On soap-free living

Most people are horrified to hear that Jackie Hong hasn’t used soap in 7 years, but she might be the smart one.

Jackie Hong hasn’t used soap on her body in seven years. It all started when she met a high school art teacher who told her he hadn’t washed with soap in two decades. Her initial reaction was disgust, but when he pointed out that he didn’t smell, it got her thinking and questioning the importance our society places on soap, aside from handwashing. Why are we so obsessed with lathering, scrubbing, and sterilizing our skin? Could there actually be madness behind all this method?

In an article for the Toronto Star, Hong documents the growing body of science that supports her decision to live soap-free. Researchers point out that inhabitants of developed nations live in relatively clean times, thanks to vaccinations, improved public health works, the eradication of many dangerous pathogens, and indoor plumbing. There is no need to fret so intensely over potential illness.

Even raw sewage, as disgusting as it may seem, is “relatively safe,” says University of Chicago surgery professor Jack Gilbert. (I’ve suspected this for a while. If feces were half as dangerous as we make it out to be, many a diaper-changing parent would have since perished.)

Hong cites Gilbert in her article:

“Your skin hosts a mini ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, and fungi – known as a microbiome – that impact everything from how fast wounds heal, to how skin ages, to how you smell.”

It’s silly, in fact, to imagine sterilizing the bacteria that live on your skin because they’ll always come back. Within ten minutes of exiting the shower, they repopulate. By choosing not to soap up, individuals like Hong are doing their skin a favor by not forcing it to repopulate constantly and not drying it out, which in turn requires moisturizing, in the form of (chemical-laden) lotion.
‘Why are you washing if you’re not dirty? Stop washing if you’re not dirty.’

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Division of Dermatology, has a great analogy for what washing with soap does to human skin:

“I like to use the example of a brick wall, so the mortar in between the bricks is the fat in the outer barrier of our skin. Soap [which binds to fat and grease] is going to remove it more, because it’s quite harsh… I see itchy, dry people all day and I’m always saying, ‘Why are you washing if you’re not dirty? Stop washing if you’re not dirty.’”

Hong, who shampoos her hair only once a month and is experimenting with vinegar rinses, insists that her soap-free lifestyle is not a rejection of personal hygiene, contrary to what most people might think. (She does wash her hands regularly with soap.)

I agree with her, based on my own experience giving up shampoo, although it can get annoying having to navigate other people’s skewed perceptions of what it means to be clean. Reactions to my latest water-only hair-washing experiment have ranged from outright horror to fascination, but never real understanding for why I’d do such a thing.

Change is uncomfortable, but it seems that the evidence is piling up. The more we lather up and surround ourselves with sterilizing chemicals, ironically, the sicker, more fragile, and more allergic we get.

— source treehugger.com by Katherine Martinko

How much do perfumes pollute?

Soaps, detergents, shampoos and many other personal hygiene products contain mixtures of ‘odorous’ molecules that have passed safety tests for human health with little or nothing known about their impact on the environment. Researchers at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Institute for the dynamics of environmental processes of the National Research Council (CNR – IDPA) have been investigating the canals to look for traces of these molecules which are referred to as ‘perfumes ‘ in the ingredients of products that we use daily.

The results were published in the scientific journal “Science of the total environment”. The lagoon is thus the first case study on the levels of certain fragrances, chemically produced by humans and widely used in everyday life, in the environment.

Between April and December 2015, scientists repeatedly collected water samples from 22 places between the inner canals in the historic center of Venice, the island of Burano and at two points in the far-north lagoon. They were looking for the presence of 17 fragrances among the most used and chemically stable between the thousands available to the cosmetics industry.

Traces of ‘scented’ molecules have been identified in all sampling sites, including those more distant from inhabited areas, though illustrating concentrations up to 500 times higher in the inner city canals. Samples collected during conditions of low tide in Venice and Burano showed concentrations comparable to those of untreated waste water.

In Venice, the city without sewers, wastewater treatment through biological tanks which then flow directly into the canals thus seems an insufficient method of lowering the concentration of these molecules. For example, one of the most frequently found compounds in the waters of the lagoon was benzyl salicylate, a known allergenic which has to be indicated on the labels of cosmetic products which contain it.

— source unive.it

How air-conditioning made America — and how it could break us all

A very short history of cooling

Primitive air-cooling systems have been around for eons, from ancient Rome, where the wealthy cooled their homes by circulating water between walls, to 2nd-century China, where the first fan large enough to cool a room was developed (it was powered by hand).

The first modern cooling system was invented by John Gorrie, a Florida physician who believed that cold was good for healing. Gorrie had been cooling sickrooms by suspending basins of ice from the ceiling, but the ice had to be imported from the North. It was expensive, difficult to store, and, predictably, prone to melting. Rather than relying on this limited natural resource, Gorrie started experimenting with artificial cooling by using a steam engine to force air through a tank of chilled brine. It worked, and Gorrie was granted a patent for his cooling machine in 1851.

It would, however, be many more decades before air-conditioning as we know it entered the marketplace. Nearly 50 years later, an engineer with the Buffalo Forge heating company in upstate New York named Willis Haviland Carrier was tasked with solving a problem plaguing a Brooklyn printing company: Excess humidity was wrecking the printing process and making work during summer months impossible. And this wasn’t just a problem for printers — from chocolate and pasta to textiles and tobacco, industries around the country just shut down during the hottest months of the year.

Carrier developed a system that pumped air over coils chilled with ammonia and then expelled it with a fan. This both cooled the room and lowered humidity levels. Soon, Carrier’s invention spread from the printing company to other industries. In 1925, a Carrier system was installed at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square, making it the first-ever place where the public could experience the wonder of AC.

Air-conditioning had finally entered the public sphere. But while some very wealthy Americans were able to afford industrial units for their homes, the first system able to cool individual rooms wasn’t developed until 1931, when H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invented the first window units. Even then, AC was expensive enough to be rare, costing between $10,000 and $50,000 (or $120,000 to $600,000 in today’s dollars). By the middle of the century, only an estimated 10 percent of American households had air-conditioning at home.

After a few more decades, however, air-conditioning would be everywhere: Today, 86 percent of American households have air conditioning. And where America goes, so goes the world — at least when it comes to AC.

Take China. In just 15 years, urban Chinese households went from almost no air-conditioning to almost all air-conditioning. Today, nearly every city dwelling in China has at least one AC unit, and many have more than one. Sales are increasing in India, Indonesia, and Brazil at a rate of 10 to 15 percent per year. In Mexico, where only 13 percent of households currently have AC, rates of ownership are expected to hit 71 to 81 percent by the end of this century. In total, researchers project that the world will install 700 million air conditioners in the next 15 years, and 1.6 billion by 2050.

The environmental and social costs of AC

AC comes with a host of problems. It is undoubtedly true that air-conditioning saves lives, especially among vulnerable populations like the elderly, but it also comes at a high price — and not just when it comes to your electric bill.

Air-conditioning in the U.S. currently accounts for an estimated 5 percent of our annual energy consumption, and spews about 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. The CO2 emissions are bad enough, but air conditioners also contain refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another potent greenhouse gas, which can leak out during use, maintenance, and disposal of AC units. In fact, fluorinated gases like HFCs are the most potent and longest lasting of all the greenhouse gases emitted from human activities, and, according to the EPA, emissions have increased a staggering 258 percent since 1990. Currently, world diplomats are working on phasing out HFCs, but it will still take many years to happen.

In the meantime, the massive amount of greenhouse gases we emit to power our air conditioners actually increases our need for air conditioners. As Stan Cox, the author of Losing Our Cool, a definitive history of air-conditioning, told me: “It’s an especially vicious cycle because air conditioning inside makes it even warmer outside.”

The social costs are high, too. AC has fundamentally changed the ways in which we interact with the world and with each other. Today, many Americans move from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned places of businesses. Instead of going to parks or sitting on porches or jumping in public pools, we stay inside, glimpsing the world only through tightly shut windows.

In 1998, playwright Arthur Miller wrote about living in New York City before air-conditioning: “With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s,” Miller wrote. “Babies cried in the darkness, men’s deep voices murmured, and a woman let out an occasional high laugh beside the lake.”

Those days are long over, replaced by the hum of AC and parks that close after dark.

Phoenix: Then and now

People have always lived in hot climates. Before Phoenix, Arizona, was Phoenix, for instance, the Hohokam people thrived in the region for 1,000 years, from about 450 to 1450 AD. At its peak, the population of Hohokam numbered between 25,000 and 60,000.

That same area is now home to more than 4 million people. It is a sprawling, suburban megalopolis where temperatures routinely top 110 degrees. Air-conditioning, as anyone who has visited Phoenix in summer knows, isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. But, still, the Hohokam made due in a climate not all that much cooler, and they did it without electricity, much less air-conditioning. So, how?

One critical strategy: They altered their physical landscape in ways that helped them survive extreme temperatures, according to AC chronicler Cox. “They built a huge system of canals. In that desert environment, water was everything, so they maintained this massive canal system that not only provided water but also had a cooling effect. They were able to grow vegetation along the banks of the canals.”

On hot days, the Hohokam would hang wet cloths in the entryways of their adobe structures, which would both cool and humidify the arid air. They also had plenty of shade trees, and stayed out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day. On hot nights, they slept outside.

In Phoenix and much of the rest of the United States, we’ve done the opposite of the Hohokam: We’ve altered our physical landscape in ways that make extreme temperatures even more extreme. We’ve paved over natural areas and green space, replacing them with concrete and asphalt that absorb heat from the sun during the day and release it back into the air at night. This causes cities to become significantly warmer than the rural areas surrounding them. It’s known as the urban heat island effect.

“When you bring in vast amounts of concrete into an area like Phoenix, it becomes a very different place,” Cox said.

We’ve built the wrong kind of homes, too. The Southwest started to boom in the post–World War II years, when the federal government began building family homes for returning soldiers. These houses, unlike the Hohokam’s adobe dwellings, weren’t built for the climate: They were mass-produced, cheap, and — at least in Phoenix — air-conditioned. And AC didn’t just appeal to the region’s growing population; it was a boon for architects, developers, and builders, who were now able to forgo expensive up-front measures like insulation and ventilation. Spaces built for the local climate — like shotgun houses and sleeping porches — disappeared.

The new dwellings, wrote Cox, “were stripped of heavier construction materials, moveable window sashes, screens, storm windows, large eaves, high ceilings, cross-ventilated designs, and attic fans.” The result was housing that is entirely dependent on AC.

In fact, according to Cox, without air-conditioning, Phoenix would never have grown into what is it today. It just would have been too hot. The same can be said for parts of Southern California, the Gulf Coast, and basically the entire Southwest. None of these regions would exist as major population centers if not for AC.

Can we go back?

Many of the houses constructed during the post-War era still exist. And many, if not most, still have no insulation, poor ventilation, and single-paned windows that don’t effectively keep the heat out. They are hot boxes, and millions of us live in them.

Yet there are things we can do to make our existing buildings more efficient. President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package — which was put together to spur economic growth in the wake of the recession — invested in a range of clean energy projects, including weatherizing over a million low-income homes. As Obama said at the time: “The simple act of retrofitting these buildings to make them more energy-efficient — installing new windows and doors, insulation, roofing, sealing leaks, modernizing heating and cooling equipment — is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things we can do to put Americans back to work while saving families money and reducing harmful emissions.” We should be doing a lot more of that.

We should also be a lot smarter with our new buildings. One state-of-the-art example is the environmental think-tank Rocky Mountain Institute’s new Innovation Center in Basalt, Colorado, a model green building that forgoes AC altogether. Instead, it uses a technique called “night flushing,” in which windows automatically open at night when the temperatures drops. This releases heat from inside the building. Then, when it’s hot out during the day, the windows are automatically closed and covered to keep out sunlight.

The Innovation Center also has super-insulated walls, an atrium filled with plants, and fans everywhere — including USB fans that plug into people’s computers, and chairs installed with both fans for the summer and heaters for the winter. The goal is to cool and heat people, not spaces.

Of course, not everyone works at an office like RMI, and not everyone owns a home that can be retrofitted. But for the rest of us, there are solutions to hot weather besides cranking up the AC, including using fans and implementing a low-tech version of night flushing by strategically opening and closing windows. You can also install window films, inexpensive laminates that stick on your windows and improve insulation, and replace old light bulbs with LEDs, which produce less heat.

There are low-carbon DIY air cooling systems that work in dry climates as well. (And there are T-shirts: If you work in a highly air-conditioned office, RMI associate Craig Schiller recommends talking to your office manager about raising the thermostat a few degrees and relaxing the summer dress code. The Japanese, especially, have embraced this idea.)

But these small solutions won’t work for everyone — residents of Phoenix, for instance, will probably still need AC, no matter what they wear or how many light bulbs they replace.

