Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coffee Time: Keurig K-Cups Generate a Lot of Plastic Waste

By Candace Mitchell

Many coffee lovers may want to rethink the way in which they get their fix in the morning. With the heightened use of Keurig's in about one in every eight American households, over traditional coffee makers, the waste of K-Cups is becoming a growing concern.

In 2013, Keurig Green Mountain sold 8.3 million K-Cups, enough to circle the Earth 10.5 times. This number rose to 9.8 million in 2014, enough K-Cups to circle the Earth more than 12 times, according to an article in The Atlantic. K-Cups brought in a majority of Keurig Green Mountain’s $4.7 billion in revenue this past year.

The pods are made of No. 7 composite plastic, which is not recyclable in most areas, nor biodegradable, generating a ton of plastic waste.

Many have brought attention to this waste issue with the hashtag #KillTheKCup. Egg Studios, a video production company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia even released a 2.5 minute parody video, mocking K-Cups with a large creature made entirely of the pods.

According to Keurig Green Mountain, the company is aware of the issue and has been exploring recyclable alternative since they took over Keurig in 2006.

"We're not proud of where we are right now, and we're committed to fixing it,” Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer for Keurig Green Mountain, told NPR. 

Meanwhile, many other competing coffee pod makers do offer recyclable options, according to NPR. Nespresso is one of them; their pods are made of aluminum.

However, this switch is not as smooth for Keurig because a new K-Cup must be compatible with all of the existing coffee maker models that have already been sold. Keurig has also considered a switch to paper K-Cups, but the experiment was not successful.

"You have to have the right combination of cup, the filter and the top,” Oxender told NPR.

Keurig Green Mountain currently has set a deadline of 2020 for making all of its beverage pods recyclable, according to the company’s website.

The Organic Connection

By Brianna Farulla

As we know, Earth isn’t the safest place to live when it comes to our health. Humans don’t have much control over their daily intake of toxins. Take polluted air, for instance, that most likely has cancer particles floating around in it. There aren’t many immediate actions that can be done to purify the air that makes its way into our lungs. However, something that we can manage is the legitimacy of the food that we digest.

America is infamous for its astronomical obesity rates, which has led it to be the brunt of many fat jokes. Much of this has to do with all of the preservatives, artificial flavoring, etc. that our processed “food” is made with. Most things that manage to get approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are questionable. The problem is that not many people are questioning it. Instead, the majority of this country is eager to spend $5 on a 10 piece chicken nugget from McDonald’s rather than buy a container of unsalted, natural almonds for the same price.

Organic food hasn’t earned the reputation that it should have. Instead of giving it a chance and improving their lifestyles, people are quick to judge those who try it. Those who shop at places like Trader Joe’s, for example, are labeled as “hipsters” and “tree huggers” because they’re conscientious when it comes to the food that they’re eating. They’re willing to pay the so-called “overpriced” tag for what’s better not only for their own body, but for the planet that they call home, as well.

Stores that carry organic items are even beginning to be built in eco-friendly ways. According to the New York Post, a Whole Foods in Brooklyn that is ironically located next to a Superfund site, is pro Earth. The spot gets lighting from solar panels and wind turbines, locally sources its goods, uses recycled materials and even has a rooftop greenhouse. Unfortunately, most Americans would rather get their groceries from an overcrowded ShopRite where they can buy low quality food for a bargain.

Aside from being much healthier, organic food includes environmental benefits. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that these types of foods are sustainable, improve soil formation and water infiltration and reduce use of non-renewable energy. Those are just a few of the ways that paying a few extra bucks can positively influence the world.

Americans have a hard enough time figuring out what’s good for their bodies, let alone what’s good for Earth. However, by learning how to make a few slight sacrifices and to care for themselves, they can simultaneously help improve the world. That’s why everybody should make the switch and become the “hipster” or “tree hugger” that they once poked fun at.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rainforest Destruction: You’re Probably Funding It and Didn’t Even Know It

By Samantha Bell

Over the past 40 years, nearly 52 percent of the world’s wildlife have disappeared from the earth due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching, according to the 2014 World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report. All of which can be tied back to our consumption habits.

