Friday, October 31, 2008

Is nuclear power green?

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #983, October 30, 2008

[Rachel's introduction: How can people judge whether a technology is green or not? They can compare it to the 12 principles of green engineering and the 12 principles of green chemistry. Here we compare nuclear power to these green principles.]

By Peter Montague

We are told that nuclear power is about to achieve a "green renaissance," "clean coal" is just around the corner, and municipal garbage is a "renewable resource," which, when burned, will yield "sustainable energy." On the other hand, sometimes we are told that solar, geothermal and tidal power are what we really need to "green" our energy system.

How is a person to make sense of all these competing claims?

Luckily, scientists have developed two sets of criteria that we can use to judge the "greenness" of competing technologies. The first is called "The 12 principles of green engineering" and the second is "The 12 principles of green chemistry."

Both sets of principles were developed by teams of technical experts and published in peer-reviewed journals. They are now widely understood and endorsed. Most importantly, they offer ordinary people, as well as experts, a way to decide which technologies are worth supporting and which ones should be phased out or never developed at all. Even most members of Congress should be able to understand and apply these principles.

You can find both sets of principles listed at the end of this article.

In this short series, we'll apply these principles as a "filter" to nuclear power, coal power, so-called "waste to energy" incinerators, and finally to solar power.

These comparisons will not be exhaustive because the green principles are just that -- principles -- and they clarify without requiring great detail.

Nuclear Power and Green Engineering

So let's get right to it. Anyone can readily see that nuclear power violates green engineering principles #1 (prefer the inherently nonhazardous) and #2 (prevent instead of manage waste). Nuclear power produces radioactive wastes and "spent fuel," which are are exceptionally hazardous and long-lived. Just mining the fuel -- uranium -- has littered the western U.S. (and other parts of the world) with mountainous piles of radioactive sand ("uranium tailings"), which no one knows how to stabilize or detoxify, and which continually blow around and enter water supplies and food chains.

Furthermore, nuclear power violates green engineering principle #12 (raw materials should be renewable and not depleting) because it depends on uranium for fuel and the world supply of uranium is finite and dwindling.

Nuclear power also violates green engineering principles #9 (design for easy disassembly) and #11 (design for commercial re-use) because, after a nuclear power plant has lived out its useful life, many of its component parts remain extremely radioactive for centuries or aeons. Large parts of an old nuclear plant have to be carefully disassembled (by people behind radiation shields operating robotic arms and hands), then shipped to a suitable location, and "mothballed" in some way -- usually by burial in the ground. An alternative approach is to weld the plant shut to contain its radioactivity, and walk away, hoping nothing bad happens during the next 100,000 years or so. In any case it's clear that nuclear power violates principles #9 and #11 of green engineering.

Nuclear Power and Green Chemistry

When we compare nuclear power against the principles of green chemistry, we can readily see that it violates #1 (prevent waste), #3 (avoid using or creating toxic substances), and #10 (avoid creating persistent substances) because of the great toxicity and longevity of radioactive wastes. It also violates #7 (use renewable, not depleting, raw materials) because the basic fuel, uranium, is not renewable. Plans for extending the life of global uranium supplies all entail the use of "breeder reactors," which create plutonium. But plutonium itself violates green chemistry principles 1, 3, 4 and 10. The scientist who discovered plutonium (Glenn Seaborg) once described it as "fiendishly toxic." Plutonium is also the preferred material for making a rogue atomic bomb, which is why the New York Times has called the world's existing supplies of plutonium "one of the most intractable problems of the post-cold-war era."[1]

Lastly, nuclear power plants produce what is called "spent fuel" -- a misnomer if there ever was one. "Spent" makes it sound tired and benign. There is nothing benign about "spent fuel." It is tremendously radioactive -- so much so that it must be stored in a large pool of water to keep it cool. If someone accidently (or malevolently) drained the "spent fuel pool" that exists on-site at nearly every nuclear reactor, the "spent fuel" would spontaneously burst into flame and burn out of control for days, releasing clouds of highly-radioactive cesium-137 all the while. Green chemistry principle #12 says our technologies should be chosen to minimize the potential for accidents such as releases and fires. By this standard, nuclear power does not measure up.

