Paper not Plastic

Ross Mirkarimi is making sure no one is left holding the bag.

Ross Mirkarimi has found an easy way to lessen global warming, our dependence on foreign oil, and rapidly overflowing landfills. The solution is in the bag-literally. Each of our featherweight plastic shopping bags carries a hefty cost: Americans use 100 billion plastic bags each year, and toss the majority of them after a quick trip to the store. Since the bags take nearly a millennium to break down in landfills, they'll be haunting the planet long after we tote home the groceries. Today, local governments pay to have wind-blown bags plucked from trees and telephone wires; in San Francisco, cleanup efforts run as high as $8 million a year. Plus, more than a million sea birds and a hundred thousand marine mammals suffocate from plastic litter each year. "Long before I was elected," Mirkarimi says, "I've thought the plastic bag was emblematic of what our country and planet have been suffering from."Last spring, Mirkarimi began efforts to make the bag a historical relic. The 45-year-old member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors authored legislation that bans plastic bags made of petroleum products from checkout counters at large supermarkets and pharmacies. "Banning a plastic bag is just a good first, small start," says Mirkarimi, a co-founder of California's Green Party. He estimates that the plastic prohibition will save 450,000 gallons of oil and prevent 1,400 tons of trash from ending up in a landfill annually.
The plastic bag was emblematic of what our country and planet have been suffering from.
Despite having (almost) weaned himself from plastic bags, the city legislator admits they can come in handy on walks with his dog. For those particular occasions, Mirkarimi is eagerly awaiting the introduction of durable, biodegradable alternatives at grocery stores in October, when the law takes effect. The law, signed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the eve of Earth Day, also promotes using recycled paper and cloth bags.Mirkarimi was elected in 2004 to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors as the representative of District 5, which includes the country's oldest Japantown and the famously curvaceous Lombard Street, and his work has repercussions that extend far beyond the boundaries of his district. In our consumptive society, he says, too often we don't think about the consequences of our choices, whether it be toting shopping bags or filling up at the gas station. "We need to make our economy more soulful," says Mirkarimi, who holds master's degrees in both environmental science and economics.San Francisco is the first city in the country to ban plastic bags, but officials in New York, Texas, Iowa, and elsewhere in California are quickly following in Mirkarimi's footsteps. He hopes plastic bags are just the beginning. "We can make great change at the municipal level, but we have to be bold about it. We cannot wilt in the face of criticism that we're out of our jurisdiction," he says. "These are such critical times, we can't wait for our federal and state leaders to do the right thing. We're all on the clock."
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet