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The Environmental Impact of Housing Developments

Environmental Impact

There’s a growing need for housing globally. Many cities have seen a significant drop in the number of affordable homes available to residents.

 

Is it Possible to Reduce the Environmental Impact of Housing Developments?

 

Guest Post by Kris Lindahl

 
Those seeking to purchase homes are forced to spend more to get what they need, pushing the dream of homeownership further away.

This is very much evident in countries such as New Zealand. Yet, new development is occurring in many areas. A focus on affordable housing is clear in many areas, but it comes at the risk of developing rural areas. Is it possible to develop housing that doesn’t displace wildlife?
 

The Importance of Biodiversity Conservation

 
It’s clear that protecting rural and wilderness-dense areas is critical to preserving wildlife and delicate ecosystems. Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to the diversity and varied living organisms in a particular area. This type of diversity expands to various species as well as terrestrial, aquatic, marine, and other ecosystems. Biodiversity is essential to overall conservation. When present, it ensures every species within that ecosystem has a role to play. As a result, it creates a natural sustainability for all life forms.

Consider just how valuable biodiversity is. It is the cornerstone of human existence on the planet. The animals themselves provide humans with food. The plants create important medications such as penicillin and aspirin. There are over 80,000 edible plants on the planet, most of which have yet to be consumed in large amounts.

Biodiversity also protects the air by filtering out toxins and creating oxygen. It helps protect the water. The bacteria and fungi present work to break down organic material, creating soil, that allows for crop growth. In short, to live, humans need a diverse ecosystem around them.

The key concern here, then, stems from whether the development of housing into these delicate environments negatively impacts this all-important diversity. Is it possible to develop houses for humans that respect this biodiversity requirement?
 

Smart Growth Isn’t Always Sustainable Enough

 
Many countries and individual cities have smart growth plans. These plans differ from one location to the next, which themselves are dependent on the homebuyer trends of the area. For example, are people purchasing homes that are pre-existing, or building new?They encourage the design, location, and development of housing that remains affordable for human access while also reducing the impact on the world around them.

For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlines very specific Smart Growth Guidelines for design and development that’s sustainable. The goal is to locate housing developments where it makes sense financially and on sustainable efforts. For example, the cost to develop a new housing development is more than putting in a roadway and building a home.

Infrastructure is far more complex, especially in rural areas. The more complex and expansive it is, the more expensive housing becomes. Therefore, to reduce costs, careful consideration of location and transportation is essential.

But, the other side of this process is creating these affordable housing developments that also offer a sustainable approach. These approaches often focus on ensuring communities are walkable, offer parks, and provide open space. They also focus on locally sourcing materials and reducing energy consumption. These are good steps, but they do little to protect the local ecosystem and biodiversity in the rural areas where these developments continue to sprout up.
 

What Is the Impact of Housing Developments in These Locations?

 
How concerning is it that these diverse ecosystems so important to human existence are being removed as affordable housing continues to be developed? The amount of impact is rather unknown.  A study from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America provides an examination of housing growth in and near conservation-valuable areas.

The study found that, between 1940 and 2000, there were 28 million homes built within 50 km of protected areas. It also found that 940,000 were built within U.S. national forests, some of the most biodiverse areas in the country. If the current rate continues, this will mean an additional 17 million homes will be built within 50 km of protected areas by 2030.

This type of build-up is most certainly damaging to these habitats, but the direct impact of that on human well-being is yet unknown. Much of this buildup has occurred only in the last 50 years, making it difficult to see the true amount of impact likely.
 

Are Solutions Available to Prevent This?

 
There’s no clear answer as to how to grow housing availability without impacting the environment in a negative way. However, organisations are working towards better understanding the connection between the built environment and the relationship on land resources, habitat, air, water, and overall human health. The Horizon International Solutions Site is working on solutions through studying the impact and create solutions for it. The U.S. EPA is also working to advance solutions in this area. And, with each step in this direction, progress is being made to minimize this risk.
 

Get Involved

 
♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild

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Plastic in Oceans is #NotWhaleFood

Plastic in Oceans

A new campaign led by My Green World’s partner charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), calls for action to reduce plastic pollution and protect whales, dolphins and porpoises. #NotWhaleFood is a campaign that launched last month in London, England, and calls for action to protect whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other marine species from the almost 13 million tons of plastic pollution that enter our oceans every year.

