Viridorari is an environmentally focused blog. The mission of Viridorari is to help you incorporate healthier, "greener" habits into your life, to benefit you, the people around you, and the environment.

Viridorari is on Twitter! Follow this blog with a mission to be up to date with what's new on Viridorari and the world of environmental activists @viridorari

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ecofriendly Economics & Harsh Facts: Oil Spills

Harsh Facts

The Exxon Valdez Spill of 1989 was often considered the worst oil spill ever before the BP Spill of 2010. Exxon Valdez leaked 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

Without taking the BP Spill into consideration, an average of one billion gallons of oil are spilled into the world’s oceans each year.

In the BP Gulf of Mexico Spill, 60,000 barrels (2.5 million gallons) of oil were leaked each day. On May 17th, 2010, the slick was 130 miles long and 70 miles wide.

The cost of Gulf Oil Spill to BP as of June 14th, 2010, was $1.6 billion. $1.5 billion is the estimated amount insurers paid as a result of the spill.

About 400 wildlife species were threatened by the BP Spill, including the 25 million birds that traverse the Gulf of Mexico each day. 

2,300 square miles out of a total 7,000 square miles of Louisiana coastal marshes and cypress forests have been damaged as a result of oil drilling. 

The United States consumes 19.5 million gallons of oil per day. 

One estimate expects that over its fifty year lifetime, the Keystone XL Pipeline will have about 91 significant tar sands oil spills (significant meaning at least fifty barrels).  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekly Green Challenge: Ask for a Plastic Bag Ban

Last week, I challenged you to sign at least ten environmental petitions through organizations like the Rainforest Action Network and Care2Petition. How many did you sign? What issues were your petitions about? Let me know in the comments section of this post!

I signed a total of twelve petitions this past week. Here’s what they were about:

I asked that funding for orca rescue programs be reinstated, via Friends of the Earth. I demanded that mountain-top removal coal mines be banned, via the Sierra Club. I supported the Save America’s Pollinators Act, which would ban pesticides that harm bees, with Organize CREDO. I asked that both captive and wild chimps receive protection, instead of being considered separate in the eyes of the law, via Center for Biological Diversity. I endorsed GMO food labeling for the state of Washington with Yes on 522. I demanded that there be restrictions on factory carbon emissions with the League of Women Voters. I told Congress to act on climate change by reducing carbon emissions and increasing use of renewable energy with Care2Petition. I expressed my outrage with the use of child and slave labor for palm oil production with the Rainforest Action Network. I asked for the low speed limit law in endangered Right Whale waters to be renewed with the Center for Biological Diversity. I demanded that American wolves remain protected with Defenders of Wildlife. I said no to Arctic drilling via the Sierra Club. Lastly, I demanded that the bushmeat trade be banned, which would help out endangered chimpanzees, with Care2Petition.

The organizations I listed above make it easy to make your voice heard with petitions and connect with your representatives and leaders. Sign up with them today (for free) to receive action alerts about petitions!

Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, which is why ninety percent of bags in the United States are not recycled. Despite this, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used annually around the world, with 380 billion of those used in the United States.

This week, I’m planning on writing to my local government to ask for a ban on plastic bags in my town, and I want you to write a letter too.

Activism Spotlight: Protesting Arctic Drilling

Drilling in the Arctic is a big issue right now- the Arctic is one of the last great wildernesses in the world, and is home to polar bears, caribou, Arctic foxes, whales, seals, and much more. Not only does the Arctic house amazing creatures, but the ice reflects massive amounts of sunlight back into space, keeping the Earth cool. If we drill in the Arctic, we risk polluting and damaging an important ecosystem that is already melting away from global warming. As recently as this week, I’ve signed petitions demanding that the Arctic be left alone, along with thousands of other people. I’m sure many have sent letters and called their representatives on the issue. Several organizations are working hard to keep oil companies out of the North Pole.

However, six Greenpeace activists went above and beyond with their advocacy for the Arctic in London. They did much more than make a phone call or sign a petition. They made quite the scene: on July 11th, friends Wiola Smul, Ali Garrigan, Sabine Huyghe, Sandra Lamborn, Victoria Henry, and Liesbeth Deddens climbed the tallest building in Europe, the Shard, to protest drilling in the Arctic. They began their climb in the early morning and reached the top at approximately 7:10pm, where they were promptly arrested for aggravated trespass.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Freewrite: Plea for Action & Change

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” –Lady Bird Johnson

    Lately I feel as though I’ve gone mad.

