#8 Adopting Sustainable Practices: Week 1

For my fall semester, I decided that I wanted to add a class on sustainability. I ended up adding a course called: Facets of Sustainability. I was particularly interested in this class because of the adjective that was chosen to accompany this practice. Within the first week, we were taught to embrace the idea of interconnectedness and how to approach it by thinking in systems. This prepared us for the coming weeks when we were to work as a team to become more sustainable.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” ⟼ John Muir

We were split into groups and were tasked with implementing sustainable practices into our daily routine. At first, I was not sure what I would be changing in my daily routine. But I quickly found that the project was not necessarily about adopting new practices, but modifying current ones. In order to keep one another accountable for our goals: eating less meat, consuming less plastic, and driving less, we created a spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2018-09-21 at 9.42.34 PMSo how are we approaching this?

We have been measuring our consumption levels on a scale from “none” to “high.” In order to be more accurate, we created scales that correlated with the size or number of our usage. So far, I have seen an improvement in my meat consumption. I have also been more mindful of taking public transport when available and suitable to my schedule.

For me, this project has been incredibly inspiring. For our “social impact” portion of the project, we decided to create an Instagram page which would be geared toward local students and local citizens. This is what has enriched me the most because I know that we are reaching a broader audience outside of our group of five. This project has already taught me so much about keeping oneself accountable and focused on a goal. I also feel good about this project because it has pushed me to live more sustainably. I have accumulated less trash just by purchasing products with less wrapping or packaging. When we throw something away, there is no “away,” which is really important to keep in mind as we do our daily shopping.

Here are some practices that I have adopted:

  1. Leave the house with a full reusable water bottle. Ditch those plastic ones!
  2. Bring your own coffee cup to Starbucks and they will give you a discount. (Extra plus: I have found that they fill my 27 oz cup up to the top when I paid for a discounted 20 oz beverage).
  3. Bring your own reusable grocery bags to the store.
  4. Bring your own reusable produce bags to the store. The plastic bags are unnecessary. The “living” phase of a plastic bag is much…much shorter than its “dying” phase.
  5. Read up on what can be recycled in your community. Not all places are the same. For example, Starbucks cups cannot be recycled by Gainesville.
  6. Take public transportation when it is convenient. Sustainability is not about perfection, but about mitigating our personal footprints.
  7. Eat less meat. Cows are the cutest.
  8. Read articles from sources that are focused on sustainable practices. I really like Eco Warrior Princess and The Good Trade.
  9. Avoid palm oil.
  10. Compost.
  11. Have discussions with your friends about sustainable practices. If they do not take steps to reduce their footprint, listen why.

What ways do you live sustainably? What are some practices that you have adopted? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

#6 Recycling Done Right

Local communities recycle in different ways that I was unaware of. I recently learned that Gainesville is unable to recycle Starbucks cups due to the expense it takes to process their material. Of course, other cities and counties face the same issues, but not necessarily with Starbucks cups. 

 

It is important that we play our part in making this process as efficient as possible. There are some general rules for recycling that include:

  1. No food, no liquids, no straws, no plastic cups, and no plastic dishware. 
  2. Compost all food and food-soiled paper when possible. Paper is important in absorbing oils and greases which in turn restore the nitrogen balance. 
  3. Never put plastic bags or plastic wrap in a recycling bin. 
  4. Avoid single-use items as much as possible. 
  5. Pizza boxes are contaminated by food and cannot be recycled. 
  6. Empty and rinse out materials from bottles, jars, containers, and cans before placing them in the bin. There is no need to wash, but don’t put half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the recycling bin, just scrape it out. 
  7. Some communities do not recycle glass anymore, so make sure to check with your local waste management before placing glass in the bins. 
  8. Plastic bottles and jugs with the numbers 1 or 2 on the bottom can be recycled. 
  9. Plastic caps can be recycled as long as they are not screwed on the bottle. Screwing the caps on can cause safety hazards for workers when the bottles are being compressed etc. They can also damage the gears of machines. 
  10. Prescription bottles and sample size bottles generally cannot be recycled. Check with your local management to see if they are accepted. 
  11. Recycle all clean paper and flattened cardboard boxes. 
  12. Dishware, even if glass, cannot be recycled. Take it to Goodwill. 
  13. Compostable plastics cannot be placed in recycling bins. They contaminate the recycling process. 
  14. Batteries cannot be recycled. 
  15. Electronics cannot be recycled. I suggest taking them to BestBuy where they can recycle them for you. 
Following these tips will reduce landfill waste and increase the efficiency of the recycling process. If you have any specific questions that were not answered here, contact your local waste management to have your questions answered. 

#4 Sea Turtles and the Great Barrier Sea Wall

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb 

Climate change is a true phenomenon that is posing a threat to global ecosystems and populations. Climate change is a topic that is especially important to me as I have seen the effects of this issue during my time volunteering with a local Delray Beach conservation group, Sea Turtle Adventures. As a volunteer, I spent much of my time learning about the different species of turtles.

I learned how to differentiate between species based on the shapes of their tracks. I also learned how to spot a “false crawl,” which occurs when a sea turtle goes to lay her eggs but instead returns to the ocean without laying her eggs. False crawls can be affected by many different factors including the presence of seawalls.

Sea turtles find the southeastern United States especially attractive for laying eggs. According to a study, 90% of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) nest on Florida beaches. However, about 25% of beaches along Florida’s east coast are protected by some sort of seawall or bulkhead.

Although seawalls are designed to protect the land from the dangers of storm surges and strong waves, they also have negative effects on wildlife. Seawalls increase the intensity of longshore currents which in turn increases beach erosion. Seawalls also increase the slope of the shore which can cause problems for sea turtles and their hatchlings.

Sea turtles are affected greatly by these massive protective structures. Suitable nesting sites may be made inaccessible, sea turtles may abandon their nesting attempt, the mortality of clutches (groups of eggs) may increase, and nesting habitat may be lost due to long-term beach erosion (Schroeder and Mosier 1998).

A group of researchers published a study in the “Journal of Coastal Research” on the effects of seawalls on nesting attempts made by loggerhead sea turtles. The researchers found that seawalls reduced nesting success and increased the likelihood of nests being washed away during storm events (Rizkalla and Savage 2011).

The reliance on seawalls will continue to intensify as the sea level continues to rise due to global warming and climate change. As a result of the increasing temperature, severe storms are also predicted to worsen which will decrease the hatching rate of sea turtles.

More research is needed on the impact of seawalls, as the study I referenced is now seven years old.

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Thank you for reading! As a Jupiter native, this issue is near and dear to my heart. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. Also, if you want to be updated when I post something new, type your email into the subscribe section

With love,

Darby


Resources:

Rizkalla CE, Savage A. 2011. Impact of seawalls on loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting and hatching success. Journal of Coastal Research. 27(1):166-173.