Many of the products we buy everyday are indirectly funding deforestation around the globe. While you may be thinking of just paper goods, that is not the case. The majority of products we buy come with hidden costs to the environment, but some are causing irreparable damage across the world. Consumer goods made with commodity crops like soy, palm oil, and sugar cane have been directly linked to the deforestation of the world’s tropical rainforests.

So, how can this be?  Soy, palm oil, and sugar are used in pretty much every consumer good you can imagine, from snacks to shampoo and make-up. As you can imagine, there is a huge demand for these crops, which means high payoffs for farmers who grow them. The result of the high profits for these crops is deforestation.

Palm oil and sugar cane grow best in warm, humid climates, which incidentally are the climate zones that house the world’s rainforests. Farmers who grow these crops for big corporations clear thick forest areas to make way for crop plantations; the area of land cleared in Indonesia for palm plantations is equivalent to the size of Maine.

Also, for the most part, Americans’ diets rely heavily on meat, dairy and eggs. While this is especially true in the U.S., the rest of the world follows a similar trend. Meeting this high demand for meat and animal products requires a lot of space and resources. Around 26 percent of the earth’s surface is used just for grazing livestock and another 33 percent of land is allotted to grow livestock feed, according to

There is only a limited amount of land on the surface of our planet, and most of it is not flat grassland, ideal for grazing livestock or growing feed. So, this means that we have to convert the open land we do have – mostly rainforests – to agriculture land.

In the Amazon, agriculture related deforestation runs rampant. In the Brazilian region of the Amazon, nearly 80 percent of deforestation is caused by cattle ranching and this rate increased by 29 percent in the past year alone, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Clear-cutting forests to make way for soy plantations that produce livestock feed is a burgeoning problem in the Amazon and across South America.

The rapid, systematic destruction of this rainforest has a serious impact on animal species. In fact, a new report by the University of Cambridge warns that one-third of the Amazon could lose 44 percent of its species in the next 15 years due to agricultural expansion.

Around 75 percent of species in the Amazon are confined to about 22 percent of land. These animals balance on just one tiny speck of land; we can stop this destruction just by making more mindful food choices.

It’s time to start connecting the dots between our food choices and their impact on the planet and our animal species.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Climate Change May Impact Coral Reefs and Fish Markets

By Edith Carpio

A study done at the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Panama experiences conditions like La Niña because of discontinued coral reef growth, which lasted 2,500 years. The study expects the same thing to happen again because of climate change, which is creating similar conditions in their study that include cooler sea temperatures,  greater rainfall and higher rising seawater. These are signs that have been identified when coral reef growth stopped in Panama around 4,100 years ago. The study was done by collecting a piece of the Panamanian reef core and using the corals inside of the core to examine what the environment was like about 6,750 years ago. The study showed a strong correlation between halted reef growth and the environment.

The main component causing the coral reefs to stop or decrease the rate of normal growth is temperature. The study says these temperature changes and collapse in coral reef systems may be another result of anthropogenic climate change. As part of the study, the researchers examined the reef core and recreated the coral's growth, layer accumulation and then judged them against the environmental state in three different time periods; before, during and after the 2,500 years that coral reef growth stopped. The results showed that the reef core presented geochemical signals like La Nina event, which include colder water temperatures, wetter seasons, and higher sea levels.

This study suggested that temperature change is one of the factors causing the slowing or discontinued coral reef growth, and the temperature change is being caused by humans. The whole thing has become a giant blame game. A problem is that most environmental problems are rightfully blamed on humans. The further blame is that humans with power do not take the blame for it and take action. This causes unresolved environmental problems that lead to other environmental problems, which creates a whole other vicious cycle. In this case, it is our coral reef systems that are suffering.
Hopefully, after this study and studies like this one gets people's attention we can start to take action again human induced climate change. Like many things impacted by human induced climate change, we must realize their importance. Coral reefs have benefits for our ocean environments and for humans as well; maybe if we realize these benefits we will take action in stopping their degradation. Coral reefs are only 1 percent of the ocean floor, but support and sustain about 25 percent of marine life, according to the International Coral Reef Initiative website. Many species of fish live and feed on coral reef systems. So, the degradation of coral reef systems would affect mass amounts of fish. Fish markets are an industry in itself, so the business aspect of fish use would be affected.

