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Celebrate Our “Earth Day”

Happy Earth Day from my family to yours,

Christel Schultz

Every year on April 22nd, special focus is dedicated to environmental awareness and activism as the world observes Earth Day. Beginning in 1970 on the heels of the anti-war movement, Earth Day has now grown to be a widely celebrated movement – a voice for our planet! As a global society, we are encouraged to learn about our impact, take part in conservation and cleanup efforts, push for environmental policy changes, and approach daily life with alternate ways of thinking. My hope is that everyone will have the opportunity to do a little something to honor our Earth this weekend. But don’t forget, you can show your love for this awesome planet in whatever way suits you best – this weekend, any day or every day!  

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure Travel with a Purpose

Written by Christel Schultz

Beyond the trending ecotourism ideals is a basic respect for the places one visits, and the unique characteristics that make each location special. For many of us, travel holds little value without the aspect of outdoor exploration and adventure. We may want to immerse ourselves in the culture of our destination, journey through the jungle, or perhaps navigate unknown waters. Regardless of our chosen activity, an experience has the potential to impact who we are. Traveling to a new or exotic location is just the beginning.Unfortunately, a number of popular destinations have become somewhat overwhelmed by tourism, and the atmosphere that attracted vacationers to begin with can become compromised. It may not be the goal of any traveler to take advantage of a foreign territory or community, but unfamiliar habitats, landscapes, and resources are part of the allure for visitors. As a result, the environment and its creatures tend to be exploited in an effort to satisfy the sometimes insatiable appetite of a constant stream of guests. Our outdoor world was intended to be experienced in its natural state, where we enjoy the beauty it offers and only leave our footprints behind. This includes activities like hiking to that breathtaking vista, snorkeling the coral reef, paddling across a glassy lake at dawn, and observing wildlife in its natural element. It is tempting to touch or remove a bright, colorful piece of coral, for example, but this would be detrimental to the reef system that is struggling to survive, and it is typically prohibited.Animals may be held in captivity, bound and drugged to provide humans with a coveted wildlife encounter, but those circumstances are so unnecessary to experience the awe these creatures provide. Consider these sorts of things when venturing about, and discourage practices that exploit the natural world by not participating or not visiting locations where they are common. It is important that we exercise awareness and responsibility concerning our surroundings at home and abroad.

This accountable type of behavior is definitely more prevalent amongst travelers today. In fact, individuals, groups, and families have the opportunity to do significantly more than just visit a desired location. There are awesome possibilities for adventure travel with a purpose – YOU can personally contribute to a variety of projects designed to protect, conserve, and restore our global environment! What a wonderful way to make an impact and a memory!

There are a number of popular, reputable organizations to get involved with, but one in particular repeatedly came up in my research – International Volunteer HQ!!! I’ve chosen a select handful of the options available, but I strongly encourage you to visit their website and learn more! What an amazing library of videos, volunteer accounts, photographs, project and community details! I’ve provided a summary and direct link to the programs that most deeply touched my planet-loving heart!!!

This project is primarily dive-based and requires an Open Water Dive Certification that can be completed before traveling or after arriving to Belize. Volunteers receive training to identify marine wildlife, spear fish, collect data, conduct coral and marine species surveys, and remove invasive species like lionfish. You may even have the opportunity to research whale sharks!

This volunteer project involves conservation activities to help preserve the ecosystems and species. Different aspects of the program include community education and development, bird surveys – Simeulue is home to over 200 species, organic gardening and sustainability, marine environment and debris surveys, spotlighting nocturnal island species, camera trapping to evaluate animal populations in the forests of Simeulue and Bangkaru, and sea turtle conservation through patrols and assistance with Sumatran Hatchery operations. This project is especially fitting for enthusiastic eco-volunteer individuals and families.

