Coconut Leaves used as Straws in Philippines Café to cut Plastic Waste

A lukay straw made from coconut leaves.

The world has been declared to be in a global crisis due to plastic pollution. Each human needs to remove his or her carbon footprint and replace it with a bio-degradable one. In small corners of the world, humans are making changes, to remove their plastic imprints from our battered green earth.

A cafe owner in the Philippines is utilizing decomposable straws made of coconut leaves as a substitute to single-use plastic straws. The coconut straw is referred to as a “lukay” straw. Lukay is the term used by locals for palm leaves or coconut fronds, and buko is the coconut juice.

The manager, Sarah Tiu, of Café Editha in Siargao Island in the Philippines, adopted the lukay drinking straw idea to eliminate plastic waste in her restaurant. The owner of the café stated she was enthusiastic about the idea. She was inspired, after observing how the coconut leaves were made into drinking straws, during a family trip to Corregidor Island.

Sarah, with practice and dedication, learned how to master the skill of making the lukay straw. Sarah and her nephew also made a “how to” demonstration video, to educate and to promote ways to care for the earth. Every morning before the café opens, Sarah and her crew make the straws. She said each straw takes less than a couple of minutes to make.

The patrons instantaneously took to the new earth-friendly straws, uploading images of glass pitchers containing the lukay straw on their social media pages. The straws are securely bound and leak-proof, eliminating that annoying sound when a straw has a tear or a hole.

This is a pivotal moment in our lives, when we, as humans who inhabit the earth, each need to make a conscious change. Each human needs to do his or her part to remove a carbon footprint and replace it with a bio-degradable one. There are a plethora of non-plastic substitutes to straws, readily available to people. If every business owner and consumer around the world followed suit, they would create a powerful wave in decreasing our global plastic crisis.

Russia orders release of Orcas and Belugas from the “Whale Jail”

Orcas and belugas held in captivity in Russia

In November of 2018, concerning reports dubbed as “Whale Jails” in Russia, triggered a wave of shock, disgust, and criticism.

Near the Russian city of Nakhodka, there are several small and crowded ice water enclosures, housing more than one hundred beluga and orca whales. Marine mammal specialists have stated these compounds are torturous and dangerous to these whales in captivity. They risk freezing, drowning, and hypothermia.

Reports have been unclear as to the exact reason behind Russia’s “Whale Jails.” However, it is a hypothesis, the cruel and unhealthy enclosures hold the whales captive for sales to aquariums and Chinese buyers. In China, killer whales and belugas are testified to be very valuable. According to a report in the U.K.’s Telegraph, a single orca can reach more than $6 million, and the demand is high. Presently, there is a vast demand for marine theme parks in China, with at least 60 already open and more under construction.

Orca whales swimming free in the ocean

Leonardo DiCaprio, Green Peace and animal rights activists have appealed to the Russian Minister of Ecology, the Governor of Primorsky and head of the Russian Fishery Agency to cancel permits and take action to free these mammals from the “Whale Jail.” As the activists were voicing their concerns and getting petitions signed, at least three whales have died in the ice enclosure. According to Russian law, it is only legal to capture whales for scientific or cultural purposes, so legalities around the facilities are under review. 

Tensions continued to increase, and the whales remain caged. As the story propagated, so did the anger across the world. The story was drawing negative attention and mounting rage from international stars, the public, and the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin personally stepped in and demanded the whales be released. Russia’s federal security service has laid charges against four companies for breaking fishing laws, TASS reported.

Currently, investigations are ongoing, in regards to the proper release of the mammals without harm. The whales are being cared for, and the Kremlin wants to ensure no further damage is done to them. Stricter international laws must be enforced concerning the captivity of whales. It is never acceptable to put any mammal in such atrocious conditions, for the pure entertainment of people. We as humans can do better.

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Six Lazarus Animals That Became “Un-extinct”

Lazarus taxons, or species, which scientists thought to have been extinct, are reported to still be in existence. The term “Lazarus” is coined from the Gospel of John in the Christian Bible, in which Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

1. Australian Night Parrot

The Australian Night Parrot is well known for being one of the world’s most obscure and mysterious birds. Between 1912 and 1979, there were no definite sightings of the bird and it was considered to be extinct.

In 2013, a naturalist, John Young, captured a photo of the elusive parrot – proving the species to be still in existence. In Australia, over the last few years, sightings of the night parrot have been recorded. Naturalists spotted a young parrot in February 2018. It likely hatched in late 2017. The size of the mysterious bird’s population is unknown.