Another benefit of reef systems is that they reduce the severity of wave force from cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons. Lastly, its benefit include the beauty it provides in the sea, which attracts a significant amount of tourism to many places around the world. A lot of places thrive on money from tourism, so the economic aspect is also an advantage because of coral reefs.

For more information:

Georgia Institute of Technology. 23 February 2015. La Niña-like Conditions Associated with 2,500-year-long Shutdown of Coral Reef Growth. ScienceDaily. 28 February 2015.

A New Kind of Community Leader: Young, Feminist, Environmental Activist

By Edith Carpio

An hour into class, a very young lady walked in and introduced herself, adding that she had just come from a meeting at the United Nations. I could not have been more impressed. I usually never know what to expect when presenters come into class, but I knew she had something good for us planned.

Ramapo College alumni Amanda Nesheiwat said she was going to talk about climate change, a topic I thought I was well informed on because of previous classes I have taken. I could not have been more wrong. Nesheiwat presented it in a way that I had never seen it done before. She works with a program called The Climate Reality Project, whose job is to educate people on climate change.

The power point she presented was the same one that is used in her Climate Reality Project. It began with a picture of the universe, from the outside looking toward Earth, the way we do not usually think about. The presentation felt a lot more personal than a usual presentation. It immediately caught my attention and kept it the entire time. Throughout the presentation there were things that we do not hear about in the everyday news, things that definitely belong on the front cover of newspapers and in slots on TV news. These things include images of floods in places all over the world including the Phillipines, India, Brazil, Vietnam, etc. Of course there are many things going on in the world, but a long time problem such as climate change needs to constantly be addressed or else it becomes an afterthought in people's minds.

Another aspect that caught my attention in Nesheiwat's PowerPoint were the graphs and charts with many statistics. Some statistics shown were the hottest years, the increased rainfall over the years, etc. The charts put numbers in ways that were understandable, which is not usually the case, and usually causes me to lose interest.

Nesheiwat's presentation was extremely impressive, but her success was what was more remarkable: A twenty-five-year- old who created her own position as environmental coordinator in the town of Secaucus, a UN Youth Representative, who travels the world doing what she loves. What I found the most interesting is where she started from. She first attended Bergen Community College, BCC, which has a negative stigma behind it. High school graduates are reluctant to go to community college because it is 'not as good' as a four year university. But seeing how far she has come at only the age of twenty five gives me, also an alumni of BCC, a lot of hope as to where I can be if I take action and go after what I want.

It was refreshing to see a young woman, self proclaimed feminist, be a community leader. She really has the potential to change the world and it’s inspiring. Usually it is a tall man in a suit giving these types of speeches to people but Nesheiwat, in my opinion, did a better job than any man could have ever done.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Water Pollution is a Problem Even on a Small Scale

By Erik Lipkin

Stop me if this sounds familiar: a major chemical company site caused pollution to nearby water supplies such as lakes, rivers, and streams.  That is exactly what happened with the DuPont Chemical Company and the Pompton Lakes ground water.  Of course, the company does its best to deny any wrongdoing while local activists and townspeople try to coerce that company into some sort of confession.  That admission of guilt often doesn’t come, and if it comes at all it is usually only after years of the company dragging its feet.

However, the problem of contamination from a neglectful or uncaring company doesn’t always involve major corporations the size of DuPont.  It can also happen locally on a much smaller scale.  Such is the case with Lake George, located in Schooley’s Mountain Park in Morris County, New Jersey.

