Sierra Club Annual Report

Explore. Enjoy. Protect.

How bad has this year been for our environment?    Here are 60 things in the last 12 months:

29 rules overturned 24 rollbacks in progress 7 rollbacks in limbo

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club


Nature Tackles Carbon

Over the past two years, the world experienced unprecedented global climate momentum.  In September 2015, international leaders adopted the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to fight poverty, promote sustainability and address climate change.  Shortly after, nearly 200 countries came together in Paris to adopt the world’s largest ever international climate treaty.

At The Nature Conservancy, Bronson Griscom  radiates an optimism somewhat rare for seasoned environmentalists.  As an ecological accountant, he measures and analyzes the “carbon economy” of nature: the everyday role that trees, grasslands and coastal habitats play in the carbon cycle.  He can measure the carbon impact of logging in old growth forests, or how well different forest ecosystems work as sponges for absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.  Griscom helps link our economy with the economy of the biosphere.

Encouraged by what he sees, the goals of carbon reduction the world wants to meet by 2030 are closer to possible, if we act now.  Current business-as-usual trajectories, increased emissions entering the atmosphere and continued environmental degradation will lessen the impact that nature can have.  If natural climate solutions are mobilized over the next 10 to 15 years, they could provide 37 percent of the needed mitigation for global climate targets.  But if action is delayed until after 2030, that number drops to 33 percent, and drops again to only 22 percent after 2050.

Plant trees, create city forests, adopt a city street divider, help sponsor a GreenBelt, learn and understand how your local ecosystems contribute to carbon absorption.

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Don’t Waste Earth Day This Year


April 22nd is Earth Day.   In connection with Arbor Day,  April is Earth Month.  Events happen all over the globe to support initiatives that will make living on our planet more beneficial for all of us.  A good place to get information about activities is through the Earth Day Network.  Their goal is to build the world’s largest environmental movement.

The mission for Earth Day Network is to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, mobilize the movement to build a healthy and sustainable environment, address climate change, and protect the Earth for future generations.

Many climate change experts would suggest that green initiatives and public policies are moving too slowly in the wrong direction to make any meaningful impact on our current survival challenge.  NPR reporter and author, Wen Stephenson unpacks the issue in his book What We Are Fighting For Now Is Each Other.

He’s calling for a radicalization of the mainstream.  “At this late hour, to be serious about climate is to be radical, because it’s really a radical situation. It requires us to go to the root of the systems that have created this. That’s not going to happen until enough people come to terms with and face up to the radical nature of the situation.”

In 1970, the first Earth Day activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.  Passage of landmark, groundbreaking, environmental laws such as the Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act soon followed and Richard Nixon became known as the Environmental President by setting up the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1990,  Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.  Today, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year.  This is the largest civic observance in the world.

Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in 196 countries, (the total of all countries in the world) to build environmental democracy working through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.  They broaden the definition of “environment” to include issues that affect our health and our communities, such as greening deteriorated schools, creating green jobs and investment, registering voters and promoting activism to stop air and water pollution.

With partner organizations, EDN provides civic engagement opportunities at the local, state, national and global levels around the world.  Recognizing that climate change impacts our most vulnerable citizens first and most severely, EDN often works with low income communities to bring their voices and issues into the movement.

When the global population reached four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and seven billion in October 2011, according to United Nations, we have an enormous challenge ahead of us.  Our population is expected to grow to 10 billion by the end of this century.  Yet the earth’s capacity to provide space, produce food, supply energy and water all remain limited.

How You Can Help:

Until next week,178696_beers-outer-space-earth-relaxing-carlsberg-moon-landing-astronaut-1920x1200-wallpaper_wallpaperbeautiful_41

Garbage Girl

Yogurt Wheyst



Greek yogurt is a booming $2 billion a year industry that produces tons of waste.  Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling to figure out uses for this waste that can make a profit.

In upstate New York, two trucks a day, seven days a week arrive at Neil Rejman’s dairy farm from Chobani with 8,000 gallons of acid whey, a byproduct of Greek yogurt.

The straining process that gives Greek yogurt its highimages protein content and lush mouthfeel creates acid whey, resulting in a byproduct as acidic as orange juice.  Most of it is water with five to eight percent other materials such as lactose (milk sugar), some minerals and a very small amount of proteins.

For every four ounces of milk, Chobani can only produce one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt.  The remainder, acid whey, is illegal to dump because its decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers.  If it can’t be used, it must be transported to approved water filtration facilities.