On the face of it, applying a "green principles" test to nuclear power would force us to conclude that it fails by any objective standard and that we should be looking elsewhere for green energy.

Next installment: coal


The 12 Principles of Green Engineering

[First published in Paul T. Anastas and J.B. Zimmerman, "Design through the Twelve Principles of Green Engineering", Environmental Science & Technology Vol. 37, No. 5 (March 1, 2003), pgs. 95A-101A.]

Principle 1: Designers need to strive to ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently nonhazardous as possible.

Principle 2: It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

Principle 3: Separation and purification operations should be designed to minimize energy consumption and materials use.

Principle 4: Products, processes, and systems should be designed to maximize mass, energy, space, and time efficiency.

Principle 5: Products, processes, and systems should be "output pulled" rather than "input pushed" through the use of energy and materials.

Principle 6: Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse, or beneficial disposition.

Principle 7: Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.

Principle 8: Design for unnecessary capacity or capability (e.g., "one size fits all") solutions should be considered a design flaw.

Principle 9: Material diversity in multicomponent products should be minimized to promote disassembly and value retention.

Principle 10: Design of products, processes, and systems must include integration and interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.

Principle 11: Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial "afterlife".

Principle 12: Material and energy inputs should be renewable rather than depleting.


The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

[First published in Martyn Poliakoff, J. Michael Fitzpatrick, Trevor R. Farren, and Paul T. Anastas, "Green Chemistry: Science and Politics of Change," Science Vol. 297 (August 2, 2002), pgs. 807-810.]

1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.

2. Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.

3. Wherever practicable, synthetic methodologies should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.

4. Chemical products should be designed to preserve efficacy of function while reducing toxicity.

5. The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, and so forth) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.

6. Energy requirements should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. Synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure.

7. A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting wherever technically and economically practicable.

8. Unnecessary derivatization (blocking group, protection/deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be avoided whenever possible.

9. Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.

10. Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they do not persist in the environment and break down into innocuous degradation products.

11. Analytical methodologies need to be developed further to allow for real-time in-process monitoring and control before the formation of hazardous substances.

12. Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen so as to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.


[1] Matthew L. Wald, "Agency To Pursue 2 Plans to Shrink Plutonium Supply," New York Times December 10, 1996, pg. 1.

The Power of Words

Can the addition of a few simple words influence people’s behavior? Take a look at the response to the blind beggar’s new sign, slightly changed by a stranger.

Who can change the world?

The band worked on this video with director Dori Oskowitz. The video begins with Nickelback in the studio playing the song. Scenes of this are intercut with images and videos of past social justice and human rights events, essentially when an individual "cared" and ended up changing the world.

The people shown are Betty Williams, who led a march of 35,000 women to the gravesites of three Northern Irish children after witnessing their deaths, Bob Geldof starting up Live Aid, Peter Benenson igniting what would become known as Amnesty International, and Nelson Mandela leading South Africa to its first democratic election, (which would end the racist apartheid régime that had divided the country for 46 years).

The video ends with a quote from Margaret Mead that reads "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

YES Magazine

Economic Meltdown and Sensible Plan for Recovery

Talking Points: Economic Meltdown

By Inequality and the Common Good

Author(s): Chuck Collins

Put over-reliance on the free market together with “hands-off” government and you get an economic melt-down, with the spectacle of the government bailing out and buying giant financial firms: the very antithesis of the “free market” that the Wall Street cheerleaders were extolling. The Bush administration turned our economy into a casino and gave rich investors almost all the chips. The following document is a series of talking points, in an easy-to-read question-and-answer format, on the key questions being discussed today about the global economic meltdown.

