Category Archives: Climate change

Grace’s Final Project

Well, at long last, the time has come my friends. Time for me to sum up everything I’ve learned in this one semester and then bid you adieu as I merrily skip away from NYU into adulthood freedom.

This has been one of my favorite classes in my time here, mostly because it focuses almost entirely on a topic that I’m pretty obsessed with, the environment. I’m literally a tree-hugger (really, there are pics of me hugging trees everywhere) and I’m also into an artistic industry, so this class was perfect for me. It gave me the chance to really kick off my waste-free lifestyle and I’m excited to share with you guys what I’ve learned and accomplished so far, and what I plan on accomplishing in the weeks, months, and years to come.

My goal was simple: To identify the waste I’m contributing to landfills and start to take steps to move away from needing/using these materials. Pretty straightforward right? In order to accomplish this goal, I came up with 5 steps for myself.

  • STEP ONE: Identify the landfill waste I produce over a two week period
  • STEP TWO: Fully replace necessities in my home with sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives
  • STEP THREE: Fully commit to making my own products
  • STEP FOUR: Start the slow, long transition into sustainable fashion
  • STEP FIVE: Find a place to compost in NYC

I can tell you right now, I was hoping to be able to crash course myself into this kind of lifestyle, but just like anything else in life, this is gonna take some time. There are habits that have to be altered, materials that have to be purchased, and old goods that will need to be disposed of properly. I’ve already identified what needs to change and how to change it, so at this point in time I’m slowly starting to transition myself into actually making those changes.

STEP ONE! When I presented my midterm to you all, I talked about how I’d already tried keeping track of my landfill waste by writing notes for everything I tossed in my phone. I decided to try some good old-fashioned handwritten notes for my 2 week period, but guess what? It didn’t really work out that great. You know what did? Taking a video on my phone every time I put something in a trash can. You can see my lil compilation video right here. It forced me to really take notice of how often I was tossing something in and what it was I was tossing in. When I was just trying to write it down, I really believed that I was just throwing away the cotton rounds I used for makeup remover and maybe some food. Turns out, I was visiting the trash can a whole lot more!

STEPS TWO-FOUR! These three steps are still in the process of being undertaken. I’m going to include a link to my class presentation at the bottom of this post because it includes a lot of links to the websites I’ve been using to help me identify the products I need as well as where I plan on buying these products from.

STEP FIVE! Wowee you really can compost in NYC! This was a cool thing to learn about, and a slightly frustrating one too. Here’s a better look at the map of where they have brown bin collections in NYC:

2017 Compost Collection in NYC

Notice anything about this map? Besides the beautiful earth tones they went with for a color scheme, it pretty clearly shows that environmental activism is something really only available for the affluent. “Future Expansion” in all of the poorest neighborhoods of NYC. Awesome. On the one hand, this map is really helpful as I apartment hunt because I want to end up in a neighborhood that has the brown bin collection (if I can afford it). On the other hand, it enforces this idea that being eco-friendly is a rich person thing.

So where do I go from here? Social media of course! I’ve created an instagram account called @optimistic.recyclingbin and I plan on documenting my journey and sharing information as I continue down this path to Earth friendly enlightenment. I’ve already posted my trash video, and I have a few more posts already planned out, check them out below:

As I said earlier, this isn’t an overnight change. A waste-free lifestyle is an act of rebellion in our consumer based society, and it’s a lot of hard work to undo the mindset to use, use, use. I’m excited to keep learning, and I can’t wait to share this journey with all of you as I keep on working at it.

Check out links and all that fun stuff here!

And check out the instagram here!

$65

Every once in a while something happens where I have little to no sympathy.   Good thing the New York Times article (below) chose not to include a comments section. There is a part of me that has a difficult time understanding how safeguards to protect investments in critical research (and money!) were not put in place.   But then again, there was yet another oopsie-level event at the NSA so anything

Regardless, I couldn’t help but read the article and empathize with the loss of  samples collected under the most extreme of conditions.