    From the moment I wake up in the morning to my last foggy thought as I drift to sleep at night, I am consumed with the environmental dilemma that grips our globe, at this very moment.

    Yes, right now, as I’m writing, climate change has befallen our fragile planet that we once thought so invincible. It’s undeniable. Extreme weather is becoming more extreme and alarmingly common, and heat records are being broken annually. As we expand, populate, use, discard, and emit, Earth’s remaining unprotected wildernesses recede and species die faster than we can save them. 

    The more I write Viridorari and envelope myself in the environmental news, the more I think I’m not doing enough. This is why I’m so consumed by this issue. My parents and close friends might tell me I’m being too hard on myself, but deep down I know I’m not. I refuse to sit by idly and twiddle my thumbs while the only planet available to live on dies a slow and torturous death. They might also tell me that I’m more concerned about the environment than the average person, and I should feel good about that. Reassured.

    That’s exactly what scares the hell out of me.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Harsh Facts & Ecofriendly Economics: Buy with a Conscience

Harsh Facts
Cigarettes are well known for their ability to cause major health issues, ranging from asthma, to cancer, and even to death. We are warned not smoke around our young children to prevent the negative effects of secondhand smoke, and students are taught to avoid tobacco products in school. However, cigarettes have another dangerous side effect that isn’t well known; pollution.

Worldwide, smokers discard 4.5 trillion cigarette butts each year.

Discarded cigarette butts enter our storm drains, and then watersheds, and from there they can potentially travel all the way to the ocean.

Every cigarette butt can contain up to sixty known carcinogens including arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. There are 1,400 potential chemical additives.

Nicotine has been shown to be lethal to species of fish, crustaceans, zooplankton, and other aquatic organisms.

Cigarette filters are also composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that remains in the environment for long periods of time without breaking down.

For the past eight years (as of 1999), cigarette butts have been the leading item found during the International Coastal Cleanup Project, accounting for nearly one in every five items collected.

Do you smoke? If you are unable to quit, discard of your cigarette butts responsibly. Consider writing to tobacco companies to ask them to address the environmental impact of cigarettes, and consider writing to your local government to take cigarette litter seriously.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Weekly Green Challenge: Sign Petitions

I continued to repurpose this week! I found a use for one of my other candle jars, and I used a side of the second fan box to transform a clutter of pictures on my wall into an organized picture board. I plan on using the other side of the same box to make another picture board.

The candle jar became a cup for razors in my shower
The box
My cluttered wall of pictures from a trip to Quebec.
The finished product!

What did you repurpose/upcycle? Send me photos of your projects at and I will feature them on the next Green Challenge post. Remember, Viridorari always wants to know about what you’re doing to be greener! Email me anytime with your accomplishments.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Suggested Reading: Thirteen Gold Monkeys

I will be forgoing "Activism Spotlight" today. I'm busy preparing for my departure to Texas tomorrow!
Suggested Reading
 Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at zoos and conservation programs? Have you ever heard about the release of captive animals into the wild, and wondered how it was done? Is wildlife conservation important to you? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to get your hands on a copy of Benjamin Beck’s Thirteen Gold Monkeys.

    Beck was a part of the first ever expedition to reintroduce zoo born golden lion tamarins from the United States into the wild coastal rainforests of Brazil. Between 1983 and 2005, Beck helped coordinate the release of 149 zoo born golden lion tamarins into the wild. Thirteen Gold Monkeys is the fictionalized account of Beck’s adventures with the first two of these reintroductions, in which the reader sees both the humans’ and the monkeys’ points of view. In the story, Beck gives us rare glimpses of what it takes to organize and run a zoo, the infinitely complicated process of preparing zoo animals for the wild, and the scientists’ and caretakers’ emotional entanglement with the animals they are responsible for.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Recycling Projects: Featuring Jennifer Kemper

Today, Viridorari's eighth Guest Writer, Jennifer Kemper, will provide you with four recycling projects!  I discovered Jennifer at an arts and crafts show in Cazenovia, NY.