 

Plastic in Oceans is #NotWhaleFood

 

Plastic pollution in our oceans poses a real threat to whales and dolphins. 56% of all whale and dolphin species, from small fish-eating dolphins to the largest filter-feeding whales, have been recorded eating marine plastics they’ve mistaken for food. Plastic is #NotWhaleFood. Each and every one of us can help to keep the oceans plastic-free and secure a safe future for these amazing creatures.
 

Did You Know?

 

→ One single 1-litre bottle could break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world.
 
→ More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world.
 
→ Between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic leak into the world’s oceans every year. That’s more than the combined weight of every single blue whale on Earth.
 
→ A single-use plastic bottle that makes its way into the ocean can take 450 years or longer to break down, meaning it lives at least twice as long as a Bowhead whale – one of the longest living creatures on the planet.
 
→ Up to 80% of litter that makes its way into the oceans comes from our towns and cities.
 
Plastic is #NotWhaleFood
 

Get Involved

 
♣ Join the #NotWhaleFood campaign here and be part of the solution

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Weighing the Environmental Impact of Solar Panels

solar panels

When we, as individuals talk about what we can do for the environment, the conversation often turns to solar panels. As a viable alternative to fossil fuels, turning to solar power is one of the most efficient ways to go green. However, although we rarely think about that side of the story, solar panels have their disadvantages as well. But which side outweighs the other? Let’s find out.

 

Weighing the Environmental Impact of Solar Panels

Guest Post by Derek Lotts

 

How Does Solar Energy Work?

 
Solar energy, or energy from the sun, is a source that can, to a large extent replace fossil fuels. Together with hydroelectric power and wind energy, solar power is one of the most important renewable energy sources. The panels work on a relatively simple principle. The sun’s rays, or, to be more precise, the photons of light, excite the electrons in the cells of the photovoltaic panels. This process turns the rays of light into electricity in the panels. Contrary to popular belief, solar panels work just fine even in colder climates. How come? Well, the sun still shines even when it is obscured by the clouds, and light still reaches the panels. Short of a snow build-up on the panels themselves, colder climates don’t negatively impact the functionality of the system.
 

The Pros: the Homeowner’s Perspective

 
The eco-friendliness of solar power may not be the only, or even the primary reason for a homeowner to install solar panels. The main reason why people opt for solar energy is the budget. While they mostly require some initial investment, the savings from switching to solar are immediate. Depending on the size of the panels installed, homeowners can often see a 100% reduction in their electricity bill. In layman’s terms, that means you don’t pay anything at all. A quality 5kW Solar System can produce an average of 20 kW/h of electricity per day, which is enough to cover daily needs of an average home. In case you produce more than you spend, you can either store the extra electricity in batteries or return it to the grid. Most countries offer incentives in the form of cash or credits for people who provide clean energy.
 

The Pros: Lower Air and Water Pollution

 
Fossil fuel electricity plants pollute the air by emitting harmful greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. These gases lead to climate change since they trap heat inside the earth’s atmosphere. The carbon emission of solar panels is connected only to the production and transportation before they are put to use. Once they start working, they are a completely clean energy source.
 
It may come as a surprise to many that air is not the only aspect of the environment that suffers a great negative impact from fossil fuels. Water, one of our most valuable resources is just as affected. To produce electricity, fossil fuel-based power plants use jaw-dropping amounts of water a day for cooling. Most solar panels use no water at all, and those that do, don’t pollute it. Finally, solar power is completely renewable, meaning, in theory, it is inexhaustible, unlike fossil fuels such as coal or oil.
 

The Cons

 
In the wake of climate change, people mostly talk about solar energy only in positive terms. However, it too has certain drawbacks. While the energy that is produced using solar panels is clean, the plants that produce them mostly still use electricity obtained from fossil fuels. That means that the very production of the panels harms the environment. Solar panels are also a very space-consuming method of creating electricity. Some estimates say that, in order to power the entire planet with renewable energy, we would need to cover an area the size of Spain in panels. That would cause a disruption in the ecosystem of the affected areas. Finally, it’s very important to dispose of solar panels using the proper procedure, as some of them may release hazardous materials when damaged.

When all is said and done, installing solar panels is still one of the most far-reaching decisions a homeowner can make when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. Although there are negatives, both the environmental and the personal benefits (such as budget friendliness) ultimately outweigh them.

 

Get Involved

 

♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild

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Climate Change Upsets Wildlife Migratory Patterns

Climate Change Upsets Wildlife Migratory Patterns

People are masters of changing the natural world. We build cities, install false borders and carve tunnels through mountains. We can even alter the climate of the entire globe – even though we’re not trying to do it.