To make a meaningful dent in the AC problem, we’re going to need significant changes in building codes so residential and commercial spaces don’t continue to get constructed around air-conditioning. That won’t be easy: These codes vary widely by city and state, and are generally determined with input from architects, engineers, contractors, developers, and others, all of whom have different agendas and concerns.

In theory, a national code could be set if the federal government ever determined that the climate crisis is an emergency, according to Cox, but, of course, the chances of that are exceedingly low. Improving building standards internationally will be an even bigger challenge.

Ultimately, addressing the downsides of AC will require us to think about the world and our place in it. People existed for thousands of years before John Gorrie and Willis Carrier and the rise of mechanical air-conditioning. It may have been hot, it may have been humid, but they managed — and they did it without pumping millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We can’t do much about the building standards of the past, but we can open our windows at night, raise our thermostats just a bit, and start to think — and talk about — what is really costs us to stay cool.

— source grist.org By Katie Herzog

100 million roses grown for Valentine’s Day produce 9,000 metric tons of CO2

Roses may be red, but they’re definitely not green according to research from Scientific American. As millions of partners exchange bunches of red roses in the run up to Valentine’s Day, they may want to consider that the traditional flower of love has an environmental impact worse than most other crops. In fact, according to environmental flower site Flowerpetal.com, the 100 million roses grown for a typical Valentine’s Day in the US produce some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

According to Scientific American’s podcast, as roses are generally grown in warmer climates—such as South America for US markets and Africa for Europeans—they have to be flown all over the world. On top of the flights, they also have to be driven in temperature-controlled trucks across countries and stored overnight in cold boxes.

For UK/European lovers, a 2007 study by Cranfield University in England found that 12,000 Kenyan roses resulted in 13,200 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of CO2, while the equivalent number grown in a Dutch hothouse emitted 77,150 pounds (35,000 kilograms) of CO2.

But that’s just the cost of growing and transporting them: roses also need watering and the use of pesticides in order to make them look as beautiful as possible. Also of concern is where the flowers are grown—native forest and wetlands from all over the world have been displaced to make way for floral plantations, and the runoff from the pesticides has had a massive impact on local wildlife.

Oh and I forgot to mention the fuel needed for those refrigeration trucks: all fossils fuels, not to mention the fact that refrigerant gases also exacerbate climate change. If you want to get flowers for your other half, we’d like to recommend greener alternatives such as VeriFlora, which sources its flowers locally. Or why even bother with flowers? Why not for something even greener like a pedal-powered washing machine?

LEGAL NOTICE: This writer (or Inhabitat) is not responsible for the breakdown of your relationship or the slaps you may receive if you give your girlfriend a pedal-powered washing machine on Valentine’s Day.

— source inhabitat.com

The story of a natural burial

Tristan knew the end was near when his dad turned yellow.

Two years earlier, his father, Jake Seniuk, had been diagnosed with a rare form of small intestine cancer. He tried chemo, he tried radiation, and then he tried ayahuasca, a plant native to Peru that is used in traditional healing ceremonies. In addition to making you violently ill, ayahuasca gives you visions — wild, spectacular visions. Jake had taken ayahuasca a few years before, after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he attributed his recovery to the plant. When he was diagnosed for the second time, he turned to it again.

Treating cancer with ayahuasca made sense for Jake. He was a hippie, an artist, a vision-quester, a back-t0-the-lander who spent much of his adult life on six acres of mostly wild land he owned in Port Angeles, a small, isolated community on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, where he worked as the director of the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. Jake was strong and active — a runner, alpine hiker, and cyclist well into middle age. Divorced from Tristan’s mom, he brought his two sons to Port Angeles on weekends and summers when they were kids, and the trio battled the wild roses that overtook the land, tunneling through the thorns to make pathways to the old-growth trees on the property.

In January of 2016, Jake went to Hawaii to do five ayahuasca treatments over two weeks. He came back optimistic, but it didn’t matter: The cancer had spread to Jake’s liver. Cancer of the liver, whether it starts there or spreads there, is especially deadly: The five-year survival rate for metastatic liver cancer is less than 15 percent. When his body turned yellow from jaundice, one of the later effects of the disease, it became clear that Jake would not be in the lucky 15 percent. It was time to plan.

The American way of death

Around half of Americans are buried after they die. In a conventional burial, the body is drained of blood and injected with formaldehyde, methanol, and other solvents that slow the decomposition process. Afterward, the body is placed in a casket made of wood or metal, which is then lowered into a plastic-lined concrete vault designed to prevent the soil around the casket from sinking.

This takes a lot of resources. Each year, more than 30 million board feet of wood, 1.6 million tons of concrete, 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid, and 90,000 tons of steel are used for underground burials in the United States alone. That’s as much steel as is in the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cremation, while less resource intensive, isn’t ideal either. Some facilities use filters or scrubbers to reduce pollutants, but cremation still results in soot, carbon monoxide, and trace metals like mercury being released into the air. Each cremation uses about 28 gallons of fuel and releases about 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Multiply this by the roughly 1 million bodies that are cremated annually in the United States, and you get 270,000 tons of carbon dioxide released each year due to cremation. That’s more CO2 pollution than 22,000 average American homes generate in a year.

Choosing a greener way to die

Jake had spent his life respecting the Earth, and he didn’t want his final act to harm it. He was also opposed to the death care industry — a $20 billion-a-year business notorious for preying on people at the lowest points in their lives. It’s an industry increasingly controlled by a single entity called Service Corporation International (SCI), a company with 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion.

Jake decided on something different: a natural burial. He wanted to go back to the burial traditions humans embraced for thousands of years before the development of chemical embalming and steel-lined caskets. There would be no formaldehyde, no coffin, just a simple shroud and a hole in ground.

“Jake passionately believed in green burial,” says his partner Donna. “He saw no good coming from filling his body with more deadly chemicals or using insane amounts of energy to burn it, releasing more chemicals into the atmosphere. He wanted to nurture the Earth as it had nurtured him.”

Natural burial is perfectly legal in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Jake’s friends and family couldn’t just dig a hole in his land in Port Angeles and leave him there to rest — although they did think about it, Tristan says. Natural burial requires a cemetery willing to take the body, which can be difficult to find. Because so many cemeteries are owned by SCI, a company that pushes clients to take the full package — embalming, concrete-lined vaults, etc. — there are only a handful of natural cemeteries in all of Washington state.

The family got in touch with Lucinda Herring, a licensed funeral director who specializes in green burial and at-home vigils. Herring told the family to gather everyone who would be involved, and she came to Donna’s home in Seattle to guide them through the process and divvy up responsibilities. Because the plan was for Jake to die at home and for his body to be kept there until it could be moved to the cemetery, someone would need to get the death certificate to the medical examiner. They would also need a permit to transport the body and plenty of dry ice. And they would have to inform the neighbors so no one called the police if they happened to stumble upon the scene.

With Jake still very much alive beside them, his friends and family took on tasks, asked questions, and voiced their concerns. Tristan wondered if his dad’s body would smell. Lucinda said that it might, so they should keep a window open, which would also prevent carbon dioxide buildup from the dry ice. Jake suggested that they just mount him on the wall, and everyone laughed, and said no.

“It was part training, part therapy,” Tristan says. “We started to think of it as an art project.”

Lucinda echoes that. “Jake was an intimate part of crafting this whole thing,” she says. “It was like an art installation for him. He could look at Donna and his sons and friends and say, ‘This is OK. Let’s make it a work of art.’”

After the meeting with Lucinda, Jake crashed, hard. The morphine provided by hospice didn’t entirely kill the pain, and Jake couldn’t get comfortable. He got worse and worse. Over the next few days, friends came by to say goodbye, but Jake was in and out of consciousness.

“It was just a really grim, surreal experience,” Tristan says. “I think the hardest part of the whole thing was that he couldn’t talk. And he is — was — such a talker. It was like watching a person unravel.”

On March 18, a bright and sunny day, Jake’s family and a few close friends sat around his bed, listening to music he loved and talking about the land in Port Angeles. “It sounded like he was choking every time he breathed,” Tristan says. “Then his breath got slower and slower. We kept being like, ‘Was that it?’ Then he would take another breath. Eventually, there wasn’t another breath.” He died at exactly noon.

A vigil at home

After Jake was gone, there was work to do.

Donna washed her partner’s body and dressed him in simple cotton clothing. Tristan took on the paperwork, retrieving the death certificate from a doctor and then delivering it to the medical examiner for filing. His younger brother Markus got dry ice from the fish department at the local grocery store. When the fishmonger found out what it was for, he gave it to them for free.