The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting.  The Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in the food industry with production in New York, alone, nearly tripling from 2007 to 2013.  New plants continue to open all over the country adding to the waste stream.

Chobani is so desperate to get rid of their whey that they pay farmers like Rejman to take it off their hands.

Rejman, a third-generation dairy farmer with a Cornell animal science degree, mixes it with silage to feed his 3,300 cows, combines it with manure in a giant pit to fertilize his fields and converts it into biogas to make electricity for his farm and others.

There are challenges to integrating acid whey into the workings of a farm like when dried silage to feed the cows gets mixed with the watery, sugary whey it quickly becomes an unmanageable slop.  Due to the high sugar content of the whey, Rejman says its like feeding cows candy bars — they really like it but too much is bad for their digestive systems so it only makes a small dent in the waste problem.

Policy makers in Albany are also interested in addressing this issue.  The first-ever Yogurt Summit was convened in 2012 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attended by state and industry officials who are trying to deal with the ocean of whey that Greek yogurt is producing.  They are racing to find solutions, some of the most promising of which are listed below.

Attendees like, Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell, specializes in filtration methods for the separation and recovery of protein.  The tiny amount of protein in acid whey might be usable as an infant formula ingredient if he can figure out how to extract it in a cost-effective way.

In a related part of the dairy industry, cheese-makers developed a lucrative business selling their byproduct, sweet whey, as body-building supplements and food ingredients.  Sweet whey is more valuable than acid whey because it has a lot more protein and its easier to handle due to its lower acidity.   The Greek yogurt industry would welcome a similar outcome.

Scientists from the Center for Dairy Research @ University of Wisconsin-Madison have been experimenting on how to get edible-grade lactose out of acid whey.  Dean Sommer, a food technologist at the center thinks that many companies are already considering building plants to convert acid whey into lactose.  The industry-financed research is proprietary so the conversion process is not being shared.

Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry will be turned in to energy by a machine called an 'anaerobic digester.'

Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry has passed through a system called an ‘anaerobic digester,’ which converted some of it into electricity.

What a smell!    Acid whey mixed with the large amount of cow manure Rejman’s farm produces creates a river of shit that flows into an underground concrete tank known as an anaerobic digester.  Here the fetid mixture percolates, gets heated up and keeps for 20 days so the bacteria can break up the lactose and release the methane.  The methane is fed into generators to power the farm and sell to the local utilities.  Odor control was one of the benefits that Rejman found by converting acid whey into methane.  The processed manure smells a lot less.

Only 20 of New York’s 5,200 dairy farms are operating with digesters because the $4.5 million setup cost is out of reach for most farmers.  Even with the Rejman’s $1 million state subsidy, this huge issue needs many simultaneous solutions to make a dent in the problem, according to Curt Gooch, a waste management engineer at Cornell.

If and when any of the big yogurt companies come up with a better whey, they’re being guarded and the tidal wave of acid whey is not slowing down.   As one producer said at New York’s Yogurt Summit: “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become heroes.”

How You Can Help:

  • Regular yogurt costs a lot less and has fewer calories!
  • Avoid single serving yogurt containers that add even more to the waste stream.
  • Consider a healthy environment while you make a healthy body.

Until next week,Unknown-1

Garbage Girl

Coal Tar Waste Sites~Surprise!

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Many areas of the country have sites that are a serious health concern and we don’t even know about them.  Some of them are your driveway.  Coal tar is the reason.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology is one of the first steps in understanding how this widely used carcinogen is impacting human health.  Further information can be obtained from the blog Coal Free America.

Coal tar is a thick, black or brown liquid byproduct of carbonized coal for the steel industry.  Coal-tar used for pavement sealants is the viscoelastic polymer resin that has 50% or more PAHs by weight and is known to cause cancer in humans.

PAHs are a group of chemical compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) that form whenever anything with a carbon base is burned.   PAHs are of environmental concern because several are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic (causing birth defects) to aquatic life, and seven are probable human carcinogens.  Of all known PAH sources, the highest concentrations are in coal tar and the related compound creosote. The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that up to one-third of the contents of coal-tar sealants is cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

PAHs are substances that remain in the environment for a long time, do not decompose and bioaccumulate in the human body.   Substances that combine these characteristics represent a particular level of environmental concern labeled PBTs.  (Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic substances)

images-1And!  PAHs don’t stay put.  Wear and tear from tires and sneakers on coal tar sealed pavement breaks down the dried sealant allowing tiny PAH particles to be tracked into homes or blown through open windows. The small particles from tire abrasion can be washed off by rain and carried down storm drains into streams.  Other sealcoat particles adhere to tires and get transported to other surfaces or blown offsite by wind.

