The 3 New R’s for our path forward

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When most people think about environment care they think of the current ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. But, these ‘R’s, are not sufficient as it only focuses on Waste Management. Going forward I think we should adopt, “Rethink, Redesign, and Restore” with Environmental Sustainability in the core of everything we do. These new ‘R’s will dramatically help us, as it would provide us with new vision and new set of goals to redo, rebuild, and revive.

Rethinking can be applied in the manufacturing industry. For example, most of the problems we are having today in us not knowing how to use our raw materials properly and to dispose of an item properly, like plastics, are because when we were formulating these products we did not consider these important factors. But now we know from our previous mistakes that the correct way to make a product or solution is to think of environmental sustainability from the beginning. It’s time for us to rethink our manufacturing processes and our materials industry, by adopting natural processes like self-assembly process of nature, and expand green chemistry initiatives to ramp up the availability of new materials.

Our current systems are mostly outdated, and redesign is desperately needed to manage our current and future needs. Almost everything in our built world, like our energy distribution, our water storage and distribution, transportation and communication systems, requires rebuilding. Let’s take the electrical distribution system; in today’s world if one electrical line breaks, most of the city has a black-out. Scientists have been studying the vein structures found in leaves, for its efficient and redundant ways by which it distributes water, and other materials. Even when the main vein of the leaf is cut, it doesn’t affect the distribution to the rest of the leaf. Studying and adopting the natural systems will help us redesign for a more robust and sustainable built world.

Over the past years, we have destroyed too much in order to build and expand. That’s why we need to restore and revive our natural resources. We need to increase our preservation and conservation efforts. We need to also be aware that every time a plant or animal becomes extinct, we lose knowledge that could benefit us greatly. Remember, anything that affects our ecosystems, will affect humans too.

So, let’s collaborate to Rethink, Redesign, and Restore our world, with Environmental Sustainability in our hearts.

About the Author:

Pavan is 14 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Published author, Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org)

Watch Pavan’s speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference:

Founder’s Speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference!

Don Juan’s Eco Farm

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This year for our family vacation we visited Costa Rica, the most beautiful, green place with many wonderful sites and attractions, and is about to become the world’s first carbon neutral country! The highlight of our vacation was our visit to Don Juan’s Eco Farm in Arenal.

Don Juan’s Eco Farm is an organic farm that is environmentally sustainable, and I think that all farms should try to be like this one.  It was fascinating to speak with Don Juan the owner of this farm. He says that like the impatiens seeds which bursts open and spreads its seeds to long distances with just the gentle touch of rain drops, he would like to disseminate his knowledge to people all around the world. The purpose of his farm is to produce, conserve, and to spread knowledge to everyone on environmental sustainability and organic farming.

Don Juan grows everything organically and his farm produces almost everything they need for their daily use. During the tour around the farm, Don Juan showed us how he can make natural juices and delicious snacks from sugar cane, fruits, and even leaves. These juices were one of the best tasting juices I have ever had! As we walked around we picked things that we wanted to eat for lunch; later his family made us traditional Costa Rican food with all the items we picked, and it was very delicious!

We also learnt that his careful placement of various types of plants was to take advantage of the diverse properties of the plants, in order to maintain the rich nutrients in the soil, and also some plants were purposefully placed to detract pests.  This is a very smart method that I think all farms should start using, instead of pesticides.

Don Juan’s Farm is a great real life example of how we could truly be zero waste, and conserve resources.  He has solar panels on roof tops and instead of Natural gas to heat his stove and home, Don Juan showed us how he uses Bio Gas. He uses the methane from his cows to make an energy source, which also helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that his farm produces.  He reuses almost everything in his farm, and is very careful about making the right choices for his needs.

Don Juan is a very passionate educator.  Before Don Juan became an organic farmer he was a math teacher and school principal. So, if you look around his farm you would see geometric shapes in which plants are arranged in his fields.   I would never forget the way he explained to me why pi has a value of 3.14 with a little basket and string. Don Juan has educated lots of people from all around the world, on how to farm organically, and in the future Don Juan would like to offer labs and educate even more people.

I saw many researchers, students, and farmers from all around the world visit his farm to learn from him. Don Juan is a true role model and I think that we all should try to follow in his footsteps.

DonJuan's Eco Farm

Picture taken at Don Juan’s Eco Farm, Arenal Costa Rica

About the Author:

Pavan Raj GowdaPavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html

Beware of plastic lids and bottle caps!

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In every nook and corner, on the roadsides, near the bushes, floating in the rain water and creeks, plastic lids and bottle caps are everywhere.  We know that plastic cans and bottles can be recycled, but what about the plastic lids and caps? Why are the lids and caps ending up in the landfills? What are the environmental impacts caused by the plastic lids and caps?

Most of the cities around USA do not recycle bottle caps and lids. If you look carefully at the bottle cap, and then at the bottle you would see that the type of plastic is different. An example is that a soda bottle would be PET Type 1 plastic, but the cap would be PET Type 5.  Sometimes, the bottle caps won’t even have a PET number. Since they are different types of plastic, many recycling centers request that the caps be separated from the bottles, because if they don’t it will contaminate the entire batch.  Also, while it’s being separated it could be very dangerous. When the machine is crushing the bottle, the bottle caps could fly off and hurt some of the people working at the Recycling station.  It could jam and damage the processing machines. When the lids are on and tight the items may not compact properly when crushed and could also explode with increase in temperature. It is also very hard to recycle bottle caps and the process is very expensive and time consuming.  Because of these problems, most Recycling facilities will tell you to throw bottle caps in the trash.

The lids and bottle caps can cause huge deleterious problems to our marine and land life.  Raccoons and seagulls, for example, sometimes hunt for food in the landfill, and they would mistake these bottle caps for food. Also, the bottle caps gets washed away into the ocean, and sea animals like fish will eat the plastic caps mistaking it for food. It could get stuck in their throats and suffocate the animals and also the polymers could break putting harmful chemicals in their body causing diseases and death.

Plastic lids and caps are indeed causing serious problems, and we have to take action on it immediately. Here are some small things we can do to help.  We should collect bottle caps in bulk and drop off at the appropriate recycling centers, like we do with batteries, because it could be recycled together. If we cannot dispose bottle caps in a proper way then we should try to make art work out of it. An example would be to make a Christmas tree or even a tunnel for the playground as shown in the picture below. We should reduce the usage of plastic bottles by carrying reusable water bottles, and choose metal cans and glass bottles instead of plastics.  If you have to buy items with a plastic bottle cap, you should buy in bulk/wholesale as this would help reduce the number of the plastic bottles needed.

Plastic lids and caps though it’s small item has caused huge problems and it is our responsibility to try to help this situation. We have ignored this huge problem for many years, and it will only get worse if we do nothing. We need to take action now and fix this situation. If we work together anything is possible.

Playstructure made of bottlecaps – Picture taken by Pavan, at National Institute of Biodiversity, San Jose, Costa Rica

About the Author:

Pavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html

How are we doing in Recycling?

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If you look at nature, you would see that there is no waste. Every ecosystem survives on its local resources and everything is being reused and recycled. This is zero waste. Nature has perfected that recycling process that we are still having a hard time to do. So, I wanted to find out about our progress so far, how we can improve, and how much more do we have to do to reach a real zero waste community.

This summer, I made this as one of my projects to find out how we are doing with our recycling efforts. I visited my local Recycling and Transfer Station, and interviewed the Operations Manager to find out about it. I was encouraged to hear that as a community our level of awareness has increased tremendously, and we have shown good progress in diverting recyclables from the landfills.

However, we still have a lot more work to do. When the mixed recyclables arrive at the transfer station, there are several staff members who manually separate the items and sort the recyclables based on the materials. There is still a lot of trash found along with the recyclables and also there are recyclables still being thrown away as trash. We all need to take personal interest in educating ourselves and understand the products we use every day, how to dispose those items, and make smart eco-friendly choices when shopping.

One fact that bothered me was that every day we are shipping in large containers our recyclables collected from our curbside to factories overseas, mostly to China for processing and conversion into raw materials to be made into new products again. This contradicts nature’s principle of recycling locally and reusing it locally. There are currently no other alternatives, so we have to continue working overseas, despite the environmental risks of container ships polluting the ocean with oil leaks, and the large amount of energy consumed for the transportation.

I think that our progress would continue at this slower pace, unless we redesign our cities for industrial ecology where the waste from one factory becomes the raw material for another, and consumers are presented with better choices of products. Although many years of efforts have been done, we have only begun the journey and have a very long way to go for achieving zero waste community. Let’s all do our part to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

About the Author:

Pavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html