Tag Archives: environment

The Best of Oregon Camping

lake

-Rache’ll Brown

In the past two decades I’ve had my fair share of bug bites, sun burns, Big Foot sightings, and campfire stories. I’ve caught fish, made s’mores, polar-beared, and had my tent tipped. Some of my best childhood memories were spent in the great outdoors, and as an Oregonian born and raised, I have spent most of my time in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Students and locals alike should experience a night or two in Oregon’s natural beauty, and these are a few places that I think are worth a visit.

Moonshine Park

Growing up on the Central Oregon Coast, an appearance of the sun meant a trip to Moonshine, not the beach. A mere fifteen dollars grants campers an overnight stay at Lincoln County’s most popular park. Plus: the people-watching is prime on a nice day.

Paulina Lake

Central Oregon is so beautiful, and although the weather can get excruciatingly hot for this coastal girl, Bend and La Pine are some of my favorite spots in Oregon. For fourteen dollars, campers can be right next to the lake, which means fishing and rock skipping.

Coldwater Cove

I am terrified of lakes and deep bodies of water, mainly because I have no idea what lies beneath the surface. At Coldwater Cove, this isn’t an issue.  For eighteen dollars per night, campers can hang out in my favorite body of water, Clear Lake.

Yukwah Campground

Twenty dollars per night for a camping plot, but the timeless memories come free. This camping ground located outside of Sweet Home, OR is one of my favorite. It’s right across from the South Santiam River and is encased by beautiful Douglas Firs. This spot is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest.

Link Creek Campground

For sixteen dollars a night campers can experience one of my favorite places in Oregon: Suttle Lake. The first time I drove through the Santiam Pass and saw this lake I was blown away, and getting up close and personal with it was breathtaking. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

The Cove Palisades State Park

Growing up, lake stories didn’t count unless they took place on Billy Chinook. At twenty dollars per night campers get to experience the lake and the beautiful red cliffs surrounding it. The best part is the diverse range of outdoor activities: hiking, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing are some options that can please all.

Take Back the Tap Continues Campaigning

– Laura Lundberg

This past Friday evening had the museum packed with students, faculty, as well as citizens from Eugene as a new exhibit opened in the Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum on the University of Oregon campus. Chris Jordan is the artist of the new exhibit at the Art Museum, and all of his artworks displayed showed pieces made of recycled materials, or materials that had been used before and incorporated into the pieces. The theme of the exhibit was about recycling and using something again, and tabling at the event was the Climate Justice League and they were campaigning for their long-term campaign, Take Back the Tap.

The Climate Justice League was at the Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum in order to promote their campaign, and because the artist asked to “partner” with them for the event, to raise awareness about sustainability on campus. “Chris Jordan thought that having some of the groups here on campus tabling at his event and getting the word out to people about sustainability on campus was a good idea, and so did we,” said Manny Garcia, a member of the Climate Justice League who was tabling at the event. Take Back the Tap has been working on tabling at different events in order to gain a more support.

At the event, the members of the Climate Justice League who were tabling were working on getting more signatures for the petition that they plan on giving to the University of Oregon senate. Currently, they have over 500 signatures and are steadily reaching their goal of 2,000 signatures. Since Take Back the Tap hopes to eventually widen their campaign to the city of Eugene and have water bottles removed from the entire city, they are working to let the citizens of Eugene know about their campaign and to try and gather their support. They have purchased over 2,300 water bottles that they have been passing out to students, and at the event they had pamphlets explaining their goal and what they have currently achieved. They even had a hand-drawn map with all of the water spigots located on campus.

“It’s a slow process, but with every event we table at, we’re getting our campaign known and it is becoming more popular and widespread,” Garcia explained. The Climate Justice League plans on continuing with their plans to table at various events, as well as to have the water spigot locations on campus put onto the University of Oregon campus maps. This will help students know where they can go to refill their water bottles.

The next event where the Take Back the Tap campaign will be tabling is at the movie “Flow”. The movie will be shown on the University of Oregon campus for any students who wish to attend at the end of the month.

Coming Soon: Free Water

– Laura Lundberg

With the issues of climate change, Global Warming, and the ocean’s acidity level on the rise, sustainability seems to be a growing issue and a fast-paced trend. The University of Oregon is ranked as one of the top green colleges in the United States, and students have been continuing to try and make their campus even more sustainable in the past years.

As of mid-November, the proposal for a new Student Sustainability Center to be created in the new EMU was passed, offering the various sustainability groups on campus a hub for their campaigns. The Climate Justice League is one of the groups that brought up the proposal for a new student sustainability center. The Climate Justice League is a relatively new group to campus. It was started fall of 2009 and has made its presence known on campus with their innovative campaigns for environmental change on campus.

