Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sneaker Sustainability

A new pair of synthetic running shoes can typically generate 13 kgs of CO2 emissions according to a team of MIT scientist. When  looking at the statistic alone it might not seem as serious but considering that running shoes produce no electricity, a pair of running sneakers leave a carbon footprint equivalent of a 100-watt lightbulb burning for an entire week. Now multiply this times millions of runners all over the world and billions of sneakers made very year. This can leave a pretty big impact concerning the use of natural resources.  

Besides plastics the sneakers industry uses crude oil repeatedly. As we all know, oil is not a sustainable resource. 

There are shoe brands that are trying to develop alternatives to the use of the oil. Take Nike for example. They’ve created a shoe called the Flyknit. With the Flyknit constructed with one knit upper that is stuck to the sole of the shoe. This makes the shoe lightweight, breathable and reduces waste.  Nike also has project called Reuse-A-Shoe. Old running shoes get recycled to Nike Grind and make great athletic turfs and playground surfaces.


Fee and Dividend: A Viable Solution?

In 2015, the U.S. produced “12.7 million barrels of oil …[and] consum[ed] nearly 19.4 million barrels of oil per day” [1].  On a global scale, “the oil industry is one of the most powerful branches in the world economy” where more than “four billion metric tons of oil is produced worldwide annually” [2].  Make no mistake, the oil industry is an absolute juggernaut.  From oil drilling to consumption, the demand for this resource is continually increasing – and given the numbers, one can predict that this supply will be rapidly decreasing. 

Whether it be ExxonMobil or the Dubai Petroleum Company, the lucrative rewards of the oil industry are prevalent.  In relation to the global demand for oil, fields and other producing areas (worldwide!) are continually targeted for drilling – regardless of how controversial they may be (read Exxon’s controversial oil rig:  As journalist Nicole D’Alessandro puts it: “For the oil industry, business comes first” [3].  Oil goliaths, like ExxonMobil, have been notorious for putting profits above everything else.  Given this ideology, the question of changing the oil industry becomes that much more daunting.

So, how do we stop this juggernaut?  Perhaps the question should not be about how to stop them, but how we can better regulate them.  

The fee and dividend act proposed by Dr. James Hansen aims to do just that.  Dr. Hansen proposes that a “’carbon fee with 100% dividend’ [should] [be] required for reversing the growth of atmospheric CO2” [4].  Given this, the fee would also be “applied to oil” [4].  It is touted as: “the most simple method possible to reduce CO2 emissions, mov[ing] us toward renewable sustainable energy and maintaining a functioning economy” [4].  In a nutshell, the proposal looks to hold corporations accountable for the oil (as well as natural gas and coal) they produce.  By adding a fee on oil “at their point of entry into the American Market (such as at an oil well)” will inevitably trigger a “market-driven mechanism” [5].  

The fee will increase over time until “clean energy becomes cheaper to employ over fossil fuels” [6].  The entirety of the fee paid by corporations would then be divided and given as dividends (i.e. payout) to Americans (monthly).  This would work to “offset the higher prices households will pay from rising energy costs induced by the fee” [5].  Essentially, the aim of the proposal is to let the people, not the government, dictate how they want to grow “America’s energy economy” [5].  By doing so, the hope is for Americans to spend their dividend income on “non-fossil fuel energy sources” leading to “entrepreneurship and innovations [of] new industries…renewable and fuel efficiency” [5].  Thus, creating a new stream of jobs for the American public as well. 

For more information, please read the linked websites below.  Although the proposal is currently aimed at the U.S. (and Canada), the bill could be applicable on a global scale, using the same structure.  There are ongoing efforts by advocates to pass this proposal through congress - and thereby changing the energy policy in America.  Grass-root activism has played a major part, where petitions and other forms of activism are made accessible (if interested, please refer to the links down below).  

Is this a viable option?  Realistic? Would it work?  Could this proposal be applied to other countries as well? 

Comment below and let us know what you think!  

Learn More: cap-and-trade-20150306-story.html

[1] Statistics and facts about the U.S. oil and gas industry. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] Global oil industry. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] D’Alessandro, N. (2014, August 11). Exxon starts ‘most controversial oil rig in the world’. Retrieved from

[4] Fee & 100% dividend. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[5] Cheek, M. (2011, October 21). Oil comes with hidden costs. Retrieved from

[6] Carbon tax vs. fee & dividend. (2015, August 27). Retrieved from

The oil and gas industry in the United States [Online image]. (2014). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from

Carbon fee and dividend [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from

The Small Steps: Getting Started Today!

The cost of hidden oil can be all too much – but only if we let it be.

As other blog posts indicate: Oil is in fact ubiquitous.  The awareness of this issue is highly alarming, and can often be overwhelming.  Even with the knowledge of this issue, individuals may not be inspired and driven into immediate action – or ever any action.  

Just like many ecological/environmental problems, the issue will tend to resonate (in some shape or form), but may not always trigger personal change.  Why?  It seems as if the first inclination is to think and the second is to ignore (I know I’m guilty of this!).  This is not because a person doesn’t care or feel for the issue, but because he/she may feel a degree of powerlessness.  The depth and severity of the issue is often perceived as out of reach.  It can be all too overwhelming and far too daunting. 

The cost of hidden oil throws up this tricky predicament: What can I do about this issue?  Especially, since it is perceived that we (as consumers) have no real control in what is being produced.  It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that oil industries will continue to do as they please – it’s not possible to stop mass production, and therefore there is no point in trying.  Case closed.

However, this mistaken assumption that change must start with a gigantic, revolutionary act is what causes this predicament.  Often, this is what triggers many of us to be overwhelmed - causing us to ignore and forget.  In this case, change can be the small things we do in our day-to-day lives.  It’s the domino effect the we’re working towards.  Big change must always start from somewhere.  We should be really asking ourselves: What can I do to lessen the amount of oil I use?  Taking small steps, bringing about small changes in our personal lives, makes the issue less daunting and more realistic.  

Not sure where to start?  Here are three things you can do today, tomorrow, or next week to bring about the those changes in your own lives:

1.       Are you still using plastic bags?  It was found that “about 8% to 10% of our total oil supply goes to making plastic…an average American throws away about 10 bags a week” [1].  Reusable grocery bags (i.e. cloth) and shopping totes are the best alternative.  Bring them with you to shopping malls and grocery stores.  Give your reusable bag to your grocery packer.  Refuse plastic!  The same goes for plastic water bottles.  Switch to a water bottle that is not only plastic-free, but reusable (ex. Hydro Flask).  

2.       Shopping for clothes?  Know what you are buying.  Quality over quantity.  Organic cotton or hemp (i.e. natural fibers) materials are alternatives to clothing made from oil derivatives (ex. synthetic fibers).  Read more at

3.       Recycle, recycle, recycle!  Are you continuously throwing out plastic containers and other plastic "trash"?  Recycle and re-use them.  This may seem basic, but many consumers still do not recycle.  For many of us, this is a simple as separating our trash appropriately.  Read more at

Hopefully, these three things illustrate what you can do to realistically make that change.  Most environmental activists advocate the importance of interdependence: “Any step you take—large or small—toward reducing your personal consumption of oil is a positive step” [2].  Down below are more simple ways to take those steps in your own life.  Check them out.  Try them out.  Try a few first, then gradually build.  See where it takes you.  Spread the word and make a difference.  You’ll find that you can get started as early as today.

Read more:

[1] Plastic bags and petroleum. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] Pawula, S. (2010, June 6). 11 ways to reduce your oil use. Retrieved from

Recycling used oil [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from

Natural fiber [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from

Life cycle of a paper bag [Online image]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2017 from

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Petroleum in Our Food?

We know that many household products we use day to day contain oil or petroleum by-products. We know that it’s lurking in places that we may not even realize. But do we know that it’s also in our foods? Artificial food dyes are used to attract your attention. The bright colored cereals, candy, snacks, and beverages are all targeting you as a consumer. Here’s a fun fact, even fresh oranges can be dipped in dye to make them brighter and more uniform in color. There’s also a lot of foods that would be virtually colorless if we didn’t add dye to everything. Although products will be tested over and over again to make sure they contain no trace of its original petroleum, artificial food dyes are still petroleum based with the exception of Blue No. 2 which is plant based and used to color blue jeans.

So what can we do? Natural isn’t always better. People seem to think that natural dyes are the way to go but people can adverse reactions to some. For example, saffron or annatto used in yellow dye can cause severe allergic reactions even though they’re natural base products.

We could ban food coloring. It makes sense that maybe we should just eat food the way that’s it’s supposed to be. Some would argue otherwise, what about the full sensory experience from eating? Not only do taste and smell matter but so does the look of our food. There’s an experience from eating a chip that stains your tongue a fiery red.

What do you all think? Should we remove artificial dyes from our food? Is it right for us to lose the experience of eating neon candy? Should we test out natural plant based dyes first and look at their toxicity?

There’s many things that can happen looking towards the future of artificial dyes in regards to our diet and nutrition. There’s only one thing that’s for sure. It wouldn’t hurt to move away from the artificial dyes and decrease our reliance on petroleum especially when we’re putting it into our bodies.


Image Links:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Where is our Oil?

Where our Oil?