Sealcoat in high traffic areas wears down within a few months and manufacturers recommend a new application every 2 to 4 years.


Partners for a Healthier Community

Black house dust is a source of human exposure to many contaminants, including PAHs.  Small children, who spend time on the floor and put their hands and objects into their mouths and active kids playing ball games are most vulnerable.   In 2008, the United States Geological Society measured PAHs in house dust from 23 ground-floor apartments and in dust from the apartment parking lots.   PAH concentrations in the dust from the parking lots with coal tar seal coats were an average of 530 times higher than parking lots with other surface types.  The indoor concentrations were 25 times higher.

Anything above 1.0 is considered a mutagen.  Coal tar sealants average 450.  Mutagens are physical or chemical agents that change the genetic material of an organism and  increase the frequency of mutations that can cause cancer.

Motor oil, a product that’s illegal to pour down storm drains, contains about 500 milligrams per kilogram of PAH chemicals.  Coal tar contains about 50,000 mg/kg, but we’re still spreading it on our parking lots, driveways and playgrounds with the potential for rains to wash it down storm drains.

Oddly enough, coal tar is rated Category I (safe and effective) for over the counter products to treat dandruff, seborrhoea, eczema, and psoriasis, according to the Food and Drug Administration.   Because of its use in medicines, as well, many studies have been performed over nearly a century to see if the patients who intentionally expose themselves to high level doses of coal tar for long periods of time have increased risk of cancer.  All the studies have reached the same conclusion – there is no evidence of cancer.

Brand name products using coal tar to treat  skin disorders are Betatar Gel, Cutar Emulsion, Denorex, DHS Tar, Doak Tar, Duplex T, Fototar, Ionil-T Plus, Medota,  MG 217, Neutrogena TDerm, Neutrogena TGel.

How You Can Help:

  • Create a no-shoes policy.  PAHs are easily tracked into the home, so shedding shoes before entering the home can cut back on exposure.
  • Close your windows.  Coal-tar-treated surfaces continually shed dangerous PAH chemicals, but the air levels are extremely high in the hours and days following a fresh coal-tar application.
  • Don’t trust labels.   Coal tar may not appear on the sealant bucket.  There are dozens of names for coal tar, including RT12, distilled tar, or refined tar. “Tar,” is the word you want to avoid.
  • Do your homework.  An online search of the product name plus Material Safety Data Sheet will reveal the number unique to coal tar as 65996-93-2.
  • Shop where it’s not.   Home improvement chains like Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, or Menards have all banned coal tar sealants nationwide.
  • Know the product.  Find out the exact name of the sealing product your driveway company uses.   Warn neighbors.  Applicators typically try to sell their services to an entire neighborhood.
  • Alert store managers and playground officials of the dangers of carcinogenic coal-tar sealants, and let them know that alternatives containing thousands of times fewer PAHs are readily available.
  • Speak up.  For broad-sweeping protection in your city, borough, or township, consider joining forces with concerned neighbors and lobby your local and state governments to ban the sale and application of coal-tar sealants.  These bans are popping up all over the country, from Washington, DC, to Washington state.  Look at Austin, Texas!
  • Go for gravel.  Consider building a blacktop-free driveway.  Healthier driveways made of gravel or permeable pavers helps reduce harmful motor oil runoff from your property.  That helps keep pressure off of water treatment plants and helps reduce flooding in your community.
  • Make driveway art safe!

Until next week,images

Garbage Girl





Our Wasted Infrastructure Gets a Better Grade


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What the civil engineers’ ranking really shows is that the United States can create an opportunity to surpass our competition, succeed at “A” levels in the global economy  and improve our quality of life if we understand the needed improvements at all local levels.  Our country continues to demonstrate an ability to compete and innovate at high levels when we grasp the problems we face.

How You Can Help:

Until next week,    highway-infrastructure

Garbage Girl






Don’t Lose the Good News!

3b8ff2cd70c52534c66052b8fb49d2f4  The Polar Bears in The San Diego Zoo woke up to a snowstorm!  This project brings awareness to their plight and the rapid meltdown of their natural habitat.