 

Climate Change Upsets Wildlife Migratory Patterns

 

Guest Post by Emily Folk

 
The changes we make to the planet and its environment can upset the behavioural patterns of many species, impacting the way an animal acts and how well it can adapt to changing conditions. Storms are getting worse, deserts are expanding and wildlife is finding it increasingly difficult to survive. Climate change is impacting our world in ways we haven’t even realized yet.

The reality is, we are reducing many animals’ chance of survival. The species that are already at risk are having the hardest time because they were already struggling to survive, and many of them live in areas that are more susceptible to climate change.
 

Land and Air

 
A recent study explored the impact of climate change on land mammals and birds and the results were not uplifting. Land mammals and birds are struggling to survive in the face of climate change. As the world warms, everything is changing. The study found that of the species studied, 47 percent of threatened land mammals and 23 percent of endangered birds are already being affected by climate change.

Those are huge numbers, but they aren’t surprising. The animals that are most affected seem to be those with a specialised diet, and that live in areas where plants aren’t adapting well to warmer weather. This is forcing them to move, where they lose access to what little vegetation they have. They are then dispersing into smaller and smaller ranges and changing their migratory patterns to find enough food.
 

Marine Life

 
While the numbers of affected land animals are staggering, they aren’t the only animals who migrate. Marine wildlife is also struggling, both from climate change and from human disruption. Underwater drones are providing some insight as to how species migrate and adapt to changes in their marine environment.

One region that is experiencing rapid changes is the Arctic; yet, we don’t yet fully understand what the impacts will be. Some species, like gray whales, migrate to the Arctic every year for food. As the waters warm, it’s unclear what will happen. Their migration patterns may have to extend farther and farther north for them to find enough food.

Gray whales are just one example of animals that are altering the migratory patterns due to the changing climate. It’s estimated that over 80 percent of marine mammals are changing their migration and feeding patterns due to climate change and the warming waters it brings. The alterations occurring in the ocean are happening faster than what we see on land, and we’re behind the curve on it. Keeping track of the migrating species is difficult, especially when we can no longer find them in their usual feeding grounds.
 

Coral Reefs

 
Warm waters are pleasant to swim in, but they tend to lack nutrients that are vital for marine species. As temperatures increase, we’re starting to see startling changes. Global bleaching events that go on for years not only hurt coral but also the species that live in the precious reef ecosystems. It puts pressure on our most vulnerable and vital ecosystem. After all, “Without the blue, there is no green.”

Migratory patterns exist because species have to move to survive. They rely on knowing where they’re going and what to expect when they get there. The less certainty they have, the greater the variables they encounter, the worse their chances of survival. On a small scale, like building a dam or a city constructed on feeding grounds, this might not matter much. But on a global level, like what we see with climate change, the impact can be insurmountable.

The planet has already seen five mass extinction events, and scientists say that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. The best chance we have of protecting these at-risk species is to study them, learn how they’re being affected, ensure our protection measures are as comprehensive as possible, and improve the way we treat our environment.

 

Get Involved

 

♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild

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How Humanity is Disrupting Ecosystems and Wildlife

Disrupting Ecosystems and Wildlife

People are loud, excitable and numerous. Since we have spread to every corner of the planet, we have impacted every corner, and sometimes in unexpected ways. While climate change and habitat destruction are old hats for their environmental impact, there are plenty of other things we do that mess with nature as well.

 

How Humanity is Disrupting Ecosystems and Wildlife 

 

Guest Post by Emily Folk

 

Noise Pollution

 
Human noise is everywhere. Even places that are supposed to be quiet have become incredibly loud. The ocean, which you always think of as a quiet, serene place filled with dolphin clicks and whale calls, is now filled with the rumble of humans. Marine wildlife is still out making noise, but now they have to compete with shipping routes, seismic surveys, oil extraction and sonar, not to mention military experiments and submarines. Those shipping routes alone have doubled their noise every single decade since the 1960’s. All this sound is wreaking havoc on the ability of underwater dwellers to function and has even contributed to whale beaching events.

Humans have also achieved a “super predator” status. That makes all other animals afraid of us. A wild animal that has just made a kill, perhaps its first kill in weeks, will generally abandon it the second it hears a human voice. Often, the animal will never return to the kill either and leave it to rot. If the animals live in an area with constant noise, they may suffer hearing loss, reducing their ability to react to environmental cues, causing them to suffer some of the same effects humans have under chronic stress conditions.
 