Download/Open This Report

October 15, 2008

A Sensible Plan for Recovery

By Inequality and the Common Good

Author(s): Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, Chuck Collins, Dedrick Muhammad, Sam Pizzigati

Rebuilding Accountability and Trust

The grassroots blowback against the Bush Administration’s proposed Wall Street bailout is rooted in deep distrust. Americans recognize the need to act on our current crisis but detest the idea that ordinary taxpayers should bear the brunt of bailing out the kingpins of Wall Street.

The following program, if incorporated into the bailout, could far better address our current problem’s root causes and restore trust and confidence in our economic system.

Program Basics:

• Fund a green stimulus for the real economy
• Restructure mortgages for families put at risk by predatory lenders
• Make Wall Street speculators pay for the bailout
• Shut down the global casino: Assert real oversight of financial markets
• Limit CEO pay and prohibit profiteering from the bailout

Ahmed and the Return of the Arab Phoenix

Ahmed and the Return of the Arab Phoenix
Directed by Guiseppe Bucciarelli, 2007, 23 minutes

YES! film iconWatch the trailer.

Film still from Ahdem and the Return of the Arab Phoenix
Syria is known more for contentious politics than conservation efforts, but in Ahmed and the Return of the Arab Phoenix, director Giuseppe Bucciarelli uncovers a small but powerful story of environmental success in the country’s desert—the return of the bald ibis, a bird previously thought extinct in Syria.

The short film follows a sheepherder named Ahmed in his efforts to restore the ibis’s habitat in Al Badia, home of Ahmed’s desert people, the Bedouins. And the stars of the film are not the typical National Geographic, khaki-wearing experts flown in from halfway around the world, but a modest, ad-hoc group of scientists, hunters-turned-environmentalists, and Bedouins.

Though the film doesn’t elaborate much on Bedouin history, Ahmed’s interest in desert conservation is much more than symbolic. Bedouins have struggled for centuries to defend their traditional pastoral livelihood in Syria, which is now threatened by environmental degradation. In Bedouin lore, the ibis represents wisdom, and to Ahmed their return is a sign that his people’s way of life can be restored.

The film exposes a side of Syria not often portrayed by the mainstream media. The haunting music and shots of the streets, ancient ruins, and wildlife depict the country as a mythical place where history exists alongside the present and remind us of Syria’s ancient past as a cradle of civilization. (Al Badia is near the Euphrates River on the Iraq border.) Bucciarelli sometimes romanticizes Syrian culture, but without overdoing it.

Ahmed and his partners face many challenges, including lack of funding, limited public awareness, and the elusiveness of the birds.

The film is a humanizing portrayal of one person’s struggle in a tough environment, but Ahmed’s ultimate hopes are nearly universal. “For my children,” he says, “I would like a better life, more education, [and] keeping their traditional Bedouin culture with some love for nature and wildlife.”

10 ways to human-scale economy

We offer the YES! perspective on 10 great innovations that prove change is not only possible, but underway. Tired of feeling powerless? See how to bring your economy home.

Building a Just and Sustainable World (YES magazine)

January/February 2008
spacer Image from The Story of Stuff
“The average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago. Ask your grandma.”—Annie Leonard

Dear Educators,
If you’re wondering how to get your students thinking creatively about sustainability, I have the answer: The Story of Stuff.

Since seeing this 20-minute film last month, I’m convinced it’s a one-of-a-kind resource for engaging students of all ages to think about the stuff we buy and throw away.

If you do nothing else this year on sustainability in your class, show this lively film, explore our YES! teaching resources, and get your students thinking about their own stuff and how they can help shape a more satisfying, just, and sustainable world that works for all.

