Sunday, May 28, 2017

Petroleum Jelly Alternative

Image result for Vaseline

One of the more common oil based products is petroleum jelly, This product isn't black and disgusting, it doesn't smell bad, in fact, many of us know this product as Vaseline. Vaseline, the world's first petroleum jelly product was invented by Robert Chesebrough in 1872. For the last 145 years humans have used a petroleum by product that serves as a lubricant, moisturizer among other things.

Many of us have used Vaseline or other petroleum based skin care products because they are readily available and work relatively well. Vaseline is made from the waxy substance that comes from the rods on oil pumps. It sounds gross right? The same substance you use for your chapped lips comes for the rods on an oil pump.

According to, " Petrolatum runs a high risk of contaminants linked to cancer. The European Union, whose cosmetic safety standards are more stringent than those of the U.S., consider the ingredient carcinogenic and restrict its use." That means that using products like Vaseline can affect your health in the long term. So you may be asking yourself, "Is there any alternative to petroleum jelly that do not affect our environment?" There absolutely is!
Waxelene is the current leader in substitutes for petroleum jelly.

Image result for waxelene images

As stated on their website, "Waxelene is the petroleum jelly alternative – made from natural, pesticide-free beeswax and 3 of the highest quality natural & organic oils. Waxelene is smooth, rich and creamy. Our patented aeration process allows the skin to breathe." Wexelene makes a great product without hurting consumers or the environment. The company also makes it clear that they never test their products on animals. Using products like Waxelene is an investment in your health and the health of our world. If you or someone you no is still using petroleum jelly, make the switch today, you wont regret it!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edible Cutlery

Image result for plastic cutlery images

How many of you have used plastic eating utensils? If you have ever eaten food while camping or if you have ever eaten a meal at school, or even a large event, chances are you have used plastic cutlery. Plastic cutlery is used often because it is incredibly cheap and doesn't require washing. These utensils are also very light weight which makes them attractive to most companies. What if there was a way to replace all of this extra plastic with something just as efficient and useful? Well a company out of India is here to make that happen.

Image result for edible cutlery images

Bakeys is the exciting new company that is looking to change the world, replacing one oil based product at a time. According to their website, "There are no preservatives, chemicals, additives, colouring agents, raising agents, fat, trans fat, artificial chemical nutrition or animal ingredients, milk or milk products. It is 100% Vegan, vegetarian and is purely Halal. It is baked at high temperature to make it crisp, hard and moisture free." Bakey's is also currently working on a recipe to make their cutlery gluten free.

This a very easy and inexpensive way that you can make a positive impact on our environment. To give you a better understanding of the Bakeys company and the incredible individuals behind it, here is an informational video on their amazing story.

Sustainable Fuel On Trees

Watch: Eastern Finland's newest development - the world's first marine biofuel 

Source: CNN

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sustainable vs Traditional Polymers

Plastics are comprised of large molecules called “polymers” (“poly-” is Greek for “many”). Polymers are long chain molecules made of smaller, repeating unit molecules called “monomers” (“mono-” is Greek for “one”), similar to how beads (monomers) connected together form a necklace (polymer). Naturally occurring polymers include DNA, starch, wood and natural rubber. The two synthetic polymers produced on the largest scale are polyethylene and polypropylene, but there are many different kinds of synthetic polymers and plastics.

A sustainable polymer is a plastic material that addresses the needs of consumers without damaging our environment, health, and economy. To do this, researchers are working to develop polymers that, when compared with their non-sustainable counterparts:

  • use renewable feedstocks, such as plants, for production
  • use less net water and non-renewable energy in production
  • emit less greenhouse gases during production
  • produce less waste in production
  • have a smaller carbon-footprint
  • have a facile end life

How are sustainable plastics different from ordinary plastics?

Traditional Polymers:

1. Petroleum or natural gas is converted into chemicals (monomers).
2. These monomers are made into useful plastic products.
3. The plastic products can be incinerated, recycled, or thrown away.

For more information about the petroleum-based plastic life cycle see The American Chemical Society’s “Life Cycle of a Plastic Product,” and Ellen MacArthur Foundation infographic on the linearity of the plastic lifecycle.

Sustainable Polymers:

1. Carbon dioxide and water are used in photosynthesis to grow plants
2. The plants are harvested and processed to make chemicals (monomers or polymers):
    The plant material may be fermented to produce monomers (e.g., plant-derived sugar to lactic acid)
    Chemicals may be extracted from the plant to make monomers (e.g., modified soybean oil used in       polyurethane foam) or polymers (e.g natural rubber or polyhydroxyalkanoates)
    Through bioengineering and microbial pathways, plant-derived sugars or other molecules can be         converted into monomers.
3. The renewable chemicals are converted to plastic products.
4. Some sustainable polymers can be composted in addition to being recycle or incinerated to recover     their energy content.
5. Composting produces carbon dioxide, water and organic matter (dirt) which is used to regenerate       the renewable resource feedstock (plants).

