August 27, 2012

Achieving Athletic and Environmental Excellence

So… who out there spent some amount of last month hunkered down in front of the TV watching really incredible men and women swim, bike, horseback ride, volley, and dive for coveted medals?  I know I did.  That’s right, folks, I’m talking about the 2012 Olympics, and while most of you probably know it took place in London this year, many of you may not know the big reason why the city was chosen to host.  London made a radical proposal to host the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as we’re heading into environmental crisis mode over CO2 emissions, it was the perfect bid to win them the gig.  Now I have always been a skeptic when it comes to these lofty declarations of green plans of action, but after checking out Kevin McCloud’s video which explains how the plans were realized, I’m warming up to our friends across the pond, even though they  only gave Canada one gold medal this year and it was for bouncing on a trampoline…

The name of this plan for sustainability is Towards a One Planet 2012, and it was developed in association with WWF and BioRegional to show the world how it is possible to live within its means.  It’s a set of green guidelines, if you will, to help demonstrate how essentially easy it would be to reduce our carbon footprint worldwide.  Together, these organizations focused on four areas of the Games that they believed would have the most impact on the participating community.  The first was, of course, the venues themselves.

The Olympic Park is the largest new urban parkland development in 150 years, and 60% of the materials used to build it were brought by rail or river, thus keeping its carbon footprint to a minimum.

The second focal area of community sustainability was London’s Active Travel Programme.  This basically consisted of a constant reminder from the Games to walk or bike around the Park whenever possible.  The site was structured to be easily accessible using such simple methods thus attempting to cut down traffic and of course, carbon emissions.

The third centers around food intake (and outtake) throughout the Games arenas.  The goal was to offer affordable, diverse food supplied by local food service companies thereby bolstering business in surrounding communities.  As far as waste goes, they declared they could achieve a zero-waste-to-landfill Games by offering hoards of various recycling bins that are different colors depending on the kind of waste they take (there are numbers on the bottom of all food/beverage-related products you can buy that designate the corresponding bin).  While it sounds fairly simple, a great deal is left up to the masses here – let’s hope they’re all environmentally conscious!

The final spoke of this plan has to do with people improving their local communities.  It’s called the Changing Places Programme, and it involves inspiring individuals to get out there and make a difference in and around the places they call home.  You can see here how volunteers of the Games jumpstarted this outreach program in and around the Park itself.

Sounds like a pretty sizable endeavor, doesn’t it?!  The reports on how close they came to reaching these goals aren’t yet complete, but the updates look very promising.  I just wish I had seen more commercials about these initiatives and fewer from BP!


November 27, 2011

Don’t Buy This Jacket

Happy (American) Thanksgiving, everybody.  Hope yours was as full of football and fine food as mine was.  I had a Hungry-Man Salisbury Steak TV dinner and spotted 3 ships, so mine was fantastic. (And I rinsed and recycled the tray.  So there!)

I nearly spit out my Sanka when I saw this ad in the New York Times the next day, a.k.a. Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the U.S.A., from Patagonia, the fancy eco-conscious clothing company that makes outdoor gear:

Pretty funny, huh?  Or pretty sassy.

They explain why on their company website:

The test of our sincerity (or our hypocrisy) will be if everything we sell is useful, multifunctional where possible, long lasting, beautiful but not in thrall to fashion. We’re not yet entirely there. Not every product meets all these criteria. Our Common Threads Initiative will serve as a framework to advance us toward these goals.

Fair enough!

Back to my ship-spotting nook.


October 19, 2011

Arctic shipping routes: the upside of global warming?

Hi,

One of my shipspotting buddies saw this article in the New York Times about how warmer ocean temperatures are shrinking the Arctic “ice pack.”

Means shippers are opening more new sea lanes and more routes near shore will be accessible more often during the year:

[C]ompanies in Russia and other countries around the Arctic Ocean are mining that dark cloud’s silver lining by finding new opportunities for commerce and trade.

Not gonna lie, when I heard about this it made my mouth water, and I started polishing my binoculars.  But guess who’s the most excited about this news?  Yup: oil and mining companies.  Even Pootie-Poot, aka Vladimir Putin, thinks it’s a great idea for cutting costs. 

Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, was among those who attended the Russian conference. He noted that about $1 billion worth of goods passed through the Bering Strait last year. “The ships,” he said, “are coming.”

Can’t put anything past that guy.


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