When we think about oil we think of food, cars, machines. One thing we never really think about is where does all of this supply of oil actually come from. Since the early 60’s when America began strongly using this new fuel instead of the pollution inhibitor coal. We started to ship out boatloads of oils from the Arabian coast eventually more and more.

This link above shows a pie chart of where the U.S Actually moves their oil. A good chunk of the pie belongs to the U.S no doubt since we are the leader in using oil there should not be a doubt that we produce it as well. This was not always the case though; we only began to heavily produce oil a few years prior to this year.


Oil Use

Oil Use

The use of oil is an essential part of a person’s life, whether it is to cook your food, run your car, or fix a machine. Everyday whether you realize it or not, we use oil, driving to work or even using public transportation. You could even say oil is up there in importance in comparison to water. We hear about the history of the USA and the need for oil, also the rumors of the Iraq war, being that oil was one of the sole reasons we invaded it. Do we actually need to use oil this much is our lives, though? Back around 200 years ago, we were very dependent on coal to fuel our machines, engines, and ovens. Coal was the necessity when we as America were going through the industrial revolution, even the introduction of steam-powered engines were a thing for a little while ultimately what history shows us is that there are alternatives for oil. For some situations maybe not, like cooking for example, or even when using advanced machines. Also, history shows that as a species we have the ability to adapt and evolve our thinking and processes. Eventually, if everything is looking up, we will be seeing new techniques being used in the future for our everyday needs.


In the article linked below, even though it is an older article it shows how dependent we are on oil over 10 years ago. It is stated that at the time biggest consumer of oil was the United States. Another stated point was that America was so dependent on oil that, President Jimmy Carter declared that "Any attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." This explains itself, it really emphasizes on how much oil meant to America.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oil Prices and their Effect on Consumption

I want to talk about the connection between energy prices and demand for consumer goods such as automobiles. It turns out that people pay attention to oil prices when choosing what type of car they are going to buy.

According to a study in the Electricity Journal there is a predictable pattern of oil prices having a direct effect on the demand and consumption of automobiles.

the author of the study goes on to find that the reduction in demand for automobiles was not equal across all categories of cars.

“Hamilton argues, all car sales should have declined. What happened instead was a 25% reduction for gasoline intensive SUVs, compared to only a 7% reduction for other domestic car sales.”

So a major determinant in the choice of automobile rested heavily on oil prices at the time of purchase.

You can see here in this chart how oil prices effect so many aspects of the American economy. It makes sense that an increase in price would effect even the most indirect things in our economy.

So a more expensive commodity led to a dramatic change in behavior for the consumer. So making oil more expensive will change the consumers negative buying habits with regard to the impact on our environment.

What things do you find yourself buying less of when the price goes up?

How important is the gas mileage of the car you are thinking about purchasing?

How high would oil prices have to get for you to change your driving habits significantly?

Further reading: 

How Do We Get Oil?

Petroleum oil does not just appear in an instant. Oil companies have to pump oil out of the ground by making wells and drilling rigs. Once the wells are emptied, they have to be relocated into a new spot. For drilling rigs, most are set below the seafloor meaning many problems can occur. One of which include oil spills. Oil spills are damaging to the environment including the marine life. An interesting fact is that most oil that spills in the ecosystem is actually leaked from cars, airplanes and boats.

When companies retrieve the oil, the oil must be refined to be used as gasoline, diesel fuel and etc. Oil taken straight from the ground contains many hydrocarbons all mixed together and for it to be used in our everyday life we must separate them into their different types. During the process of oil refining, it creates air pollution releasing many toxins in the environment that are dangerous for our health and the ecosystem. The process of oil refining also adds to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to global warming. All of which is bad for the environment causing mountain glaciers to melt and the rising temperatures. We need to stop using foreign oil and slowly move away from oil itself but that is not an easy solution since almost everything we use contains oil. How can we prepare for a world without oil?

Learn more:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Is Oil Hiding In Your Food?

When we think of oil, we think of something that powers our cars and homes, not an ingredient in our food. However, oil is tucked in and hidden in many of the things we consume.

But WHY?
The use of petroleum, or commonly referred to by the food industry as mineral oil, is to keep foods fresh and mold free.

So why is petroleum in foods a cause for concern?
Some health scientists insist that petroleum is extremely dangerous for consumption, finding links to cancer and ADHD in children.

So what should you pay attention to in order to avoid consumption??

  • Certain packaged baked goods
  • Some chocolates (will be labeled as food-grade paraffin wax)
  • The ingredient Olestra
  • TBHQ or tert-butylhydroquinone (can be found in foods ranging from frozen chicken nuggets and pizzas to rice crackers and cookies
  • Foods containing food-coloring
  • Many painkillers and vitamins
  • Food additives