The mass production of plastic began in the 1950s and just about every piece of it is still here. It's either still in use, sitting in a landfill or floating in the ocean.

Over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced over the past 70 years and 8 million tons are dumped in the ocean annually.

"There's so much plastic in the environment at this point, it's in the water we drink, much of the food we eat and even the air we breathe," John Hocevar, marine biologist and oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA, told ABC News.

Keep Reading
The Planet

The Battle to Save the Arctic from Drilling is Heating Up

Greenpeace’s oil-rig occupation may be over, but the struggle to preserve a pristine Alaskan environment is far from finished.

Photo © Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace via Twitter user @zoevirginia

If you happened to be drifting in the Pacific Ocean last Monday, 750 miles northwest of Hawaii, you might have seen what looked like the opening sequence of an action movie—a rigid-hulled, inflatable boat skipped along the high seas. Briny wind and ocean spray whipped across the occupants of the craft as they sped towards their target: an Arctic-bound oil rig being hauled toward a Seattle port. When they reached the steep side of the rig, the climbers mounted it using ropes and climbing gear.

Keep Reading

Low Fashion: H&M Has a Pollution Problem

A factory that major brand H&M partners with is polluting Chinese rivers, but I'm still going to shop there. Here's why.

Greenpeace yesterday released the results of year-long investigation into the manufacturing practices of a suite of international clothing brands. The report, which ties the brands to two Chinese factories that dump toxic chemicals into the country’s Yangtze and Pearl rivers, calls out Nike, Adidas, Puma, Converse, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Lacoste, and H&M. It's that last one made me feel really guilty.

To shop for clothes sustainably, there are a few rules to follow: Go to clothing swaps, shop at thrift stores and consignment shops, make do with less, buy from green clothing companies that source organic materials. But my problem with those rules is that following them requires a lot of time and effort, not to mention a more developed sense of style than I possess. In my family, I’m known as a notoriously impatient shopper. On mall runs, my mom will make sure to perk me up with soda or greasy mall food if we’re there for longer than fifty minutes. Otherwise I get as testy as a 4-year-old who missed her nap.

But about a month ago, when it started getting really hot in New York City, I realized I wasn’t going to make it through the summer without at least twice as many dresses as I had in my closet; I had to go shopping. I live in the East Village, which is blessed with a wealth of thrift stores and high-end consignment shops. There’s a store that sells sustainable clothing not five blocks away from my apartment. And I had visited many of them in my search for the dresses and tank-tops I needed. I had not found much of anything. H&M, on the other hand, had exactly what I wanted, and after spending about a half an hour in the store, I had purchased the clothes I’ve been living in since the beginning of June.

Given how cheap the store’s clothes are, I could have guessed that someone, somewhere was definitely suffering so that I could spend but $4.95 on a tank-top. On its website the company promises that it will “be climate smart,” “use natural resources responsibly,” and “choose and reward responsible partners.” H&M also uses organic and recycled cotton, and it plans to use only cotton from sustainable sources by 2020. That all means less to me after taking a look at Greenpeace’s pictures of the gooey yellow effluent that the Youngor textiles factory, run by a company H&M works with, is sending into the world. In its defense, H&M told Greenpeace that its products don’t rely on the “wet processes” that create this type of waste. Fine. But continuing a relationship with a company responsible for polluting China’s waterways does not count as choosing and rewarding responsible partners.

I don’t know that I could stop shopping at stores like H&M—without the dresses I bought there, I probably would have overheated by now—but organizations like Greenpeace offer an option to address these problems outside of becoming a dedicated thrifter. With assists like this one from Greenpeace, customers can put pressure on clothing companies to live up to their ideals and ditch partners that don’t. As Greenpeace argues in its report, “through their choices of suppliers, the design of their products and the control they can exert over the use of chemicals in the production process and the final product,” companies like H&M have the best chance of changing dangerous production processes in the textile industry. Opting out of the mainstream market can have an impact, but so can buying in.

Keep Reading

Food Studies: What Happens When You Quit Pre-Med to Become a Farmer?

From pre-med to Greenpeace activist to farmer: Arianne McGinnis wants to make a new system instead of opposing or fixing the existing ones.

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world. Don't miss Leslie's last post, on how we might re-evolve table manners and dining rituals to make eating a better experience.

Keep Reading