Lake George is a very small lake that provides an abundance of activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing.  The area also has numerous hiking trails, one of which is the Falling Waters Trail that parallels Electric Brook.  A short climb down from the Falling Waters Trail will bring hikers to the beautiful Electric Brook Falls.  At the base of the falls there is a swimming hole that offers weary hikers a great place to strip down and cool off before they head home, or at least it used to.  Lake George, which feeds into the Electric Brook and the swimming hole at the base of the falls, is no longer in use.  The lake used to have a floating bridge, paddle boats, and a walk in beach perfect for swimmers or sun bathers.  It also had a healthy population of largemouth bass, one of the most popular game fish in the United States.

Things at Lake George look very different than they used to only a few years ago.  Because of continued contamination from a nearby sewage plant, the lake has been shut down.  The floating bridge has been dismantled and there is a temporary construction fence separating the beach from the water.  Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Lake George now is its lack of largemouth bass.  As recently as 2012 fishermen could look into the water and see it teeming with plenty of bass to satisfy their fishing needs, but now those fish are few and far between.  And as far as cooling off in the waters beneath the Electric Brook Falls, that is not recommended, unless you don’t mind wading in waters contaminated with sewage runoff.

The lack of respect for the lake, along with the hikers, fishermen, and outdoor lovers who often us it, is disgusting.  Perhaps because Schooley’s Mountain Park isn’t one of the biggest or most popular parks it didn’t garner much attention when Lake George was shut down, but as many people are fond of saying, size doesn’t matter.  If pollution and contamination is happening to a lake the size of Lake George in Morris County or the much larger and well known Lake George in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Park it needs to be stopped.

People cannot accept any body of water being polluted.  Without water, life as we know it ceases to exist, yet we continue to pollute it.  In today’s world, wars are fought over control of oil supplies but in the not so distant future it would not be ridiculous to think that wars will be waged over clean water supplies, because clean water is becoming increasingly more difficult to find.  The DuPont contamination of the Pompton Lakes ground water, as well as the contamination suffered by Lake George should be a warning to everyone that we need to do everything we can to protect our water sources before they are too far gone to save.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sodexo to Switch to Cage-free Liquid Eggs

By Candace Mitchell

Ramapo College’s food service provider, Sodexo, recently announced that it will be sourcing all of its liquid eggs from cage-free hens by 2020, following a cruelty campaign. 

“We’ve been working on this for several years now and we have worked with the Humane Society previously on our sourcing of shelled eggs from cage-free eggs,” Enrico Dinges, senior manager of media relations and corporate communications for Sodexo, told The Ramapo News. “This is just a continuation of that work, and trying to work with the supply chain to identify when it would be feasible for us to be able to source all of our egg offerings from cage-free eggs.”

Sodexo will eliminate the use of veal crates from its supply chain by 2017 and will buy all of its liquid eggs from cage-free systems by the end of 2020, according to a press release from Sodexo. They currently obtain about 20 million pounds of liquid eggs a year from 750,000 egg-laying hens.

The announcement follows a cruelty campaign launched by the Humane League, a national farmed animal advocacy organization that started a petition on, which received 130,714 signatures. The petition called for Sodexo to stop purchasing liquid eggs from battery cage farms.

The change to cage-free eggs was also supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

“By committing to source all egg products exclusively from cage-free hens, Sodexo has built on an already strong set of animal welfare policies, with this latest pledge affecting the removal of 750,000 hens annually from extreme confinement in battery cage systems,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Persistent Quest to Clean Up Pollution in the Ramapo River Region

By Brianna Farulla

The “Toxic Legacy” report is quite informative in regards to the Ford Motor plant and its paint sludge dilemma. However, Prof. Chuck Stead brought the issue of its impact on the Ramapo River to life. His empowering sense of advocacy towards the subject is enough to draw anybody into the matter. Even if somebody has no regard for environmental issues, Stead could potentially catch their interest, as he did mine. After listening to his presentation, I became not only more concerned than I previously was, but more enraged. I wasn’t a fan of Ford after hearing of their antics, but I began to develop a disgust for the people behind the decision to dump the paint sludge, once Stead discussed his first-hand experience with representatives from the company.

