International Coastal Cleanup 21 September 2019

Gail West Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Breaking Free From Plastics Audit Report of the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Conducted at Crescent City, California, United States, on 21 September 2019 by Ellery West, CEO, Organic Essence

Grant Werschkull of the Smith River Alliance arranged and managed the International Coastal Cleanup for the third year held in Crescent City, California with cooperation of the Del Norte County Solid Waste Management Authority headed by Ted Ward. Mr. Werschkull invited Ellery West to manage the Breaking Free From Plastics audit of the plastic waste to be collected by the Cleanup. This report details audit results and analysis. An additional cleanup effort was taken with 43 volunteers nearby at the Mouth of the Smith River by the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.
The orientation and safety meeting proceeded promptly at the appointed time. There appeared to be around 30 volunteers participating in the Coastal Cleanup with 10 additional volunteers participating in the Breaking Free From Plastics (BFFP) audit. Three collection sites were designated. The Coastal Cleanup team split into three groups and the BFFP team split into two groups. Ellery West had conducted a photographic audit of the third site on the previous Thursday which mainly consisted of several homeless people’s encampments. These photos detail before and after images of a habitation site located a few steps from the beach.

Before & After

Breaking Free From Plastics Audit Report of the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Conducted at Crescent City, California, United States, on 21 September 2019 by Ellery West, CEO, Organic Essence

The two collection sites that the BFFP Audit group manned were sited near the beach. This area included many homeless people’s encampments as well as approximately ¾ mile (1.2 km) of beach frequented by locals and tourists. The waste collected at these sites yielded interesting insights into the use of the area.

Eight tents were collected. The site pictured above and several others showed signs of long-term habitation. They hosted large collections of liter-sized bottle caps numbering over 2500 indicating sustained soda and water bottle collections from the beach area. The caps are the residue from the California bottle redemption reimbursement which places no collection value on them, so they remain in the environment. Bottle cap residue was found almost everywhere in the audit area. Long-term habitation was also indicated by the range of product packaging recovered, such as hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies and other household items not likely to have been deposited by casual beach visitors.

The most numerous plastic items were unbranded bottle caps, clear baggie-type bags, cigarette butts and black trash bags. The clear baggie-type plastic bags were found mainly in bundles of approximately 100 each; presumably brought to the area by long-term dwellers who planned to use them later. Cigarette butts are ubiquitous in all areas visited by people in California, and as such their presence here isn’t very notable. However, black plastic trash bags brings an interesting observation.

Black plastic bags were found in most homeless people’s encampments. They appear to be used for transport and storage of bedding, clothing as well as protecting possessions from the rain. The Coastal Cleanup team used over 100 additional black 40 gallon-sized bags.

This is ironic because around half of the waste collected was plastic and additional plastic was used to collect it.

It could be said that the plastics industry has benefited additionally by concerned citizens cleaning up their pollution with even more landfill polluting-plastic product.

Breaking Free From Plastics Audit Report of the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Conducted at Crescent City, California, United States, on 21 September 2019 by Ellery West, CEO, Organic Essence

The greatest reasons that so much plastic is found in the environment are low sales price and convenience that non-durable plastics offer. The Coastal Cleanup effort illustrates why the plastics problem is so intractable. The Coastal Cleanup team had allocated about 3.5 hours for the cleanup.

Had they brought reusable trash cans, the same effort may have taken an additional hour and the cost and storage of at least 60-75 trash cans until the next cleanup event.

The low purchase price of black plastic bags combined with convenience is the plastics’ industry superpower. Even though we know non-durable plastics are environmental Kryptonite, very concerned citizens feel compelled to purchase it for environmental remediation! Certainly, the majority of the population are even less mindful.

The lack of marine debris was notable.

Only about 1 cubic yard, (about 1 cu m) of styrofoam and about 50 feet (17m) of heavy fishing rope was recovered. No crab pots, floats or other sea-fishing gear were recovered. Casual observation of the area beaches for over the past 15 years has noted much more sea fishing plastics debris than was found during the cleanup event.

In addition, no plastics waste indicating international origin was found. This is tangible evidence that beach visitors recently have been increasing efforts to remove large amounts of plastics waste that has washed up in the tide.

3882 plastics items comprising 372 entries were recorded by the audit. The greatest number of discrete plastic waste items were soda and water bottle caps, unbranded clear bags, cigarette butts and black trash bags. The branding of these items were not noted. However, the greatest branded plastics polluter found at the event was 22 Taco Bell plastic fast food wrappers, cups and bags. Interesting to note that McDonald’s brand was represented by only one plastic cup.