One of the Climate Justice League’s most prevalent campaigns is the “Take Back the Tap” campaign. Rachel Lytton, a campaign coordinator for the “Take Back the Tap” told me a bit about the campaign.

“Take Back the Tap’s ultimate goal is to discontinue the sales and distribution of bottled water on the University of Oregon campus,” she explained. They’ve made a decent amount of progress on this campaign in the past year, getting ever closer to their goal. “Take Back the Tap recently gained the support of the ASUO, which was a big win for Take Back the Tap and the Climate Justice League because it gets the campaign closer to being passed by the University of Oregon Senate,” she said. She also told me that the campus will hopefully be bottled water free by the end of the Spring 2011 term. Once this passes,  water bottles will no longer be in vending machines on campus, which will reduce the University’s waste considerably. “Currently, the housing department at the University of Oregon throws away about 175,000 water bottles every two months and the Food Service sells 3 – 4 kinds of bottled water. All this waste will be significantly reduced – if not eliminated – if Take Back the Tap passes,” she said.

Still, if Take Back the Tap passes, it will not be an overnight change. “The Climate Justice League supplies reusable water bottles to students who don’t have their own reusable water bottles. We’ve also installed around 30 – 40 water spigots throughout campus for students to refill their water bottles,” Rachel explained. The Climate Justice League is also creating maps to place around campus to direct students to the spigots.

Take Back the Tap has also written a petition for students and faculty to sign in order to show the University of Oregon Senate that the campus community supports the removal of water bottles on campus.

“Gaining support from the community is one of the most important things to making the Take Back the Tap’s goal a reality,” Rachel said. With the idea of sustainability becoming more present on campus, the Climate Justice League hopes to make more changes to the campus in order to make it more environmental.

The Climate Justice League welcomes new members every Tuesday in Straub 146 at 7 pm.

Banning the Bag

Plastic bags are durable, long lasting, and make life easier for grocery-toting shoppers; but their longevity may be an environmental curse.

The Pacific Ocean is home to a beautiful array of sea mammals, more species of salmon than any other ocean in the world, and an unusual island that’s larger than the state of Texas. Rather than sand and palm trees, this island is composed of plastics, chemical sludge, and other common litter components. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic bags are a big culprit.

To protect the environment from further contamination by plastics, State Senators Mark Hass (D-OR) and Jason Atkinson (R-OR) co-sponsored a bill to ban plastic bags in Oregon. Though the bill failed to pass in the last session, Hass and Portland Mayor Sam Adams would like to see it succeed in 2011. With the support of organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation and Environment Oregon, the bill stands a chance of passing in February.

Plastic bags start off innocently enough.

They begin as polyethylene pellets derived from petroleum oil, which are heated and pounded until they become liquid. At this point, the liquid is poured into bag molds. Once the plastic has hardened, the bags are imprinted with store logos and distributed to retailers around the world. While the dependence on oil for plastic bag production is concerning to many environmentalists, the biggest problem isn’t where these bags start; it’s where they end up.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), most of the debris found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—only one of many garbage islands—is small enough that the particles are not visible to the naked eye.

Birds and other creatures that normally feed off the algae and insects that float in the ocean often confuse the tiny plastic pieces with food. As a result, birds will eat and eat until their stomachs are filled with plastic; but in the end they will die of starvation, as there is no nutritional value in plastic.

Some environmentalists see banning the plastic bag as the first step on the road to ditching all plastics. Tualatin Riverkeepers Advocacy and Communications Manager Brian Wegener says a plastic bag ban would not only decrease the problems associated with plastics, but it would also bring attention to the entire spectrum of plastics that currently serve personal uses.

“That consciousness can go a long way in eliminating other plastics from the environment,” Wegener says.

The ban would reduce the environmental impact of plastics, especially in waterways. For example, wildlife often becomes entangled in the plastics that enter rivers and streams. It’s also common for these animals to try to eat the plastics and  this can cause them to choke to death.

Some people also fear the effects of plastics will continue to have a negative impact on Earth’s biological habitats because plastic bags might take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how long these bags will be around because not a single bag has yet to decompose; they’ve only been in production for about fifty years. Plastics cannot biodegrade because microorganisms will not eat them.  However, plastics can be broken down in other manners.

In the ocean, plastic bags break up into smaller and smaller pieces through a process called photodegradation. The process is similar to biodegradation, except the plastic is weakened and broken up by the sun rather than microscopic organisms.