Human Arrogance

 
Habitats aren’t just destroyed for new houses or slash and burn farms in the tropics. It’s a constant factor in every nation. With the human population over 7 billion, we are always eating up space for ourselves. We need food, housing, and leisure activities, and we, like all of those things away from other people. That has a severe impact on wildlife.

In addition to taking up space for agriculture and land clearing, humans also use wilderness areas to extract resources for their own use. Industrial activities like mining, logging, road construction and oil and gas extraction all deplete wilderness areas where wildlife live. Wilderness now covers less than a quarter of Earth’s total land surface. This declining land area – compounded by climate change altering the habitable areas for wildlife – leads to extinction of species and loss of biodiversity on a global scale.

 

Light Pollution

 
Light pollution is something most people have heard of, but we tend to think of it as the reason you can’t see stars at night when you live in the city. It might be a bit annoying but nothing that’s too damaging to the environment. Except that it is, especially for the animals that use the light of the moon to guide them. One species that has so far been unable to adapt to this light pollution is sea turtles.

All species of sea turtles are affected by light pollution, but loggerhead, leatherback, and green sea turtles have taken the biggest hit. When nesting females come to shore, they come at night, lay their eggs and then head back to the sea.

The baby sea turtles are supposed to follow the light of the moon to find the ocean over the sand. But nearby lights from cities are often confusing and cause them to go the wrong way. They get hit by cars, picked off by predators, fall into storm grates or simply die of exhaustion, further diminishing already endangered species.
 

Climate Change

 
This list wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the global impact humans have had on our climate. With climate change, we are impacting every existing ecosystem on the planet – from coral reefs and frozen tundras to expanding deserts and missing monsoons. The impact of climate change isn’t yet fully understood, but the outlook is bleak.

As the world grapples for solutions to these issues, it is vital that every person on the planet strives to increase their own understanding of how their actions affect other species that share this Earth.
 

Get Involved

 

♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild

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The Pink Dolphins of Hong Kong

pink dolphins of hong kong

In busy Hong Kong waters live the Chinese white dolphin, also known as the ‘pink dolphin’, or the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin, but this iconic species is rapidly disappearing.

The Pink Dolphins of Hong Kong

 

Guest Post by Karoline Hood

 
Though the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins are considered to be part of a single widespread and highly variable species, some biologists consider Humpback Dolphins in the Indo-Pacific to consist of two species: S. plumbea in the western Indian Ocean, from South Africa to at least the east coast of India, and S. chinensis, from the east coast of India to China and Australia.

Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu is the Chairman of Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society and has been monitoring dolphins in Hong Kong waters since 1997. Dr. Hung’s 2015 report revealed that there were close to 158 dolphins in Hong Kong waters in 2003, but their population has plummeted to just 47 in recent years.

However, a 2017 study by researchers at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) delivered the first-ever comprehensive population assessment of the Chinese white dolphins that inhabit Hong Kong waters, and what they found differs from the common public belief.

In fact, “it differs very substantially from the estimates reported in Hong Kong for the past many years,” said Dr. Leszek Karczmarski, Associate Professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science and School of Biological Sciences, HKU, who has instigated and supervised this study.

“Contrary to statements frequently repeated by various Hong Kong media, there is no such thing as ‘Hong Kong dolphin population,’” he added.

“The dolphins seen in Hong Kong waters represent an integral part of the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) population; they are not aware of the administrative border between Hong Kong and Mainland waters, frequently traverse these waters, and there are at least 368 dolphins that rely on Hong Kong waters as part of their home range,” said Mr. Stephen Chan, a Ph.D. student in Dr. Karczmarski’s Lab and the lead author of the study.

The Chinese white dolphins are also known to be in North Lantau waters near Castle Peak, Lung Kwu Chau, Sha Chau Marine Park, Chek Lap Kok and Tai O. They are also found in the waters south of Lantau, including Fan Lau and the Soko Islands.
 

History of the Pink Dolphin

 
The Chinese white dolphin was first observed in Hong Kong’s Pearl River Estuary over 300 years ago. However, it was not until the late 1980s that scientists began tracking their population and behaviour.

The ‘pink dolphin’ as it is colloquially known, became Hong Kong’s official mascot for the handover ceremony in 1997 when Britain returned the territory to China. Born grey, the dolphin gradually turns pink as it ages, and their pink hue is thought to be a result of flushing blood to the outer layers of the skin for regulation of body temperature.
 

