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Degradable plastic bags – the solution?

For those of you interested in economics, you might like to know that ‘one use’ plastic bags are called a ‘market failure’. This is due to the fact that their pricing does not account for external factors such as the impact of litter on wildlife, or the monetary cost to the community to clean up plastic bag pollution.

In Australia alone, 30-35 million plastic bags end up as litter rather than in landfill every year, according to 2007 figures from a report on ‘the investigation of options to reduce the impacts of plastic bags‘.

Degradable and biodegradable plastic bags have been touted as the solution to this problem by a number of prominent supermarkets. However, there is limited evidence that they make a positive difference and more evidence to the contrary! The amount of time plastic bags remain in the environment as litter is unclear but the following facts give you some idea of their possible effects.

The most common degradable bags, oxo-degradable bags, have a ‘pro-degradent’ which causes fast break down into fragments. These then remain in the environment and may take a very long time to completely degrade. The impact of these bags as litter may thus be greater than for a normal plastic bag, which generally remains as one product, not fragments.

Biodegradable plastic bags are made from a mixture of polyethene and starch products and in the right conditions, will break down into elements like carbon dioxide, water and methane. To be considered degradable, these must compost within 12 weeks and fully biodegrade within 6 months. This means they survive long enough to pose a threat to animals if littered, as they may be mistaken for food.

turtle

If biodegradable bags are littered and caught in trees, like the plastic bags in the image below, they are unlikely to be exposed to soil microorganisms which assist breakdown and so pose the same problems as regular ‘one-use’ plastic bags.

Plastic Bag Tree in NYC

Plastic Bag Tree in NYC

There are also questions raised about whether there is any benefit of degradable plastic bags even if they are properly disposed and end up in landfill. The Australian government published a report ‘The impact of degradable plastic bags in Australia’, which found that biodegradable plastics are unlikely to degrade in landfill as the microorganisms needed to help the break down, are not found in the dry anaerobic (oxygen deprived) conditions normally found in landfill.

The same report concluded that reusable bags have a lower environmental impact and gave better overall performance than either conventional or degradable ‘one-use’ bags, regardless of the degradability.

So the message is clear – reuse is the better option for the environment.

Envirosax gets a “10″ from Bruno Tonioli

Bruno Tonioli

Bruno Tonioli

Bruno Tonioli at the 2009 GLAAD Awards with Envirosax Candy Bag 3. Bruno has become widely known for his jubilant comments and critiques after couples’ performances on the hit TV show Dancing With The Stars. Looks like Envirosax won’t be voted off any time soon!

Earth Day 2009

earth-day-envirosax-imageDid you know that April 22, 2009 is the 39th Earth Day?

Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1969, the first Earth Day was held in 1970 and led by 20 million students around America. At the time, The New York Times wrote an article reporting on the astonishing rise of environmental activism – “rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nations campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam”.

Earth Day has grown to be a worldwide campaign with events being held all around the world, see http://earthday.envirolink.org/calendar.html , http://earthday.net/search/location and http://www.deepdalefarm.co.uk/earthday/ for examples.

While Earth Day is a great way to increase awareness worldwide of environmental issues, every little action that millions of people take on a regular basis is what really helps to protect our planet. There are many small ways we can help, as simple as turning out lights when we are not in the room or walking instead of using the car.

Users of Envirosax designer reusable bags should be congratulated for helping to green the planet every day. In its lifetime, each Envirosax bag saves the planet from approximately 6000 ‘one-use’ plastic bags from clogging waterways, killing wildlife and floating in the ocean for thousands of years. This one action of 3.5 million people using Envirosax reusable bags around the world is having an enormous environmental impact. Congratulations and thank you for making a difference to our planet!

earthday-image

The Importance of Trees

hoop-pine-blog-size-jpeg

Trees are the lifeline of the earth, yet we continue to cut them down for unnecessary convenience such as ‘one use’ paper grocery bags. In the USA alone, 14 million trees are are cut down every year to support this market.

For each tree we cut down, we rob the earth of its positive contribution towards to reducing climate change. On average each tree absorbs 20kg of carbon dioxide per year, removes other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide at the rate of 1kg per year and adds about 52kg of oxygen to the atmosphere per year. There is also an eco system of flora & fauna that trees protect along with preserving top soil and soil integrity.