 Martin Sharp, the director of the Canadian Ice Core Archive, examining an ice core. A freezer storing part of the archive failed this month. Ice from the Canadian Arctic has completely melted, leaving puddles of water in its place and scientists devastated. O.K., this is what actually happened: Ice cores, millennia-old ice samples extracted by scientists from locations across the Canadian Arctic, melted because of a freezer malfunction in a lab at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The loss of these ice cores could hinder scientific research into how changes in the atmosphere have shaped Earth’s climate history, and how they could affect its future. On April 2, the temperature of a storage freezer in the Canadian Ice Core Archive rose to about 100 degrees — some part of the cooling system failed, “then tried to get itself back into action and in the process, piped hot air back into the room,” according to Martin Sharp, the director of the archive. The freezer became so hot that it tripped the fire alarm, Dr. Sharp said, and partially or fully melted 180 ice cores collected by government scientists since the mid-1970s from the snowy expanse of the Canadian Arctic.
Martin Sharp, the director of the Canadian Ice Core Archive, examining an ice core. A freezer storing part of the archive failed this month. Ice from the Canadian Arctic has completely melted, leaving puddles of water in its place and scientists devastated. O.K., this is what actually happened: Ice cores, millennia-old ice samples extracted by scientists from locations across the Canadian Arctic, melted because of a freezer malfunction in a lab at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The loss of these ice cores could hinder scientific research into how changes in the atmosphere have shaped Earth’s climate history, and how they could affect its future. On April 2, the temperature of a storage freezer in the Canadian Ice Core Archive rose to about 100 degrees — some part of the cooling system failed, “then tried to get itself back into action and in the process, piped hot air back into the room,” according to Martin Sharp, the director of the archive. The freezer became so hot that it tripped the fire alarm, Dr. Sharp said, and partially or fully melted 180 ice cores collected by government scientists since the mid-1970s from the snowy expanse of the Canadian Arctic.”
Here is a $65 solution from Amazon, with free shipping! A redundant system of even five of these in place would have probably still cost less than the research grade Fisher solution below:
Here’s a laboratory grade solution (if you have something really important to be concerned about):
Fisher Scientific research-level temperature alarm system
But if you want to save money, have a tech or two on hand, or access to an engineering school, or the creative and committed minds at NYU’s ITP, you could build your own monitor using off the shelf, easily accessible parts to send alerts to cell phones or land lines:
DIY microntroller projects to send alert by cellphone at predefined temperature settings.

environmental awareness thanks to green world by erik

Upon entering this class, I knew I would learn more about environmental issues, but I had no idea how in-depth we would actually get. I am thankful to say that I am leaving this class immensely more aware of the environmental problems we as a world face today and feel better equipped to make changes in my own life in hopes of lessening those negative effects. Here are some images I took (I thought we had to take the photos) that represent different concepts we have covered in class that I was not as aware of prior.

This storm drain represents the idea that during heavy rainfall in the city one should abstain from using the shower or running the dishwasher. Heavy rainfall makes it more likely that our sewer systems will back up and contaminate our clean water supply. I am glad that there are so many storm drains around to act as a friendly reminder of this important detail. It also acts as a reminder of other towns in our nation that are still without clean water and how essential that is to a healthy life.

I did not know much about littering before taking this class. I had thought that yes, it was bad, but I did not know exactly why or how it is governed by our law. According to a presentation from one of our classmates, throwing anything at all on the ground is considered littering, under the eye of the law. While this may be true, I have never once seen this law be enforced, except maybe in movies. Items that are commonly littered, like cigarette butts for example, contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate our water supply as well as our soil. I would hate to see our few parks lose beautiful foliage due to careless littering. Thankfully there are many effective cleanup teams employed by our city.

The most prominent thing I have not been able to “unsee” since taking this class is most definitely the issue of idling. There are countless amounts of statistics and studies claiming that our poor air quality is in large part due to the amount of car and machine activity in New York City. One of the only ways to combat this effect is by discouraging people from idling their cars. This pointless release of harmful chemicals into our air can be easily avoided by simply shutting your car off while waiting for someone or texting like the man pictured above. There are many people bringing this issue into the public eye and I hope that it becomes a law more aggressively enforced in the near future. I think it is safe to say that I’ll never idle again.

I recycle all the time, but one thing I did not know about recycling before taking this class is that liquid present in a shipment of recyclable material overseas can ruin a large part of the entire load. It is essential that you dump out whatever contents you have in your coffee cup or bottle before recycling because mold can form during shipment which sends the tons of recyclable material back overseas to a landfill, unnecessarily. I have made sure to tell each person I am with this important detail in hope that more of our recyclable material will actually get used in its intended way.

Garbage bags constantly line the sidewalks of our city and this image puts into perspective how much waste we contribute to landfills on an almost daily basis. There are many steps one can take to reduce their contribution to this pile, like using reusable bags when going grocery shopping or carrying around a reusable water bottle. I’ve implemented these changes and many more since taking this class and hope to continue this trend until I am as waste-free as my lifestyle allows.

