June 2019: Reforestation Collection

The Reforestation Collection will be released on Friday, June 28th at 3pm PST. TEN trees will be planted for every purchase made. Click the links below to add to your calendar and receive a reminder. Kindly note that the Outlook or iCal link must be opened in an actual browser (it will not work on Instagram’s browser).


The Issue

Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. An area of tropical forests equivalent to the state of South Carolina is being destroyed each year. That’s about 36 football fields’ worth of trees are lost every minute due to deforestation. Every day, an area nearly 14 times the size of Manhattan is burned around the world. Despite their immense value, since the 1960s, nearly half of the world’s rainforests have been lost.

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The Culprits

Animal Agriculture

The main culprit in this story is agriculture, accounting for 80% of all deforestation worldwide. More than 90% of all Amazon rainforest cleared since 1970 is used for cattle ranching and farms, particularly plantations that grow soy for the purpose of feeding livestock. An area equivalent to France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands combined is dedicated to growing soy worldwide, and 75% of that soy goes to feed animals.

In the Amazon, commercial agriculture has both a direct and indirect impact on deforestation. In addition to the forests felled for crop fields, commercial agriculture creates a necessity for new highways, drives up land prices, which, in turn, promotes land speculation, and encourages ranchers and small farmers to move deeper into rainforest areas.

Palm Oil

In Malaysia and Indonesia, forests are cut down to make way for producing palm oil, the most common vegetable oil in the world, which can be found in everything from shampoo to saltines. Over the past few decades, palm oil use has exploded for various reasons, including the versatility and creamy texture of the oil, the productivity of the trees, the health concerns over trans fats, and the rising demand for biodiesel. Palm oil is now the world’s most popular vegetable oil, accounting for one-third of global consumption.

Palm Oil.jpg

Today, palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. In Indonesia, one of the world’s most important wildlife havens, around 24 million hectares of rainforest were razed between 1990 and 2015 – an area almost the size of the UK . The country’s endangered orangutan population, which depends on the rainforest, has dwindled by as much as 50% in recent years. And it’s only getting worse. The Indonesian government has announced plans to convert approximately 18 million more hectares of rainforests, an area the size of Missouri, into palm oil plantations by 2020.

Why Should We Care?

At current rates of deforestation, the Earth’s rainforests could be completely gone in 100 years. Forests are vital for food, water and livelihoods — and they affect you, whether you know it or not.

Climate change

Deforestation’s impact on climate change is a double whammy. Not only does it reduce our best weapon against climate change, it adds fuel to the fire. You see, when plants grow, they absorb the greenhouse gases that fuel climate change. Fewer forests mean larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and increase speed and severity of climate change. When trees are cut down or burned, they release the stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making it the 2nd leading cause of global warming.

The production of palm oil requires draining and burning of carbon-rich swamps known as peatlands. Peatlands hold more carbon than the forests above them; when they are drained and burned, both carbon and methane are released into the atmosphere—and unless the water table is restored, peatlands continue to decay and release global warming emissions for decades. As if that wasn't bad enough, the burning of peatlands releases a dangerous haze into the air, resulting in severe health impacts and significant economic losses.

This is why it’s not surprising to learn that deforestation accounts for ¼ of global greenhouse gas emissions and adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than all of the vehicles in the world. In Brazil and Indonesia, deforestation and forest degradation are by far the main sources of national greenhouse gas emissions.

Furthermore, trees also convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20% of the world’s breathable oxygen is produced in the Amazon rainforest alone. As the biggest rainforest on the planet, the Amazon is also a critical reservoir and sponge for CO2.

Deforestation threatens the livelihood 1.6 BILLION people

Approximately 350 million people worldwide live inside or close to forests and rely on them for food. Nearly 60 million people, particularly those living in indigenous communities, are entirely dependent on forests.

Biodiversity

Forests are also home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. It is estimated that 4 to 6 thousand rainforest species go extinct each year. Only about 15% of native animal species can survive the transition from primary forest to plantation.

Among the species vulnerable to palm oil expansion are orangutans, tigers, rhinoceros, and elephants. Palm oil growers have also been accused of using forced labor, seizing land from local populations, and other human rights abuses.