In addition, the second most numerous branded items found were Walmart reusable plastic shopping bags. Overall, cigarette packaging, candy, snack bars, chip bags and shopping bags comprised the greatest multiple numbers of branded plastic waste recorded. Of the 372 entries, 277 were of branded single items of various plastic waste.

The proportionately high number of branded single items is interesting because it indicates that some of the recovered plastics waste may have been deposited by travelers along the Highway 101 roadway near the beach.

However, all the branded 38 personal care and most of the 50-household branded plastic items found all only had single examples. Presumably these items were used by the homeless contingent.

Breaking Free From Plastics Audit Report of the 2019 International Coastal Cleanup Conducted at Crescent City, California, United States, on 21 September 2019 by Ellery West, CEO, Organic Essence

For instance, bottle caps which are made with #5 Poly Propylene (PP) plastic, were the greatest number of plastics items recovered. Yogurt cups and other opaque food tubs are made of Poly Propylene.

After that, it was followed by #2 Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) which is mainly plastic bags of all kinds, then #1 Polyethylene Terepthalate (PET) which is what almost all clear soda and water bottles are made of, then High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) which is what opaque bottles are made of, then #6, Polystyrene (PS) which is made into drinking cups and lids, and #7, Other plastics (O) nylon ropes, packaging tape and plastic clothing. #3, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) was represented by one 6 foot (2m) length of white pipe.

In addition, a fair amount of plastic clothing, ‘Other plastics’, was recovered, it was not cataloged by the audit due to time constraints. A surprising number of so-called ‘durable’ shopping bags were recovered.

A Walmart durable shopping bag is shown in the bottle cap photo above. This demonstrates a failure of California State top-down environmental legislation, and the top-down approach generally. Initially, the State T-shirt type shopping bag ban was intended to remove large numbers of lightweight shopping bags from the environment. It has been modestly effective – fewer lightweight T-shirt type shopping bags are visible, but it has indirectly furthered the goals of the plastics production industry.

So, when shoppers purchase goods in California food markets and supermarkets and don’t bring their own shopping bags, they can purchase a ‘durable’ plastic shopping bag or paper bag for 10 cents. This creates a false-equivalence in the mind of the typical shopper because the plastic bag probably can be used a dozen or more times, but the paper bag will probably only last 2 or 3 shopping trips.

The plastics industry clearly influenced legislation that prohibits stores from providing paper shopping bags for free. Historically, all markets and supermarkets had provided paper shopping bags free of charge to their customers, and absent the law’s requirement to charge for the paper bag, it is likely that almost none would today. This figurative thumb on the scale furthers the goals of the plastics industry and clearly continues to harm the environment. The plastics lobby can be counted on to subvert every legislative initiative that is introduced.

In the battle for saving the environment from plastics pollution, it appears that the plastics industry is currently winning as disposable plastic continues to proliferate. This industry plans on doubling disposable plastic production in the coming decades. Via perpetual marketing over the generations, our culture is being manipulated to overemphasize low purchase price and convenience, regardless of incalculably expensive long-term costs. However, there are solid reasons to hope and expect a cleaner, less plastics-filled future.

This event’s plastic brand audit has revealed three very positive signs of change. The first is obvious citizen concern shown by growing casual voluntary trash removal year-round. The second is group efforts such as the International Coastal Cleanup among other local cleanup events. The third is evidenced by the notable near-absence of McDonald’s plastic trash found. Less than 10 years ago, McDonald’s was the most common fast-food plastic waste to be seen discarded on roadsides and public areas.

As the world’s largest restaurant chain producing the most fast-food packaging pollution, McDonald’s came under intense public scrutiny. The company responded with a commitment to use more sustainable packaging and the results are now being seen here on Crescent City beaches.

Brands moving to sustainable packaging is evidence that the Breaking Free From Plastics initiative is on the right track to effect change. Brands are the key to bringing a cleaner environment and when they recognize that their customers like their products but don’t want their packaging pollution, they will do the right thing for their business, all of us, and by extension, the world itself.

The Crescent City 2019 Breaking Free From Plastic audit group deserves kudos for their tedious, but valuable, work. The following people deserve recognition for their effort: Clint Johnson, Emily Butler, Gail West, Jenna Butler, Micah Riddle, Nancy Koke, Nicholas Martin, Ralph Browning and Shawn Monday. The cleanup and auditing was followed by a picnic hosted by the Smith River Alliance in care of the International Coastal Cleanup 2019 event.