Volunteers on this project can join a variety of conservation efforts focused on the protection of the marine ecosystem working in collaboration with a number of oceanographic organizations to gather data. The various initiatives include reef surveying, turtle monitoring, sea slug research, beach cleanups, community environmental education, and reef regeneration by coral propagation. Volunteers receive specific training to conduct research activities at sea, and most of these involve scuba diving, though others include snorkel surveys and dry activities. Participants must be Open Water Dive and Advanced Open Water Dive Certified. Dive training can be completed prior to arrival or in Madagascar.

Volunteers in this program must be physically fit, able-bodied and not worried about getting a bit muddy due to the hands-on, outdoors nature of the work! The traditional Māori land activities include restoration of native bush, land and surrounding freshwater ecosystems dependent upon the time of year. Duties may include collecting seeds, removing invasive species, organic farming, reforestation, and working in the native plant nursery. Monitoring birds, insects, invertebrates, plants and fish may also be included. The marine environment beach and waterway cleanups involve litter removal from coastlines around Auckland’s harbours, islands and estuaries as well as data collection, location scouting and educational activities.

This project offers volunteers the opportunity to live and work at an Amazonian jungle conservation base. The main tasks are reforestation, trail and home-base maintenance, conducting animal inventories, and basic research, based on the project and field conditions at the sites. This is a unique opportunity to contribute to the Amazon ecosystem, but it is important to note that volunteers do not choose their location. Local staff places volunteers in the location where they are most needed, and conditions are suitable, upon arrival.These various locations and projects offer something for everyone with a love for the environment. The opportunity to do something meaningful, connect with like-minded people, and develop a deeper understanding of other cultures is inherent in any of these choices, but there are far more than I have mentioned! I hope you can indulge your inner travel bug and find a purpose-filled adventure suitable for you!

 

Fate of the 5 Gyres – Creation to Cleanup

Written by Christel Schultz

Discovered over a decade ago, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest,  and perhaps the most well known, of the five trash vortexes documented in our world oceans. The North Pacific Gyre, South Pacific Gyre, North Atlantic Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre, and Indian Ocean Gyre each occupy a relatively specific area of our seas. Regional currents create a swirling effect that essentially feeds trash, commonly referred to as marine debris, to each gyre. Some of the debris is deposited on land, especially on the remote beaches in Hawaii along the North Pacific Gyre. The sand may not be visible through all the material washed on shore in these locations – as much as 17 tons of debris is estimated to be picked up on Kamilo Point and adjacent beaches annually. Much of the circulating debris does make periodic landfall, but it is typically swept into the oceans again.

Graphic provided by The Ocean Cleanup

The gyres continue to accumulate mass since much of the material, particularly plastic, is not biodegradable. Plastics comprise 80% of all waste that collects in the oceans, and they do not break down in a manner that is beneficial to the marine environment. Prolonged exposure to the sun results in photodegradation; the plastics ultimately form very tiny pieces of microplastic.  The fact that a sea turtle can mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish, one of it favorite foods, may not seem difficult to fathom. The reality that discarded fishing nets entangle, and unintentionally kill, a multitude of ocean creatures may be familiar. The truth about microplastics is that you cannot see most of them, so it is challenging to comprehend their significance, but they are extremely pervasive throughout our oceans. Some plastics float on the surface, some sink to the ocean floor, and others remain dispersed throughout the water column in between. This mass of tiny pieces forms a type of cloud in the water that blocks out sunlight essential to the existence of plankton and algae. This disrupts the base of the food chain. In fact, the plastic to plankton ratio in the North Pacific alone is increasing rapidly. Studies conducted in 1999 revealed a 6:1 ratio, and by 2007, that had increased to 36:1. Plastic has entered the food chain, and it is not going away. This means that not only do smaller sea creatures and birds ingest plastic, but they are likely to be consumed by larger animals that could end up on your dinner table.