Other impacts

– Forest products account for more than US$ 200 billion of the world’s annual GDP

– In addition to mitigating climate change, stopping deforestation and forest degradation and supporting sustainable forest management would conserve water resources, prevent flooding, reduce run-off, control soil erosion, reduce river siltation, protect fisheries, preserve biodiversity, cultures and traditions

– Forests next to rivers and streams act as “living filters” by absorbing sediments and storing and transforming excess nutrients and pollutants

– Several prescription drugs sold worldwide have been derived directly from plants found in rainforests, from the cancer drug vincristine to theophylline, which is used to treat asthma

The global demand for food is expected to double by 2050, meaning that we need to focus on utilizing existing farmland more efficiently rather than cutting down our remaining forests

What We Can Do

Most of the world’s deforestation is caused by surging demand for commodities like beef, soy, sugar, and palm oil. The good news is that as consumers, we can directly reduce this demand by being more diligent with our choices.

Forests are worth more standing than cut down. By identifying the full values of forests, we can create powerful incentives to ensure that they remain standing and can continue to support us

Sources

https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/reforestation/deforestation-climate-change/

https://www.conservation.org/stories/Pages/11-deforestation-facts-you-need-to-know.aspx

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation/

https://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html#content

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/12/palm-oil-products-borneo-africa-environment-impact/#close

http://www.mightyearth.org/mysterymeat/

https://www.ran.org/palm_oil_fact_sheet/

March 2019: Water Pollution Collection

I opened my eyes and the pain set in immediately. There was no going back to sleep. My throat felt like a desert on a hot summer day. I could hardly swallow and was out of the one thing that could have quickly and easily ended my mystery. I laid there for what felt like eternity, hoping I would magically remember a forgotten water bottle I had stashed somewhere. The tap water in Koh Phangan isn’t potable, and the closest bottled water would have required getting dressed and walking through intense heat to the nearest convenience store. I looked at my backpack and saw my filtered water bottle poking out. The insert that came with the bottle listed the countries where the bottle could safely be used, and Thailand wasn’t one of them. In my desperate state, I decided to chance it. After all, I only needed one small sip, just enough to wet my throat so I could make it to the store...
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For the next 12 hours, I found myself in a deeper hell than I could have ever imagined. The pain I endured that morning was nothing in contrast to the misery I suffered as a consequence of my poor decision. It was a cleanse of epic proportions, and all of my own doing.
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From that day on, I never took the clean water that comes out of every tap in the United States for granted. Every day before I go to sleep, I think about all the things I’m grateful for. I recall that day in Thailand, and consider what life would be like without such a simple luxury. It’s so easy to take clean water for granted when we’ve always had it, but if we wish to maintain that privilege, we’re going to have to start paying more attention to it.

Did you know that unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined? Global demand for freshwater expected to increase 30% by 2050, but less than 1% of the earth’s freshwater is currently accessible to us. Water pollution is a topic many of us don’t often think about, but should.

When rainfall seeps into the earth and fills the cracks and porous spaces of an aquifer, it becomes "groundwater"—one of our least visible but most important natural resources. I, along with nearly 40% of Americans, rely on groundwater, pumped up to the surface, for drinking water. In many rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source.
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Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants—from pesticides and fertilizers to waste leached from landfills and septic systems—make their way into an aquifer, rendering it unsafe for human use. Ridding groundwater of contaminants can be difficult to impossible, as well as costly. Once polluted, an aquifer may be unusable for decades, or even thousands of years. Groundwater can also spread contamination far from the original polluting source as it seeps into streams, lakes, and oceans.

Over 60% of Americans source their freshwater from surface water, such as lakes, rivers and springs. According to a recent EPA survey, nearly HALF of our rivers and streams, and over 1/3 of our lakes, are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking.
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What’s contaminating these precious sources? Surprisingly, it's the agricultural industry. The very nutrients that plants and animals need to grow are actually major pollutants of our water sources. Every time it rains, farm waste, fertilizers and pesticides wash bacteria and viruses into our waterways. This nutrient pollution is the number one threat to water quality worldwide.

You may have heard of the algal blooms that have been happening in beaches and rivers around the country. It's a toxic soup of blue/green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife. Last summer, Florida experienced its most toxic bloom in decades. The main cause? You guessed it - agricultural runoff. The nutrient pollution fuels the growth of algae, which eventually decompose and deplete oxygen in the water. This loss of oxygen causes fish and other wildlife to suffocate and makes these aquatic areas uninhabitable.
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If you think that's bad, recent research suggests that thanks to increased rainfall from climate change, the worst is yet to come. Without acting to reduce carbon emissions or polluted runoff, nitrogen loading in rivers will increase by 20-30% in the U.S. by the end of the century.

Do you ever wonder what happens to the things you pour down your drain? More than 80% of the world's wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused. That figure rises to 95% in less developed countries. In the U.S., wastewater treatment facilities process about 34bn gallons of wastewater per day. These facilities reduce the amount of pollutants before discharging the treated waters back into the environment. However, these sewage treatment systems are old and get easily overwhelmed. The EPA estimates that over 850bn gallons of untreated wastewater are released into our waterways each year.
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The pollutants can include pathogens from sewers as well as heavy metals and toxic chemicals from industrial waste. They come from our sinks, showers, and toilets, from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities, and from stormwater runoff, which occurs when rainfall carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces into our waterways.