Envirosax’s founders have in the past, rejuvenated a 17 acre property back to its former natural beauty in Northern NSW. They now live a sustainable lifestyle on a 10 acre pristine rainforest property in Currumbin, where planting has continued to preserve the area.

The property features a forest of over fifteen hundred, fifteen-year-old Hoop Pine trees, each absorbing 44lbs of carbon dioxide per year. These and the 5,000+ other trees on the property, significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

hoop-pine-forest

mark

Paper or Plastic ‘one-use’ Bags – which are better?

With so much media attention given to one-use plastic bags and their negative effect on the environment, shoppers often assume that paper bags are a better, more sustainable choice for carrying their groceries.

However, with a bit of research it soon becomes clear that the argument is by no means as simple as paper or plastic.

For the number of ‘one use’ bags used in the USA each year it takes:

Paper -

  • 14 million trees to make the paper bags
  • The production of paper bags creates 70 percent more air pollution than plastic

Plastic -

  • 2 million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags
  • plastic bags create four times the solid waste.

* read here for more facts on plastic and paper bags

What you do with single-use bags when you are done with them and where you live, are important factors when making the choice between paper or plastic, says Jenny Powers of the Natural Resources Defense Council For example, if you live near the coast or on waterways, paper may be a more suitable choice as plastic bags clog up waterways and are damaging to marine wildlife (remember whitey the crocodile?)

plastic_pollution_250252

(plastic bags smother coral polyps)

While paper may break down more quickly than plastic, there are still many less than desirable consequences of the paper bag. The only real solution for the environment is reusable bags!

Jennifer Garner Goes Monochromatic!

lifeinside2

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were spotted outside their 3 year old daughter Violet’s school in Santa Monica two weeks ago. With Violet on her hip and Monochromatic Bag 1 in tow, Jennifer Garner joins the list of eco conscious celebrities who choose Envirosax!

Source: Life & Style, March 23, 2009

The original designer reusable bag

Kristi L. Gustafson, staff writer for Times Union recently wrote “Reusable shoppings bags are so in vogue, shoppers can now find hundreds of different totes that are neither paper nor plastic. In fact, a reusable sack may be more fashion-forward these days than the latest must-have Louis Vuitton handbag.”

It seems that in the current economic market, the must have Dolce & Gabbana or Chanel bags have been replaced by more affordable, eco-chic reusable bags like Envirosax.

And with the likes of Cynthia Nixon using Envirosax, the reusable bag trend looks set to continue.

cynthia-nixon-alone
(holding Retro Graphic Bag 4)

Envirosax at the Women of Essence Luncheon

Vivica FoxGina Torres

Sanaa LathanQuincy Jones and grandaughter

From top left: Vivica Fox, Gina Torres Bottom Left: Sanaa Lathan, Quincy Jones and his granddaughter

ESSENCE Magazine celebrated on Thursday February 19th the best of Hollywood at its second annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. The event was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The star-studded event honored four of Hollywood’s finest: Halle Berry, director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Diahann Carroll and Taraji P. Henson. Envirosax is proud to have been onsite at this prestigious event providing these amazing women of Hollywood with the bag of their choice.

Welcome to 09 with Candy and Oxford!

Envirosax is pleased to announce the availability of its newest designs for 09: Candy and Oxford.

These designs have made big waves at the January gift and fashion shows and are available now from our website!

Each individual reusable bag in the new Candy Series is a stand alone eco-fashion statement. The reusable bags were designed with a 70′s Italian chich, with the modern active woman in mind. Oxford on the other hand takes a more gender neutral approach.

Much excitement was to be had at the January show by men who in the past loved our reusable bags, but wanted designs with a more subtle look. There was no less excitement from the women over the classic patterns of the Oxford Series. Most mentioned the “urban” feel and could picture themselves using Oxford bags on the days you just want to be casual whilst running errands.

In 2009 the new Envirosax designs give you the opportunity to express your individuality.

CandyOxford

Hydrogen fuel cells – the future?

For those of you, who, like me, are not that clear on what a hydrogen fuel cell is, it’s basically a process whereby hydrogen and oxygen combine to create a current of electricity, where the only by-product is water vapour. Clearly this is much more desirable than the polluting carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which are released from petrol run vehicles.

With the growing concern for the environment and the high price of petrol, hydrogen fuel cells have finally been brought into the limelight.