2019 Crescent City Coastal Clean Up: Clint Johnson, Emily Butler, Gail West, Jenna Butler, Micah Riddle, Nancy Koke, Nicholas Martin, Ralph Browning and Shawn Monday

The Breaking Free From Plastic movement reminds us that cleaning up is futile unless steps are taken to reduce the new plastic being produced. In conclusion, their analogy is that you need to mop up when the bathtub is overflowing, but it’s pointless unless you shut off the water.

As individuals, we can feel insignificant and helpless to stem the disposable plastics tide. But this is false. Favor buying products that are packaged sustainably when you are at the supermarket. Egg producers have largely abandoned styrofoam cartons due to buyer preference. McDonald’s has cleaned up their packaging due to consumer demand. All you need to do to save the environment from plastic is to talk to family, friends and everyone else when you get the opportunity that we vote for the future with every dollar we spend. Above all, be vocal and complain to your favorite brands that you like their products but don’t want to buy their pollution. They will listen.

Organic Skincare Blog Review

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Jenica Barrett of Zero Waste Wisdom Blog from Seattle, WA was kind enough to review Organic Essence’s products on her latest blog post.

Here is what she had to say about us:

Jenica Barrett from Zero Waste Wisdom reviewed our deodorants, ingredients, and plastic-free biodegradable paper packaging on her Facebook and Instagram platforms as well. Please review them here:

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What deodorant do you use? I typically make my own deodorant and have for a while. But I’ve also been known to use up old deodorants from friends and family that buy something they don’t like. I’ll also take ones from my Buy Nothing Group! 🙋🙈 Sometimes though, I enjoy having an easy to carry deodorant that doesn’t weigh so much in my glass jar. When @organicessenceusa reached out to me about trying their deodorant packaged 100% in paper, I knew this could be a great option! 🌍 SPONSORED REVIEW – if you want to read all about why this plastic free deodorant is now my favorite, visit my blog for the full post! The highlights are that it works, the packaginging is simple yet effectively makes the deodorant portable, and the company is dedicated to plastic free packaging at all levels. I’ll still make my own deodorant for the most part, but having a great alternative I can get my hands on easily is always a good idea! #zerowaste #plasticfree #zerowastewisdom #zerowasteliving #ecofriendly #greenbusiness #paperpackaging #productreview #zerowasteblogger #lesswaste #greenskincare #zerowastebusiness

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The Happy USDA Organic Accident

Ellery West Uncategorized Leave a Comment

USDA Organic certification of cosmetics products is the world’s most meaningful organic standard because it excludes the use of toxic chemicals that other organic standards allow. This did not come about because of superior American foresight and wisdom, but because of a big industry blunder.

When most national organic cosmetic standards were developed, stakeholders such as manufacturers, distributors and a few members of the public hash out what they consider to be allowed in the new standard. Since industry has all the money, they have the loudest voice. Large mass-market brands place a high priority on low cost, product performance and don’t worry about consumer long-term health. This is why Eco Cert allows the use of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and other detergents in their cosmetics standard. European brands recognized that consumers would increasingly place a higher value on organic over time, so they bent it to satisfy their needs.

On the other hand, the American cosmetic industry had an enormously successful and long track record with their marketing so they dismissed the need to form an accommodating organic standard. Their reasoning may have been “Our marketing should always work, so why bother with forming an organic standard”. For the most part they were right, just look at the continuing success of “natural” cosmetics. Even today, most American consumers believe that natural is relatively chemical-free and ‘safe’ even though the ingredient panels are full of unpronounceable chemical names.

In the early 2000’s, small brands and interested parties petitioned the then USDA Organic food standard to expand the standard to include non-food agricultural products. And the USDA National Organic Program agreed, so long as they followed the food rules. Now, it’s called an ‘agricultural’ standard. To this day, USDA Organic body care and cosmetics products are certified organic as-if they were food.

And that is what we think organic body care and cosmetics should be – non-toxic chemical, food grade organic. But it was an accident. Had the American cosmetics and body care industries not miscalculated the future demand for chemical-free, they would have diminished the meaning of USDA Organic as their European counterparts did with Eco Cert.

What are Phthalates and How Can I Avoid Them?

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Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.  They are used in hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products, including perfume, hair spray, soap, shampoo, nail polish, and skin moisturizers. And in consumer products such as flexible plastic and vinyl toys, shower curtains, wallpaper, vinyl miniblinds, food packaging, and plastic wrap.