Do you know where the vast majority of the oil pollution in our water comes from? While big oil spills dominate headlines, you may be surprised to know that consumers are actually the main culprit. Think about all the oil and gasoline that drip from millions of cars and trucks every day.
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Why should we care? Because water pollution kills. In fact, it led to 1.8 million deaths in 2015. Contaminated water can also make you ill. Every year, unsafe water sickens about 1 billion people, with low-income communities disproportionately at risk because their homes are often closest to the most polluting industries. Don't think this can happen here in the U.S.? It has! Recall the lead poisoning incident in Flint, Michigan only 5 years ago. It's a real threat, and can hit close to home. Tomorrow I'll go over some ways we can help keep our most sacred resource pollution-free.

How we can do our part to ensure that the water that comes out of our tap stays clean?

  • Don't use your sink or toilet as a trash can. Properly dispose of baby wipes, old pills, chemical cleaners, oils, and non-biodegradable items to keep them from ending up down the drain.

  • Maintain your car so it doesn't leak oil, antifreeze, or coolant.

  • Avoid using chemical pesticides and herbicides in your yard. Opt for organic alternatives instead.

  • Pick up after your pup. It's not just neighborly, but scooping up dog poo keeps that bacteria-laden crap from running into storm drains and waterways.

  • Tell your elected officials that you support the Clean Water Rule.

  • Donate to organizations that fight for clean water, such as the NRDC. You can do so directly or by purchasing a piece from the Water Pollution Collection.

Sources:

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/water-pollution-everything-you-need-know

Water pollution from agriculture: a global review

January 2019: Plastic Ocean Collection

How often do you think about plastic? We’ve produced more plastic in the last 10 years than the CENTURY before that. It has become such a mainstream part of society that we no longer question it. But the plastic problem on our planet is becoming a serious hazard to our oceans, with roughly 8 MILLION metric tons of plastic ending up in the ocean ANNUALLY. If you eat seafood, you are most likely ingesting some of those plastics unknowingly. It’s easy to ignore plastic consumption. After all, it’s recyclable, right?

RECYCLING FALLS SHORT

Only 9% of all plastic produced actually gets recycled. When you put something in the recycling bin, the likelihood of it ending up in a landfill is high. That’s because our present recycling practices are inefficient and not economically viable. This is why the United States and many other developed countries shipped their trash to China. However, since China has stopped accepting most of that waste, including plastic recyclables, much of it has ended up in our landfills. Unfortunately, the solution to the plastic problem is not in recycling, which can only work with a really low cost of labor.

Many of the single-use plastics that you consume on a daily basis are not recyclable, such as plastic straws, utensils, and plastic bags*. These, along with the recyclable plastic we can’t afford to recycle, end up in landfills. From there, that plastic gets carried into streams by rainwater, which eventually flows into rivers, and finally into the ocean.

Recycling makes us believe the perception that we can continue our dependency on disposables. Recycling should be considered a last resort for “disposable” plastics, after reducing, recovering, redesigning, reusing and replacing.

THE MAIN CULPRITS: PLASTIC PACKAGING and SINGLE-USE PLASTICS

Each American generates more than 1,600 pounds of garbage every year. That's more trash per person than any other nation on Earth. Much of it comes from plastic bags, plastic water bottles and plastic packaging. Our love affair with plastic has turned us into a throwaway society, with over 40% of all plastics being single-use, and only 25% of plastic bottles and 5% of plastic bags getting recycled. But awareness is spreading. In 2018, Collins Dictionary named "single-use" their word of the year, citing a four-fold increase in usage since 2013. If you want to pick one type of plastic to go after, it’s single-use plastics.

Examples of popular single-use plastics are product packaging, plastic bags, water bottles, beverage containers, utensils, and straws. Packaging makes up 42% of all non-fiber plastic produced and over half of the plastic thrown away. A lot of take-out containers aren’t accepted by recycling facilities, even if they have a recyclable label on them. San Francisco has banned fluorinated take-out containers (along with plastic straws and utensils), giving an incentive for many restaurants to replace them with paper or other compostable materials. Unfortunately, not many cities have followed suit.