One of the men that he spoke with openly admitted to being aware of his knowledge that toxic material would travel into the Ramapo River. However, it came down to either keeping his job or contaminating others. Of course, he wasn’t the only person behind Ford’s choice, but he and whoever else was involved clearly had no regard for lives besides their own. At first, they probably figured that if anything, only the Ramapoughs in the area would suffer from negative effects. And who cares about them, right? It wasn’t taken into consideration that aside from the negative connotations that people have falsely labeled them with over the years, that they are human as well. Would Ford have thought twice about what they were about to do if they knew that they were going to have an impact on the water system throughout wealthy Bergen County?

It clearly would have been frowned upon to disrupt the lives of the middle and upper class. If they put just a tad bit more thought behind what they were about to do, they probably would have found elsewhere to store their paint sludge real quick. It troubled me to hear that for years nobody had cared that Stead was bringing students to paint sludge dump sites along the Ramapo River and Torne Brook near the Ramapo Landfill Superfund site. However, once kids from a private college prep school were brought into the mix, Stead immediately received phone calls explaining how he was trespassing onto private property and partaking in illegal activity. The point is, everyone turned a blind eye to him taking average pupils around the area. Once you take the children of people who have money there it’s a completely different story.

It’s sad that there’s no sense of balance when it comes to social class. The only aspect that the lower, upper and middle class now share are the toxins in their drinking water. Around 42,000 tons of waste have been removed from the United Water well field site along the Ramapo River. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what damage that waste has possibly caused over time. The contamination is so severe that only construction trucks that have never been used before could be used on the project. Now it’s 15 million dollars later and an abundance of infected water for decades since the dumping. Was it really worth it, Ford?

Monday, March 2, 2015

What Can be Done to Protect Animals from Climate Change?

Dear Editor,
Reading your article ”How Pace of Climate Change Will Challenge Ectotherms” on ScienceDaily opened my eyes. The topic of climate change is often overlooked by humans, even though we are one of the major causes. And our ignorance is part of the problem. We need to start realizing that we are the root of the problem and become the solution.

Since we rarely think of climate change and how it affects us, we are definitely not thinking of how it affects animals. I imagined all animals were threatened by climate change, but after reading your article I learned that those most affected are ectotherms, animals who rely on the on the environment to control their body temperature. Such animals include reptiles, birds, snakes, lizards, turtles, etc. These are animals that are not as 'protected' by wildlife charities, so they are already at a disadvantage.
With the dramatic changes in weather, ectotherms will not be able to acclimate as efficiently as they previously could. Acclimation is one of the main reasons why animals are able to survive, and if that is taken away from them, extinction of species will be another thing we could add to the list of  problems caused by humans. And the extinction of species could give rise to a whole new set of problems.
Recently, I read another article, ”Attitudes to Climate Change Depend on People's Sense of Belonging to the Planet” from ScienceDaily which was the result of research led by the University of Exeter. The study said that more people realize they are the cause of climate change if they first have a sense of belonging. If people would feel an "attachment" to the world it would cause them to make efforts that would make the world a little greener. Even the smallest efforts would be more than what we are currently doing. 
I think that this study done at the University of Exeter is extremely important. The sense of belonging driving people to care more about the planet would hopefully cause people to think of animals. When the realization that we are the problem hits worldwide then progress starts. It will take a long time to reverse the problem we have caused, but if we start now and teach future generations to be aware of how they impact the environment, the solution would come closer than if we did nothing.
After reading these two articles, I have questions that maybe you could answer. Do you think there are other ways to successfully raise awareness of climate change and our role in it? And what are these ways?

Your article made me think that I, along with everyone, need to think of how my actions affect our planet. I realized we must acknowledge that we are not the only ones on the planet and that we can do something about it while, on the other hand, animals cannot. And we must act before it is too late, before all of our problems are because of climate change. Your article raised awareness of the problem of climate change and the roles human play. I hope to see more articles like these in the future.