Plastic pollution also impacts our fresh water lakes and rivers. The volume of refuse present in some waterways adjoining highly populated or industrial areas may rival those concentrations within the five gyres. Debris of various kinds makes its way down streets and river banks, into storm drains, and so on. Ultimately, though, our oceans are always downstream, and they have become the global landfill. The overall problem is that identifying the source of this material, or even the country of origin, is not feasible in the ocean, so the focus has somewhat shifted to upstream intervention. This includes the application of zero waste strategies, identification and management of microplastic sources, waste reduction and recovery prior to loss to the environment. Eliminating the issue closer to the source is an essential preventative measure, and as a global society, we have become more aware of this. The fact remains that our oceans cannot recover on their own.

We may have caused the problem, and it may be extensive, but we are capable of devising solutions, and every step counts. Personally, you can choose a reusable container over bottled water, take fabric shopping bags to the store, pick up trash on your next trip to the park, or even organize a community beach cleanup if you live in a coastal area. Each of us can be resourceful in our own way! Through unique combinations of technology, passion, science, and innovation, human beings from all walks of life are contributing to the cleanup effort. I am encouraged by the heart and enthusiasm behind the concepts being developed and implemented toward our common goal! There are too many things to share all at  once, so here is a selected handful for now – read on, be inspired and share:By purchasing a 4Ocean Bracelet, you will remove one pound of trash from the ocean through beach cleanups and ocean cleanups worldwide.

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Reshaping The Future of Plastic

Now 100% of plastic waste can be converted into an advanced new building material.

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Relentlessly pursuing science to solutions for a planet free of plastic pollution.

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OUR MISSION

We are on a mission to find innovative solutions to prevent ocean plastics. Our team shares a passion for surfing and the health of the environment. We are dedicated to making a difference and inspiring others to join us in the movement to protect our oceans.

Explore bureo’s awesome recycled fishing net skateboards, surf fins, clothing, and more!

Image provided by bureo

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Article featured on Inhabit.comDesign for a better world

Photograph compliments of Inhabit.com

Floating Seawer Skyscraper Rids the World’s Oceans of Plastic While Generating Clean Energy  

 

Mass Extinction – A Thing of the Past?

Written by Christel Schultz

Recent history indicates that our planet is in the midst of the largest loss of life since the dinosaurs – the SIXTH mass extinction of plant and animal species on Earth!!! Mass extinctions of the past have been attributed to major events like volcanic eruptions, asteroid collisions and changes in sea level, though other factors may have intensified the impacts. Aside from these cataclysmic events, extinction actually occurs at a natural rate of approximately  10 to 100 species per year based on the fossil record. The decline in numbers we see today, however, is significantly higher.

We live in a complex ecosystem, and the more species that become extinct, the more likely another breed or strain that may have depended on the now extinct species will face the same fate. This is more pronounced in habitats with fewer types of life forms where the loss of one could cause profound damage. Ultimately, a snowball effect occurs as one loss is compounded by another and so on. Genetic diversity ensures that any population has a greater chance of resisting the effects of stress and adapting to changes in the environment. As diversity lessens, so does the likeliness of survival. When you consider this aspect, it’s easier to understand the importance of any one plant or animal type, despite how minor or insignificant it may seem. In fact, the natural extinction rate noted above includes the smaller, potentially overlooked species like insects, bacterial and fungi, too.

For many of us, the larger vertebrate mammals are more familiar and likely to appear of higher importance in the overall scheme of things. Mammals do tend to have a relatively long lifespan, but even their numbers are falling at a staggering rate. The past 400 years have seen 89 mammalian extinctions, almost 45 times the predicted rate, and this doesn’t include those that are listed as critically endangered. When some of the most resilient creatures among us are disappearing, it’s time to pay attention.

It’s hard to imagine our world without some of the animals most notable to us, but what about the rest of the not-so-prominent flora and fauna around the globe? National Geographic has long been a favorite resource of mine to explore the far reaches of this world. Through their window, we can see into our planet’s oceans, the depths of the rain forest, expansive deserts, secret lives of mountain creatures and more. Most recently, National Geographic caught my attention with The Photo Ark – One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals. This  magnificent compilation draws attention to the plight of animals big and small! Joel Sartore is a gifted photographer, and his unique portraits bring these animals to life!