Awareness Is Key

In a globalized world, It can feel like an individual’s actions are insignificant, and sometimes this is true. There is huge change coming for the environment, whether we like it or not, but It is up to us if we learn from the mistakes of our past for a better future, or if we simply continue to dig in our heals and defend our current lifestyle. Because the world is changing on such a large scale, it’s hard to know what is happening, let alone what I should do about it.  That’s why Green World was so helpful to me in my life, because awareness is the first step to change. Because of this course, I see things I wouldn’t have before, and I avoid products I wouldn’t necessarily know to avoid. Whether it be not supporting street vendors who run generators all day, to being aware of which means will have ractopamine, knowing that flicked cigarette butts most likely end up in the bay, or simply avoiding my Roommate’s scratched-to-hell Teflon pan, I’ve made positive change in my life because of this course. (Speaking of Teflon, I just read that any pasta which looks smooth to the surface (or not advertised as cast in copper molds) was molded in Teflon molds. I had no idea, but now I’ll be aware.) I’ve attached some photos I took while walking the streets of NYC, which illustrate these points.

Idleing Vendor Trucks
Cigarette Butts are Litter
Food Trucks/Carts Using Generators
RACTOPAMINE BEEF
Teflon is BAD

p.s. I hope I posted this in the right spot…

5 Environmental Pictures

I had never thought about idling before this class. I sort of just figured that idling didn’t produce enough exhaust to make a difference. Clearly I was wrong about that.

For the past few years I had read that all over the world coral reefs had been dying, but I never really looked into it. More recently I read that coral reefs occupy only 1% of the ocean floor, but accounts for about 25% of the oceans species. Coral bleaching has become a major issue that will soon be irreversible. By 2050 95% of the world’s coral reefs will be destroyed.

I’ve been told fracking is “bad” for years by news organizations, but I never really researched why it was so bad. The diagram I posted above really shows how dangerous fracking can be. I know there’s not much we can do to stop the fracking, except wait for enough evidence to come out against it. Which I think is pretty depressing if you ask me.

I had previously thought that the longer droughts in California were relatively normal. But, climate change has a bigger hand in it than I previously thought. The New York Times says that climate changed has increased the duration of droughts by 15-20%.

Deforestation has always been an important issue to me. I didn’t really learn anything new about it during this class, but it continues to be a huge issue for the planet. Laws have been put in place that are supposed to at least slow down deforestation, but in many countries these laws have been ignored.

Environmental Issues: things that I am more aware of

Click through each of the photos below to read the captions:

 

Image sources:
Garth Lenz
Tailpipe
Syria Map
Recycling Bin
Teflon Pan
Flame Retardant Couch

Fake Science

 

One of the largest issues I have focused on this semester and throughout this class has been broader than just climate change. I have been reading and focusing a lot on a small portion of the population’s ability to weave false narratives that impact the majority negatively. This was masterfully covered in the film we were shown, “Merchants of Doubt,” but it is also an issue that my dad and I have been discussing this past year. He is an attorney who in the 80’s was representing many different people in a class action lawsuit against the American Red Cross. This was when HIV/AIDS was first exploding across the United States. It was affecting a large portion of the lgbt community but according the media, the Reagan administration, right wing groups across the country, and most religious organizations, this was the only community this epidemic was affecting. They labeled it as a “Gay Plague,” or, “Gay Cancer.” This in fact is not only homophobic and disgusting but it also is factually untrue. During this time period, the American Red Cross neglected to screen incoming donated blood because this would be an endorsement of the opposing scientific viewpoint that this is in fact a blood born virus that can affect anyone, not just a gay person. As a result of this negligence, over the course of a couple years, millions of people were affected. We almost lost an entire generation of hemophiliacs and my father even represented three little girls who were triplets and upon birth needed a blood transfusion. They all contracted the disease and the oldest lived to be 12. This is not because the science indicating that this was more than an act of god to absolve the world of gays didn’t exist. It was a result of neglecting the science and sowing doubt in the general populace that the science was wrong until the problem got so bad, and affected enough straight people, that this issue was addressed.

We have seen the same unfortunate series of events unfold before us many times. When a large corporations interests are contradictory to the interests of the public and the reality of the world, we see them dump insane amounts of money into disorienting and confusing the public by attacking the science. This happened with Big Tobacco, this happened with Teflon, and this is currently happening with climate change.