Jennifer Kemper has been an artist and potter all of her life. Though pottery is her main work, she has fun using other media as well.  A junk-collector from early on, she learned through experimentation to make various things using items that might have been thrown away. Her creations include wind chimes, hurricane lamps, garden totems, terrariums, candles, jewelry, lampworked glass beads, masks, clothing, and more. Some of these items can be found on her website
You can also see her work at The Artisans Guild in Oneonta, NY and at her studio at 120 Taylor Rd, Morris, NY.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ecofriendly Economics & Harsh Facts: Hurricanes

Harsh Facts

Hurricanes are the most destructive and violent natural weather events on Earth.

Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of New Orleans, destroyed over 100,000 homes, and took the lives of nearly 2,000 people.

More than a dozen states were affected by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in 2012; the cost of the storm amounted to $18.75 billion in insured property losses.

On average, 90 tropical cyclones develop around the world each year. From these, on average, six hurricanes develop each year in the Atlantic, while nine hurricanes form in the Pacific. 

Hurricane season in the Atlantic is from June 1st to November 30th.  The Eastern Pacific season is longer, from May 15th to November 30th.

Typhoon Tip was the largest and most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded, with a diameter of 1,380 miles. To put that into perspective, here’s a picture comparing Tip to the continental United States:

Recent studies speculate that climate change and global warming will cause hurricanes to become strong and more frequent in the coming years.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekly Green Challenge: Upcycle 5 Things

I continued to ride my bike this week to nearby places. I totaled 14.6 miles, which equates to .67 gallons of gas in my car saved, and with current prices, $2.45 not spent. That may not seem like a lot, but look at this way: this EPA fact sheet says that burning one gallon of gas emits nearly twenty pounds of carbon dioxide. So, traveling .67 miles on my bike kept my car from belching more than ten pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. Imagine how many pounds of emissions could be spared each year if we all started to use our bikes more often!

Do you love riding your bike, whether it be for exercise, sport, your wallet, or the environment? Sign People for Bikes’ pledge, and help them reach their goal of one million pledges! The pledge shows that you’re committed to riding your bike, and it will help advocate for making towns and cities more bike friendly by adding bike lanes, paths, and trails. Be sure to change your badge to the type of bike you prefer to ride! When I signed, I picked the “commuter” bike. Which style will you pick?
Picture courtesy of:

Now, on to this week’s Green Challenge! I had a lot of fun this week reusing and repurposing a few things, so for the coming week, I challenge you to repurpose or upcycle five items instead of throwing them away or recycling them.

Here’s a good tip for upcycling; when planning to repurpose something, don’t think about what you can make that object into. Try to think of something you need or want around the house, and then consider the alternative items you could make it from. Not only does upcycling keep items out of the landfill, but, hopefully, your upcycled item will actually be useful to you and your household.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recycling Projects: Business Card Birds

This project is a great way for you to upcycle old business cards, either the ones you’ve accumulated over the years and don’t need, or you outdated set after you have new ones made. The kids will love this creative little project, and they can decorate their rooms with the end result.

Supplies needed:

-Two unwanted business cards
-Decorative paper and glue (optional)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Harsh Facts, Ecofriendly Economics: Homemade Products

Harsh Facts of the Week

These facts come from and their campaigns to curb global warming.

350 parts per million is what scientists and climate experts believe is the safe upper limit of how much carbon dioxide can be in our atmosphere. We recently broke 400 ppm.

Scientists and governments alike also agree that warming the Earth by 2 more degrees Celsius would create a catastrophic outcome.

We can emit 565 more gigatons of CO2 and stay below that disastrous 2˚C mark.

Fossil fuel corporations have enough fuel in their reserves to create 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions- almost five times the safe amount.

These numbers are simple and straightforward. They tell us that we need to get off our butts and do something. We have no place for careless fossil fuel, oil, and coal burning in a liveable future. Enough said.

“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” –Lady Bird Johnson

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekly Green Challenge: Reduce Your Trash

This past week, I traveled a total 14.8 miles on my bicycle in replacement of my car. In my car, 14.8 miles translates to .68 gallons of gas, which is worth $2.48. That may not seem like a lot, but if I saved that much each week of the year, that amounts to $128.96 and 769.6 miles of exercise and miles not on my old car. The money savings are great, but I must say, I really enjoyed the exercise I got over the week. Not to mention, the sun has been shining, and I got a great tan! (Well, a sunburn that turned into a tan. Wear sunscreen when biking!)

I plan on continuing to use my bike more often!

