0

Spotlight on Zoos: Good or Bad?

Last week, I was looking at some photos my mother-in-law took when she was in Australia several months ago. One of the things she really wanted to do was hold a koala, so we went to Lone Pine Sanctuary (it’s local!) and she and Mr Teeny-bop held koalas and had their photos taken. Lots of other photos were also taken, such as the following one.

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Mr Teeny-bop feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

There were heaps of other animals there too – birds of prey, kangaroos, wombats, cassowaries, dingoes, tasmanian devils, parrots, cockatoos, galahs, lorikeets, bats, wallabies and farm animals (not sure what the farm animals were about, but anyway…), and Yankee Elv’s mom even took photos of the ugly wild scrub turkeys scratching around outside.

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Yankee Elv feeding a kangaroo at Lone Pine Sanctuary

It was nice to go to a place where it’s not overly tourist-y (like Australia Zoo is these days), but still get to interact with all the animals. It did get me wondering though – are zoos, sanctuaries and other places like that good for the environment? I’m not going to argue about whether or not they’re good for the animals – some will say keeping animals in captivity are never good, others will say places like this provide a service to all the animals hurt on roads or displaced by deforestation. Regardless, I’m not going to debate that. What I’m interested in today is: are these places good for the environment?

With a motto like, ‘The Earth is not only for humans’, you’d think Lone Pine would be into all that eco-stuff.  The Lone Pine Sanctuary website does encourage people to do environmentally friendly things like drive safely and be aware of wildlife crossing the roads, plant eucalypts as food trees for koalas and avoiding disturbing vegetation generally (but especially in National Parks). Although all of these are aimed at wildlife conservation, they are also good for the environment generally. There is no statement on the Lone Pine Sanctuary website, however, that indicates they are working towards reducing their environmental impact.

People and animals can live together!

People and animals can live together!

Ultimately, it seems like zoos are under the same environmental pressures as any other big business, such as:

  • Water use
  • Energy consumption
  • Waste disposal and recycling.

Taronga Zoo has a comprehensive page on their site that explains it all quite clearly.

As well as Taronga Zoo, some other places, like Australia Zoo and the Philadelphia Zoo, are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and potentially become carbon neutral. Chester Zoo was the first UK zoo to be awarded ISO14001s status. Other zoos are following in their footsteps. Some new campaigns that service both the environment and animals are cropping up too. Answer the Call, for example, is a mobile phone recycling program that helps save gorilla habitat.

Granted, my research has been pretty minimal, but what I’ve read seems to indicate that zoos are no worse than many big businesses, and the larger zoos are taking measures to counteract their environmental impact. Considering most zoos get visitors thinking about conservation, I think the good these zoos do likely outweighs any negative impact.

Your thoughts?

Share

Advertisements
0

Recycle: Polystyrene

I bet you thought you couldn’t recycle polystyrene. I know I thought that!

You can recycle this kind of polystyrene, but not the little 'packing peanuts' or the kind used for food packaging (I think).

You can recycle this kind of polystyrene, but not the little 'packing peanuts' or the kind used for food packaging (I think).

Today in my Freecycle Cafe daily digest email, though, I got the following message:

———————

Just thought I’d let people know that it is apparently possible to recycle polystyrene in Brisbane. The details are at link A and link B but basically you can take polystyrene produce boxes for free recycling at the address listed in Acacia Ridge. They apparently charge for recycling other packaging types of polystyrene and I’m not sure of the details.

As I often see these boxes advertised on freecycle I thought I’d let people know what to do with them if they don’t get any takers. You can also post it to: 
REPSA
PO Box 211
Richmond Vic 3121

if you’re feeling super green that day!

happy recycling!

———————–

(Someone also mentioned that you can use the polystyrene boxes to grow herbs and veges in, which my mum already does.)

Super awesome, huh? The Brisbane EPS recycling place is in Acacia Ridge, so that’s definitely local. Thanks Freecycle Cafe lady!

Share

0

Reuse: Meat for Heat

Tesco, a UK grocery chain, is not producing any waste. They’re recycling or reusing any excess stuff they use, don’t sell or otherwise produce. That’s pretty super awesome, especially since they’re not even required to do this by law.