Threats to the Pink Dolphin

 
The population of the Chinese white dolphins in the Pearl River Estuary inhabits one of the world’s most congested areas. Heavy marine traffic, increased development and severe water pollution has placed dolphins in these areas under enormous pressure. Such disruption to their habitat represents the greatest threat to the Chinese white dolphin.

Hong Kong waters are one of the world’s busiest waterways, with High-speed ferries coming to and from Macau with passenger and freight, which cut right through the dolphins’ habitat and can kill them in collisions. In addition to that underwater noise pollution from the boat’s engine which magnifies under the water affect their echolocation efficiency. Dolphins rely on sonar to navigate, communicate and find food.

Hong Kong’s rapid development projects pose a significant threat to dolphins in Hong Kong waters, with populations being impacted by the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which started in 2011, as well as the Hong Kong International Airport runway.

Yuki Lui Hiu-ying of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) said that the increased shipping traffic and large scale developments in the region have negatively impacted dolphins in Hong Kong waters.

“We did a study and put Ecological Acoustic Recorders in the water and could hear a lot of dolphins, so we know they use that area to feed at night, and it’s an important habitat for them,” said Lui Hiu-ying.

“We urged the citizens to write to the government and to tell them we don’t want this huge construction that impacts the dolphins, we gathered a lot of comments from the citizens, but sadly, the government did not listen and passed the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, and the work started,” she said.

“We don’t have much hope, but we will still need to do something. We are bringing more awareness; I see more students and more Hong Kong people becoming aware, so I see a little hope.”

Added to this, increased pollution resulting from these construction projects is causing high calf mortality; with toxins killing young dolphins whose immune system is not strong enough to handle the increasingly inhospitable environment of the Pearl River Estuary.
 

How You Can Help

 
♣ Reduce rubbish such as straws, plastic knives and forks, plastic bags.

♣ Avoid using skin products that contain microbeads as eventually, they end up in the ocean.

♣ Write to local ferry companies and ask them to reroute or slow down.

♣ Sign the petition to reroute ferry traffic.
 

Learn More

 
♣ Download our mobile game app, World of the Wild! Click here to download.

♣ Register your interest in My Green World’s Kids Corner education program.

♣ Sign up for My Green World’s newsletter here.

♣ Follow us on Facebook here.
 


The Wonderful World of Whales

whales

These mysterious giants roam the world’s ocean – the Pacific (and Western Pacific), Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Southern Ocean basins. There are over 90 different species of Cetacea (whales and dolphins), all unique in their own way, including some that scientists know nothing about.

 

The Wonderful World of Whales

 
 What all whales have in common is that, like us, they are mammals: they surface and breathe air through nostrils on their head, are warm blooded, and nurse and care for their young. Most large whales are migratory and spend summers feeding in the freezing polar ocean basins where they build up an insulating layer of fat known as blubber. Blubber also serves as their food supply in their food scarce winter tropical breeding areas.

Whales belong to the order “Cetacea” and are divided into two suborders, “mysticeti” and “odonotoceti”.
 

Mysticete Whales

 
Mysticete whales are baleen whales and are unique in that they have a bristle-like structure of plates made of keratin – the same protein that makes up fingernails and hair – growing from their upper jaw. Baleen whales do not have teeth, instead, this structure is called ‘baleen’ serves the purpose of filtering food from water. These whales, while being extremely large, eat very small prey including zooplankton, krill, small crabs and small schooling fish. Mysticeti whales are also identifiable as both nostrils are visible leaving them with a double blow-hole opening on the top of their heads. There are at least 14 species of Mysticeti, divided into four families: Balaenidae, Balaenopteridae, Eschrichtiidae and Neobalaenopteridae.
 

Odontocete Whales

 
Odontocete whales, such as dolphins, porpoises and sperm whales have teeth, and only a single blowhole visible (though they also have two nostrils in their skulls just like us). They generally eat larger fish, octopus, squid and larger crabs. Odontocetes have a sensory ability called ‘echolocation’ in which they produce sound, which echoes back off objects, in order to “see” objects, including prey.

Orcas, whilst referred to commonly as killer whales, are the world’s largest dolphins and are also grouped with this suborder. There are at least 10 families of Odontocetes which include dolphins, porpoises, river dolphins, sperm whales, beaked whales, and the narwhal whose spiral tooth looks like a unicorn horn. All species vary widely in size and characteristics but among them are some very well-known, very interesting, and even some unknown species.
 