The cemetery Jake was to be buried in is closed on weekends. Because he died on a Friday, the family would need to keep him home for the next three days — the legal limit of time you can keep a body in Washington state.

And so, over that weekend, Jake’s friends and family sat with his body while it slowly cooled and settled into rigor mortis. Some people wanted to be alone with him, some didn’t. It wasn’t morbid, Tristan says. It was actually kind of beautiful. Jake’s eyes were closed, and he looked, for the first time in weeks, peaceful. Happy, even. “None of us were afraid,” Tristan says. “It felt really good.”

Donna felt the same. “I wanted to keep his body at home after his life ended,” she explained. “I needed to walk, step by step, through the ancient rituals of caring for a deceased loved one. It took a small crew; it drew our handful of friends and family members into a close, intimate circle of care and lightness. There was room for grieving — but also for eating, telling stories, sitting quietly with his body, laughing, chatting in twos and threes.”

Amidst the chatting, Jake’s mouth opened, and the family joked that it was either his spirit leaving or his attempt to join the conversation.

On the third day, Jake’s family and friends placed mementos on his body and fitted him in a simple cotton shroud they’d ordered online. They drove two hours north to a natural cemetery in western Washington with Jake’s body in the back of a rental van. There, they lowered him down into a hole the funeral home had dug for them. Jake’s people spoke over the grave. Donna read a Leonard Cohen poem. It was a funeral like any other, says Tristan, but maybe not as sad. “There was never a somber moment,” he says. “It was just incredibly peaceful.”

Afterward, they all went out for Italian food, something Jake refused to do in life, because, he said, “Why would you pay for pasta?” They put it on his credit card.

Six weeks after he buried his dad, Tristan went with his family back to plant the bushes Jake wanted to grow over his grave. He chose roses, Tristan says, laughing, as though his dad hadn’t battled them enough in life.

The funeral director asked the family if they wanted some time alone at the gravesite, but they said they didn’t need it. They had spent three days with the body; they’d accepted Jake’s passing.

Tristan isn’t religious, or even very spiritual, but this experience moved him in an unexpected way. “We know his body is resting there, but he’s not there,” Tristan says, his eyes clear. “He’s gone, and we all have this feeling that he’s just bushwhacking somewhere. He’s out on a path, full-force, somewhere.”

— source grist.org By Katie Herzog

Make Your Holiday Greener

The Travel Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with the travel industry to integrate sustainable tourism into their business — to protect the environment and create opportunities for local people in tourism destinations. Their annual Make Your Holidays Greener Month, during July, celebrates the locations around the world we love to visit and encourages visitors and the travel industry alike to take part in a cleanup — the Big Holiday Beach Clean.

Earlier this year, a report from the World Wildlife Fund valued the world’s ocean at $24trillion – a figure largely calculated from the value of fishing, shipping and tourism. Whilst many already view the ocean as priceless, the attempt to put a monetary value on it highlights to businesses around the world the importance of taking action to protect marine ecosystems.

For tourism, the ocean and sea are vastly important. Many of the holidays we take have beaches and coastlines at their center and these environments are an inherent part of the product marketed by tourism companies to their customers. As a result, this industry is well placed to mobilize action, particularly on the growing and pervasive threat of marine litter.

The Make Holidays Greener campaign is focusing its efforts on engaging travel companies and their customers in celebrating cleaner, greener beaches. The campaign is organized by sustainable tourism charity, the Travel Foundation, in partnership with Travelife a sustainability certification system for hotels and accommodations. The organizations are urging hotels, tour operators and other tourism companies to support the campaign by organizing a beach clean this July and by reducing plastic waste.

Beach cleans are a great way to engage customers, staff and local communities in a positive and memorable action, with publicity generated by the campaign helping to spread the message more widely. The Make Holidays Greener infographic about plastic waste, which has already been shared widely, highlights that everyone can make a difference by taking simple actions – such as disposing of litter and cigarette butts properly, taking a reusable bag and bottle to the beach and not using straws.

Plus, every bag of rubbish taken out of the environment makes a difference to birds, turtles, fish, dolphins and other marine life, and the more people who participate, the greater the impact. Last year the campaign gathered great momentum with over 100 companies taking part, cleaning 97 beaches in 22 countries. It is hoped that these efforts will also feed into the Ocean Conservancy’s database and support further efforts to minimize waste going into our seas.

— source oceanconservancy.org