2. Javan Elephant

Javan elephants became extinct sometime after the 15th century — due to the Sultan of Sulu centuries ago, or so scientists thought, when the Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia. In 2003, scientists discovered through DNA research, the Borneo pygmy elephants of Asia were likely descendants of the Javan elephant.

Borneo is a giant, rugged island in Southeast Asia’s Malay Archipelago, shared by the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, Indonesian Kalimantan, and the tiny nation of Brunei. These pygmy elephants in Borneo, on the giant island, could be the last of the Javan elephant population. There are an estimated 1,000 of these elephants in the wild, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

3. Wallace Bee

The Wallace Bee can grow up to an inch and a half long with a wingspan of 2.5 inches. It has large mandibles similar to that of a stag beetle. It feeds on nectar and pollen. Alfred Russel Wallace initially discovered the species in 1858, given the apparent name “Wallace’s Giant Bee.” It is also known as the “Giant Mason Bee.”

The largest bee in the world was believed extinct, but 38 years later, researchers rediscovered the Wallace Bee in a high termite mound on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas. Massive deforestation for agriculture purposes threatens the bee’s habitat, and its size and scarcity make it an objective for collectors.

It’s currently legal for this species of bee to be sold abroad. Entomologists are presently pushing for this species to be classified as endangered and to be protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which governs international trade in threatened species.

4. Fernandina Island Galápagos tortoise

An adult female Fernandina giant tortoise is a species of Galápagos tortoise last seen in 1906. In the following years there were discoveries of alleged Fernandina giant tortoise droppings and cactus bite marks in 1964 and 2013. However, no living tortoises were spotted nor were any remains discovered, resulting in scientists presuming this giant tortoise to be extinct.

In February 2019, researchers rediscovered an individual female wandering around a Galápagos island for the first time in more than 110 years. The tortoise was transferred to a breeding center on the nearby island of Santa Cruz for conservation and genetic tests. There is no male Fernandina giant tortoise known to be alive; however, females can store sperm for a prolonged time, giving conservationists and scientists a glimpse of hope.

5. Formosan Clouded Leopard 

The Formosan clouded leopard is a subspecies from the leopards of South East Asia and is indigenous to the mountains of Taiwan. Due to widespread logging of the leopard’s natural habitat, the leopard was forced to retreat into the Jade and Tawu mountains. In 1986, 70 indigenous hunters reported that the last confirmed sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard occurred in Tawu Mountain area in 1983.

The Paiwan people, from an indigenous tribe, were patrolling the jungle. In January 2019, during the patrols, there were two sightings of the feline. Referred to as “Li’uljaw” by the Paiwan people, one patrol observed a leopard climbing a tree before sprinting up a rock face to hunt goats. The other forest patrol described seeing a leopard darting past a scooter before dashing up a tree and going out of sight. As a result of the sightings, hunting is banned in the area, and the indigenous elders requested the Forestry Bureau to stop logging and engaging in other disruptive activities.

6. Magic Rabbit

The lli Pika, dubbed as the “Magic Rabbit,” is a distant relative of the domestic rabbit and was first discovered in 1983 in the Tianshan Mountains in northwestern China. Since then, its estimated population has decreased by 70%. There are fewer than 1,000 left and the species is currently considered endangered. In 2008, the animal was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Conservationists and scientists alike had been unable to spot the lli Pika, fearing its possible extinction, until 20 years later, in 2014, the lli Pika was located again.

The lli Pika, or teddy-like rabbit, is only 20 centimeters long, weights 250 g and lives on sloping bare rock faces, feeding on grasses at high elevations. Global warming and disease are presumed to be factors in the declining population. The Ili Pika isn’t included on China’s List of Wildlife under Special State Protection, part of the country’s 1988 Wildlife Protection Law, and no further conservation efforts have been made to protect the lli Pika. Conservationist, Li Weidong has dedicated his life to protecting the Magic Rabbit, advocating for a nature reserve organization to help protect the animal.

A Taiwanese Leopard Confirmed Extinct, is Now “Unextinct”

Taiwanese Formosan clouded leopard

The Formosan clouded leopard is a subspecies from the leopards of South East Asia and is indigenous to the mountains of Taiwan. The Formosan clouded leopard was Taiwan’s second-largest carnivore, next to the Formosan black bear. Due to widespread logging of the leopard’s natural habitat, the leopard was forced to retreat into the Jade and Tawu mountains. In 1986, 70 indigenous hunters reported that the last confirmed sighting of the Formosan clouded leopard occurred in Tawu Mountain area in 1983.

A decade later, pugmarks (a term used to describe the footprint of most animals) were recorded in the late 1990s near Taiwan’s Yushan National Park. The pugmark was suspected of being made by the Formosan clouded leopard subspecies, but could not be confirmed by experts. Zoologists from Taiwan and the U.S. carried out a 13-year long survey. They used 13,000 camera traps in the Tawu Mountains, to help discover the leopard, but failed to observe a single sighting of the obscure cat. Scientists promptly declared it officially extinct in 2013.

Aboriginal wearing Formosan clouded leopard skin

In June of 2018, Kao Cheng-chi, President of the Association of the Austronesian Community College Development Association, and the village chief of the Paiwan Tribe, shared that the Alangyi Village had set up a team of rangers to patrol traditional areas. As a result, these rangers publically revealed last week that in January 2019, there were two sightings of the feline. Referred to as “Li’uljaw” by the Paiwan people, one patrol observed a leopard climbing a tree before sprinting up a rock face to hunt goats. The other forest patrol described seeing a leopard darting past a scooter before dashing up a tree and going out of sight.

In an interview with Focus Taiwan News Channel, Pan Chih-hua, the Alangyi Village Conference Chairman, confirmed the rangers spotted the Formosan clouded leopard. He added he couldn’t disclose the exact time and location of the sightings. In Paiwan culture, the Formosan clouded leopard represents the spirit of great ancient warriors, and hunting the animal is prohibited, said Pan Chih-hua.  As a result of the sightings, members of the Alangyi Village held a tribal meeting to investigate further. Currently, hunting is banned in the area, and Alangyi Village elders requested the Forestry Bureau to stop logging and engaging in other disruptive activities.

Thanks to the logging and hunting ban in the Tawu Mountains in the area where the Formosan clouded leopard was spotted, this feline’s population should become more apparent. It is critical that governments and villagers continue to support these discoveries and aid the Leopard in its natural habitat. This majestic animal, quietly returning to the mountains of Taiwan, gives a small glimpses of hope for the future and makes one wonder what else may roam free and unknown.

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Powering Up A Renewable Energy

Photovoltaic Panels

Solar power is becoming the jewel in the crown of energy production and for good reason. This renewable resource is just one of many options that also includes geothermal, hydro, wind and biofuels.

India made headlines in 2015 when leaders in the country chose to install solar panels in some unique locations. Solar plants were installed along the top of canals to capture the sun’s energy and turn it into a renewable commodity. The unique location for the panels was chosen because less land would be eaten up by the panels as the tops of canals represented a space not being used, and in turn the panels would help lessen evaporation of the valuable resource flowing through the waterway.

Fast forward to 2019 and the growth in solar energy production isn’t slowing down. China is the largest user of solar power — but also wins the award for manufacturing the most solar panels. Japan and Germany follow in spots two and three for solar power production with the United States sitting a tidy fourth.

That’s partly because of how environmentally friendly solar power is to Mother Earth. The renewable resource produces no greenhouse gas emissions. Its downsides are few but do include the process to manufacture photovoltaics (PV) uses some materials considered hazardous and large tracts of land can be eaten up in order to house projects large enough to produce an economically-viable amount of solar power.

So how does it compare to what has been called by some as “dirty oil”? Fossil Fuels still play a huge role in powering the planet due mainly to the stability of production. Solar energy can be fickle — no sunshine, not as much power being produced . Also it can be hard to find suitable locations to put up fields of solar panels, or the right rooftops to make projects viable. 

The good news is technology is advancing quickly. Newer solar systems that produce more power and have the advantage of taking up smaller footprints are available. As the technology improves, the costs of these systems declines, making them more affordable to average consumers. When more people choose solar, it becomes a more socially-acceptable option, increasing its popularity.

It’s worth taking the time to ask a few questions and find out more from your local solar PV system supplier about how you can benefit from the sunshine and maybe even power up your own home.

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Sunscreen Choice Can Protect More Than Just Your Skin

Coral Reef

When the sky is clear, and the sun is out, it is an excellent time to enjoy outdoor activities. But protection is essential from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV), since UV rays cause damage to skin, aging it prematurely, and can increase the risk of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is especially essential where UV rays are intense. However, as we protect ourselves, we may be destroying the ocean and its marine life due to toxic substances found within these sunscreens.

Studies completed by marine researchers have revealed two main sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone, and octinoxate, that are hazardous to coral reefs. (NCCOS, 2014). Scientists state chemically-based sunscreens containing the two elements cause the corals to bleach. (EHP, 2008).  Additionally, the existence of these chemicals in seawater allows viruses to flourish, putting coral reefs at an increased risk of catching an infection that could also lead to bleaching and death. As a result, Hawaii passed a bill on May 1st, 2018, which prohibits the use of sunscreens which contain harmful chemicals.

In addition, marine researchers have found connections between the parabens in sunscreens and their preservatives found in marine mammal’s tissues, such as the Bottlenose Dolphin. Researches have suggested two theories as to why. One may be the result of sunscreen washing off swimmers’ bodies into the ocean. The other argument is that the preservatives are a result of contaminated water moving from plugholes into oceans. (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015).

WHAT CAN THE CONSUMER DO TO HELP?

Our personal choice to use reef-safe sunscreen can be an enormous advantage, and there is an abundance available for purchase. Also, water-resistant sunscreens are better as fewer ingredients will wash off your body and face into the ocean. If you are looking for a sunscreen for water activities, check the water resistance duration on the label. Sometimes, the sunscreen bottle itself will claim the products to be “reef safe,” “friendly,” or “coral safe.”

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING SUNSCREEN

1. Avoid sunscreens that contain the ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate. Check the label. These two toxic substances cause sunscreen-induced coral bleaching.

2. Look for sunscreen with a mineral base that includes the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Sunscreens made with these elements are mineral-based. The components of these mineral-based ingredients create a layer on top of the skin, instead of being absorbed by the body, and will still block harmful UV rays. Marine researchers have deemed these ingredients to be less detrimental to corals and not connected to coral bleaching.

3. Look for components that are “non-nano.” For mineral sun blocks to not harm the coral reefs, they must be “non-nano,” therefore, the ingredient particles must be below 100 nanometers in size so that corals can’t ingest them.

4. Reef-safe labels. Most sunscreen companies will label their products as “reef-safe,” or “friendly.” To make sure, always double check the label.

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The Monarch Butterfly Makes a Comeback

Image: Monarch Butterfly from Pixabay

The Monarch butterfly, scientifically known as Danaus Plexippus, is likely the most well-known butterfly in North America. The Monarch butterfly habitats from southern Canada, throughout the United States and to northern Mexico. These butterflies are known for having the most extensive insect migration in North America and can travel up to 4,000 km (2,500 m) in their lifetime. They abandon the cold weather and migrate south to feast on their favorite tree, the eucalyptus. Nevertheless, the original butterflies don’t complete the entire round-trip migration from the regions of northern Mexico to southern Canada. Instead, the complete cycle transpires over four generations. (Canadian Geographic, 2006).

The Monarch butterfly migrates for two reasons. They can’t survive in the cold weather, especially when winter arrives in Canada and the northern United States. Also, the young Monarch larvae feed on plants, such as milkweed, which doesn’t grow in the winter under the blanket of snow. The butterflies must fly south to stay warm, and the spring generation will return north to places where the plants are copious.

In the 1990s a report became public from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife stating an approximate one billion Monarch butterflies have disappeared. A researcher of the Monarch Species clarified there are three main threats: deforestation due to illegal logging at the Mexican nature preserve, the decline of milkweed (the plant which the Monarch larvae feed upon), which is their procreative habitat, and through herbicides and extreme weather situations along their traveling route. (WWF, 2014). There could be other factors uncovered to their surprise disappearance; researchers are continuing their work.

Philanthropists and activist groups sent a plea to governments of North America to make a change and bring back the Monarch butterfly. World Wildlife Federation sent a letter to the governments of U.S., Canada, and Mexico requesting them to take prompt action to save the Monarch butterfly migration and put conservation efforts in place. (WWF 2014).

Shortly after the decreasing numbers of Monarch butterflies were made public, conservation efforts were created and set into place. As a result, Mexican authorities have reduced deforestation by prohibiting illegal logging. The U.S. and Canada have put a stop to the obliteration of milkweed habitats and have made restrictions in the milkweed habitat areas for the Monarchs to lay their larvae. Conservationists are planting flowers in gardens along the migration path, allowing the Monarch to stop and feed on nectar during their long flights.

