Tag Archives: helping the environment

This exhibit showing the creative uses of recycled items is aimed at raising awareness of the sustainability movement in Poland. Photo: Kasia Marciszewska

Seeing Poland In A Green Light

Our associate editor and resident green blogger, Kasia Marciszewska, is currently traveling in Europe. While there, she stopped by her native country of Poland. Ever vigilant about the subject of sustainability, Kasia sought out Poland’s green side.

Visiting my home country of Poland is always a fun and exciting experience. It seems every time I come here something is different, as Poland continues to shift and grow with the changing times.

This visit proved to me once again how far the country has come, when I realized that Poland was taking “being green” to a new level.  The concept of eco-friendliness in some ways is new to the country, but upon closer inspection it seems that Poland was on the road to helping the environment long before it became popular.

One way the country is and has been reducing its environmental impact is through its transportation system. Many of Poland’s residents commute via public transportation, which includes trams, rail and bus. Though not always the fastest routes, public transportation is an integral way of life for the Polish people and definitely the greener way to travel.

One can easily travel throughout Poland on public transportation. The rail systems span the whole country, and you can travel with relative ease; from the northern city of Gdansk all the way down to Krakow in the south, it’s all just a train ride away.  Travel to neighboring countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic also can easily be done via trains, making visiting other countries ecologically sound.

Though transportation by car has steadily increased over the years, the sizeable difference is in the cars themselves, literally. Cars in Poland are taxed based on their engine size, so many people choose to drive cars with smaller engines (thus fewer emissions) in order to reduce their costs. That frugalness helps the environment at the same time (The price of gas in Poland is also extremely high, so using public transportation makes much more economic sense for most people).

Another “green” innovation in Poland is grocery bags, or rather the lack thereof. Many of Poland’s cities are making an effort to reduce plastic bag waste by simply asking customers if they need a bag. The catch? If you want a bag you’ll have to pay for it! A nominal fee is tacked on for plastic bags during your shopping, so a better, cheaper and greener alternative is to bring your own bags.

The cities of Gdansk, Inowroclaw, Tychy and Zabrze already have passed local laws to ban the free handing out of plastic bags, and many more cities are deciding on similar initiatives.

Poland is truly undergoing a cultural shift toward environmental friendliness. Awareness about the topic is spreading with more and more initiatives sprouting up all over the country.

I recently observed an exhibition at a shopping center in Wroclaw titled “Eco Fashion.” The goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate practices on how to recycle with a focus on fashion.  The campaign showed a multitude of creative ideas for recycling everyday items into clothes, furniture and more, along with games, prizes and interesting facts about recycling. For example, did you know that recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours?

The entries varied in shape and size from a plastic cup coffee table to a dress made from garbage bags. But the overall message was heard loud and clear, eco-friendliness is here to stay in Poland — with many more “green” advances to come!

Green News Roundup

Green News Roundup

With so much going on in sustainability these days, I always find it difficult to narrow it down to just one thing to write about. Instead, I’ve decided to post a weekly green news roundup with some interesting green stories from around the Web. Enjoy! Feel free to send along any stories you’d like to share by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles focusing on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state.

Vancouver Olympics Going for the Green
The 2010 Winter Olympics have been at the center of the news for 2 weeks now, but I didn’t know until I read this LA Times article that they’re the greenest Olympics in history! The mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, rides his bike to events even though he was provided with a car and driver. Using renewable hydro power for electricity and high green building standards, Vancouver generated fewer greenhouse gases in seven years of preparation than Salt Lake City and Turin did just during their Games!

An Inn Is an Oasis From Environmental Affronts
Topia Inn in the Berkshires is committed to providing guests with a completely green, organic experience. Guests are asked to remove their shoes before entering the no-smoking facility where they are provided with complimentary organic bath and body products and an organic breakfast. It’s a vacation that helps the environment too!

The Waste of Eating Out
No time to read through an entire article? Check out the Huffington Post’s visual representation of just how much waste we create by eating out. The captions really put things in perspective; for example, Americans use 15 billion disposable coffee cups a year. It also includes tips on how to reduce your waste next time you eat out!

Green Style: Earth Day Refashioned
Dressing fashionably and helping the environment? Sounds great to me! Marie Claire magazine offered up some ‘green’ clothing tips. Not only does it feature green items such as organic tee-shirts (imagine how soft!), but it brings to our attention entire fashion lines consisting entirely of green clothing. For example, Raw Bags by Beth Kelly Warner features sustainable  bags made entirely out of bamboo. Fashionable and good for the environment!

Students Prompt City of Mesa to Get Rid of Plastic Bags and Go Green
Here’s a great local story as well. A group of 8th graders at Rhodes Junior High School came up with the idea to ban plastic bags in Mesa during their Project Citizen Class in their quest to make the city more “green.”

No Impact Man

The Adventures Of No Impact Man

Can you imagine a life without toilet paper, electricity, or any of the modern conveniences many of us consider a staple in our daily lives?

Colin Beavan — aka No  Impact Man — and his family did without any of this (and more) for an entire year. During their experience, Beavan wrote a blog that later spawned a book and documentary film about what it’s like to go off the grid while living in New York City. The goal of the No Impact project was to live life in the city while causing no net environmental impact. They did this by giving up on many things i.e. electricity, toilet paper to decrease their negative impact. In order to increase their positive impact they volunteered at various environmental groups, cleaned the banks of the Hudson River and donated to charity among other things.

In an excerpt from his book: “NO IMPACT MAN: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes and Our Way of Life in the Process” Beavan writes:

“This book, in short, is about my attempt with my little family to live for a year causing as little negative environmental impact as possible. If what I’ve described so far sounds extreme, that’s because it’s meant to be. My intention with this book is not to advocate that, as a culture, we should all give up elevators, washing machines, and toilet paper. This is a book about a lifestyle experiment. It chronicles a year of inquiry: How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet’s resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Would living this way be more fun or less fun? More satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed, or is there hope? Is individual action lived out loud really just individual action? Would the environmental costs of producing this very book undo all the good, or would the message it purveyed outweigh the damage and add to the good?
But perhaps most important, at least when it came to addressing my own despair, was I as helpless to help change the imperiled world we live in as I’d thought?”

I was able to catch a showing of the documentary at the Global Institute of Sustainability on Monday and thought the film was fantastic. It portrayed a family that went to the extreme, all in the name of Mr. Beavan’s experiment and came out of it with a truly renewed perspective on the environment. Now, the goal of Mr. Beavan’s message isn’t to ask people to go to the lengths he did, but rather bring attention to an important issue. He hopes that his family can, in a sense, lead by example and others will be inspired to do what they can to help the environment.

I was surprised to read a lot of backlash against Mr. Beavan and his No Impact experiment. He was doing a good thing, after all, why all the bad blood? Some dismissed this as a gimmick for a book deal, but I think they’re missing the bigger picture. Did the premise land him a book deal? Sure. However, after watching the documentary it’s hard not to believe the fact that Mr. Beavan and his family really are striving to do the right thing — help the environment and make a difference. According to Beavan, this change has to begin on the individual level, and only then will government implement laws that will hopefully undo the years of havoc we’ve wreaked on our planet.

Most importantly, Beavan himself admitted that the project didn’t end after their year was over, rather it had begun. His family had to decide what kind of a life they would lead, while still maintaining their principles and desire to help the environment.
They turned the electricity back on, but air conditioners, dishwashers, and freezers are still gone. They continue to eat locally-grown food, but have added previously banished coffee, olive oil and spices into their diets. Most importantly, they recognize the need for individual action and continue to take steps in helping the environment.
Beavan has also launched the No Impact Project, a nonprofit project that encourages individuals to “make choices which better their lives and lower their environmental impact through lifestyle change, community action, and participation in environmental politics” as stated on the project’s Web site at noimpactproject.org


Environmental Media Awards

Environmental Media Awards — Celebrities Helping The Green Cause

I’ll admit, I have a guilty pleasure — celebrity gossip.

Though personal opinions about celebrities vary, it’s difficult to argue the fact that they have an amazing platform to send a message. The nonprofit Environmental Media Association has been been trying to place environmentalism into the mainstream since the association launched in 1989.

The association hosts the Environmental Media Awards, “the only program solely devoted to celebrating the entertainment industry’s environmental efforts,” as stated on its Web site. “The annual EMA Awards honor film and television personalities, productions, musicians and musical tours that convey environmental messages in the most creative and influential ways.”

The 20th anniversary Environmental Media Awards took place on Oct. 25, and an assortment of high-profile guests came to support the green cause. I came across the information about the EMA Awards while indulging my guilty pleasure of perusing the entertainment section of MSN. Several popular actors, musicians, etc., were walking the appropriately chosen green carpet at the event that honors the entertainment industry’s environmental achievements.

Categories for the awards ranged from feature film to documentary, as well as special honors that were given to people who have “gone above and beyond to help the environment both professionally and personally.” This year those honors went to Sir Richard Branson, Centropolis Entertainment, the National Geographic Society and singer Jason Mraz.

Winners in the various categories included: The Lazy Environmentalists: The Lazy Family/The Lazy Pet Groomer in the reality program category; Food, Inc. and The Cove for documentaries; and Disneynature EARTH in the feature film category.

In addition to the EMA Awards, the association also hosts the EMA Green Seal Awards that honors productions and corporate entertainment offices that go green ‘behind the scenes.’ Throughout the year, the association works with writers, directors and producers to integrate environmental messages into film and television productions. Events with a sustainable message are also held year-round with the help of celebrities’ familiar faces bringing it to the attention of the media and public.

Certain aspects of celebrity surely aren’t to be desired. However, taking a public stance in helping the environment and becoming involved with associations like this one are positive causes those in the entertainment industry can bring to the attention of the public. Communicating information about sustainable practices is a necessary component to make the changes we need for a greener future.