Plastics bags are especially difficult to recycle. It costs so much more to process the bags than can be earned from selling them, so most of them end up getting sent to the dump. While a few flimsy bags don't seem like much, they add up: Americans consume an estimated 100 BILLION of them every year. These lightweight bags are easily blown away and make their way into the water streams, eventually ending up in the ocean, where they’re confused for jellyfish and eaten by innocent sea turtles. Once ingested, the plastic blocks the digestive system of these animals, and they eventually starve to death.

Did you know that even in the United States, a country with potable tap water, one out of every three servings of water comes from a bottle? I lived in NYC and saw a widespread use of plastic bottles in a city that has arguably THE BEST tap water in the country. From friends buying cases of water bottles to keep in their apartment to my office stocking its fridge full of plastic beverages, these single-use plastics were EVERYWHERE. It’s behavior you wouldn’t expect from a city of educated individuals. And what’s worse, a lot of New Yorkers don’t cook (it’s true), and instead order take-out from restaurants, packaged in…you guessed it, PLASTIC. I’m not here to blame these people, especially because I, at one point, was guilty of a lot of these acts. I’m telling you this because I want to shed light on the importance of increased awareness right here in the United States. It’s easy for me to live in California and think that these consequences are widely known, but California is an outlier. Until we get the word out, especially to the younger generations, we will not start to see real change. In the words of Greg Babe, chairman of the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division, this is not a material problem. It's not a plastics problem. It's a BEHAVIORAL problem.

MICROPLASTICS IN OUR FOOD

Much of the plastic that ends up in the ocean gets broken down into “microplastics”. These small bits of plastic act as magnets for chemical toxins and are easily ingested by small sea creatures. Many of the fish humans consume have ingested plastic at some point in their life. Most marine organisms can’t distinguish common plastic items from food, and end up passing the toxins from plastics up the food chain. For example, a few pieces of microplastics get eaten by a lantern fish. That lantern fish later gets eaten by a squid. The squid is eaten by a tuna, and that toxic tuna ends up on your plate.

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This picture of plastic sushi is obviously an exaggeration, but many of the saltwater fish you eat have some form of highly toxic microplastic in their system. How detrimental is the ingestion of these plastics to our health? Most of us, by now, know about the harmful effects of BPA, but what good is ditching that BPA container when you’re voluntarily consuming it at dinner? If you eat seafood, you are slowly and unknowingly poisoning yourself with toxic chemicals and increasing your risk of cancer, asthma, infertility and developmental disorders.

IMPACT TO MARINE LIFE

The negative impact to marine life goes far beyond ingesting toxic microplastics. Animals who eat plastic often starve because they can’t digest the plastic and it fills their stomachs, preventing them from eating real food. Birds and other larger animals often become trapped or entangled in plastic bags, fishing line, and other debris. Sea turtles specifically are highly susceptible. They both mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and frequently get trapped in plastic debris, restricting their growth and movement. Though the declining sea turtle populations in the oceans are due to a variety of factors, plastic pollution plays a significant role.

Here are some facts for you: Studies have found that one third of the fish caught in the UK had plastic inside them. Over 40% of all sea birds have ingested plastic at some point in their life. An estimated 98% of albatross have plastic in their stomachs, and 40% of chicks die every year due to plastic consumption. An endangered sperm whale was found washed ashore in Spain last year, dead after swallowing 64 pounds of plastic debris. 31% of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are ingesting plastic debris, and in turn, 22% of them were at an increased risk of death. Scientists have found plastic in the stomachs of animals as deep as 11km (6.8 miles) from the ocean’s surface, showing just how widespread this problem has become.

LOVE SNORKELING OR SCUBA DIVING?

Do you love to snorkel or scuba dive? Can you imagine how fun those activities will be when half of what you see is plastic, not fish? That’s right. Scientists predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. MORE PLASTIC THAN FISH! Can you imagine what that would be like?? Despite our efforts to increase awareness, the amount of plastic in our ocean is expected to increase TENFOLD in the next two years.

You can also say goodbye to those beautifully colorful coral reefs. The likelihood of coral becoming diseased increases dramatically after coming in contact with marine plastic. These reefs are home to more than 25% of marine life. Once they go, the marine life that depends on them for its survival will soon follow. (Side note: La Femme Boheme jewelry is 100% coral-free. By purchasing jewelry or other souvenirs made from coral or other once-living marine life, consumers often unknowingly contribute to the destruction of reefs. More on that in a later post.)

If you don’t think this outcome can become reality, you are living in la la land. We currently have five massive patches of plastic floating in our oceans around the globe. The largest, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, situated between California and Hawaii, is THREE TIMES the size of France, and growing exponentially.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Public policies are slow to roll out due to the substantial lobbying power of the plastic industry. That means that in order to create change, we need to start from the bottom up. Here is a list of things you can start doing TODAY that will have a direct impact on our environment:

  • Reduce the amount of plastic you consume by bringing your own cloth shopping bags, coffee mug, and water bottle with you when you leave the house. I’ve even started bringing my own to-go containers to restaurants for leftovers.