UnknownimagesMicro beads are banned! These unbelievably destructive, tiny pieces of plastic are out numbering the plankton in our oceans and rapidly moving up the food chain.

The Sponge Park is here!  Pollution absorbing plants are now part of New York’s Gowanus Canal working 24/7 to clean up decades of pollutants.


The Paris Conference negotiated a global agreement to reduce climate change!  The agreement will become legally binding in New York between April 22, 2016 and April 21, 2017 when 55 countries, representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions sign it and adopt it within their own legal systems.  The consensus of the 196 parties attending the UN climate deal experienced many frustrations and a lot of drama but it proved that we can compromise for our planet.


Eco Ministries are popping up all around the globe!  From wealthy industrial countries to the poorest and least powerful, their community service driven models declare that the climate crisis is a crisis of values—the essence of how we live our lives, share our resources, and respect one another.

How You Can Help:

  • Weigh the gains on economic growth with who benefits and how much.
  • Move towards a consciousness of the environment we live in and the waste we produce.
  • Learn how political policies control some of our most basic decisions.
  • Gain control over how your community is run.  Is it run on what is right and what is wrong?  Be aware of how large profit driven entities impose on the health of your local landscape and whether or not they actually help.
  • Find out how you are represented and get your voice heard.
  • We live with a lot of complexity regarding fossil fuels.  Our clothing, our food, our transportation, our vacation, our home are all possible because of extracted energies.  Sort it all out and learn how to be accountable.
  • Start discussions that change the current systems and policies from short term gains to value and ethics driven living.
  • Give our greatest asset, democracy, a chance to thrive again.
  • Accept that we all have to participate in the solution to our problems.
  • You live in an amazing place at an important time!

Until next week,Unknown-1

Garbage Girl


No Waste Gifts for Mother Earth


Our most prized possession, earth, needs our help in more critical and time sensitive ways than ever before.   This Holiday Season, give her the gift of life by donating time, giving money, teaching others, and becoming a conscientious consumer who wants to do what is right for our planet.

Our Waste Matters has over 150 followers its first year!   Thank you for your support and interest in this very important issue.  I will continue to work hard bringing waste awareness information and choices to your life.  With your friends and families we can make an even larger difference this coming year in reducing the amount of waste we produce.

How You Can Help:

Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season filled with joy from family and friends.  And I thank you again!

Until next week,images

Garbage Girl

70 Years Of Clean Air And Water Wasted


Mr. John D. Rockefeller made a fortune from our love of mobility and the freedom it represents.  As a young professional, he recognized the power of oil to fuel transportation and America went wild!

Mr. Henry Ford, a farmer, designed the first assembly line automobile.  It ran on  alcohol.  His fuel was made anywhere, anytime, by anybody, out of anything that is or was a plant.

So, Mr. Rockefeller got his buddies together to formulate and pass Prohibition Legislation banning the transportation of all alcohol.  In the meantime, Mr. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil monopoly was split into 34 companies.  All 34 were in his stock portfolio.   America’s love for freedom was turning into an oil guzzling addiction that could no longer be supplied by choice.

Trolleys were everywhere.  Anyone could ride them anywhere. They ran on electricity.  It was possible to travel from San Francisco to New York City by transferring from trolley to trolley.

What happened to those trolleys?   I guess Mr. Rockefeller needed some more money.  Standard Oil, Mack Truck, General Motors, Phillips Petroleum and Firestone created a company that bought them all up and trashed them.  The replacement option?  Fuel guzzling buses.

Even though the Federal Government indicted all five companies for their part in the conspiracy, they started the largest public works project ever.  It was based on oil;  highways, suburbs, shopping malls, and the beginning of a consumer society that uses oil for fuel, clothing, food, medicine, lubricants, plastics, furniture and construction materials.

Freedom?  Well, that was based on cheap oil and loads of it! Limitless supply?  Ummm,  China now has more cars than we do. Cheap?  OPEC acting as a cartel ended that idea in the 1970s. Choice?  Hmmm, there doesn’t seem to be one.

Until you see the movie, Pump.  It will change your mind about our fossil fuel addicted future.

Natural gas may be here to stay.  Unfortunately, though, we can’t keep up with our own demand and its controversial extraction process is leaching into some of our water.   Natural gas is a shale oil or methane gas commonly associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which uses water pressure to fracture shale and release the oil or gas.  We produce about 10 million barrels a day, we use about 18 million barrels a day and the world uses 88 million barrels a day.   US-shaleWe are running as fast as we can to stay in one place so it isn’t saving us any money at the pump.   Areas the size of states, like the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, are being shattered to bits.