The Blue Whale

 
The blue whale is the largest living animal in the world. It is a Mysticeti and belongs to the family Balaenopteridae along with the well-known humpback whale. The females of the species, being larger than the males, can grow up to 33 metres long and can weigh 150,000 kilograms. Their voices are almost as big as they are – their song is so loud and deep it is thought to carry up to a thousand kilometres through the ocean to reach others of the species.
 
whales

The Bowhead and Right Whales

 
Right whales get their name from whalers who considered them the ‘right whales to catch’ as they were so easy to target – they swim slowly, stay close to shore and float once killed. The three species of right whales – Southern right, North Atlantic right, and North Pacific right, along with the Bowhead whale – are all Mysticetes and make up the family Balaenidae. Though much smaller than blue whales, Bowhead whales have the longest baleen of all whales, reaching four metres in length. Whilst Southern right and bowhead whales are rebounding, the North Pacific and Atlantic right whales are still critically endangered, each with fewer than 500 individuals left alive in each species.
 

The Gray Whale

 
Gray whales are also Mysticetes and are the only species in the family, Eschrichtiidae. They are relatively small for Mysticete whales, reaching about fifteen metres in length. Gray whales eat off the ocean floor, sometimes by lying on their sides. Interestingly, gray whales can be right or left-side dominant, like humans, and will lay on whichever side is dominant when feeding. These whales are sometimes referred to as the friendliest of all species because they often approach boats. Though, whalers sometimes refer to them as ‘devilfish’ after several of the species attacked their boats to defend their young.
 

whales
Photo credit: Merrill Gosho, NOAA

The Sperm Whale

 
Sperm Whales are the largest Odontocete whales, making up the family Physeteridae. The males can reach 16 metres, whilst females only get to 11 metres – the biggest sex difference of all whales. They have around 40 teeth only in their lower jaw, each weighing up to a kilogram, and feed on giant squid. They are the easiest whale to spot as they are so oddly shaped, with large square heads, and their blow is bushy and angled, due to the position of the blowhole. Sperm whales are thought to be one of the deepest diving whales, holding their breath for over an hour and diving over a kilometre down.
 

Photo Credit: Gabriel Barathieu
Photo Credit: Gabriel Barathieu

The Northern Bottlenose Whale

 
Northern bottlenose whales are also Odontocetes and are the most well-known and studied of the family Ziphiidae, which is made up of about 22 recognised whale species. Most of these species are beaked whales, but the group also includes the northern bottlenose whales. These whales have large protruding foreheads and small stubby beaks similar to that of dolphins. Males of the species, interestingly, have been known to form friendships in which they associate with another male of similar age. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were hunted often. As they are curious creatures and, due to their friendships, when one whale was killed they often stayed nearby it, making them an easy target. About 65,000 were killed in this time period and today, data is too insufficient to classify it.
 

The Narwhal

 
Narwhals may be the strangest looking of all whales – often referred to as ‘unicorn whales’ due to the single long tusk protruding from the male’s heads. Narwhals are Odontocete whales and belong to the family Monodontidae along with the beluga whale. In the past, their tusks have been sold on the black market as mythical unicorn horns, and there is still a growing trade for their ‘ivory’. Narwhals live only in cold Arctic waters and are only up to five metres long while their tusks can grow two to three metres long – half the length of their body. The function of the tusk has long been debated, with some believing it to be a sensory organ. However, some males have been spotted using them to fight over females.
 

whales
Photo credit: Paul Nicklen

Learn More

 
♣ Download our mobile game app, World of the Wild! Click here to download.

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World of the Wild is donating to Borneo Orangutan Survival

World of the Wild is donating to Borneo Orangutan Survival

This coming August, My Green World will be donating 50% of the proceeds generated from our mobile game app, World of the Wild, directly to our partner charity, Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia. This means, that half of the revenue generated in World of the Wild throughout the month of August (through in-app purchases and upgrades) will be donated directly to BOS Australia.

World of the Wild is donating to Borneo Orangutan Survival

 

Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild, to support Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia (BOSA). This August, World of the Wild will be donating 50% of its revenue to BOS Australia. That means, for every in-app purchase you make in World of the Wild, BOSA will receive half!
 