  • Opt for reusable products, such as reusable straws, razors, and cloth diapers instead of disposables.

  • Refuse that free plastic bag at the grocery store and that straw at the restaurant.

  • When hosting a gathering, offer compostable cups, plates and utensils to your guests instead of their plastic counterparts (that is, if you can’t use actual dishes, glasses and silverware).

  • Buy products with little plastic packaging, or packaging made from recycled or compostable materials (Did you know all La Femme Boheme packaging is made of 100% recycled, reused, and/or compostable materials?).

  • RECYCLE. Many of us don’t recycle properly, and unfortunately, having good intentions doesn’t change the end result. When you throw unrecyclable items into the recycling bin, that entire batch of recycling is deemed unusable and thrown away. Therefore, contamination can undermine the good recycling habits of others and cause easily recyclable items to end up in landfills. It’s important to research your local recycling guidelines, as not every recycling facility can accept certain plastic products, and only recycle if you are positive that the item is truly recyclable.

    • *There are over 18,000 places in the U.S. to recycle plastic bags, and your curbside recycling bin typically isn’t one of them. Instead, plastic bags and wraps can be taken to recycling bins in front of more than 18,000 U.S. grocery and retail stores. This includes bags for groceries, bread, food storage (ziplocks), cling wrap, and dry cleaning, plus plastic shipping envelopes (remove labels), bubble wrap, and all those annoying shipping pillows that come with your Amazon order.

    • Click here to download a cheat-sheet on what you can and can’t recycle. Print this out and tape it to your recycling bin for easy referral.

  • Stop purchasing products that contain microplastics, such as body/facial scrubs and toothpaste with plastic beads.

  • Start using bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic toothbrushes.

  • Opt for organic cotton clothing and bedding over polyester when you can.

  • Give up smoking - In 2018, over 2.4 MILLION cigarette butts were collected from beaches on International Coastal Cleanup Day.

  • Use matches or refillable lighters instead of “disposables”.

  • If you are a small business such as myself, please consider the packaging you use for your products and shipping, and try to eliminate plastic as much as possible. Ecoenclose is a great source for eco-friendly shipping supplies.

  • Call your government officials and demand policies geared towards eliminating single-use plastics and providing incentives for producers to develop alternatives to non-biodegradable plastics.

  • Support Social Plastic.

  • Donate: I have included a list of organizations you can donate to directly, or through a purchase of jewelry from my Plastic Ocean collection, available here on Friday, February 1st at 6pm PST (9pm EST).

With your help, we can create change and protect this planet that serves as our one and only home for future generations.

ORGANIZATIONS

Click on any of the organizations below to be taken directly to their donation page

The Ocean Cleanup
Plastic Oceans
The Plastic Bank
Plastic Pollution Coalition
The Plastic Disclosure Project
Earth Day Network

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

https://www.earthday.org/earthday/toolkits/
https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/the-new-plastics-economy-rethinking-the-future-of-plastics-catalysing-action
https://www.earthday.org/2018/04/05/fact-sheet-plastics-in-the-ocean/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6xlNyWPpB8&feature=youtu.be
https://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-wonder-material-you-cant-get-rid-of/
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/19/538166682/plastic-is-everywhere-and-recycling-isnt-the-end-of-it
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/plastic-facts/?beta=true#10-shocking-facts-about-plastic
https://plasticoceans.org/plastic-pollution-info-resources/
https://livelovefruit.com/whales-dying-from-plastic-pollution/

2019 Vision

2018 was the year of custom orders, and while I loved making personalized pieces for many of you, I would like to make La Femme Boheme about more than just jewelry. Over the years, I have established a very special bond with Mother Nature, and have developed a deep respect for this planet we call home. It has made me more conscious of our impact on the environment and led to both major and minor changes in my life. I would like to align La Femme Boheme's values with my own.
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So for 2019, my vision is to create collections around environmental issues. Each collection will be designed with an environmental theme in mind, not only to bring awareness to the issue, but also to help the cause. I plan to donate a percentage of the profits to an organization that works directly with each issue. Some ideas I'm considering are deforestation, climate change, water pollution, waste management, animal agriculture, and loss of biodiversity. If you have any issues you'd like to see me feature, please leave a comment below! Also, if you'd like to recommend an organization that works with any of the issues listed above, I’m all ears!
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Thank you for reading. I hope you are all having a wonderful start to the year and I look forward to making 2019 a year that matters - together.