poor countries in order to “help” them out of poverty. And obviously, it’s not helping. I haven’t heard any sunshine stories about how riches ever came from aid (talking about all that free stuff).
And it makes sense. No one would invest in a local rice plantation if there were bags of free imported rice available. No one would want to start a local manufacturing plant if everything people needed (and wanted) was already available for free.
The cool thing is that we can make better choices in our everyday lives to make sure we don’t contribute to the broken aid system! Here are some ideas on what you can do to make a positive impact:
Stop randomly donating money. Make sure you know what your money is used for, and who profits the most from it. If you are unsure, you’re better off keeping your dollars away from any organization or church meddling in another country’s business. This does not include properly handled emergency aid.
Stop over-shopping. By limiting your shopping, especially of clothes and shoes, you can avoid “donations” that contribute to the mountains of items overflowing developing countries. Quality over quantity, you know. If you need to donate, give it to a local homeless shelter or a resale shop.
Shop second hand. Keep other people’s bad choices from ending up as donations!
Shop fair. The only way to HELP developing countries grow strong economies is to purchase their fairly made (non-sweat-shop) products (i.e them creating jobs). I’m talking about fair trade clothing from Kenya, organic chocolate from Peru, unique jewelry made by artisans in Haiti* or something as simple as choosing the local beer and hotel chain when you travel. You know; doing it fair, shopping it small and keeping it real.
Without local manufacturing and thriving businesses, a community, no matter which country it’s in, can never rise above poverty.
If you were tempted (or secretly picked) the “free” made in China sweater instead of the 80 dollar American one in the scenario at the beginning of this post – you know this is true.
* To me, the optimal “fair” shopping is when you shop items made close to where you live, minimizing shipments. So if you’re in Europe, support African Fair Trade, if you’re in the States go for Central American goods etc.
Whenever there is a new documentary on Netflix promising to get our wheels turning, we always watch it. Watch, absorb, discuss, research and make necessary changes. So when Leonardo DiCaprio (my favorite eco-celebrity) posted that “Cowspiracy” was available, we knew we had to watch it.
There’s a lot to be learned from watching this amazing movie about how agriculture, raising livestock and eating meat, beef in particular, impact our environment. I will not be able to do the movie justice by attempting to summarize what it’s all about; you have to see it (and listen!) for yourself.
Personally, we knew eating meat was bad for the environment (cow burps and farts = methane), but honestly, we had no idea to what extent.
One of the sources interviewed in this fantastic movie said something like; “No meat-eater can call themselves an environmentalist”. Based on the fact that livestock is the largest global source of methane and nitrous oxide pollution, number one reason for deforestation, causes drought and produces excessive amounts of waste, to name a few issues; there’s no doubt that he is right.
This blog is all about tags. I’m always saying we must check the tag to see what something contains, where something is made, what a brand stands for. Tags and labels are important, and when it comes to myself, I like to think my tag says “made in Sweden”, contents: opinionated (150% of daily recommended value) environmentalist. I can’t have my tag taken away from me!! I’ve built a whole blog around my tag! Must eat better!
We saw the movie a few months ago, and since then, low, lower, lowest meat consumption for me and hubby. It’s not like we ate beef several times a week, and I was already doing meat-free-lunch every day, but we’ve stepped up our game dramatically. It hasn’t been a very hard change for me to be honest. But, yes, I do need to work on my vegan-cooking skills. I love cooking, so I am sure I’ll get better in time (that’s the optimist in me talking).
You know we’re saving for our first made right (here) Tesla, and here’s an interesting fact from the movie; switching to an electric vehicle (from a gas driven) will save a teeny bit more CO2 per year, than what switching to a plant based diet from a meat based diet will (only talking CO2 not the other worse greenhouse gases). But, how easy is it to change the purchases at the grocery store today compared to saving up and buying a new car? Exactly, that’s a no-brainer; start at the grocery store. Combined, these two changes are dynamite – in a good way.
We must all admit that we don’t know everything, and we all have the right to be wrong – that’s the cool thing about being human. We are wrong to eat meat in the vast amounts that we are, and the solution is really simple.
This movie got the world talking. It got me and my friends talking. Thank you Leo and Cowspiracy, that is truly grand.
Personal note: I reduce the amount of non-recyclable packaging I bring into our home, by not buying meats. It’s also easier to check tags on veggies than it is on meats (and processed foods) making it easy to shop local.
I talk a lot about pollution, shipping and waste on this blog, as it is the reason why I am on a shop local mission! The health of this planet has such a big place in my heart, so for me, that’s the motivator.
However, I know many people around me relate and are more motivated by injustice, cruelty or by gaining insight into other people’s stories and their welfare. Many donate to save starving children or to better situations for people in need, while I would donate to an environmental organization. The world needs all of us.
That’s why I am sharing this link to a 12 minute episode today, (trailer below) which I first saw on the blog The Delicate Tension a couple of weeks ago. It scared me, but also made me feel like I am definitely on the right path. Long story short; three western youngsters who live to shop, go to Cambodia to experience first hand, the life of a sweatshop factory worker making about $100 a month, in order to understand where and how their clothes were made.
I feel like I am taking a stand against this kind of industry with how I shop. Are we at risk of putting garment workers out of work temporarily if we stop shopping? Probably. But how else do we show the big chains (who use sweatshops) that we don’t accept it? What do you think?
Maybe you have noticed that while this is a “not made in China challenge”, when it comes to clothes I try to buy 100% US made. This is because I consider all clothes to be luxury items; things I want but don’t NEED. (I think we all need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to what clothes we actually need). For me, buying a top from Bangladesh or Cambodia just because I think “it looks cute on me” is not ok per this challenge either, even if the tag per definition doesn’t say China; it’s just not worth the import. (Factory workers in USA don’t make great money either, but there are regulations here I do feel more comfortable with.)
I hope you feel inspired to look at your consumption after watching this clip, just in case my pollution propaganda ain’t working. I’m pretty tough, but this series made me tear up.
If you want to watch the whole series (there are five episodes and it’s worth the time), click here. If the link above for some reason doesn’t work, here’s another to that same video.