Progress Report #4 (7/11/2016)

Much time has passed since the last report, but I’ve also got a fair amount done, including starting two new projects. Because a significant portion of my efforts has consisted of signing petitions and sending letters, I’m going to keep those parts of the update succinct and to the point. They’ll also be listed last, as they can get a bit repetitive.

  1. Began planning fight for “bottle bill” in Michigan. Behold, my newest and most ambitious project yet. Though it warrants multiple posts on this blog, I’ll touch briefly on it here. In Michigan, there’s a law that says a ten cent deposit must be collected for every soda & beer bottle/can, which can be reclaimed by returning said bottles/cans for recycling. This gives consumers an incentive to either cut down on their consumption of disposable drinks or a reason to recycle those containers. Either way, the environment benefits. The flaw in this bill is that it doesn’t apply to sports drinks, iced teas, and worst of all, bottled water. I know of families who only drink bottled water, which equates to hundreds, if not thousands, of plastic water bottles used per year by each family alone. And sad to say, most of those bottles go unrecycled. So my latest project is to campaign for an expanded bottle bill in Michigan, one that requires a deposit on disposable water bottles. A handful of states already enforce such a law and they’ve seen remarkable drops in the amount of plastic wasted. I’m still in the research and planning phase of the campaign, but make no mistake, this improved bottle bill will be passed.
  2. Picked up 60 cigarette butts, among other litter. Anyone who says they want to serve the environment but don’t know where to start is lying. The simplest and easiest thing a person can do is to go outside and pick up litter. I visited one of my local parks and spent about 45 minutes collecting cigarette butts (which are notoriously bad for ecosystems) and other trash that had been left lying around. I used old plastic grocery bags that my family had accumulated and filled about two of them with litter. It won’t singlehandedly save the planet, but every piece of trash that gets taken out of the woods is a tiny step forward.
  3. Joined the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club in its quest for clean energy. I reached out to one of the coordinators for MI’s Sierra Club and asked how I could be of assistance to them and he gave me ways that I could help out. The two main ones were to call local legislators and urge them to vote on particular bills that pertain to clean energy, and to write letters to local papers about the necessity for developing clean energy systems. I’ve been drawing up talking points for the past few days, so tomorrow I plan on making some calls and drafting those letters.
  4. Listened to Love Song to the Earth 12 times. You know the deal. If you don’t, read this.
  5. Signed a petition to increase safety measures and education opportunities at the Hanauma Bay Nature preserve and coral reef.
  6. Signed a petition to Congress asking them to ban neonicotinoids in order to save bees.
  7. Wrote a letter to select Senators asking them to vote NO on a bill that would allow Monsanto to hide GMO information on labels.
  8. Signed a petition to various decision-makers to ban deforestation in the United States (extremely vague, I know, but the idea is good).
  9. Signed a petition to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about continuing to support the red wolf species (which actually worked!)
  10. Signed a petition to the Governor of California (Gov. Jerry Brown) requesting that he outlaw the sale of wastewater from fracking & oil drilling for irrigation. Kind of messed up that that’s allowed.
  11. Sent a letter to the USDA asking them to improve animal welfare standards on farms. Love me some bacon, but only if it has a big enough cage.
  12. Sent a letter to the US Forest Service telling them that I oppose any mining on the Apache land of Oak Flat. So many reasons for this, one of the main ones being that we’ve mistreated Native Americans so much in the past and it’s high time we start respecting them.
  13. Sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers, asking them to revoke or change Nationwide Permit 12, which allows them to fast-track oil and gas pipeline reviews without giving them proper environmental evaluation.
  14. Sent a letter to President Obama asking him to expand the borders of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Beyond that, I actually emailed the petition/letter to three friends and had them sign it as well.
  15. Sent a letter to my senator asking them to support Senator Merkley’s bill for increasing pollinator habitat, among other pro-bee stipulations.
  16. Signed a petition to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee telling them to declare the Sundarbans a World Heritage Site in Danger, in order to prevent the building of a coal plant in the forest.
  17. Signed a petition to divest the Vatican from fossil fuel investments. Kind of surprised that this hasn’t already happened, considering Pope Francis’ environmental bent and the publication of Laudato Si’.
  18. Signed a petition to the EPA asking them to create stronger rules governing the reduction of haze & the improvement of air quality, specifically in our National Parks.
  19. Sent a letter to the EPA asking them to strengthen their enforcement of water permits for dirty power plants.
  20. Signed a petition to the EPA asking them to ban neonicotinoids in order to save the bees. Seriously, save the bees already.
  21. Sent a letter to President Obama, the Secretary of the Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy, and the Bureau of Land Management asking them all to stop leasing out public lands and waters to fossil fuel companies for FF extraction. 
  22. Signed a petition to the Democratic party asking them to make climate change a priority on their platforms for the upcoming election cycle. The more they openly commit to green actions, the more likely they are to follow through. We hope.
  23. Same thing as above (petitioning the Democratic party for green platform planks), but through Friends of the Earth instead of
  24. Sent a letter to the Bureau of Land Management asking them to stop leasing land in northeastern Utah to fossil fuel companies, in hopes of protecting habitat and natural beauty.