Phthalates, such as DEHP, are chemicals used to make plastic soft, including plastic food wrap. DEHP has been shown to affect male reproductive development, sperm quality, and male hormone levels in laboratory and human studies.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical often used in hard plastic bottles and the epoxy resin lining of food, beverage cans and plastic production for containers like water bottles. It has been associated with effects on the developing brain, and breast and prostate cancer in laboratory studies.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON THE LABEL:  phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance. Read the labels on nail products, and choose options that do not contain DBP. Some nail product labels indicate they are “phthalate-free.” Products that list “fragrance” on the label should be avoided to prevent possible exposure to phthalates.

At Organic Essence, our level of concern is not only what organic ingredients that you put on your body, but how they are being “delivered”. We go the extra mile with our Packaging for Life to produce products and packaging that achieve the highest level of purity.

 

 

 

What’s with ‘natural’ anyways?

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The term ‘natural’ traditionally meant ‘something from nature’, unadulterated. Since the Synthetic Chemical Revolution – which started around 150 years ago – the term has taken on the additional meaning that something does not contain synthetic chemicals or has not been overly manipulated. Over the last two generations, the term has taken on even more importance since the pace of chemical innovation and use has exploded.

Unfortunately, marketers have abused the term so much, ‘natural’ has become almost meaningless for a lot of people. For those who are serious about avoiding unnecessary chemical exposure, the term ‘natural’ has taken on the added meaning of ‘deliberate deception’.

Chemical exposure isn’t always bad. In fact, the advent of mildly poisoning municipal water with chlorine has saved literally millions of people from suffering waterborne illness and even death. That does not mean that heedless exposure is necessarily safe. Modern living exposes all of us to almost countless chemicals every day, and it’s in our own self-interest to be conscious of what we are exposing ourselves to.

Why take on unnecessary chemical exposure if you don’t need to? This is the point of Organic. It’s an easy way to know what you are getting, or better yet, to know what you’re not getting.

Why USDA Organic?

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BEYOND NATURAL: At Organic Essence, we’re beyond “natural” and “conventional” with our USDA Certified Organic bodycare products. We source the highest quality ingredients from organic farms and suppliers. And, we share your concerns for the environment and future generations with our “Packaging for Life” commitment.

QUICK SUMMARY of USDA: The “Gold Standard” is considered certification by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). This is the same standard used to certify organic food, and it is the only standard in the U.S. recognized by law. The two most common levels of “organic” certification under the NOP are for products that are over 95% organic by content (which may bear the USDA Organic seal) and for products that are between 70-95% organic (which may not bear the seal, but may instead say “Made with Organic…”).

Organic Essence makes only 95%-100% organic products which are free from pesticide residues, unnecessary synthetic chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers and phthalates leaching from plastic containers that can potentially harm your health.

Natural Is Not Safe Enough

Gail West Uncategorized 1 Comment

What is Natural?

Most people think the term ‘natural’ means that a product is safer than other products. Natural product advertising feeds this perception with near-universal use of clean landscape imagery filled with happy good-looking models. But so often  the most natural thing many brands have to offer is their attractive advertising. Most natural products are the same as conventional because they are made with the same chemical detergents, fragrances and biocides – also known as: ‘preservatives’.

Why Does Anyone Care About Natural?

The whole point of natural products being safer is that they shouldn’t harm us with dangerous chemicals. A brief Wikipedia article nicely explains this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_skin_care And that is where things get complicated because how does anyone know which currently-thought-of-as-safe chemicals won’t turn out to be dangerous in the near future? That is why people who are able to take care of themselves and their families choose to avoid as many unnecessary chemicals as possible. Why play bad odds? Organic Essence says: When you need chemicals, it’s great to have them. But why expose yourself to chemicals when you don’t need them? Casual, unthinking exposure causes enormous misery.

How is Organic Different?

Organic is about avoiding as many unnecessary chemicals as possible. Natural is just taking some marketer’s word for “our chemicals are safer”.  This is why ‘natural’ is not safe enough. In the body care and health industry, the overwhelming response to the question: “What does natural mean?” is “Nothing.” Nothing as in the term has become meaningless because of marketing misuse. It may be that the term ‘natural’ is worse than nothing, because it deceives people into thinking that they are avoiding chemicals when they aren’t. In many cases ‘natural’ products are no safer than conventional products because they use the same chemicals. Just take a few minutes the next time you visit the supermarket and scan a few product ingredient panels in the skincare aisle.