Take Action: School Plastic Waste Reduced

Mountainfilm 2010 Festival favorite Bag It showed us the perils of single-use disposable plastic. According to the NY Times, students and their parents are reducing the amount of plastic waste involved with school lunches.

Many retailers and schools are advocating waste-free options for back-to-school shoppers this year, especially when it comes to lunch. School lists call for Tupperware instead of Ziplocs, neoprene lunch bags instead of brown paper ones, and aluminum water bottles, not the throwaway plastic versions.

Stuff: The Solution is not for Sale

During the Stone Age, Homo habilis apparently created and used tools. It could be argued that this was the beginning of man’s affinity for stuff. Tools were, and are, valuable and worth carting around from place to place. Speaking of carting, it’s stuff that was the impetus behind the invention of the wheel in the late Neolithic era. Wheels were used to make pottery — ahem, more stuff — and to build horse-driven chariots to carry stuff.

While tools and wheels are pretty fundamental items, many of the things we purchase today are not as necessary. At Mountainfilm in Telluride 2012, we showed Living Tiny, a film about downsizing living spaces. In it, one character says, “ People like having lots of stuff, Americans in particular. Ultimately, you can only occupy 12 square feet of space at a time. Everything else is just a place to keep your stuff.”

What Motivates Companies to Make Environmental Choices? The Bottom Line

Without a federal cap-and-trade program or a national clean energy standard, why do some companies evaluate and reveal their environmental impact? Because it makes good business sense. The “triple bottom line” — which measures success with an eye toward finances, the environment and social impact — is beginning to merge with the plain old bottom line. Saving money means increasing efficiency, and increasing efficiency leads to better environmental decisions.

This trend is seen with such companies as FedEx, which has announced environmental targets to lower emissions. Similarly, UPS is trimming its jet fuel use. Lessening fuel consumption, for both companies, improves the bottom line. Businesses that take such steps are often lauded for their environmental awareness, but does the bottom line — even as it now blends with the triple bottom line — deserve kudos?

An Interview with Author Dan Buettner: What Makes People Happy?

The environment, social issues and adventure are three of the big themes at Mountainfilm in Telluride, and like many of this year’s guests at the festival, best-selling author Dan Buettner encompasses all three seamlessly into his work.

Buettner wanted to understand why certain people in particular areas of the world lived longer, healthier and happier lives, so he traveled across the planet to get answers. The result is The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, which examines how people live and how lifestyle affects lifespan. The book focuses on four areas — Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California — and demonstrates that everyday factors were involved, such as food, friends and perspective.

BP’s Ongoing Deepwater Horizon Disaster: Studies Disagree, but Photos are Revealing

By now, on the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, most of us have quit thinking about that disaster. But judging from the photos above, we’re making a mistake.

Less than six months after the spill, the FDA declared seafood from the Gulf safe for consumption, and the agency continues to hold this stance: In January of 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) deputy commissioner, Michael Taylor, declared that “Gulf seafood is as safe to eat now as it was before the spill.”

On his agency’s blog, Taylor describes how Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) — a group of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that are found in coal tar, crude oil and even chargrilled or "blackened" food — were measured and used as the safety marker for the FDA’s conclusion. The FDA tested over 10,000 seafood specimens and reported that, “in most cases, no PAHs were found, and, when they were, the PAH levels in the seafood were 100 to 1,000 times below the levels which would raise a health concern.”

Throwing Away Gorillas: Food Waste

We screened the premiere of Bag It in 2009, and artist Chris Jordan has appeared with his “Running the Numbers” series at the festival, so Mountainfilm in Telluride audiences are no stranger to the concept of waste in its many forms, but it’s a topic worth revisiting periodically, especially with mind-boggling statistics.

Slaves to Our Cars: Americans Work Two Hours a Day to Own a Car

Spring is in the air, and unmet New Year’s resolutions are nagging in the back of many of our minds. What better time to walk more? We’re not just talking about walking for the sake of exercise. No, we mean actually walking to get somewhere. It’s antiquated. It’s charming. Thankfully, it’s also the new black.

Many cities are battling sprawl with new urban design that promotes walking. Denver, Colorado, was recently recognized for making progress on this front in The New York Times. In 2010, the Huffington Post selected its picks for the most walkable cities in the world, which, incidentally, didn’t include Denver.

Green Schools Initiative: Get Schools Involved

Education is a major component of Mountainfilm's mission so that’s why we care about the nascent Green Schools Initiative, which calls itself a "global network of schools guiding schools." Its goal is to encourage schools to make their operations more environmentally friendly and energy efficient while also "greening" students. The initiative is a global operation with nearly 3,000 member schools. Is your school a member? Is your alma mater a member? Is your kid’s school a member?

Keystone Pipeline Nixed

Bill McKibben and his hardworking cohorts at 350.org have good reason to celebrate: President Obama rejected a permit for the Keystone pipeline (see McKibben’s reaction below). There are many arguments to be made about this particular pipeline in regard to the environment, but the overarching issue to appreciate is that the President demonstrated that it's time to quit supporting a dependence on oil — regardless of where it originates.

For those worried about jobs and other issues related to the pipeline, read Robert Redford’s blog in the Huffington Post that takes these quarrels to task.

Dig Deeper

Bill McKibben of 350.org finds inspiration in Tim DeChristopher’s message, which he summaries as “Do more. Dig deeper. Don’t be afraid.” McKibben’s Orion blog, “Dig Deeper,” discusses how the environmental movement had lost impact and needed new tactics. With climate change as the current challenge, the timing for the environmental movement’s power loss was unfortunate, but DeChristopher’s actions have enlivened the cause and sparked activism on new levels.

For more from Orion about Tim DeChristopher, check out Terry Tempest Williams’ interview, “What Love Looks Like.”