What new policies are needed?
Sustainable polymers are relatively new to the consumer market. Therefore, there is much work to be done in terms of developing appropriate policies. Currently, there is inadequate regulation of advertising and labeling of environmentally-friendly products. More policies are needed to prevent “greenwashing” that can mislead consumers. In order to take full advantage of the properties of compostable polymers, industrial composting should be more accessible to consumers, possibly through the use of curbside compost pick-up. Finally, progress towards improved sustainable polymers can only result from scientific research and technological innovation, which requires public support and a commitment to research and education.

Eco Brand Spotlight: Patagonia

If you're a Portlander or rub elbows with the outdoor industry at all, chances are you've heard of the revered clothing brand Patagonia (also known as #Patagucci for its steep price tags). But even though the company makes high-quality, fashionable, and functional outdoor wear, it's even better known for its eco-friendly approach to clothing.

"Build the best product,
cause no unnecessary harm,
use business to inspire and
implement solutions to the
environmental crisis."

- Patagonia mission statement

Patagonia uses recycled polyester in much of their clothing and sticks to only organic, pesticide-free cotton. The company also devotes many service hours to environmental causes and donates 1% of daily global sales to environmental causes. Most notably, Patagonia dedicated all of their sales from this past Black Friday to grassroots environmental groups dedicated to protecting precious natural resources such as water, air, and soil. The company was anticipating to pull in $2 million in sales on Black Friday alone, but experienced a surge in sales and ended up making a whopping $10 million. The company, of course, donated it all.

Patagonia's Better Sweater
Another way that Patagonia uses its business model to cut down on waste - and ultimately conserve natural resources - is through their Worn Wear Program. Patagonia prides itself on making durable, functional clothing to last a lifetime - and stands by that guarantee. It invites its customers to send in pieces of their clothing that need to be repaired in order to keep the clothes worn again and again, avoiding the landfill. Customers can either have their repaired Patagonia clothing sent back or opt to make some cash by reselling it through the Worn Wear Program, where Patagonia will list the product on its dedicated used clothing page. Users can filter by size to snatch up items that typically sell quickly due to the steep price slash: a popular product, the full-zip Better Sweater, retails for $139 but sells for a cool $40 used.

If you're looking for a quality clothing item with both fashion & function and values eco-friendly materials and production methods, try stopping by Patagonia's store in downtown Portland or picking up your own Worn Wear piece to keep clothing well-loved and well-worn - and out of the landfill.

How Oil Harms Animals: PART II

Oil can harm animals in two ways: from the oil itself and then from the cleanup process afterwards. This post is about how the clean up of oil actually harms animals as well.

By using hot water or chemicals to remove oil, this directly can harm animals. Many people try to save birds by washing them off, but the chemicals of the oil are so powerful, that sometimes it's too late. Pressure washing the beaches can remove smaller organisms from the bigger animal's food chain.

Special chemicals called dispersants are sprayed over oil spills to help break up the oil into smaller chunks. This makes the oil more easily spread out into the environment. However, even though these chemicals can breakdown petroleum, they also breakdown cell membranes in marine mammals. Thus, red blood cells begin to to breakdown, with the ending resulting in hemorrhaging of the animals.

Photo: Dead oiled sea otter after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Sources: , , &

How Oil Harms Animals: PART I

Photo: Oiled cormorant on a rocky, oil-covered shore.Oil can harm animals in two ways: from the oil itself and then from the cleanup process afterwards. This post is about how the oil itself harms animals.

Oil is a huge mixture of different chemicals, and what country it's made in has different effects on different outcomes. Specifically on animals, these terrible outcomes can be:

  • oils gets on fur and feathers so they no longer keep the animal insulated from nature.
  • small animals can get completely covered and suffocate,
  • oil then gets into the animal's reproductive system and the next generation has deformities.
Getting even more specific, here are some ways certain species are affected:
  • Birds
    • destroy their water poof coats.
    • cause chemical burns all the way down to the skin.
    • can no longer absorb food and nutrients due to digestive system problems.
    • also toxic to the pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
  • Marine Mammals
    • Sea otters can no longer stay warm due to the oil damaging their fur. They will try to lick themselves clean, but are now eating the oil.
    • Dolphins, whales, and manatees, can get chemical burns and oil clogging their blowholes.
  • Fish
    • weakened immune systems, enlarged livers, and fin erosion.
Sources: &

Hemp vs Oil

In 1900 at the Paris Exposition Universelle, Rudolf Diesel showed an engine running on peanut oil. There were also ideas about running an engine on corn oil, because methanol can be derived from corn, but corn oil is hard to produce.

However, today there is another alternative: hemp oil. Hemp is a great alternative to traditional oil This is because it can also produce methanol, it grows a lot faster than corn. Thus, more oil at a faster rate. Hemp fuel is biodegradable, and can be used to make a wide variety of products.