Kay Hubbard, Education Outreach Manager, YES! Magazine Kay signature
Kay Hubbard
Education Outreach Manager, YES! Magazine

P.S. Forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues, and help expand the network of teachers saying YES!
Your Stories
The U.S. border wall in Nogales, Sonora. hoto by Steev
Cultural Diversity Training for Teachers
Read about an innovative university teacher workshop on cultural diversity that integrated readings on immigration and human rights from the Is the U.S. Ready for Human Rights? issue of YES!

MORE OF YOUR STORIES: See students campaigning for a Department of Peace; listen to high-schoolers take the lead on climate change in the Cool School Campaign; hear sixth-grade girls talk about Immigration, and read about innovative teaching methods in action on Sustainability.
Please send us your stories of inspiring teaching to share with our growing network of YES! teachers.
YES! Highlights
Image from The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff shows how everything is interconnected—from the production and disposal of stuff to the disastrous impact that over-consumption has on our environment and developing countries. And it’s not just about consumption—the film raises questions and issues about the role of government, the purpose of an economy, and what makes us happy.

Everyone can make a difference, but the bigger your action the bigger the difference you’ll make. Here are 10 Little and Big Things You Can Do, to share with your students.

See The Story of Stuff, read our review of the film, and explore our selected YES! articles that address the complex issues that relate to our material economy and how we can choose to live differently.
YES! Classroom Tools
The Local Multiplier Effect. YES! Magazine graphic

The Local Multiplier Effect
Once your students have thought about reducing their consumption, help them think about the value of buying locally. A little goes a long way, as buying local products at local businesses creates a ripple effect…

Available as a downloadable pdf poster.

The Page That Counts
The Page That Counts
Number of Earth-sized planets needed if global resource consumption matched that of the US: 3. Get your students talking about the future of our economy: see our Page That Counts.

Go Local cover, YES! Magazine #40
Go Local discussion guide
Thought-provoking questions for your students from our Go Local issue on the nature of trade, alternative economies, and what it takes to create a sustainable, viable local economy.

Graffiti on a London wall by street artist Banksy.  Photo by Kevin Flemen. Flickr: Kfxposure
Live Free—Do It Yourself
Share how people are creating spaces for community, for learning, and for fulfilling their own dreams while supporting the aspirations of others. Brainstorm a new way of life…
Connect and Engage
More in-depth curriculum resources on sustainable choices for all of our… "stuff."

Facing the Future logo
Facing the Future
Facing the Future offers innovative curriculum for teaching about global issues and sustainability. We've picked eight of their free lesson plans for grades 5-12 that you can use with The Story of Stuff including Shop Till you Drop, Watch Where you Step, Livin’ the Good Life, and Is it Sustainable?

image from Center for Ecoliteracy
The Center for Ecoliteracy
In addition to information about the systems-thinking values, skills, and competencies needed to teach education for sustainability, The Center for Ecoliteracy offers examples of schools they work with and support that embody processes and practices for effective education for sustainability.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNESCO offers a broad range of multimedia and interactive lesson plans on interdisciplinary issues related to sustainability for grades 6-12. Their lesson plan on consumption has David Suzuki explaining the human dependence on natural resources and the impact of resource consumption on the world.

Image from Redefining Progress
Redefining Progress
In partnership with Earth Day Network, Redefining Progress offers environmental education lesson plans for K-12 educators. Their Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) presents an alternative to the gross domestic product (GDP). Get your students talking about what would happen if policymakers measured what really matters to people.
Poems from YES! Magazine
Here is poetry for thought to share with your students: Ask whether they agree with what award-winning poet Martin Espada says about the role poets can play in creating a more just world:

“We must imagine the possibility of a more just world before the world may become more just. That’s something that poets do well. So I guess that’s where I come in.”

Imagine the Angels of Bread
Martín Espada
(Click on title to view full version)

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;
this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination;

Cover image of Martin Espada's Imagine the Angels of Bread
this is the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops,
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms;
this is the year
that darkskinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendants
of their executioners.