Like I said, I’ve been fairly busy. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that signing all these petitions will yield any change, but we’ve got to start somewhere, right? And it always warms my heart to see successes come out of these petitions and letters, as it did with the red wolves in Carolina. Thankfully I have the day off from my wage job tomorrow, so I should be able to crank out some more posts and get some solid environmental work done.


In pursuit,


Composting: Love Really Does Begin at Home

I hinted at this project a few posts back, so here’s the full break down. I finally got around to building a composting bin for my home here in Michigan (my university is still in the midst of setting up their composting system) and it’s been incredibly satisfying to use it. Composting is the process by which you collect organic materials that would otherwise end up in the landfills as trash, and have them broken down naturally into a dirt-like substance that’s aptly named “compost”. It’s rich in nutrients and as such is a popular fertilizer for gardens and farms. What kind of organic material can be composted, you ask? Great question. Food scraps (think watermelon rinds and banana peels), yard waste (shrub trimmings, dead flowers, etc.) and the like are all the sorts of materials that can be composted. Ideally you’d have a healthy mix of materials, but our composting bin is mostly filled with food scraps.

On to the explanation of how I built the bin. It’s a pretty simple design in reality, one that I copied from an actual store-bought bin that my friend Will owns. All I did was buy a solid black trash bin from Meijer (one of those big circular bins that you might see in a school cafeteria or something) and then cut close to a hundred little square windows out of the side walls of the bin. These windows were about an inch long and an inch wide, providing a a way for trapped gases to get out of the bin as the materials decomposed and a way for bacteria to enter the bin so that they could break down the items inside. Like I said, I probably cut around a hundred of these holes on the side walls, around 20 more on the lid, and another 20 on the bottom of the bin so that worms might be able to wriggle in and do their part as well. In hindsight, I wish I had cut a few more holes in order to expedite the process, though I’m not actually sure that would’ve made a difference. The only other alteration I made to the bin was cutting a half oval into the side of the bin, creating a sort of flap that I could bend outwards in order to reach into the bin and grab the newly-created compost. In summary: a regular trash bin with some holes in it and a flap for getting the compost out. Simple, quick, and easy. And best of all, it works like a charm. I’ll post some pictures of my make-shift bin below. Enjoy!

In pursuit,


Progress Report #3 (6/23/2016)

Yeah so it’s been a while since I’ve last updated The Adolescent Environmentalist, but I should be back in the swing of things now so expect quite a few more posts coming down the pipe.

Over the past week or two, I’ve managed to accomplish shamefully little. That being said, I did get some environmental work done, so I’ll share that with you guys despite it being too little progress over too long a period of time.

