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Posts Tagged ‘environment’

40 Year Old Plastic at the Beach

February 24th, 2013 7 comments
North Star Brand Hot Dog Package

North Star Brand Hot Dog Package c.1964-1974

In the previous post, I showed some photographs of plastic waste from a local Vancouver park. This time I went to Spanish Banks, a beautiful natural beach on English Bay. Here’s a photo that I took while I was there:

Moon Rising Over Vancouver

At first it was difficult to spot any plastic – the beach looked pristine. However, after a few minutes, I spotted many pieces of plastic waste. The tide was going out, and I found most of the plastic in the high tide line, mixed in with seaweed and driftwood. I found plastic bags, wrappers, bottles, a cap from a ballpoint pen, styrofoam, food containers and coffee lids. I even found some AstroTurf!

The most interesting waste plastic that I found was a package labeled North Star Brand Wieners by Intercontinental Packers, Vancouver.  Although it was made in Canada, it had no French labeling and the weight was in Imperial Units (one pound). Canada introduced bilingual packaging in 1974 and metric weights in the mid-seventies. After a little research, I learned that the company existed in Vancouver from 1964-1994. Incredibly, this package dates from c.1964 – 1974, showing how long plastic persists in the environment. After 40 to 50 years it is still around! It will remain in the environment for another 50 years or much longer, along with all other plastic waste. Unfortunately, much of this waste gets into the ocean, where it is eaten by marine life, often injuring and killing fish, birds, turtles and dolphins. Check out the documentary “Addicted to Plastic” for more information about the problems caused by plastic waste in the environment, along with solutions that will need to be implemented to correct the problem. In the meantime, if you care about the environment, don’t litter with plastic waste!

Here’s another photo from beautiful Spanish Banks:

Spanish Banks, Vancouver

Spanish Banks, Vancouver

Plastic in the Park

February 18th, 2013 1 comment

I recently watched the documentary Addicted to Plastic, which explores how plastic has contaminated the environment. Plastic is cheap and much of it gets thrown away. It doesn’t biodegrade, so every piece of plastic ever thrown out still exits in the environment.  It may take hundreds of years to break down. Although increasingly more plastic is being recycled, much goes to landfills, and some eventually makes its way to the oceans. Tons of plastic are now floating in the oceans. Seals, dolphins, sea turtles, fish and birds consume the plastic because it resembles food. The plastic is often lethal because it cannot be digested and just accumulates in the animals’ digestive systems preventing them from getting their normal diets.

I took a walk in Vancouver’s John Hendry Park (Trout Lake) to see what plastic garbage I could find lying around. It was not hard to find. At first glance the park looks clean and well cared for. But on closer inspection, there are many bits and pieces of plastic. Here is a small sampling of the typical plastic waste that was lying on the ground. There were plastic bags, 6 pack rings, fast food containers, disposable lighters, plastic cutlery, old toys, bottles, cups, coffee lids and cigarette package wrappers. This might be surprising since Vancouver is well known as a clean city, where most people are concerned for the environment, taking care to throw out waste in the numerous containers provided by the city. In the next few weeks, I’ll be checking out some other public areas in Greater Vancouver to see how they compare.

Plastic is incredibly useful and is everywhere, although it has been around for less than 100 years. Because it is so cheap, we tend to regard it as disposable. But we will need to change how we use and dispose of plastic. There are many options – use other materials when possible, reuse plastics, recycle them, and dispose of them properly. Already biodegradable plastics are available and many more types of plastic can be recycled than are currently handled in most municipal recycling programs.

Here’s a short documentary about plastic in the oceans:

 

Video about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

 

This video shows what types of plastic were collected in dead albatrosses:


More information:

Greenpeace report on Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans

BBC News story, May 2012: Big Rise in North Pacific Plastic Waste

 

Tips for green photography

March 30th, 2011 No comments

The news about the serious nuclear contamination and radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan is a strong reminder about our dependence on the environment. This is a terrible event and highlights the costs involved in generating power for our industrial society.

However, the cost to the environment for using fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum are even more serious, although less visible. For example, Seth Godin showed how coal energy costs 4000 lives for every life lost by nuclear power. We also know that the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels is changing climate, especially in the arctic. The impact of this climate change is slow and without the immediate scary impact as nuclear contamination, but over the long term is even more deadly.

I read the book Collapse by Jared Diamond, which showed how cultures throughout history had come to an end as a result of using their environmental resources in unsustainable ways. The comparison to our modern culture is quite profound and eye-opening. Luckily, there is still time to avert the severe consequences of an environment collapse!

What can photographers do to minimize their impact on the environment?

I found a website called The Green Photographer, that has some ideas – mainly involving the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Many of the ideas are applicable to any business or household, not just photography, and definitely worth implementing.

Some specific ideas for photographers:

  • Use digital instead of film cameras
    The environmental impact of digital versus film photography seems to fall in favour of digital photography, primarily because digital uses smaller amounts of less toxic chemicals. Most of the digital photographs will never be printed, and those that are printed typically use more environmentally friendly chemicals. In addition using less paper helps to save trees.
  • Use digital proofing instead of print
    To take advantage of the environmental benefits of digital photography, do not print until necessary. Use projection or monitors to view the proofs with clients.
  • Digital photography uses more energy than film
    Use rechargeable batteries as much as possible for the cameras and flash units.
  • Recycle used ink and toner cartridges
  • Recycle e-waste  (for example old digital cameras, computers, cell phones, monitors)
  • Use suppliers with carbon neutral and other sustainability programs
    Check out your printers and paper suppliers to see what they are doing to reduce and offset carbon emissions and minimize their impact to the environment. If there are other suppliers doing a better job, bring your business to them instead.

It can be overwhelming and difficult to take action when you are one person or a small business and just a tiny part of the big environmental picture. However, every contribution makes a difference and the numbers can be turned around to benefit rather than harm the environment and contribute to long term sustainability.

If you have another tip for being an environmentally friendly photographer, please add it to the comment section. I’m sure there are many other ideas that I have missed!

 

 

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