Back in 1990, it was cheaper to run engines on gasoline, but that is no longer the case. We have so many other resources available to use, especially hemp oil.

Sources: &

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Got Plant?

There are so many materials that industry and consumers use daily that are made from petroleum: plastics; nylons; and fiberglass. Lately, bio based alternatives have been up and coming. These days businesses can buy durable plastic-like industrial materials without petroleum-based polymers. Consumers can buy grocery bags, cups, forks and spoons that act like plastic but are biodegradable and compostable. There are even soft, washable fabrics that seem like nylon but are made of plants and biodegrade. Even Reebok is working on a shoe made out of corn based materials. Reebok has begun manufacturing a shoe made from non-food source corn stalks and hopes to begin selling the shoes by fall of 2017.

From Reebok's video ad about its new Cotton + Corn initiative of making shows from "things that grow."

Reebok’s head of Reebok future Bill McInnis says "With product development, we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today." Yet it is tailored to meet the same demands athletes have of other Reebok shoes. "When the product hits the market, we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice how sneakers look and perform," McInnis said.

For more information visit: Got plants?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Nuclear Option

One alternative to oil on a large scale is the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy does not produce any greenhouse gases, and it produces power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the only clean-air source of energy to do so. Nuclear power is land-efficient as well. For the same energy produced by a nuclear power plant, a wind farm would need 260 square miles of land. Nuclear power plants are a huge boon to the economy of local and state communities. There is enough uranium in the world to power reactors for more than 100 years, giving the world enough time to optimize fully renewable energy sources.

Many people have concerns about the safety of nuclear energy, with high-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. The United States has strict safety regulations in place to prevent disasters, and even increased regulations following the Fukushima disaster. There have been many studies showing 0 adverse radiation-linked health effects in the US. However, as with anything, risk can never be 100% mitigated, as the unforeseen does happen. Several countries, such as Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their nuclear programs and are shifting towards solar and wind. Japan is updating its reactors with new safety regulations and is starting to reopen them. Every country must decide how to handle the benefit-risk ratio. In the United States, nuclear energy has been a huge benefit to the environment and to people in the search for alternative sources of power.
Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, changed his mind about nuclear energy, and is now an active proponent of it. He has come to the conclusion that nuclear energy is an important resource that the world must utilize. He acknowledges the risks and strongly advocates for safe ways of developing nuclear energy plants. To get his perspective, here is an opinion article he wrote for the Washington Post:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From Food To Crude: 3 Ways to Avoid Consuming Petroleum

The proliferation of petroleum oil in our society has no better example than its silent insertion into the foods we ingest on a regular basis. Oil in food is usually made from animal or vegetable fats, but it can be made from petroleum as well. However, it will not be labeled as such. Since no one wants to see ‘petroleum’ listed as an ingredient in their food, companies usually list it as ‘mineral oil’. Be on the lookout for packaged baked goods that use mineral oil to extend their shelf lives.

Petroleum products can even be disguised as paraffin wax in chocolate, but they are not even required to be listed as such! They can fall under the category of ‘other flavors’. Companies like Hershey’s are very reluctant to reveal what goes into their chocolate, but many food scientists will tell you that paraffin wax is a likely ingredient. If, like me, you want to keep chocolate as the bedrock of your food pyramid, you are better off purchasing higher quality chocolates that don’t use wax-based fillers (your taste buds will thank you as well).

One last tip, wash your fruits and vegetables before you consume them! Petroleum products are sometimes used to coat produce so that they stay shiny and fresh-looking longer. Buy produce from your local farmer’s market to ensure that no petroleum products are used in the preservation of your food.

The True Cost of Oil: Tedx Talk by Garth Lenz

Garth Lenz is a photographer who created the exhibition The True Cost of Oil. His shocking photos capture the environmental devastation of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project and have become a pivotal part of the resistance against Alberta Tar Sands mining. 

The Canadian boreal forest houses the largest oil reserves in the world outside of Saudi Arabia. These reserves contain vast amounts of the tar-like substance bitumen. To harvest the bitumen, there are two methods. The first is mining. There are ten mines so far in the Alberta Tar Sands, and each mine is huge - one mine is compared to a large metropolitan area in size. 

The next method is called the "in situ," which involves the heating and pumping of colossal amounts of water underground through a tunnel-like network system. Both of these methods are incredibly damaging to the environment, partly because this type of oil - bitumen - is called the world's dirtiest oil. This type of oil required more water than any other oil process. 

One of the most devastating ecological effects of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project is how it has affected the food chain of the people who live in the area - namely remote Northern aboriginal communities. It's too expensive to fly food into the area, so these people are forced to hunt and fish in order to survive. The fish are carcinogenic due to all the toxic byproduct waste deposited into unlined "tailings ponds" (more aptly called wastelands), which has led to cancer rates in the region to rise to up to 10 times higher than the average in the rest of Canada.

In this TedX video, Lenz shares some of his images with the audience and gives us context for the threatened ecosystems under attack due to the mining project.