Take a moment to look these amazing creatures in the eye – literally! The threat is real, but together we can turn things around. Human beings have the heart, creativity and intelligence to collectively alter the path of expedited extinction!

 

The Many Marvels of Bamboo

(Image provided by Pixabay)

Written by Christel Schultz

Bamboo may be one of the most versatile and sustainable materials available…

A number of attributes make it a viable option for buildings, clothing, food, and more. However, the benefits are not limited to its multitude of uses.  Some bamboo sustainability facts include:

  • Requires no irrigation
  • Grows rapidly, can be harvested in 3-5 years and rarely needs replanting
  • Grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • Grows in a variety of climates and environments
  • Provides exceptional erosion control
  • Produces more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees

Pine and oak trees, for instance, take decades to mature. Types of bamboo can grow nearly three feet in one day. When forests are cut down, the stumps may remain or be burned to prepare for planting crops. Trees do not grow as quickly as forests are cut down. Soil erosion is likely to occur under these conditions. Bamboo roots remain in the ground after harvest. They prevent erosion and help to maintain nutrients in the soil. New growth shoots emerge from the root system without replanting. Minimal waste is generated from bamboo harvesting because nearly every part of the plant is used. It can replace wood in the production of paper, flooring, or furniture. The fibers are strong and less likely to warp. In fact, the tensile strength of bamboo is 28,000 pounds per square inch (psi) – stronger than steel! Using bamboo just makes practical sense in several applications.

There are other benefits to consider, too. Bamboo thrives in a variety of environmental conditions including arid regions and low-lying wetlands. It can survive in a number of places where many other plants do not. Because it thrives in a wide array of climates, bamboo is a possible crop for less developed countries where resources and economic opportunities are scarce.

Organizations and companies around the world are working to promote bamboo cultivation and use. Establishing sustainable agricultural lands will help to combat deforestation, provide jobs for indigenous populations, and create products useful to people throughout different cultures. Rising to meet the increasing demand for this impressive material can benefit communities around the globe. The World Bamboo Organization consists of individual people, commercial businesses, non-profit associations, institutions, and allied trade corporations dedicated to promoting the use of bamboo and bamboo products for the sake of the environment and economy. A United States based group that promotes the beauty and utility of bamboo is the American Bamboo Society. I encourage you to visit their websites to learn more!

You can also dig a little deeper into the uses of bamboo by visiting the links below to explore some unique projects and items:

  • Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is a social enterprise that addresses climate change, poverty, rural-urban migration and youth unemployment by creating jobs for young people, especially women, through the building of high quality bamboo bicycles. (Image courtesy of Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative)
  • bogobrush bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is 100% biodegradable, and for every brush purchased, another brush is provided to someone in need. (Image courtesy of bogobrush)

  • Earthly Goods offers a number of attractive and useful bamboo items for marketing or gift purposes. Personalize for friends or clients, even add your company logo – options to satisfy all tastes and price ranges! 
  • NOVICA works in association with National Geographic to create a collection of jewelry pieces from around the globe. Because shopping at NOVICA directly impacts the lives of international artisans, your bamboo jewelry purchase forges a meaningful connection between you and the artist who crafted your unique piece. Every purchase supports NOVICA’s mission to spread happiness by celebrating exploration, empowering artists, and preserving global culture.
  • Bamboo Skateboards was created in 2008 when the founders learned that the demand for maple skateboards was having a destructive effect on old-growth forests. They created an eco-friendly alternative to maple decks that provides superior durability and performance at a competitive cost. They believe that skating bamboo connects with a broader community of positive, peaceful, health conscious people. Check out their upcoming “Destruction Series” designed to raise awareness concerning the devastation of our valleys, rivers, oceans, and forests. (Image courtesy of Bamboo Skateboards)