YES! Magazine #11—Fall 1999

The Story of Stuff - Take Action 10 LITTLE AND BIG THINGS YOU CAN DO

The Story of Stuff
:: UNDERSTAND: The Bigger Picture
:: MAIN INDEX: The Story of Stuff: Another Way

The Story of Stuff website has many more resources, including an annotated script of the movie, a detailed glossary, facts, tips for holding a screening in your classroom or community, and more.

Image from the Story of Stuff
“Remember that old way (the old school throw-away mindset) didn’t just happen by itself. It’s not like gravity that we just gotta live with. People created it. And we’re people too. So let’s create something new.”—Annie Leonard

Many people who have seen The Story of Stuff have asked what they can do to address the problems identified in the film. Each of us can promote sustainability and justice at multiple levels: as an individual, as a teacher or parent, a community member, a national citizen, and as a global citizen.

As Annie says in the film, “the good thing about such an all pervasive problem is that there are so many points of intervention.” That means that there are lots and lots of places to plug in, to get involved, and to make a difference. There is no single simple thing to do, because the set of problems we’re addressing just isn’t simple. But everyone can make a difference, and the bigger your action the bigger the difference you’ll make.

Here are some ideas, along with YES! Stories of people making these changes in their lives:

YES number1
Image from the Story of Stuff
"In the past three decades alone, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed. Gone."
Power down!

A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money. And, if you can switch to alternative energy by supporting a company that sells green energy to the grid or by installing solar panels on your home, bravo!

YES Archive buttonLocal Energy, Local Power

Wind on the Great Plains could power the country. Tribes are working to bring energy production home. YES! Magazine #40, Winter 2007

Wind turbines
Wind turbines in Denmark. Photo by Doug Murray.

YES number2
Image from the Story of Stuff
"99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport… is trashed within 6 months."
Waste less.

Per capita waste production in the U.S. just keeps growing. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, school, workplace, church, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace….the list is endless! The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!

YES Archive buttonSeattle Adopts Zero-Waste Policy

The Seattle City Council has committed the city to a zero-waste policy—and one small neighborhood's activism helped spur the change.
Signs of Life, YES! Magazine #44, Winter 2008

YES Archive buttonBerkeley's Zero Waste Resolution

In March, 2005, Berkeley adopted a Zero Waste resolution, under which the city will reduce solid waste 75 percent by 2010 and to zero by 2020.
YES! Magazine #40, Winter 2007

YES Archive buttonAppalachian Ecovillage

A college founded by abolitionists builds on the dream of a school open to all, turning student family housing into a visionary model of sustainable living.
YES! Magazine #34, Summer 2005

Wind turbines in Denmark. Photo by Doug Murray.
A Berkeley apartment building made from recycled materials, including old CalTrans signs. Photo by Lane Hartwell.

YES number3
Image from the Story of Stuff
Talk to everyone about these issues.

At school, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus… A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No,” said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” You get the point. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.

YES Archive buttonCan We Talk?

Conversation Cafés Show Us How, YES! Magazine #44, Winter 2008

YES number4
Make your voice heard.

Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last two years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about Climate Change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members. Let’s get the issues we care about in the news.

YES Archive buttonSpeaking for Ourselves

Young people in Oakland wanted to talk about real solutions to the poverty, racism, and powerlessness that they grew up with—but all the city’s hip-hop radio station offered was violence and mind-numbing entertainment. YES! Magazine #33, Spring 2005

YES number5
Image from the Story of Stuff
DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the Economy.

Many of today’s consumer products — from children’s pajamas to lipstick — contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary. Research online (for example, before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. The European Union has adopted strong policies that require toxics to be removed from many products. So, while our electronic gadgets and cosmetics have toxics in them, people in Europe can buy the same things toxics-free. Let’s demand the same thing here. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.

YES Archive buttonYES! But How?

Practical tips on green living from the YES! team.