The latest survey, from January of 2019, depicted a rise in the Monarch populations. In Mexico, the area of forest inhabited by hibernating Monarch butterflies has improved by 144% in comparison to the 2018 survey, the most significant growth in the past 12 years. A new colony of Monarchs was also discovered in the Nevado de Toluca, State of Mexico. (WWF, 2019). Through the voice and efforts of activists, scientists, conservationists, and governments across North America, the Monarch butterfly is making a steady comeback.

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15 Things You didn’t Know Could Be Recycled

1. Felts and Pens

Image: Pixabay

If you have a dry felt or empty pen, don’t throw it away! These can be gathered up and recycled at some office supply stores. Check out Staples and other stores for their recycling programs!

2. Carpet

Image: Pixabay

Need a new rug and not sure what to do with the old one? Don’t throw out the old carpet, recycle it. Instead, find a carpet repossession facility which will recover the rug and avoid adding to the landfill. You can also ask your local carpet company if they have a recycling program!

3. Ink Cartridges

Image: PXHere

The ink cartridges from your home or business office can be recycled. Many office supply companies provide consumers with assistance for recycling their ink cartridges. Staples will recycle ink cartridges, and HP has an ink cartridge program that includes free shipping of old cartridges for recycling. Check your local office supply stores and encourage them to offer a recycling program if they do not have one in place.

4. Computers

Image: PXHere

There is an abundance of parts and pieces used to create a computer and there are a variety of mechanisms that can easily be recycled. Perhaps your city has an eco-recycling program, or something similar. Computer supply companies will often take old computers and salvage the parts.

5. Eyeglasses

Image: Flickr

Do you have old or broken glasses laying around? These too can be recycled. The different parts of the glasses can be reused: the lenses, plastic frames, and nose protectors all can be recycled. Donate your old eyeglasses and frames to optometry and vision care locations.

6. Home Electronics

Image: Flickr

The majority of households contain an abundance of electronics available throughout the decades. It is important to recycle these properly and most cities have designated electronic recycling depots. Calling local recycling companies for information is essential.

7. Cell Phones

Image: Pixabay

Most humans have a collection of old and dated cell phones in their desks or coat pocket from last season. Each of these cell phones has value in particular manufacturing markets. Local eco-stations will take cell phones, and they can also be up-cycled on such sites as getorchard.com, which may have monetary value.

8. Crayons

Image: Pixabay

Crayola manufactures millions of crayons per year. Many of these crayons, unfortunately, end up landfills. The National Crayon Recycling Program has made it possible to stop unwanted crayons from going into landfills. The program will take all broken, used and unwanted crayons back, where they are melted down and recycled into new crayons.

9. Wine Corks

Image: Flickr

When the wine bottle is empty, send your cork to ReCORK. ReCORK collects corks and manufactures the recycled corks to create new eco-friendly products.

10. Car Batteries

Image: Pixabay

Dead or old car batteries can be recycled. Some local Walmart’s or mechanic shops will recycle old or dead car batteries, and some businesses will even reimburse you money for it!

11. Shoes


Image: Pixabay

Have your running shoes hit the pavement too many times, and now they are worn out? Perhaps you have a few pairs in the back of the closet you don’t use anymore. A variety of different shoe stores, such as Nike, Running Wild and the MORE Foundation accept used sneakers for recycling and reuse.

12. Plastic Cups


Image: Pixabay

TerraCycle is a company in New Jersey which recycles a variety of plastics. You can ship your extra plastics off to New Jersey to be recycled instead of trashing them.

13. Cigarette Butts

Image: Pexels

Same as number 12. TerraCycle is a company in New Jersey which also recycles cigarette butts! They salvage more plastics than just these two items, check them out for everything they accept!

14. Holiday Lights

Image: Pixabay

Take the old and burnt out ones to Home Depot. In 2014, Home Depot launched a light recycling program. In some areas where E-waste can be recycled, lights and small electronics can be recycled their too. Be sure to call ahead first or check their sites to ensure what can and can’t be recycled.

15. Empty or Used Makeup Containers

Image: Pixabay

Do you have an abundance of make-up containers laying around and not sure what to do with them? Companies such as MAC, Aveda, and Origins all have recycling programs are available for a cleaner and proper disposal.