“They become part of the food chain as micro-pieces,” Wegener says. Fish can ingest the little plastic particles. “The full impact of that is not fully understood yet, but it’s probably not healthy.”

The plastics industry has a different take on the issue. Plastic proponents argue that eliminating plastic bags from shopping centers would only increase the demand for paper bags, which could have a harmful environmental effect.

According to the Progressive Bag Alliance, producing plastic bags uses 40 percent less energy than producing paper bags. The alliance also says that paper bags generate fifty times more water pollutants than plastic bags.

Still, the harmful effects of plastics on wildlife, and the ecosystem as a whole, are not seen with paper bags.

Once plastic bags begin to break down, they release a throng of toxins into the surrounding environment, such as mercury, lead and cadmium, according to Ecology Center. Plastics also contain diethylhexyl phthalate, which is a known carcinogen.

In spite of the harmful effects that plastic bags can have on the environment, the plastics industry argues that a ban would cause more harm than good by increasing costs for consumers.

Tim Shestek, the director of the west coast region’s American Chemistry Council, says banning bags could have a negative impact on the already suffering economy.

“Banning plastic bags and charging consumers for paper bags will raise grocery costs for families that are struggling in a tough economy,” Shestek says. A ban would also hurt the plastic bag manufacturers, which could have a negative impact on jobs, he says.

It is estimated that five hundred billion to one trillion plastic bags are produced each year. The U.S. is responsible for consuming one-fifth of these.

Everyone agrees that plastics shouldn’t be calling our oceans home. Rather than focusing on a ban, Shestek suggests Oregonians should divert their attention to improving accessibility to plastic recycling programs. The rate of recycling plastic bags has increased by 28 percent since 2005 according to Shestek.

Reusable cloth shopping totes and biodegradable shopping bags are other environmentally sound ideas that would decrease Americans’ reliance on harmful plastics and paper products alike.

According to the Sierra Club, the best shopping bags for the environment are sturdy cloth bags made of organic, sustainable plant fibers. These can be used thousands of times before wearing out.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to America’s growing need for shopping bags. While a plastic bag ban would merely address the surface problems created by plastics and other litter items, it would also introduce a new set of problems, such as an increased dependence on paper products.

One thing rings true: for as long as Americans continue to fill landfills, line beaches, and clutter oceans with plastic bags instead of pursuing more environmentally-friendly practices, such as recycling and bringing their own shopping bags, the legacy of the plastic bag will remain a long-term mystery. With further research and consumer dedication, maybe Americans will realize the future condition of our landfills and oceans will depend on the choices we make.

The New A-Bomb

-Jennifer Shier

In my opinion, one of the defining hallmarks of generation X ers is that we grew up knowing an A-bomb could drop at any time. 

It’s an inexplicable fear to these younger people of college age right now.  Thankfully, they will never have a useless duck ‘n’cover drill, or learn the location of the nearest useless bomb shelter–can’t stay in there until the radiation is gone. 

The days of massive face-to-face warfare are waning.  Now you have to worry about the bullied student who might be packing a 9mm, or a suicide bomber in some inane public place.  But, I imagine, those fears are far off for the average college student.  I think the crushing blow is that they know the world they were born into won’t look much like it does now in 10 or 15 years. 

Truth is, no one knows what is coming down the pike. That’s the scary part.  I’m sure the feeling that they have been born into a mess they didn’t create kills.  Believe me, the X ers feel it too, we’ve just had more time to get used to the idea, and more time to see the earth as it is for the last time. 

This generation didn’t create the environmental crisis we are in, but they are in it and hard pressed to attempt to undue the damage.  No one really knows the priorities: should we avoid all plastics?  That’s like going back to the dark ages.  Plastic is made from oil.  Should we drive electric cars with energy generated from wind?  No one’s looking very sexy in their Prius–not going very fast either.  Maybe it’s the notion that we will, as a people, have to resign to a life style we don’t care for.  More likely, some of us will have to and some of us won’t.  Ah…the dream of a classless society….

In any case, I have to say that I feel for the youth of today, in the sense that they were born with a problem they cannot truly solve in their own lifetime.  Like the cold war, the answer to the problem of the environment will more likely be that the situation changes to a new, unforeseen scenario that is both better and worse in different ways.  May sanity prevail!

A Slow Moving Cesspool

-Jennifer Shier

I saw a clip on the PBS News Hour with Jean-Michel Cousteau, the foremost authority on our oceans from pole to pole, and he was greatly concerned about these disbursement chemicals used to make the oil in the Gulf of Mexico behave much like a salad dressing, or a hydrogenated vat of peanut butter keeping the peanut oil from rising to the top of the jar.  As if blending the oil with the water will make it less harmful!  On the contrary, it will only make it nearly impossible to remove.  The lucky thing is, oil floats on water, and I had to ask myself this: Couldn’t we arm the out-of-work fishermen with pumping equipment and pay them by the barrel to skim it off the top? It sounds simplistic, I know, but an army of highly motivated entrepreneurs out there working to feed their families might be the very thing to turn the tide. If asked, I’m sure the international community would have aided this everyman armada.  Cousteau himself made the observation that the Gulf Stream, combined with the North Atlantic Drift, will soon bring this oil straight up to northern Europe–but not before it’s traversed America’s East Coast. 

With “dispersed” oil, we defeat our chances of actually rounding the oil up and siphoning it out of the water.  The dispersed oil has already coated the costal marshes of Louisiana, which are breading grounds for a large portion of fish in the gulf. 

There is a hope that this dispersed oil floating ten to ten to 25 feet below the surface will somehow settle to the bottom of the ocean and never bother us again.  According to Cousteau, if it did, it would “kill everything.”

The really frightening thing is the disbursement chemicals themselves.  According to the Bangor Daily News, BP sprayed the Gulf oil slick with 800,000 gallons of a chemical cocktail called Corexit 9527. It contains 2-butoxyethanol, which ruptures red blood cells and causes internal bleeding when ingested. When asked by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to change to a less harmful dispersant, BP chose a close relative of the first, Corexit 9500, which contains caustic solvents which can cause chemical pneumonia when inhaled.  It doesn’t look like any fish, if they survive, will be such a nutritious treat.

 I think we all realize now that this oil will be with us for hundreds of years to come. We’ve made a real cesspool out of the Gulf of Mexico, creating cloudy blobs of a toxic oily mixture that will eventually find its way around the globe via ocean currents.  The cost of “cleaning” the Gulf will be the pollution of rest of the world’s oceans.

The Buzz on Bottled Water

– Jennifer Shier

You can tell just by looking around the campus that drinking water out of Nalgene containers isn’t cool anymore. Everyone’s got stainless steel bottles, and that’s probably a good idea.  I see “think before you drink” stickers on these canteens, and I commend the efforts of Campus Recycling.

Photo from nalgene-outdoor.com

However, I think that slogan would be better saved for beer steins, martini and pint glasses. In any case, this idea that we should be refilling our canteens with tap water is a bit distressing to me. As in most environmental issues, there is a trade off; we gain something and give up something else. Which thing to save, protect or conserve is always the big issue.

In the “think before you drink campaign, we reduce consumer demand for plastics, but we lose water quality. I see stickers on drinking fountains around campus claiming “free filtered water.”

Filtered with or by what?

My personal test is, if I can smell the chlorine, I won’t drink it.  Not one drinking fountain on campus has passed this test. I take my stainless steal water bottle to school every day, but after about four or five hours, I need more water. Until we can get drinkable tap water, I will keep buying water in plastic bottles because chlorine is no joke.

Truth is, we know tap water is unhealthy. We have some of the best municipal water in the country, but it is still treated with chlorine. That’s why we buy Britta pitchers, faucet fixtures, and if we can afford it, reverse-osmosis systems. They even sell shower filters now, so you don’t have to breath chlorine fumes while your bathing. I appreciate that.

According to Webelements:

Chlorine is a greenish yellow gas which combines directly with nearly all elements. Chlorine is a respiratory irritant. The gas irritates the mucous membranes and the liquid burns the skin. As little as 3.5 ppm can be detected as an odour, and 1000 ppm is likely to be fatal after a few deep breaths. It was used as a war gas in 1915. It is not found in a free state in nature, but is found commonly as NaCl (solid or seawater).

Yikes!

It’s clear chlorine doesn’t belong in, on or around your body, or most other organisms we’d like to keep alive like steelhead trout or blue birds.  We all know this, so what is the environmental priority?

It’s also true that with all this plastic that we throw away or recycle is not going away any time soon.  It takes a great deal of water to recycle plastic, water we could use for better things. So what’s the answer?

My request: “Can we please throw some stimulus money at our municipal water systems?”

There are new technologies to circumvent the use of chlorine, though none have been tried on a municipal scale in the US.  In this blog I’d like to explore this issue of water quality vs. plastic reduction. I welcome comments, news and opinions.  Let’s hash this thing out.