  1. Thanked Obama for protecting the American bison. A long long time ago, bison roamed America in force. Their proud and plentiful herds were swiftly annihilated by humans, reducing their population to a small number of bison in Yellowstone and a few scattered pockets on private lands. Recently, President Obama signed into existence the National Bison Legacy Act, which basically makes the American bison the mammalian equivalent of the bald eagle. As our national mammal, the American bison is even more protected than before and is thrust into the spotlight of conservation efforts. So I sent President Obama a short letter thanking him for making a decisive move that enhances the protection and visibility of the American bison, while also requesting even more strong action on behalf of the environment. More info can be found here.
  2. Signed petition to stop fracking in Michigan. Again through AddUp, this petition is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a letter to the Michigan Senate, House, and executive branch asking them to ban fracking and install better safeguards. You can learn more about this particular petition here.
  3. Listened to Love Song to the Earth 21 times. Check out my post here that explains this song – long story short, each time you listen to it, you raise funds for environmental protection efforts. So I played it on YouTube on mute 21 times just to help raise money. Listen to the song here!
  4. Signed petition to ask Congress not to block Maine Woods national monument. Basically, the National Park Service is set to receive a donation of 87,500 acres of woodland in northern Maine that they would then turn into a national monument and eventually into a national park. 87,500 acres is a ridiculous plot of land and it’ll go a long way to getting us to E.O. Wilson’s goal of 50% of Earth being protected land (long story, read about it here). Unfortunately, there’s a group in Congress that wants to block this passage because they’re “anti-park”. Hence the petition to Congress members asking them to allow Maine Woods to become a national monument – all the information for this petition can be found here.
  5. Wrote a letter to the EPA asking them to strengthen laws regarding waste discharge from cruise ships. Cruise ships carry hundreds of passengers who are constantly eating, drinking, and consequently, producing waste. A lot of it. As of right now, these cruise ships can basically just dump this waste into the open ocean, which causes a plethora of problems for the living organisms in those seas. The letter, coordinated through Friends of the Earth, requests that the EPA does something about the lack of legal restriction on this harmful discharge. Information regarding this letter can be found here.
  6. Signed a petition to Congress telling them that I am against the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. I’m not going to explain each petition in depth, it’ll take too long and get way too repetitive. Needless to say though, expanding pipelines is rarely a good thing for the environment. Learn more here.
  7. Signed a petition asking Travelocity to add a Carbon Offset button to their website. Because climate change has become such a central issue to many people, quite a few airlines have created a Carbon Offset option for the flights. If I were to buy a ticket flying to New York through JetBlue airlines, for example, I could pay an extra amount of money, maybe $40, to offset the carbon that would be burned for my flight. That money might be spent on planting more trees or on research or any other number of things that would counterbalance the emissions from my flight. Travelocity, despite being one of the largest travel sites, offers no such option. So one go-getting man decided to write a petition to the company asking that they add such an option. You can read more about the petition (and sign it!) here.


If there’s any hope of this planet surviving the anthropic abuse being inflicted upon it, much more must be done on a daily basis. On that note, I leave you so I can go get some work done.


In pursuit,


Tinlid Hat Company

When a good friend of mine arrived to our semi-daily basketball game yesterday, he was sporting an old hat of his and I figured his hat was noteworthy enough to mention on this blog. See, his hat comes from the Tinlid Hat Company (I think it’s supposed to be pronounced like Tin Lid), a small but growing apparel business that is dedicated to re-greening our planet.

Each product that Tinlid sells is accompanied by the planting of 15 trees through the very legitimate Trees for the Future foundation. I’m only aware of a handful of apparel businesses that give back to nature with each purchase, but I know enough to realize that 15 trees for buying a simple hat is a solid deal. Granted, Tinlid products are not cheap – my friend’s hat costs $28. However, they’re durable and last quite a long time if not heavily mistreated, so factor in the 15 trees and the price makes sense. Not to mention they’re stylistic in their simplicity, which kind of reminds me of another environmentally-conscious clothing brand that’s half hipster and half silver-spoon: Patagonia. Tinlid is a far cry from rivaling Patagucci just yet, but they’re designs are, in my eyes, appealing in a similar way. You can see my friend’s hat pictured below, and if anybody is interested in checking out Tinlid or buying some of their products, you can do so here. Also, I should mention that I am not being sponsored by Tinlid nor am I getting any commission for sending you guys there; let’s be real, this blog doesn’t really even get read anyway. I still plan on nabbing some of their cool hats though! Also, I follow their Instagram account and their bio says you can use the code “insta” for 10% off!


Progress Report #2 (6/9/2016)

I’ve realized that a daily progress report was an overly ambitious plan, considering it’s not uncommon for me to pass a day or two without any significant environmental work. I feel ashamed even writing that sentence, but the truth cannot be denied. Instead of a daily report, I’ll update the site with my activities every few days, which should provide me with plenty of progress to report. Let’s begin, shall we?