How far did you travel on your bike? How much did you save? Email me at and let me know! Did you miss Green Challenge #14? Read it here.  

This week’s green challenge is inspired by Amy and Adam Korst, who I featured in an Activism Spotlight. If you haven’t read about them yet, here’s the punch line: over an entire year, they only produced a single shoebox full of trash (items that could not be recycled, reused, reduced, or composted). Since the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash a day, that means they prevented over a ton of trash from entering a landfill.

Using their advice for a trash-free life, which you can find here, for this entire week, I want you to commit to either significantly reducing or eliminating your trash production. Like Amy said, you don’t have to give up life as you know it to be environmentally friendly. A lot of the transitions they made were easy to do, and much more efficient. Adam believes that living trash-free can be a perfectly normal lifestyle.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Suggested Reading & Activism Spotlight: Trash-Free Living

Activism Spotlight
“Every time you reach for the trash,” Amy said, “if you make that motion a conscious thing, [you realize that you] reach for the trash so many times a day. I really was kind of amazed.”

Imagine living for an entire year without producing garbage. Impossible, right?

Apparently not, because that’s exactly what a young professional couple, Amy and Adam Korst, did from July 6th, 2009 to July 6th, 2010. Their original goal was to produce no more than one garbage bag of waste, and instead, they ended up with only a shoebox full of items that could not be recycled, reduced, reused, or composted between the two of them. 

In comparison, the average American produces 4.6 pounds of garbage daily, three pounds of which goes to a landfill. We recycle only 32% of our total waste, and we trash 99% of everything we buy within six months. So, according to these estimates and averages, the Korsts saved about 2,190 pounds of waste from the landfill, which is over a ton.

How did they do it?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Recycling Projects: Homemade Paper

Homemade Paper

I was considering recently ways to reuse paper scraps from the paper shredder. Some sites suggested using them as cushioning in packages, for gift bag stuffing, for Easter baskets, or for pet cage bedding. Well, I don’t send packages that need cushioning very often, Easter isn’t until next year, I don’t own any pets that would need cage bedding, and I imagine digging through confetti to find the gift in a bag would be very messy and annoying. Another thing, too: the people who receive the package, gift, or basket will most likely throw out the paper shreds right away. None of these solutions seemed like a very lasting reuse of paper shreds.

    Then, I stumbled across a tutorial for taking paper scraps and turning them back into full sheets of paper. The project is pretty messy, but it sounds really fun, and I can’t wait to try it myself. Not to mention, if you want, you can be creative and decorative with this project!

    Most steps in this project are pretty harmless, but I suggest supervising your kids for the sake of controlling the mess factor.

Materials needed

-Unwanted scrap paper- paper shreds, newspaper, old bills, junk mail, construction paper, etc.
-Liquid starch (optional)
-Plain wooden frame to the size of the paper you want to make
-Window screening, cut larger than the size of the frame
-Staples or tacks
-Dishpan or plastic storage container large enough to fit the entire frame inside
-Pieces of felt or flannel fabric slightly larger than the wooden frame
-Cookie sheets
-Weight (bricks, phone books, dictionaries, etc.)
-Clothesline and clothespins (or just a safe place for drying)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Harsh Facts, Ecofriendly Economics & July's Animal

Harsh Facts of the Week

 As I write this post, massive wildfires are raging in Arizona. Nineteen firefighters lost their lives yesterday fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, AZ, which earlier this morning had spread across 6,000 acres. In their honor, this week’s “Harsh Facts” will be based around wildfires.

In 2012, there were a total of 67,774 recorded wildfires, which collectively burned 9,326,238 acres of land. To see the totals from other years, click here.

The total cost to suppress 2012’s wildfires came to $1,902,446,000, almost 2 billion dollars. In comparison, $239,943,000 was spent in 1985 on wildfire suppression.

In 2011, one outside fire was reported every forty-six seconds in the United States.

In the United States and Australia, the two most common causes of wildfires are lightning and human activities. On average in the U.S., humans cause six times as many wildfires as natural causes do.  

Wildfires thrive best in hot, dry, and windy conditions. 2012 was the hottest year recorded in the U.S. since records began in 1895. The summer of 2012 was the third warmest summer on record.

On January 17th, 2013, Australia experienced its hottest day in 103 years with a 105˚F average and with the hottest temperature being 118˚F.