Friday, November 30, 2012

An environmentally friendly holiday season

Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is around the corner, it’s time to consider the environmental impacts that the holiday season has on the world. In several countries around the world, Christmas is a big deal and everyone goes all out to make this holiday an amazing one. Usually people focus on the happy, joyous aspects of this festive time, but I think it’s also important to consider the decorations, the trees, and so much more that goes into putting Christmas together.
The first thing that comes to mind about December holidays is the Christmas tree! People that do not put one up are rare and especially with young children it’s always fun to decorate the tree as a family or even alone. But wait: imagine the numbers of helpless trees that are being chopped down to celebrate one day, or if you’d like, one month! Many people buy plastic ready-made ones, which are better than the real thing, but remember that when they finally do throw them away, the plastic will not biodegrade. Looking around on the internet, I found some creative alternatives to setting up a real Christmas tree. Save up aluminum cans over the next few weeks and on December 23rd or 24th, create a tree by stacking up all the cans! Once Christmas is over of course, recycle them! Another option is a reusable Lego Christmas tree? Especially if you have children, you are bound to have Legos lying around somewhere. With your child build a Christmas tree with presents underneath that will last for the next few years! There are a lot more interesting and fun ways that you could build your own Christmas tree; see this for more ideas:

Another thing to consider about Christmas is the gifts! Wrapping paper, packaging, and transportation of all the presents can add up. Why not consider newspaper wrapping instead, or simply placing the present in a reusable paper bag? I think newspaper is a lot easier to use too, and it takes less time to wrap neatly over the present. Simple, everyday actions can make a difference too. When buying presents, don’t take plastic bags; simply hold them. Shop locally, where you will not have to drive too far and where the product will not have to be transported over long distances. Consider gifting something good for the environment. I remember when I was young I really loved gardening. Now that I think about it, a Christmas present with seeds or a plant to nurture would have been perfect. And it doesn’t have to be only the youth that receives such gifts. My grandfather enjoys gardening too, so there’s another person I can grant something environmentally friendly. If you don’t give plants or seeds, that’s okay too. Try to investigate a little more and find out whether your present is ethically good for the earth. Running out of ideas? Visit Ethical Ocean  for more eco-viable options!

While you keep the environment in mind, remember that no matter what you decide to do, have fun and relax! It is the holiday season, after all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Global Issues and the environment

Global Issues Network Singapore Conference in South East Asia.

What an amazing experience. Meeting several schools from all around the region discuss their passion for helping the world become a better world.  Being a facilitator in the conference was such an eye-opening experience. I got to see the work of NGOs and passionate young leaders focus on the issues of the world, thus expanding my small realm of knowledge about the environment. Our Global Action Network Group zoomed in on Natural Disasters – a now increasingly common phenomenon that is hypothesized to be the dangerous result of global warming and changing environments. Especially Hurricane Sandy just passing us, natural disasters was a really nice topic to discuss. We discussed tsunamis in particular, since all of the delegates hailed from South East Asia, and tsunamis, triggered by earthquakes, are a very big problem.

We emphasized the mitigation aspect of natural disasters. How could people in developing nations be more aware of the dangers presented? What steps can be taken to ensure that the government is responsible for the dealing of the tsunami? The human response aspect was very interesting to me. Rarely had I thought about the humans involved in environmentally caused natural disaster. While it’s well known that global warming and such changing weather patterns are the most probable cause of such frequent disasters, I had not glanced at the people affected by tsunamis and earthquakes as a part of the environmental equation. In grade 2, unknowingly, I felt moved to help the distraught victims of the 2003 tsunami. I collected money for the victims, standing in the aisles of my neighborhood grocery store. At the time, I didn't fully understand why aiding these victims was so important for the environment. But now I know. Helping the people survive, I realized in GINSING, would help the environment survive. Educating the public about the dangers of such disasters and what causes them is really useful in attempting to make Earth a more environmentally sound place.

Several keynote speakers sparked my attention too. Abigail Ailing’s presentation on “Biosphere 2” was especially intriguing. In an effort to explore five different biomes in one area, Abigail Ailing and a team of seven other scientists dared live inside a glass ecological laboratory for two whole years. This was absolutely beyond me. As she went into discussions of living in the biosphere and getting accustomed to the environment, I was enthralled. I wanted to know more about her lifestyle in Arizona, where she had spent from 1991 to 1993 just observing and making a sacrifice for science. The five biomes that were controlled by a computer were a marsh, desert, savannah, ocean and rainforest. Ms. Ailing told us stories of how she had to dive into the ocean biome several times a week to clean algae off the glass walls, so that the marine plants could receive sunlight. At the end of their two year experience, all of the ecologists emerged with orange skin, because of the high content of beta-carotene in their food. There had been no outside interaction with the rapidly evolving world. No money, no internet, no computers (other than the controller for the biomes), all for the good of science. I loved her talk at the GIN Conference. Now Ms. Ailings next project is to help the corals of the world. She’s quite an inspirational person! Learn more about her experiment in an alternate world here:

GIN was a great experience for me. I really am looking forward to next year’s conference. I think I’ll try to be a delegate for the global warming group, or another environmental GANG. If not, I know that there are plenty of other world issues that are worth brainstorming about!

Think green, think big, think world!