Potentially overshadowing this very cool fact, howerver, is the fact that one way they’re achieving this is by turning meat that is too old to sell into electricity. Apparently enough electricity is produced per year to heat about 600 homes – from about 5000 tonnes of manky meat.

Gross.

Tesco - the UK supermarket that reuses or recycles all waste.

Tesco - the UK supermarket that reuses or recycles all waste.

Veg*ns across the UK (and angry sympathisers worldwide) are all up in arms, and I can’t say I totally blame them. It would be pretty nasty to find out that, as a vegan, your good deeds were essentially cancelled out by the fuel used to light and heat your home. Of course, one would hope you’d be purchasing green energy… but who knows how this meat-power is marketed? Technically, some people might call it green – it’s not oil- or coal-based.

I do think it’s good the meat isn’t just going to the dump. That would be worse than using it for electricity, in my opinion. At least it’s getting used – waste is the worst thing. I gotta ask though… why is so much meat being produced (aka, animals being raised, slaughtered and transported in an environmentally unfriendly manner) that there’s such a large amount of leftovers that don’t sell? 5000 tonnes of meat per year is a lot of animals. It’s a lot of pain and suffering for them. It’s a lot of crops used to feed these animals, that could have been used to feed humans. Alternatively, the land used to grow the crops and house the animals could have been left wild. It’s a lot of methane produced. It’s a lot of carbon emitted to transport the animals (both alive and dead). It’s a lot of antibiotics and hormones and offal and waste and pollution and manure. Ew.

I don’t eat meat, but I don’t automatically write off all people who do. I do have a lot more respect for people who eat meat ethically and consciously though; really knowing where their meat comes from and how it got to their plate. Typically these people tend to eat organic meat. Folks who just mindlessly grab the mass-produced stuff off a shelf in the supermarket are not making an informed choice. This ‘meat for heat’ practice is encouraging that – basically suggesting that there’s no impact. There is an impact, a big one, and people ought to be encouraged to think about that.

So good on you Tesco, for going so far with your environmental efforts. I’m not even being sarcastic. However – take it a step further. Ask the energy companies to clearly identify who is buying electricity sourced from meat. Reduce the amount of meat you purchase, since not all of it is selling. Help the environment just that little bit more.

Cos seriously Tesco. Meat as electricty = gross symptom of climate change. Really gross.

Share

15

Reduce: Cotton Tips

What can I do to reduce the number of cotton tips (q-tips) we go through? Although the ends are made of cotton (biodegradable), the stems are plastic, I think, so you couldn’t compost them.

I used to at least buy them in cardboard boxes, but these days I can only find them in plastic containers… and I don’t think it’s the right kind of plastic to recycle either. I tried keeping the containers to reuse, but I just don’t really have anything to use them for. Maybe I’ll try Freecycling them.

These are the cotton tips I bought most recently from Coles.

These are the cotton tips I bought most recently from Coles.

I can’t think of a replacement for the thing we use them for the most – nothing else cleans your ears quite the right way! Even Yankee Elv, who has the cleanest ears ever, uses them to itch the ear her hearing aid goes in.

Ideas? Anyone? Beuller?

EDIT: Jun, aka Beuller, commented below that in Asia people use reusable metal ‘ear diggers‘ (nice name) to clean their ears. Thanks Jun!

Share

0

Reuse: Rechargable Batteries

We’ve been going through batteries quite rapidly (for us) around the Elv house – we don’t mean to, but there are lots of things that use them, you know? Yankee Elv has been saving them to take to one of the schools she used to teach at, which has a battery recycling program. We just bought a recharger and rechargable batteries so we can reduce the amount we go through too.

Wouldn’t these be even cooler, though? It’s Knut Karlsen’s homemade solar-rechargeable batteries, called SolarCat (cos they lay out on your windowsill in the sun, like a cat).

Knut Karlsen's SolarCat batteries

Knut Karlsen's SolarCat batteries

You can recharge these batteries in the sun… anywhere! Convenient, especially when you don’t have access to a power point or don’t want to cart your recharger around. (Road trip! Road trip! In a smart car! In a smart… wait. Those things won’t fit all three of us plus the dog. Hmm. Maybe not.)

I also like the idea of kinetic (hand-crank) power, for things like torches and radios. We’re going camping later this year and they would be really handy – and we do need some more light so Yankee Elv can communicate at night. She needs to see to lip read and sign and the mini-lanterns and Dolphin torch we used last time didn’t really cut it. Something like this lantern would be pretty cool – I wonder how long a minute of cranking gets you? This one charges your mobile phone, too.