It is undeniable that we would be better off as a species if we relied on renewable energy. Life expectancy would increase, we would provide thousands of jobs, and fundamentally change the world. There is only one loser in this scenario and that is the massive industry that’s income solely relies on renewable resources and the human consumption of them. Whether it is the huge beef industry or big oil, all these industries benefit from the discretization of the science community. On top of this, it seems to be the same small circle of “scientists” that are basically being paid exorbitant amounts of money to stand as an “expert,” on these issues that contradict the scientific community as a whole and represent a detriment to the public.

I’ve spent this semester opening my eyes to this reoccurring thread that is this issue. My dad even wants to figure out some sort of project we can do to expose this issue further but we aren’t sure what to do yet. The photos I am posting represent just a fraction of the issues affected by fake scientists.

Environmental Issues – Grace Giffune

Going into this class, I felt that I had a pretty solid grasp on the multiple different ways that human beings are wasteful. Just going back to my roots, I was raised to waste not, want not; using everything up until it couldn’t physically be used any longer and only then getting rid of it. This class, and a lot of the material we covered, opened my eyes to plenty of other ways that we’re harming the planet. Educational and depressing!

A sad little plastic bag in a tree

It’s interesting just how obvious something becomes once it’s pointed out. It’s like when someone tells you “You’re tongue never fits comfortably in your mouth”. See? Now you’re annoyingly aware of how weird your tongue feels inside your mouth. You’re welcome. That’s how I felt after the very first thing we had to watch, Idle Threat. Now I can’t even walk down the street without seeing 1 or 20 vehicles just letting their engines run for no reason at all. It makes me feel dirty to breathe in the air here, and now I’m not sure if it’s a mental thing or if it’s because the air actually is super dirty. I can’t even imagine what it was like breathing the air here before any of the regulations we have now.

Food trucks running their engines and polluting my air while tricking me into wanting to fill my bellay

What I would have really liked to take pictures of and share I am unfortunately not able to because of the contract that I signed, so I had to make do with pictures of similar things on the street. I started working for this company known as Earth Angel (look them up here!!) and their whole mission is to make movies without making a mess. Things I’ve learned from this class plus what I’ve been learning with Earth Angel has really opened up my eyes to a whole plethora of wasteful living examples. Essentially my job is to sort trash on set. You would not believe how many people just default to putting things in landfill bins even when presented with a choice of landfill, recycling, and compost.

Where else should an old pizza plate go?

So much trash, like this discarded pizza plate ^^ belong somewhere else! Composting isn’t just for food scraps people! And why is it so hard for people to check to see if something can be recycled? Everything that is able to be recycled in this country has that cute little label that we all know and love. So why don’t people LOOK FOR THAT BEFORE JUST DUMPING SOMETHING IN A LANDFILL BIN?????? This has quickly become my biggest pet peeve. There are literally bins on the streets of NYC where you can separate recyclables and landfill but do people ever actually try? Noooooo, it’s too much effort and too confusing apparently.

Human being logic: create trashcan, put trash anywhere but the trashcan

Another thing that I’ve really become aware of (which is unfortunately not pictured here) is water usage. I’ve always tried to be as conscious of this as possible, but ever since hearing the woman from the River Project talk about rain and overflowing sewage, I’ve been hyper-aware of this. I don’t have a timer in my shower, but I’ve been trying to take the fastest showers that I can (7 minutes is my best time so far), and I continue to keep the faucet off if I’m not directly using any running water. I wish that I could figure out the best way to make my roommate conscious of this, because she’s over there taking 45 minute long showers. Like, what is she even doing in there??

I didn’t know that trees wore shoes, how kind to give them hand-me-downs!

I’m still struggling to find the balance between letting all of the very real and very dangerous information I learn scare me and put me down, and at the same time motivate real change. A lot of things this class opened my eyes to has been very disheartening, and we all know that. At the same time though, there’s always a person or organization working to make things better. Things might move slower than molasses as we try to build a more sustainable future for ourselves but at least we’re aware, awake, and trying.

How did this plastic end up wound so perfectly on this branch?

River Watch

GreenWorld’s first expedition to the River Project’s amazing Wet Lab on scenic Pier 40!

Thanks to Nina Hitchings (River Project’s Wetlab Manager and Head of Interns) we learned a little about the waters of the Hudson River and some of the surprising forms of life which it supports.   While we could have learned a lot more, this was a first visit for all of us but for some, not the last.  Knowing that the Billion Oyster Project is nearby, that world-famous Striped Bass have returned along with onerous-sounding, visually challenging Oyster Toadfish, delicate Pipefish (and their close relation, the seahorse), as part of the 200 different types of fish that make the Hudson River their home, gave us new appreciation and insight into the long-term positive effects afforded by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

The River Project
The River Project at pier 40, NYC