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January 11, 2010

This one really got to me.

Last week, if you missed the story, the New York Times did a story on clothing retailer, H&M.  It seems that they have been tossing out and destroying perfectly good clothes that they could not sell; cutting the fingers off of gloves, putting knives and scissors to shirts, jackets, etc.

At the back entrance on 35th Street, awaiting trash haulers, were bags of garments that appear to have never been worn. And to make sure that they never would be worn or sold, someone had slashed most of them with box cutters or razors, a familiar sight outside H & M’s back door. The man and woman were there to salvage what had not been destroyed.

In the process of researching this story, it turns out that the practice of tossing and destroying goes much further than one chain. It being reported that Wal-Mart is a participant in the same practice.  The question is how many other retailers are engaged in the same wasteful practice?

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Melissa Hill, said that she had been unable to learn why new clothing with the store’s tags had been destroyed, but she added that the company typically donated or recycled such items.

There is an update.  H&M has agreed to no longer continue this hateful, wasteful practice.

“It will not happen again,” said Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for H & M in New York. “We are committed 100 percent to make sure this practice is not happening anywhere else, as it is not our standard practice.”

Ms. Christie said that H & M’s standard practice was to donate unworn clothing to aid organizations. She said that she did not know why the store on 34th Street was slashing the clothes, and that the company was checking to make sure that none of its other stores were doing it.

Had it not been for the persistence of Cynthia Magnus, a graduate student at the City University of New York, we may never have known about this needless destruction of clothing and goods.



January 5, 2010

Imagine my surprise, when by happenstance I checked the ingredients on the back of the bag of one of my favorite gummi candies.

Let’s see … corn syrup, sucrose, gelatin, apple juice (that’s good, right?), natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax.

Hey, wait a minute, what’s that doing there? Isn’t carnauba wax for the outside of my car?

Know what really makes me so unhappy?  It’s not as if I’m not aware that one should always read the ingredients of anything that we decide to ingest.  I do know that, but really, is nothing sacred?

Guess what?  I now know carnauba wax is put in a variety of foods in addition to be used on my floors.  As this writer from FitSugar notes:

I didn’t know this, but carnauba wax is often called the “queen of waxes.” It’s a hard substance, so it’s used to make durable coatings for floors and cars. It’s also used in polishes, varnishes, and beauty products like mascara, deodorant, and lipstick. In foods, it’s used as a coating or anti-caking agent, and can be found in frosting, candies (such as Altoids and Tic Tacs), gum, gravies, and sauces.

All of this leads me to another imponderable.

Why is my chewing gum individually packaged in plastic!  For years we got along fine with our Chiclets packaged in a paper product with cellophane to show the gum product.  Now gum is hermetically sealed in plastic … the gum will last 15 minutes and the plastic that will last many hundreds of years longer than the gum.  Isn’t this just a bit excessive?  Really the operative word is silly. This is a silly, nonsensical use of plastic.

And this makes sense, she rhetorically queries!


December 28, 2009

As Kermit already knows, it’s not easy being green, particularly when you are trying to eliminate the unnecessary use of plastic from your life.

I’ve been writing about using less plastic in all of its forms for close to two years hopeful that with education and persistence that change would come.  Change is taking place, but it is moving at a snail’s pace … partly because some people are resistant to any type of change regardless of the necessity, partly because the plastics industry is too ensconced in consumer retail products to let go, partly because retailers and grocers find it easier to talk about being green than about actually effecting change.

We all know talk is cheap.  Let’s face it, retailers, grocers, manufacturers of consumer products do almost NOTHING to help.  In fact, these businesses are the largest contributors to the plastic mess we face in our environment.

A whopping 52% of plastic trash that ends up in landfills and the oceans comes from grocers and retailers.  Walk into any grocery store, walk the aisles, and look at how much plastic is used in place of alternative packaging that includes paper composites.

As we move rapidly into the New Year, it is time to put companies on notice that they are equally responsible for helping reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic used in this country.

Who’s on our 2010 “hit list” of companies that do little or nothing to address this world wide pollution problem ?

Big box retailers like Target, Wal-Mart

Home Improvement chains

Grocery chains, convenience chains, drug chains

Electronics stores

Discount chains

Celebrate the New Year by pledging to continue your fight to reduce and reuse plastic products.  Join me in 2010 as we move to a more direct approach with companies and corporations that have yet to take the necessary steps to reduce plastic usage and the resultant plastic trash.

What You & Your Family Need to know about Pancreatic Cancer

November 17, 2009

The following article was written in the LA Times in September shortly after Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer.

The article is filled with up to date information you and your family should be aware of.  Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer.  Symptoms of the disease are vague, which is why it is usually detected only it its advanced stages.

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month.

With Patrick Swayze’s death today comes a highly public reminder that the cure rate for pancreatic cancer is abysmal. This year, an estimated 42,470 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease. And an estimated 35,240 will die.

Smoking can increase risk, as can obesity, diabetes, family history and other factors. But there simply aren’t obvious signs of the disease in its early stages, and detection can often come too late. (Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer earlier this year; hers was indeed caught fairly early.)

The disease is broken down into two basic types: exocrine tumors and endocrine tumors, as the American Cancer Society explains. Exocrine tumors are the most common and are usually malignant. Endocrine tumors are much more rare and the malignancy rate is more complex. (Steve Jobs was diagnosed with the endocrine type several years ago.)

The National Cancer Institute offers a good overview of the disease. Of special note, it includes a link to clinical trials.

Besides studying genetic factors and trying to improve detection, researchers are trying to improve the effectiveness of the drugs now commonly used to treat cancer of the pancreas — and to devise new therapies as well.

Here’s an overview of new treatment approaches, according to the American Cancer Society. Included targeted therapies that attack only specific types of  cells or vessels, immune therapies that bolster the body’s ability to fight the disease and more.

Similarly, the Lustgarten Foundation offers descriptions of the Pancreatic Cancer Genome Project and the Pancreatic Cancer Biomarker Initiative specifically. The former identified specific mutations and signaling pathways and is expected to shape research for years to come. The latter aims to find new detection and screening options.

For a truly impressive, or inspiring, database, there’s this list of pancreatic cancer researchers and their projects, via the Pancreatic Cancer Research Map. It’s searchable by investigator, area of research, state, etc.

And, for a sample of recent research into pancreatic cancer, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University offers a selection of presentations.

All of which is to say, the work continues.

— Tami Dennis

Chris Jordan: Awareness Through Art

November 6, 2009

If you haven’t viewed the art of Chris Jordan take some time,  and do yourself a favor.  His ability translate social and environmental concerns into visual art we can all understand is immense.

He has published several books including “Intolerable Beauty – Portraits of American Mass Consumption”, “In Katrina’s Wake – Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster”,  “Running the Numbers – An American Self Portrait”, and “Running the Numbers II – Portraits of Global Mass Culture”.

Click the link below from Daily Art Fix and Enjoy!

Chris Jordan: Awareness Through Art

Posted using ShareThis


November 5, 2009


Last week Target, the fifth-largest U.S. retailer in 2008 and CVS announced plans designed to reduce the number of single use plastic bags their customers carry out of their 7,000 stores every year.

Target  plans to give customers a 5-cent discount for every reusable bag they use to pack their purchases at all 1,700 Target stores nationwide.

CVS’ plan is to give customers  who choose to participate cash bonuses for not using plastic bags is more cumbersome. CVS

Customers must ante up 99 cents to purchase a green tag that will be affixed to their own reusable bags when they shop.

When used in conjunction with their CVS cards (four times) customers will receive an additional $1 cash bonus they buy something but don’t request plastic bags.

Green activists,  working to reduce and eliminate single use plastic bags were naturally buoyed by the announcement.

While this is a small step forward, it is none the less, it is worth noting that Target Australia completely banned the use of single use plastic bags in last year in 2008! Here. Green activists are watching to see how soon other retailers follow suit.

In an article  USA TODAY noted

[…] the two programs could keep billions of plastic bags out of the environment and nudge other big retailers to take similar steps, says Allen Herskowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to Allen Herskowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, both programs could keep billions of plastic bags out of the environment. “Plastic bags are the most ubiquitous form of waste on the planet,” Herskowitz says. “They are among the most deadly forms of marine debris, lethal to threatened species of marine mammals throughout the world.”

Smart Plastic Products

October 20, 2009

Occasionally I am asked if I am against all uses of plastic or if I think all plastic should be banned.  Of course not, the answer is no.

There are real and legitimate uses of plastic.  The problem is that unless plastics are reused and/or recycled they last forever.  As has been pointed out here on more than occasion, every piece of plastic that has ever been produced and hasn’t been recycled,  still exists!  Unless that plastic milk  jug you brought home is disposed of properly, it will likely last longer than the pyramids in Egypt!

Let’s use plastic materials to replace wood products in homes, for decks, fences, to build furniture, to manufacture flooring; there is an endless list of methods and material uses of the substance.  Just don’t use plastic for once ‘n done “single use” plastic bags, for toss away water bottles, clam shells to take donuts home that can easily put in a paper bag or box.

That having been said, I recently I came across a product that is clever in concept, cost effective, and has a legitimate use.  It’s called Bagster in a Bag made by Waste Management Services.

I came across the product when we were faced with all the flooding in Georgia and I thought this is a product with immediate value.

If you have ever had to rent a big dumpster you already know what a pain it is and how costly it can be.   The fact is, there are some jobs that are too small for a big dumpster and too big for your already existing trash containers. Bagster addresses both of these concerns and can be purchased at your local home improvement store for $29.95.  You don’t have to wait for a scheduled delivery or pickup and you can load up to 3,300 pounds of  your household junk, construction debris, or yard waste. The Bagster is said to have the strength of a steel dumpster at a fraction of the rental cost.

There is a fee to pick up the Bagster and you can fill multiple Bagsters and have them picked up at the same time. The Bagster is made out of plastic woven product similar to tarps.  There are filling do’s and don’ts … you can’t put your old refrigerator or toxic materials inside for collection, but if you have a small to medium size job that you want to tackle today, this is a plastic product you may want to consider.

WMS has a wonderful website full of information worth your review … check it out.  This company does more than talk about being green.