But it gets better!  Alcohol has always been the better fuel and anyone can make it.  Beets, sorghum, buffalo gourds, corn, prickly pear and the alcohol producing giant…cattail flowers make it possible to produce fuel wherever you live.   Are you worried about food prices and supplies?  Don’t be, ethanol is the other byproduct of feed corn for animals.  You get more feed AND more fuel.  The same guys who want you to buy oil let you believe food prices rose because of ethanol production when food prices always rise after oil prices go up.

And it gets even better still!  Methanol is the cleanest burning, simplest, most abundant alcohol.  It can even be made on Mars and it isn’t as flammable as gasoline so race car drivers have been using it for decades.  Oak Ridge National Labs estimates that we have 1 billion tons of biomass for methanol available to use every year.  That includes 240 million tons of trash of which 160 of it currently goes to landfills.  Iceland is making it out of CO2 and Hydrogen.   For more on the Methanol Economy read  written in 2006!

Then there is electricity.  It can be made from wind and solar energy.  Nikola Tesla set out to convince us that we can have cars, clean air AND clean water.  By partnering with solar giant, John Paul Mitchell and Tesla owner, Elon Musk, along with many others, they are developing the infrastructure to produce and run affordable, luxurious, electric cars.  Even Roland Hwang, Director of the Energy & Transportation Program of the NRDC is excitedly reporting the vast improvement of lithium ion batteries because of electronics.

So what’s stopping us?  Back to those oil guys.  Our companies and our government mask our choices.  Cars that run on methanol, ethanol and gasoline have been around since Ford offered them in 1994.  Most people don’t even know they have a Flex Car.  If your gas cap is yellow, your car can be fueled by any combination of fuel.  To find out if your car can use other fuels go to Fuel Freedom Foundation’s website.

Even if you don’t own a Flex Car, the changes required to make it one are as simple as a piece of software that you install yourself.  Kits are easily available,  just google flex fuel kits.  But, the EPA considers it tampering with your car’s computer so its important to educate yourself thoroughly.  For installation and emotional support click

Alternative fuel stations can be located on line or you can go to

How You Can Help:

  • Imagine everything we throw away becoming biomass for fuel!  That means animal waste, construction waste, yard waste, food and agricultural waste, municipal solid waste, sewage, EVERYTHING that is or was a plant!
  • Support and form communities to get our paid representatives to stop eliminating our choices at the pump.
  • Consider installing a flex fuel kit on your engine.
  • Support local biomass collection and alcohol production.  Make some moonshine!
  • Let’s stop polluting our home.

Until next week,images-9Garbage Girl

The Most Environmentally Wasteful Design


When one considers how magnificent the human design is, one has to wonder why our needs and desires became so wasteful.

Wasteful design begins with the creator not considering the full impact their creations have on the surrounding environment, both in the making of the design and the finished life of the design.

So, should we fault our creator for making us the most wasteful design on our planet?

Probably not.  Whether we were created by God or evolved from bacteria, we have cumulatively turned into a real threat to the only place we can live.

We are unable to mobilize defenses against this threat.  We consciously or unconsciously ignore it.  We are misinformed about it.  We cannot avoid it because the threat is us.  So, what we have become is so big and so destructive that it hijacks our own sense of common good and responsible choice.

The symptom is not being able to full cycle everything we desire and need.  And our desires and needs are never ending.

We produce pervasive contaminants, harmful pollutants, damaging particles, poisonous atmospheres, everything we use, eat, and do everyday takes something from the earth and does not give back.  The waste is inescapably part of everyday life.

Could our planet reject us?  Could we change?  What is required of each of us to affect a change that is large enough to reverse the direction we are heading?

Spiritual communities may have the answers.  For the first time in human history, our continuing existence depends on our ability to unify with one another.  Our fractious political systems have not produced that unity, so we need to do it ourselves.  We need to inspire each other to tackle change.  The effort we put forth to unify humanity and protect the planet can have an enormous impact.


What you can do to help:

  • Become knowledgeable of how your choices affect the planet and the communities you make choices with.
  • Join or create a community of people and unite for changes that protect the environment.
  • Let businesses know they need to be responsible for the complete life of the product they put into the life of our planet.
  • It’s not about us.  It’s about the planet we live on.
  • Buy less.  Use less.  Be more magnificent.

Until next week,images-1

Garbage Girl