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Welcome to another edition of the EAC Action News, a publication of the Ecology Action Center.  EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, and outreach in McLean County.  


Clinton Landfill: PCBs over the aquifer?

Illinois_Aquifers 2The Clinton Landfill in DeWitt County has requested approval from the US EPA to landfill polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  According to the EPA's fact sheet on the proposal, "Once in the environment, PCBs do not readily break down and may remain for long periods cycling between air, water, and soil. PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system."  

Because of these risks associated with PCBs there are some concerns about this proposal given that the Clinton Landfill lies directly over the Mahomet Aquifer, which provides drinking water for many residents throughout central Illinois.  The EPA states that the landfill operators' plan meets or exceeds all necessary regulations.  Nonetheless, concerns persist as while the need for safe drinking water is perpetual, even the best modern safeguards against leakage may eventually fail and result in contamination of the aquifer.

The EPA has extended the period for accepting comments on this proposal until August 14, 2011.  For more information on this issue or for instructions on how to submit comments, go to the US EPA's webpage for this issue:

NOTE: As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Ecology Action Center is restricted from participating in advocacy activities.  Because of this, our actions on this and other issues related to laws, regulations, or permitting by public bodies focus on educating the public about issues and not endorsing or encouraging any specific actions.

Local Recycling App available from Earth911.com

iRecycle-for-AndroidEarth911.com, a company that specializes in providing accessible and actionable recycling resources for people across the country has announced the release of their very own app for Android and iPhone users.

The free app, called iRecycle, provides access to more than 800,000 recycling and disposal resources across the country. It also provides articles from Earth911 that cover the latest trends in stewardship to allow users to remain up-to-date on the forms of recycling that matter the most.

Users of the app will be able to instantly find nearby recycling locations and programs by using current location, ZIP code, city, or address.  In addition to the location of recycling centers, the app also provides further details such as company websites, phone numbers, hours of operation, and most importantly, lists of acceptable materials.  Just like the Earth911 website, the recycling center information is regularly updated by local industry partners, like the Ecology Action Center.

iRecycle also has social sharing capabilities to help others encourage others to begin recycling.  As lack of information is one of the largest contributors to people not recycling, customizable Earth911 user profiles, Facebook and Twitter sharing, along with a wealth of news on environmental stewardship should all lend towards getting the word out.

The apps are free and currently available on Android Market and iTunes.

Paul Hawken's The Ecology of Commerce

The-Ecology-of-Commerce-Hawken-Paul-9780887307041

By Carl Roberts, 

EAC Volunteer

  


The EAC library has books concerning a variety of ecological subjects, that are available for anyone to borrow. Why don’t you stop by the Hewett House and pick out some books on a subject that especially interests you.

 

One of the visionary books in the EAC library is The Ecology of Commerce – Revised Edition by bestselling-author Paul Hawken. The revised edition is a 195-page paperback that was published in 2010 by Harper Business , based on the original 1993 book.  A brief summary follows:


Sustaining the environment has not been a priority for business. 

Businesses have traditionally not placed an importance on the need to sustain a healthy environment “because natural resources seemed unlimited,” Hawken says. He explains that the ultimate purpose of business is often to manufacture and sell products, simply to make money.

Businesses “don’t have to take into account that present demands on resources are tantamount to stealing from the future, or that selling today’s wants is at the expense of tomorrow’s needs. Nor does business have to acknowledge the devastating legacy of toxins and waste passed off to future generations. In fact, businesses are usually better off ignorant of these facts and principles if they intend to prosper in the present economic system.”

Life as we know it is at risk.

“We do not know how long we can continue to create molecular-level toxic garbage that floats in the air, seeps into our water, lodges in the fat, targets our genes, and interacts with biological evolution before life as we know it is irrevocably altered,” Hawken says. He explains that an average American consumes approximately 36 pounds of resources a week, while 2,000 pounds of waste are created to support that consumption.

As an example of this waste, Hawken states, “We have decimated 97 percent of the ancient forests in North America; every day U.S. farmers and ranchers draw out 20 billion more gallons of water from the ground than are replaced by rainfall . . . globally we lose 25 billion tons of fertile topsoil every year.”

Green efforts are good, but not enough.

Businesses’ green efforts are helpful, but they barely scratch the surface of solving the problems of our decaying environment. “Recycling aluminum cans in the company cafeteria and ceremonial tree plantings are as effective as bailing out the Titanic with teacups,”

Hawken says. “While recycling and tree planting are good and necessary, they are inadequate to the task at hand.” Hawken explains that by focusing on the immediate problems involving the disposal of waste, businesses are not addressing the fundamental issue of waste creation. He says, “Efforts to limit toxins and emissions did control many pollutants, but those efforts have been subsumed by an overall increase in the manufacture and distribution of waste by industry owing to rising demand for products that create toxic and hazardous waste, for example, pesticides, plastics, and automobiles.”

It’s possible to restore the environment and make money.

A predominant theme throughout the book is that we need to change the economy so “it simply becomes prohibitively expensive to deforest, degrade, or destroy the environment,” Hawken says. “We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation.”

As an example of a business benefiting from restoring the environment, Hawken tells the story of Interface, a modular carpet company. “Over $433 million has been directly saved in fourteen years. Seventy-seven percent of landfill waste has been eliminated. More than 200 million pounds of carpeting removed by Interface or installers have been reclaimed or recycled into new carpet. While production is up, energy use is down 43 percent, and 30 percent is from renewable sources. Net greenhouse gases are down 94 percent including offsets.”

Businesses should aim to create products that are consumable. Hawken defines this as, “Its waste must be wholly biodegradable, capable of transforming itself into food for another organism, with no toxic residue that would cause harm or be accumulative.”

Hawken’s key economic principle

A key economic principle Hawken supports is that the price of products should reflect “the environmental and social impact of the raw materials it uses (oil, gas, toxic chemicals) and of the products it manufacturers (pesticides and genetically modified seeds).” He refers to English economist A.C. Pigou, who “argued that markets failed if producers did not bear the full costs of production, including whatever pollution, sickness, or environmental damage they caused.” Hawken said that Pigou “theorized that when the producer was forced to bear full costs, it would have incentives to reduce its negative impact, thus lowering those costs.”

Hawken sums up the book by saying, “If this book has one purpose, it is to imagine and describe how businesses can act in ways that are restorative to society and the environment.” He adds, “A critical basis for changes and consensus is to find a way to introduce and discuss ecological principles in society in a manner that draws people together rather than repelling or deterring them.”

As always, we look forward to seeing you at the Ecology Action Center! Please stop by anytime Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call us at (309) 454-3169 for information on our latest programs and events or to get answers to questions on recycling, household hazardous waste, clean water, and more!

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit walk-in information and environmental education center with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.

www.ecologyactioncenter.org



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