  1. Joined the Global Catholic Climate Movement and signed their petition. I grew up in a Catholic family and now I attend a Catholic university, so it really only made sense that I join a Catholic green movement. They’re like any other green movement, with goals of environmental justice, stopping global climate change, etc., except with the twist that their passion for solving these problems stems from their Catholic faith, which I find particularly appropriate now that Pope Francis recently released Laudato Si’ (an encyclical that basically says we gotta start fixing the environment or else). Their petition calls on “local, national, and international leaders” to cut down on carbon emissions and to aid the poorest communities in dealing with the disastrous effects of climate change. You can find out more about the GCCM or join them here.
  2. Planted Seedles. Growing plants is hard work. It takes time, patience, and a surprisingly high level of skill. I don’t have any of those things. Thankfully, Seedles exist. I’ll write a post later that’ll go more in depth on what Seedles are, but the basic gist is they’re wildflower seeds native to my region. I received my 50-pack of them in the mail today and because it’ll likely rain tomorrow, I spread them around my property. Ideally they’ll grow into wildflowers and spread all over the land, providing fresh air, brightening up the area, and most importantly, creating a larger and healthier food source for the dwindling bee populations. Learn more about Seedles and/or buy them here.
  3. Sent a letter to my state senator to vote NO to a proposed bill that would deregulate electric utilities. In the blessed peninsula that is Michigan, the law currently requires electric utilities to get at least 10% of their power from renewable sources, among other environmental regulations. Senate Bill 437 would phase out those laws, undoing any legislative progress that may have already been made. So, along with the rest of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club, I sent a letter to my district’s state senator asking him to vote NO to Senate Bill 437.
  4. Sent a letter to my state senator to vote NO to a proposed bill that would deregulate ORV trail usage. The existing way it works is that nature trails are all considered off-limits to ORVs unless there are specific signs saying that trail is open for ORV use. This saves the state DNR a ton of money by limiting the number of signs needed and protects thousands of miles of trails from being destroyed by ORVs. House Bill 5275 would flip that law, making every single trail available for use unless there are specific signs saying they’re off-limits. This would cost the DNR an estimated $500,000 (which they don’t have) and would leave tons of nature trails vulnerable to destruction via ORVs, trails that aren’t designed to accommodate vehicles. This time, I wrote my own letter to state senator Dave Hildenbrand, asking him to vote NO to House Bill 5275 (as opposed to using a template for the letter like I did for Senate Bill 437).
  5. Voted for CREDO to allocate funds to Friends of the Earth and signed their petition to national parks. CREDO is, oddly enough, a mobile phone company that focuses on progressive values to make them stand out in the crowd. Every month, they donate over $150,000 to three different charities; those funds are divvied up according to how many votes each organization gets. I personally voted for Friends of the Earth, a group that “defends the environment and champions a healthy and just world”. I also signed their petition to the head of the National Park Service, who recently made the decision to allow more corporate “donations” to national parks. In other words, companies can buy naming rights, allowing them to plaster logos and company names all over these natural parks. That just doesn’t sit right with me. So, the petition. You can vote for CREDO’s fund allocation here and you can learn more about the petition and/or sign it here.


It’s been a decently productive past few days, but I won’t lie, I’ve been slacking off a bit. Fortunately, I have been working on another medium-sized project that I’ll mention in the next update. That’s all for now on my end.


In pursuit,


E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth

There are currently 59 national parks in the United States and many, many more state parks beside. Thousands of acres of protected habitat meant to maintain biodiversity and ecological balance. Is it enough? According to perhaps one of the most renowned biologists in the world/history, E.O. Wilson, not by a long shot.

The first issue is that there simply isn’t enough protected land to provide habitat for the billions (trillions?) of species that inhabit the Earth. That’d be like trying to house every human being into only the existing big cities like New York or London – you just can’t do it. The second reason why our protected landscape isn’t sufficient is because it’s fractured into all those various national and state parks instead of being one continuous, uninterrupted reserve. When animals need to migrate, whether naturally or due to climate change, they have nowhere to run to because they already occupy the only circle of protected land to be found in the region. These tiny bubbles of biodiversity are extremely liable to pop considering they’re beset on all sides by us humans and our destructive tendencies. Imagine it like this: parks are like our major cities, except they’re all disconnected from each other, so pretend we don’t have any highways or airports that connect our cities. There’s absolutely no way to get from New York to Chicago or from Miami to Los Angeles. Then imagine New York gets flooded or is hit by a devastating hurricane. What do its citizens do? They can’t flee anywhere because their home is isolated from the rest of civilization, so they will essentially all die. That’s basically the problem with our current system of parks: they’re too small, too few, and too unconnected.