A hydrogen fuel cell Chevrolet Equinox car was presented at the Detroit Auto show in early January this year, signaling the start of a genuine move to more energy efficient vehicles. While Honda and Toyota have been working on fuel cells for commercial use for years, with Honda developing 200 hydrogen cars for commercial sales in 2008, it has taken the rising petrol prices and an economic crisis for US car companies to realise that fuel cells are the way forward, however, the hydrogen infrastructure needed and the high cost of the cars ($100,000) means that the hydrogen-powered future for cars is not within immediate reach.

Check out this fantastic video of the ENV hydrogen-powered motor bike, which has been developed at a cost of only $6000. At this price these could be seen on the road in the next two years, if only more places follow California’s lead and invest in the hydrogen filling stations needed.

While car companies argue about the economic value of producing hydrogen fuel cells, a Queensland school has been leading the way in developing them.

Our first Guest writer, Dr Antoine Durandet, the head of science at All Saints Anglican school, Australia, explains why they started working on them, and what the students did.

“In the last couple of years we have introduced hydrogen fuel cells as a context to teach science in senior high school. Our main drive is to introduce concepts that expand our students’ understanding and appreciation of a sustainable future, while teaching the core subjects.

I have a background is plasma physics and spent 15 years in research laboratories as an experimental physicist before becoming a teacher ( by the way the best job i ever had!), so I am constantly looking for new challenges and projects for our students. Our biggest project was in 2007, when a team of students constructed a speed boat (scale model), powered by a 100w hydrogen fuel cell. The boat was presented at the Solar Boat Challenge on the Gold Coast.

fc-boat

In 2008, a group of 4 students from All Saints attended the students forum at the 17th World Hydrogen Economy Conference (WHEC 08, Brisbane Australia, March 08 Together with other teams from Australia, New Zealand and USA, they investigated the properties of Hydrogen Fuel cells. No doubt these guys will be our experts in 2009!

All Saints is a leading school in sustainability and especially in hydrogen fuel cell, as a result our students have hands on experiences with this state of the art technology. If you have any interest in this technology, please contact us.”

Green Bling!

Self anointed Green Living Goddess – Antoinette Nue appeared on TV show Focus Atlanta recently and demonstrated how using an Envirosax bag is one of the quickest and easiest ways to “start going green” without losing your fashion edge.

Presenter Keisha Williams explained that most consumers find the whole ‘going green’ concept a little overwhelming and often don’t know where to start, leaving it in the ‘too hard basket.’

Antoinette offers practical tips to get started, suggesting that the best place to begin is with something in which you are interested or passionate about, as you are more likely to continue.  So whether that is recycling or only buying clothes made out of organic fibres, every little action will have a positive impact on the environment.

Shopping is one of Antoinette’s favourite pass times and “carrying your own reusable shopping bags is one of the most important things you can do to help the environment” she says, “landfill is full of plastic that won’t biodegrade for 1,000 years.

So while there are many reusable shopping bag options around, to ‘go green without sacrificing your bling’, Antoinette chooses Envirosax bags for their convenience and stylish range of designs. Going green has never been so easy, fun and fashionable.

Education Education Education

The British Labour party under Tony Blair believed that educating future generations was the key to a successful country and sustainable world – and Envirosax agrees.

‘One use’ plastic bags are going to be a continuing problem in the future unless people are taught about the problems and given an alternative. In recent weeks, I have seen the benefits of Envirosax’s efforts to create awareness and provide an alternative.

The above photo is of a school charity event in Singapore to raise much needed awareness about plastic bags. Having lived in Singapore, I know all too well that they are behind on all things green and one use plastic bags are still a major problem there. (Forget your groceries, Singporeans love plastic bags so much you can buy your iced coffee in them!)

As the world’s largest consumer, China uses nearly 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day; or at least they did until recently. The Chinese government announced earlier this year that they were banning plastic bag use in all shops and any that were used must be purchased. This policy came in to effect on 1st June and has been praised by environmental groups and other governments for its success. However, continued education is also needed, so that children understand the ban and the importance of reusable bags to protect their environment and reduce pollution.

Finally to Perth, Australia, where I received this fantastic story:

“I take my, almost 3 year old, grandaughter to the markets fairly often and she loves to hang my bag around her neck to be “the shopping lady” and get the fruit and veg. Last week as we were walking from the car she stopped, looked up at me, patted the bag and said “Tiny, I want a bag just like this for my birthday!