Does anyone know of other kinetically-powered items you can get? I’m keen to take responsibility for the power I use, and that’s an easy, cheap and eco-friendly way to do it.

Share

0

Spotlight: Digital Dumping Grounds

I knew developing countries were, to a degree, the rubbish dumps for electronic waste (e-waste) shipped in from developed nations, but I didn’t know how bad it was. I watched this episode of Frontline World this morning that really made it hit home for me. Here’s the promo:

You can access the full 20 minute segment about Ghana here. Sorry Deafies, there are no captions (which annoys the shit out of me – c’mon PBS!), but underneath the video there is a transcript of the segment (if it’s not exact, it’s pretty close). You can also see some photos with captions here on Jane Hahn‘s site.

It’s not just Ghana either – Vietnam, Pakistan, Malaysia, China and lots of other third-world nations are being taken advantage of. In fact, the segment discussed how the average computer-owner (and dumper) is also being taken advantage of, by companies who say they’re dumping responsibly, but who ship out unusable computers for reuse. Clearly, since they’re unusuable, they’re only going to become scrap, but labelling them ‘for reuse’ enables their export courtesy of a legal loophole.

I have a bunch of e-waste here at my place that I was looking to dispose of responsibly, but now I’m unsure how I can do that if I can’t even trust the recycling companies. Plus, I want to make sure no-one has access to my data (that image of the FBI guy smashing the hard drive with the hammer also make an impression on me). Is it really best for the environment for me to be smashing stuff up, regardless of how cathartic that may be? However, is it best for me to not smash it? Ghana is one of the world’s leading areas of cyber crime, after all – there’s has to be link between that and the dumping of e-waste, it’s too convenient a co-incidence.

The one ‘positive’ thing to come out of the whole thing isn’t even very good. I wrote a while ago about the impact of metal mining on the environment (here and here). Trawling through the e-waste for scraps of copper and other precious metals does at least eliminate the need for so much mining… but at what cost? The toxic fumes produced by the burning needed to scavenge this metal is detrimental to both the environment and the unsuspecting people who participate, not to mention every man and his dog who lives nearby.

Aside from making pretty earrings, and giving away old items on Freecycle, what can we do with this stuff? Does anyone know of a recycler who actually recycles stuff responsibly without exporting it?

Share

7

Recycle: Glass vs Plastic

Question. Is it better to buy a smaller glass container or a larger plastic container?
Answer? I don’t bloody know! I can’t decide. Help!

We buy Bertolli olive oil (extra virgin, fruity taste) and we go through it quite quickly. The Elves like a good EVOO, yes we do. Bertolli sells it in either a 1 litre glass bottle, or a 2 litre plastic bottle. So far we’ve been buying the glass one, but which one is more environmentally friendly?

We are currently buying the 1 litre glass bottle of Bertolli EVOO.

We are currently buying the 1 litre glass bottle of Bertolli EVOO.

Glass is better for the environment, I think – it’s made of sand, silica and limestone and while it doesn’t biodegrade easily, it can be recycled over and over again, forever. I’ve also seen pieces of glass at the beach, all smooth and no longer resembling whatever they originally were. It takes way less energy to produce (especially if it’s recycled) and if it gets dumped, you know it’s not going to leach toxins or hurt an animal (unless it’s broken and they get cut). The eco-downside is that because it’s heavier, it takes more energy to ship, and it can break more easily during shipping, causing greater waste. Apparently it takes more energy to recycle than plastic too, but I think maybe that’s not considering fancy glass recycling plants like the Visy plant in Melbourne.

Plastic is made from petrochemicals and doesn’t biodegrade. It’s made of all kinds of nasty toxic stuff and hangs around killing animals for ages. Production almost always includes nurdles as a by-product, and let’s not even talk about the floating plastic continent of doom. It’s lighter and more durable and consumes less energy when shipping though.

I’m inclined to go for glass, but if we buy glass, it comes in a smaller package, which means more packaging to get the same amount of oil. I think they sell it in a 5 litre tin too, but our tiny house is not made for storing significant bulk food purchases, as much as I like the idea, so that won’t work for us.

Which one should we buy?

Share