About World of the Wild

 

World of the Wild is an educational mobile game app that encourages young people to participate in virtual wildlife and environmental conservation scenarios. The app represents and profiles 18 charities from around the world, and each charity supports a particular species, which users are then able to rescue and rehabilitate. World of the Wild offers educational pop quizzes, interactive games and opportunities for users to build their own world, meet some of the world’s most endangered species, connect with other players, and address real-life threats, such as poachers and oil spills.

World of the World gamifies the concept of wildlife conservation while expanding education outcomes, and is committed to preparing today’s youth with the knowledge, experience and tools to meet the challenges that will define their generation. World of the Wild is the first game app that allows children to participate in virtual wildlife conservation while having a real-world impact. The app is currently free to download in the iTunes App Store. Download by clicking here.
 

World of the Wild is donating to Borneo Orangutan Survival

 

About Borneo Orangutan Survival (Australia)

 
Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia (BOSA) is a volunteer organisation raising funds for rescued orangutans since 2001.They work to save the orangutan by rescuing and rehabilitating them, with an ultimate goal of releasing them back to the forest where they will be safe from human development, poaching and farming. BOSA is totally dependent on support from adoptions, sales of their merchandise and donations to help save the orangutan and the rainforest. As a volunteer organisation, they ensure a very high percentage of donor dollars getting to where they are most needed – to the orangutans in Indonesia.
 

Orangutans need our help

 
They are an endangered species, with an estimated 50,000 left in the wild. The greatest threat to their survival is the extensive destruction of the rainforest. Some experts say about 6,000 orangutans are disappearing every year and without our collective help orangutans could be extinct in the wild within our lifetime.

Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia (BOSA) work to save the orangutan by rescuing and rehabilitating them, with an ultimate goal of releasing them back to the forest where they will be safe from human development, poaching and farming.
 

Get Involved

 
♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild and leave a review! Click here to download.

♣ Donate to Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia by clicking here.

♣ Sign up for My Green World’s newsletter here.
 


Protecting Dolphins and Whales from Fishing Nets

protecting dolphins and whales

My Green World’s partner charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), has launched an important campaign dedicated to protecting dolphins and whales (and porpoises) from fishing nets in UK seas.

Protecting Dolphins and Whales from Fishing Nets

 

The Issue

Accidental entanglement in fishing nets or gear (known as ‘bycatch’) is the biggest global threat to dolphins, porpoises and whales. Hundreds of thousands die this way every year – thousands in UK seas.

It is a horrific way to die. Like us, dolphins, porpoises and whales can’t breathe under water. Trapped in a net, they panic and can sustain terrible wounds and broken bones in their struggle to escape. When they can’t struggle anymore, they will close their blowhole and suffocate.

More than 28 species of dolphins, porpoises and whales make their homes in UK seas. Yet, tragically thousands of individuals die in fishing nets and gear every year in these waters. Most of the protection they have comes from the EU and those regulations are under review. WDC needs you to join their call for the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to put strong laws in place, after Britain leaves the EU, to prevent these needless deaths.
 

WDC’s Campaign

 
 

Protecting Dolphins and Whales
Image credit: WDC

 

Recent Statistics

 
♣ Estimates show that 250 common dolphins and between 1250 and 1500 porpoises died in static nets in UK waters in 2016.

♣ As many as 100,000 common dolphins are believed to have died in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay in the last 20 years.

♣Almost 50% of minke whales who strand around the Scottish coastline show signs of entanglement.

 

Get Involved

 

♣ Join WDC’s petition by clicking here.

♣ Watch WDC’s campaign video by clicking here.

♣ Read more on protecting dolphins and whales by clicking here.

♣ Follow WDC on Facebook by clicking here.

♣ Download My Green World’s mobile game app, World of the Wild! Click here to download.

♣ Register your interest in My Green World’s Kids Corner education program.

♣ Sign up for My Green World’s newsletter here.
 


Cottoning onto the Environmental Impact of Fashion

Environmental Impact of Fashion

 

The word “fashion” can conjure up many different images and feelings. Take a moment to think about what springs to your mind. Do you think of glossy magazines and catwalks? Or do you immediately think about your favourite jeans and perhaps a cosy cable knit jumper? Maybe the word makes you roll your eyes. Whether you like fashion or not, we are all affected by it, we all consume it. In fact, chances are high that either you or someone you know has a job in the textile industry, and it is worth assessing the environmental impact of fashion.

 

The Environmental Impact of Fashion

 

Guest post by Fiona Murphy

The process to create a single t-shirt is a complex series of steps, which is captured in the report Pulse of the Fashion Industry:

“There is not a standard path for the cotton produced in one country, spun in another, dyed and processed in a different one and converted into a garment in a factory far away from the store.”