Edith Carpio

University of Exeter. (2014, December 15). Attitudes to climate change depend on people's sense of belonging to the planet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from

University of Sydney. (2014, December 9). How pace of climate change will challenge ectotherms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2015 from

Sunday, March 1, 2015

U.S. Dietary Report Finds Vegan Diet is Best for the Planet

By Samantha Bell

Meat and potatoes, it’s the traditional American meal. Well, based on the new scientific report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Americans might want to start thinking more along the lines of plant-based meals. And not just for the sake of their own health, but for the planet’s health as well.

After a long and heated debate over whether or not the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should take sustainability into consideration when creating the new 2015 guidelines, the committee has spoken.

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet,” states the Committee in the newly released scientific report.

Naturally, this recommendation has the meat industry shaking in their boots, but the fact is, if Americans do not reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products, we will never be able to sustain food production as the population grows. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of environmental degradation in the U.S. and arguably the entire planet.

In the United States alone, at least 170,750 miles of rivers and 2,417,801 lake acres have been deemed “compromised” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of agricultural run-off. Globally, livestock production is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Promoting a primarily plant-based diet is not just better for the planet, but it is beneficial for people as well. A diet high in whole, plant-based foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol (mainly found in animal products), is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said, “Previous advisory panels have noted the value of vegetarian diets, but these recommendations have been expanded to specifically demonstrate how a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many types of chronic disease.”

Many environmental and animal rights groups have applauded the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for their report, but this does not guarantee that these recommendations will be reflected in the official 2015 guidelines.

One thing is certain, however -- this report sends a message that many people need to hear: our current food habits are neither sustainable nor healthy. Whether or not the guidelines reflect the findings of this report, we can all actively work to reduce (or completely eliminate) our personal consumption of animal products.

Is the Weather Being Manipulated?

Dear Editor,

While browsing through the science section of your website, How Stuff Works?, I couldn’t help but be drawn towards an article called “What are chemtrails, and should you be scared of them?”

Chemtrails were never something that I often acknowledged until I took a hike this past summer. While I was atop a popular mountain in my area, I had no choice but to observe what was going on in the sky. I noticed that there were a plethora of jets with a perfect line of what looked like smoke following behind them. My friend who was beside me pointed up and said, “There goes the government releasing unknown substances into the air. Look at all of the chemtrails.” Of course, I know that this is a common conspiracy theory, but it made me think about what the government is capable of. Therefore, I was intrigued when the article went on to explain Operation Cumulus.
I was shocked to read that the British government set forth a cloud-seeding experiment that went wrong in 1952. This ultimately resulted in deadly flash floods which killed dozens. However, it was no surprise to me that the British Ministry of Defense denied their involvement in the issue until they were exposed. Prior to reading this, I had not the slightest clue that the government is able to modify the weather. This led me to wonder if the extreme global climate change that’s occurring is bizarre or planned.
It’s snowing in areas that don’t even own plows and remaining hot in areas that should be transitioning into winter temperatures. Record breaking storms and weather-related disasters are occurring way too often. Many are quick to simply think that this is unexplainable. However, is there a group of elitists formulating and calculating these natural disasters and mysterious climates? Is something similar to Operation Cumulus happening all around us? Government conspiracy theories are more realistic to me than far fetched and this is yet another one that has me thinking.
As we know, this country is as overpopulated as they come. Therefore, it would only make sense for jets to be spewing chemicals into our air. After breathing various toxins in for so long without choice, medical complications are expected. That’s a more long term way to kill people off, but the weather is a quick fix. I wouldn’t be surprised if people sat around a table and said, “Let’s create a huge storm next week. That’ll kill a few hundred.”

It’s sad that we have to think so cynically, but situations like this may really be happening, although they may seem like fantasies to some. Operation Cumulus is proof that those with enough power have the ability to manipulate the weather. That alone really gives us something to think about once the next “unexplainable,” “natural” disaster strikes.
Brianna Farulla