Later her mother said it is the first time she has indicated she knows you can ask for things for your birthday … and what does she want – an ENVIROSAX of course.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg Proposes New York City Plastic Bag Tax

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a plastic bag tax in an effort to generate income and change the behavior of city residents.

Bloomberg’s idea is to implement a 6-cent fee on each bag, a penny of which would go to merchants as an incentive to keep track of the fees collected. It’s estimated that New Yorkers use 1 billion bags per year, and that the tax would bring in $16 billion for the city.

Like many cities across the country, the Big Apple is cash-strapped, and this is just one of the ways that Mayor Bloomberg proposes that his city close the budget gap it faces.

But city residents, not just its government, are also in economic distress. In a New York Daily News online poll, 53 percent of respondents thought that the plastic bag tax was a bad idea because “times are hard enough.” On the other hand, another poll on the same website reveals that 56 percent of respondents thought that the additional tax was enough to make them change their behavior.

If these polls generally reflect the opinions of New Yorkers, then the plastic bag tax would accomplish the behavioral change that the Mayor seeks.

“That’s like having a cigarette tax,” argued the mayor. ”The most wonderful thing in the world would be if we collected nothing from our cigarette tax. Think about how many people’s lives you’d save.”

San Francisco and Oakland, CA were the first and second cities to ban “urban tumbleweed,” and earlier this year, Los Angeles also followed suit with a law to take effect in 2010.

“This is a major moment for our city, to bite the bullet and go with something that is more ecologically sensitive than what we’ve ever done before,” said Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, according to a story in the July 23rd Los Angeles Times.

Many other cities have considered similar legislation, which in numerous cases, has been voted down by local councils. However, other municipalities like Portland, Seattle, and Phoenix are attempting to take action against the single-use plastic, and have serious legislation with strong support in the pipeline.

Commendations to these progressive city leaders who have fought for their cities to make a move in the right direction.

Hopefully, New York City’s leaders will be bold in passing the tax proposal. If the largest city in the country, and the second largest in the world, took this major step in legislating more eco-friendly lifestyles and the use of reusable shopping bags, they would be setting a shining example for the rest of the world.

We’ll keep you posted on this exciting news…

Plastic bags vs Whitey the crocodile

This is a guest blog post from a friend of the Envirosax team who is currently backpacking around Australia. Having never lived in a coastal environment before, her perspective on a problem us coast-dwellers are sometimes complacent about is a refreshing wake-up call.

Traveling around the East coast of Australia I’ve been hearing stories from scuba divers, aquarium workers and locals on the beaches, about the growing problem of plastic bags on marine habitats. The most common story is of turtles dying after swallowing plastic bags they have mistaken for jellyfish. However this is hard to comprehend when there is limited coverage on the exact effects of disposable plastic bags on wildlife. Or so I thought, until last weekend when I read in the local news that a 3.5m crocodile died of starvation after swallowing 25 plastic shopping and garbage bags, a plastic wine cooler and a rubber float. The build up of plastic in his stomach prevented him from digesting food and led to his death in captivity on Sunday, after being taken in by authorities the previous day. What a horrible way to go.

After reading this I did a bit more research in to the actual numbers of wildlife deaths from plastic, and found that the Australian Seabird Rescue estimate that there are about 100,000 animals killed by plastic each year… so apparently our crocodile Whitey, as he was named, is far from the only casualty.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said Whitey’s death “reinforces our general view that the amount of marine debris in the ocean is too much and it’s damaging wildlife.

Spending even a small amount of time researching the dangers of plastic bags turns up a frightening amount of information, but one that made the most impact on me was this documentary from Vice Magazine about the colossal amount of plastic waste (larger than Texas apparently!) now collecting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean:

http://www.vbs.tv/video.php?id=1485308505&r=teaser

Introducing Botanica…

Envirosax is introducing a new series, Botanica, to our product offerings. Inspired by the world’s rainforests, the BOTANICA® Series offers five new fun, fresh graphic prints.

Envirosax founder Belinda David-Tooze lives on once damaged Australian rainforest, and has spent years investing in regenerating it. After much success with her own land, she was moved to design Botanica.

The Earth’s rainforests are splendid treasures with abundant plant and animal life, but are in serious danger from numerous sources such as deforestation and climate change. We encourage you to go onto our site to learn more about a rainforest in your region, and to find out how you can help protect this all-important part of our natural heritage.