Because of this segmentation of labour, some 60 million people are employed by the industry. It also means that the impact of textile creation is happening in all corners of the world. Fashion has been described as the second-largest polluter after the oil industry. This $2.2 trillion industry has experienced exponential growth because of disposable fashion. The USA tosses 10.5million tonnes of clothes into landfill each year. Australians buy on average 27kg of textiles, including new clothes, each year. This is almost twice the global average.

Fast fashion giant H&M admits that the clothes manufacturing is having a devastating impact on the environment. The brand, which produces 600 million garments annually, launched the Conscious Exclusive Collection in 2012. It looked like a signal the fashion industry was starting to redeem itself.

The cornerstone of the first collection was to provide consumers with clothes made from organic cotton. H&M’s move to organic cotton appeared to be a huge win. Standard cotton production is one of the largest sources of pollution in most countries. According to the World Wildlife Fund cotton agriculture accounts for 24% of the annual worldwide sales of insecticides. Organic cotton would have an immediate impact on reducing the amount of toxins released into an ecosystem.
 

Cotton; the Thirsty Crop

 
However, cotton is a thirsty crop. It takes 2700 litres of water to produce one t-shirt. In fact, the textile industry is the third largest consumer of water. Water diverted for agriculture causes enormous environmental strain. The fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, has been rapidly shrinking due to irrigation projects. With only 1% of the earth’s fresh drinking water, readily accessible, cultivating cotton is an unsustainable option for manufacturing clothes. We need to be conserving water. For more information about why conserving water is so important, check out our article ‘Blue Gold: What does investing in water mean for the planet?’

Thankfully producing clothes made from organic cotton is no longer the focus of H&M’s sustainability strategy. In their sixth Conscious Collection they have started producing clothes made from Bionic Yarn, which is made from plastic bottles and bags recovered from waterways and shorelines.

This new approach to sustainability could be because as of April 2017, the brand joined Climate Savers — a climate leadership program for businesses developed by the World Wildlife Fund. While H&M has only committed to the program until 2020, in the next three years the company plans to focus on tightening up on emissions in its entire value chain. H&M have pledged that this is part of a longer-term strategy to become:

“climate positive by 2040 throughout the entire value chain – all the way from raw material extraction to products’ end of life. This means we will go beyond minimising the negative consequences of our business to create a positive impact on climate.”

H&M is the first fashion brand to join Climate Savers, hopefully, more textile businesses follow suit. One of the key features of the partnership between H&M and WWF is the “strategic dialogue” they are having about creating sustainability. According to the WWF they “will explore H&M’s and the textile industry’s broader sustainability challenges and possibilities. This could involve topics like a renewable materials or circular fashion models, aiming to bring sustainable and science-based solutions to both H&M and the fashion industry.”

This open conversation between industry and conservationists is crucial for fashion to make responsible, informed decisions. As opposed to solutions, like organic cotton, which sounds great in theory but in practice contribute to wide-scale environmental destruction.

As consumers of fashion, we need to follow suit. We fuel the growth of fashion. What we choose to buy informs the decision makers of an industry. By choosing sustainable clothing, we can fast-track positive change. We can do this by being conscious consumers and becoming educated about alternative fibres to cotton. Here are some options to consider:
 

Nettle Fibre

 
You will not forget the burning sensation if you accidentally brush past a stinging nettle. You also will not forget how incredible soft clothing made from nettles can be. Unlike cotton, nettles grow rampant in even the most challenging environments. Nettle plants enrich the soil that it grows in and boosts an area’s biodiversity by attracting wildlife.
 

Linen

 
Linen is derived from the flax. Flax requires far less water to cultivate than cotton. It also doesn’t require any chemical fertilisers. As a textile, linen is extremely quick-drying making it ideal for travelling. It is one of the strongest plant fibres so clothing made out of linen can last for years. It gets even better — linen gets softer with every wash. Just make sure you use earth-friendly soap-nuts in your machine.
 

Hemp

 
Hemp is a hardy plant; it is naturally disease resistant so it does not need nasty chemicals to thrive. Hemp clothing is ideal for hot and humid environments as not only does it breathe well, it resists damp and bacteria. The only problem is that it is illegal to grow hemp in many countries. Here in Australia Tasmania have led the charge allowing farmers to produce commercial hemp in the early 1990s. NSW followed suit in 2008.

 

Learn More

 
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