YES number6
Image from the Story of Stuff
Unplug (the TV and internet) and Plug In (the community).

The average person in the U.S. watches T.V. over 4 hours a day. Four hours per day filled with messages about stuff we should buy. That is four hours a day that could be spent with family, friends and in our community. On-line activism is a good start, but spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community and many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.

YES Archive buttonSmall Ohio Town Discovers Power of Networking

by Frances More Lappé, YES! Online Guest Column

YES number7
Park your car and walk… and when necessary MARCH!

Car-centric land use policies and life styles lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel extraction, conversion of agricultural and wildlands to roads and parking lots. Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet. But sometimes we don’t have an option to leave the car home because of inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options. Then, we may need to march, to join with others to demand sustainable transportation options. Throughout U.S. history, peaceful non-violent marches have played a powerful role in raising awareness about issues, mobilizing people, and sending messages to decision makers.

YES Archive buttonOn Critical Mass and the First Amendment

What do bicycles have to do with the Boston Tea Party? By Reverend Billy, YES! Magazine #44, Winter 2008

YES! Magazine YES! But How? graphic
Photo by Fred Askew

YES number8
Image from the Story of Stuff
Change your lightbulbs… and then, change your paradigm.

Changing lightbulbs is quick and easy. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones. That’s a no-brainer. But changing lightbulbs is just tinkering at the margins of a fundamentally flawed system unless we also change our paradigm. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.

YES Archive buttonLive Free - Do It Yourself

The consumer life carries invisible chains. Let’s make spaces where we can be free. Step off the path. YES! Magazine #44, Winter 2008

YES Archive buttonGreat Turning :: From Empire to Earth Community

For high school and university students: this article introduces David Korten’s ideas about the Great Turning and Earth Community: "Earth Community… organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all." David Korten, YES! Magazine #38, Summer 2006

Graffiti on a London wall by street artist Banksy. Photo by Kevin Flemen. Flickr: Kfxposure
Graffiti on a London wall by street artist Banksy. Photo by Kevin Flemen. Flickr: Kfxposure

YES number9
Image from the Story of Stuff
Recycle your trash… and, recycle your elected officials.

Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff. Unfortunately, many cities still don’t have adequate recycling systems in place. In that case you can usually find some recycling options in the phone book to start recycling while you’re pressuring your local government to support recycling city-wide. Also, many products – for example, most electronics - are designed not to be recycled or contain toxics so recycling is hazardous. In these cases, we need to lobby government to prohibit toxics in consumer products and to enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, as is happening in Europe. EPR is a policy which holds producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, so that electronics company who use toxics in their products, have to take them back. That is a great incentive for them to get the toxics out!

YES Archive buttonEurope Cleans Up Its E-Waste Act

Here’s a quick guide to new European initiatives. YES! Magazine #37, Spring 2006

RIGHT: 'WEEE Man' This 21-foot-tall, three ton sculpture is made of 198 household devices, including 5 refrigerators, 35 cell phones, and 23 computer mice, representing the lifetime e-waste of the average European.

'WEEE Man' This 21-foot-tall, three ton sculpture is made of 198 household devices, including 5 refrigerators, 35 cell phones, and 23 computer mice, representing the lifetime e-waste of the average European.
Photo courtesy

YES number10
Image from the Story of Stuff
Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used & most importantly, Buy Less.

Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our dollars support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? Is it free of super-toxic PVC plastic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.

YES Archive buttonWhy Buying Local is Good for You

Money spent locally has a huge multiplier effect for your local economy. Check out the numbers. YES! Magazine #40 Winter 2007

YES Archive buttonCreating Real Prosperity

Going local is good for everyone—including the world's poorest, says Frances More Lappé. YES! Magazine #40 Winter 2007

YES Archive buttonJudy Wicks :: In Business for Life

Judy Wicks and her White Dog Cafe go local and start the Fair Food Project. YES! Magazine #40 Winter 2007