No Straw Please

Over the years, I have gotten very used to my family lovingly calling me a crazy hippie. They laugh when I save scraps of food to feed my worms and roll their eyes when I pull out my reusable grocery bags at the store (though I have convinced my grandma to carry around a reusable bag too). So, I expected similar reactions when I decided to stop using straws. I bought a pack of reusable stainless steel straws and I bring them with me everywhere now. The first time I got to use them was when my whole family and I were out for brunch. Luckily, we were already at a restaurant that only serves straws upon request. When our waitress brought out our drinks, I smiled and pulled out a straw for each member of my family. For a few minutes they stared at me like I was crazy and rolled their eyes at me like usual. However, by the end of the meal, my aunt asked me to order straws for her too. Since then, my whole family has given in and has started asking for no straw when we go out to eat. I have also convinced a few of my mom’s friends to go strawless as well. It is amazing how many conversations I have with people when they see me pull out a reusable straw or ask for no straw during my meal. Sometimes it seems like all of our efforts of convincing people to be more environmentally friendly or conscious goes unnoticed, but at least for my experience with straws, something about the idea gets people’s attention.

News Report Assignment

Unfortunately, I was sick the day I was supposed to present my news report. However, you can view the slide below.

Slideshow Presentation

Basically, this article is about the presence of volatile organic compounds in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is no secret that aerosols and adhesives are harmful to the Earth. That has been known for years. However, recent studies show that they are just as harmful to the Earth as gasoline emissions from our cars are. Unlike gas that is stored in gas tanks and burned over a period of time, hairsprays and other aerosols are sprayed directly into the air. Even more alarming, of all of the raw oil used, only 5% of that goes towards making aerosols, but it is responsible for 25% of air pollution produced by Volatile Organic Compounds. Compare this to the 95% of oils used towards fueling vehicles (which makes up 75% of air pollution from VOCs). This article suggests that we have grossly underestimated the effects of non-vehicle volatile organic compounds.

In addition to the obvious consequences of air pollution, these can also have negative health consequences. Exposure to VOCs can lead to asthma attacks. Additionally, exposure to air pollution is considered the 5th highest risk to human health. This number goes up even more in urban environments.

This combines a lot of what we have learned in class so far. Obviously, it is a form of air pollution. It also is a big part of our ecological footprints. Perhaps in addition to the questions about the foods we consume and the houses we live in, the ecological footprint calculator should also ask us about the deodorant, pesticides, hairsprays, and adhesives we use, since they can all be just as harmful to the environment. Another issue that the author brings up is how to regulate these products. Some people use several of these items that create volatile organic compounds daily, while others cannot stand to be around them. How do we go about determining how much or how little of these products can be used when it does not apply equally to everyone? This also has to do with consumption. How much of these products are produced and sold in mass quantities because of our culture of consumerism?

This article was published by BBC News. This is a reputable British news source. They are very open about their company. On their website, you can find the history of BBC, what they do, their annual reports, and a breakdown of where their funding comes from. Also, they provided information about the original source at the end of the article, which allowed me to easily find the publication in Nature.

 

If you are interested in reading it for yourself you can find the news report here:

 

If you are really interested in this topic, New York Times also reported on it. Read that here:

 

 

 

 

The Trucking Industry: Carrying the Weight of Overconsumption

My summers during high school were spent in a warehouse of a small local trucking company. My final summer there, I worked in the office and as the front desk person. This meant that I got to experience how much work goes in to processing orders, filling orders, loading them on the truck, and ensuring that the drivers departed with the correct freight. I also know what it is like when someone calls for a rush order, and we all have to scramble to fill it because the customer is willing to pay extra to get the order sooner. My mom still works in the trucking industry and recently shared with me that the trucking industry I knew has become far messier than I ever could have imagined. What used to be an occasional rush order from a customer, has turned in to an everyday occurrence. Orders are coming in faster than they can be filled. There are not enough drivers and trucks to meet the demands of all of the customers. The ports cannot process the amount of containers coming in everyday, which causes backups and even more rush orders. She shared this article with me that I have chosen to write about.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-shortage-of-trucks-is-forcing-companies-to-cut-shipments-or-pay-up-1516789800

While this article touches on many different aspects that are contributing to the crises in the trucking industry, I think it relates to the concepts we learned in class about overconsumption. We live in a world of Amazon Prime and two day shipping. I know I am guilty of ordering things online that I could easily get in store, even from a local business, because online is just convenient. It shows up two days later on my doorstep and saves me from having to leave my house. The issue is that this has become so integrated in our society, that many of us don’t think twice before putting items in our virtual shopping carts. We do not stop to consider how far those items will have to travel and how much work will go in to ensuring that that new bracelet that was two dollars arrives at your doorstep two days later. So, not only does online shopping allow us to consume even more products because they are available at the touch of a button, it allows us to do so without considering the carbon footprint of those individual products. The article mentions the company HelloFresh. This is a company that ships fresh meals right to your front porch. This means that someone has to receive the order, another person has to fill the order, another person loads the order on to a container, a driver transports that box to a local post office, it is sorted, and then is loaded up onto another vehicle so that it can go out for delivery. All of that work and transportation for one families dinner. This dinner arrives in a large box full of bubble wrap and insulation to keep all of the ingredients fresh. Companies like these are becoming more and more popular. It is so easy in our society to just have everything delivered to us. This means that the transportation industry will continue to face these issues. More and more orders are going to continue to flood in and companies and drivers will struggle even more to meet this demand. Throughout our conversation, my mom just kept repeating that it was such a big problem, and that nobody knows it. The customer only knows whether or not their package arrived on time. While we learn in our class that we need to reduce individual consumption, it is becoming easier and easier to consume more, and that is something we are soon all going to experience the consequences of that consumption.