Wilson’s proposal changes all that, but brace yourself because it’s no small idea: setting aside half of the planet as protected habitat. As he puts it, “half for them, half for us”. Obviously this won’t be as cut-and-dry as something like having humans live above the equator while animals get the southern hemisphere, but depopulating 50% of the planet is still a hefty challenge. It’d require enlarging the parks that are already in existence and then creating ecological highways of sorts that would connect them, creating a network of interconnected parks. Humans would then be surrounded on all sides by nature, a fact that might actually fix many of our problems by birthing a stronger relationship with the planet. I’m not an expert on the topic or this proposed solution, so if you’re interested in reading more about Wilson’s Half-Earth theory, check it out here and let me know what you think!


In pursuit,


Microbeads cause Macro-problems

Please forgive that terrible title, I couldn’t think of anything wittier.


Pictured above is a sample of some sort of hand soap or body wash that utilizes microbeads, tiny balls of plastic that serve the purpose of gently exfoliating your skin. I’m not entirely sure on how effective microbeads are at sloughing off dead skin, but I do know this: microbeads are a bane to our waterways.

These devious little devils are small enough that they sneak through the water treatment plants that clean used water, meaning they regularly find their way into our lakes, rivers, oceans, etc. Because they’re plastic, they also don’t biodegrade, so each microbead that lands at the bottom of the lake bed stays there permanently. According to the Environmental Science & Technology journal, our waterways receive enough microbead pollution to cover 300 tennis courts – every. single. day. Obviously, that’s a bad thing. Fish and other aquatic inhabitants tend to consume these colorful pellets, filling their stomachs with plastic that they can’t digest, eventually starving them to death. There’s also the issue that microbeads exhibit the nasty trait of absorbing chemicals they’re exposed to, providing a sort of vector for these chemicals to make their way from factories into the bodies of wildlife. Again, that’s a bad thing.

Fret not, my fellow environmentalists, there is hope. A handful of states have begun to pass laws that ban microbeads (New York, Ohio, California, Minnesota, Illinois) and President Obama actually signed a bill that banned microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics, effective in mid-2017. These are great steps in the right direction and it makes me smile to read headlines concerning these solutions. However, they’re not enough, for several reasons.

1st of all, Obama’s bill only concerns rinse-off cosmetics. So products that stay on the skin, detergents, and other microbead-using products that don’t fit that specific category are exempt from this ban. Secondly, Obama’s narrow law only goes into effect halfway through 2017. At the time of this blog post, we’re only halfway through 2016. That means that for roughly a full year, companies and consumers can continue to pollute our waterways with microbeads. At 300 tennis courts per day, we’re talking an estimated 109,500 tennis courts worth of microbeads by the time this law starts kicking in.

What can YOU do to help? I’m glad you asked. The nice thing about a problem this big is that there are so many ways to tackle it.

  • Stop buying products with microbeads in them. It’s that simple. Before I knew microbeads were terrible for the environment, I used a facial cleanser that contained microbeads and my body wash from Irish Spring was loaded with the beasts. The next time I ran out, I just bought a different brand that had no microbeads in it. Easy fix.
  • Push for state action. Only a few states have even thought about banning microbead products and even fewer have actually passed restrictions. Write to your state’s lawmakers and urge them to take action.
  • Push for national action. Obama’s ban is a good start, now let’s encourage him to keep the momentum going by expanding the ban to all products that utilize microbeads. He’s got nothing to lose by doing so now.
  • Push for private action. Know a product that uses microbeads? Write to that company and let them know that you’ll no longer be using their products (whether that’s true or not) because of the microbead issue. If companies see that their buyers care about stuff like this, they will adjust their products accordingly. Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble both issued statements that their future products will not contain microbeads, so maybe the most receptive policy makers aren’t politicians after all.

I know this seems like such a small issue in the grand scale of things. Heck, my friends at school teased me about making a fuss over such tiny beads. But in the war for the environment, every single battle counts – and this one is much larger than it would originally seem. So go out there and put an end to those microbeads!


In pursuit,