ScrapESbook: The Ultimate Green Journal

Elyse Fell

E: St. Vincent De Paul Clothing Drop-Box, September 15, 2014, 6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

Hello, ScrapESbook viewers! For those of you who live out of the Chicagoland area, St. Vincent de Paul is a charitable organization that goes around and helps the people in both physical and spiritual poverty. One of their most well-known programs is their collection of old, gently used clothes for those who cannot afford any. Well, my local Catholic parish, St. Linus, just so happens to participate in this program, and keeps one of these boxes (pictured below) outside of the monastary, just a block or two from my house. When I heard that I could donate clothes as an "experience" for my scrapESbook, I was practically jumping with joy because I absolutely love this organization with all of my heart and have donated my clothes in this very box before. Also, I have shameful habit of hoarding my overstock of clothes, so this opportunity to give my closet a good cleaning seemed too good to pass up.

And so, my good deed of the day began in despair, as I entered my mammoth mess of a closet, not knowing where to begin. I started with any winter clothes that I either do not need or do not fit, due to the upcoming season that is, more than likely going, to be seven months long. I discovered about four pairs of jeans that do not fit me anymore, a completely unworn sweater, and a couple of long-sleeved shirts that were in great condition, but I no longer wore or did not fit me. Next, I went through all of my summer clothes and found a few stylish, gently-worn tops that someone would enjoy more than I would. Finally, the sweatshirt closet. Oh boy, oh boy, was this a feat. For some time now, this poor closet has been exploding with sweatshirts I almost never wear, and what better way to prepare for the upcoming winter than with a warm, hooded piece of shelter for someone who needs it. And with this, I completed my fifth bag of clothing to fulfill the experience requirements.

Now, you might be thinking, "How in the world does this act aid in saving the planet?" I have one simple word to answer such a question: recycling. In donating my old clothes, I am reusing materials, and therefore not taking any more materials from the earth. Also, I am, in part, discouraging sweatshops and their poor labor conditions in undeveloped third-world countries. The less people buy from these companies, the less the demand is for the company's products, and the workers may get paid more because of this. Although this action was small and it may not have an immediate effect on the environment and the world, if each person would also do things like this, the impact would be huge. The world needs to work together to make a difference, and this difference starts with one spark. Maybe I am that spark.

O: Palm Oil Companies Putting Deforestation "On Hold"
Rahmawati, Annisa (2014, September 19)  Palm Oil Companies Say They'll Put Forest Destruction On Hold. But What Happens Next? Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

Some of the world's biggest palm oil companies, such as Golden Agri Resources (GAR) in Indonesia, have been demolishing forests in order to make plantations; however, Greenpeace has talked to this company, as well as P&G, L’Oreal, Unilever and Nestle, about adopting the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCS), now "a standard term for companies trying to avoid deforestation." Though massive corporations have adopted this halt to deforestation, others are not so happy. Companies that named themselves "The Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto Group" claimed to be conducting research on alternatives to deforestation, but did not stop their forest demolition. With enough pressure from Greenpeace and other NGOs, these companies finally paused their destruction as they do research. All is good now, correct? Wrong. Now, questions linger: how long this halt will last, what happens after the studies, and does this include the companies that these big names buy from? Despite these worries, optimism ultimately fills the atmosphere as Palm Oil Companies are open to alternatives to their destructive ways.

I think that the relentlessness of Greenpeace and its partner is very admirable. After the first failed attempts at getting EVERYONE to join in on stopping deforestation, Greenpeace could have accepted the fact that some people are immovable and unwilling to compromise for the environment; however, they stuck to their cause and eventually got the stubborn companies to at least pause their destruction for the sake of researching alternate methods of sustaining their business. Of course the pros of this accomplishment are the fact that companies are considering other ways of running their business without damaging the environment, and that Greenpeace can really persuade anyone to stop hurting the planet if they really put their minds to it; nevertheless, there are corresponding cons that come with these pros: the chance that companies will disregard any research and go back to their old ways, the chance that research may be ineffective and counter Greenpeace's cause, and that companies unwilling to stop deforestation will find other easy, but harmful ways to get their palm oil. Although it seems that the cons outweigh the pros, those willing to aid the environment outweigh those who do not consider the environment at all, and that is a greater power that outweighs any cons to any environmental accomplishment.

O: Whaling and Dolphin Conservation Takes Big Step
Kline, Phil. (2014, September 19). Happiness After An International Whaling Commission Meeting- A First! Greenpeace Blogs. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

"The International Whaling Commission (IWC) met this past week in Portoroz, Slovenia" said Kline, as he describes it polarity and division between pro-whaling countries and countries in favor of whale conservation. Those on the side of whale conservation made a huge step at this meeting: despite the failure of the set up of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS), this program gained more support than ever before. African countries, though not in favor of the SAWS, declared that they are not opposed to it, and countries such as Tanzania turned away from pro-whaling ally Japan, a major step toward whale conservation due to Japan's major whale-based business that they claim is for "science." At this IWC meeting, the organization also officially included dolphins and porpoises in the discussion of conservation instead of only large whales. Finally, the last major achievement at this meeting was that New Zealand put many new conditions and requirements on scientific whaling permits, most centered around anti-lethal methods of research whenever possible. Because of all of these major accomplishments, Kline said "for the first time, I left an IWC meeting HAPPY."

I have never read such an article with so many positive elements and achievements mentioned. Being a whale and marine life lover for the majority of my life, I have followed the results of IWC meeting and anti-whaling campaigns, and never have I seen such unity in a cause as I have seen in this journal. All of these major steps forward genuinely warm my heart and give me hope toward a future in which we let our fellow mammals live in peace, just as they deserve. The pros to this meeting, where can I begin? More and more countries are abandoning the Japanese in their plea for whaling permission, leaving them as the minority in this debate. Also, the IWC is not only working toward the conservation of whales, but also their close relatives: dolphins and porpoises, who are equally targeted by whalers. Finally, besides the environmental benefits of this meeting, the world is coming together for a common cause, creating a sense of unity and brotherhood that is much needed.

Although, with restrictions comes rebellion. The limits that New Zealand has put on Japanese whaling will not blow over well with the Japanese or their economy. Because of these restrictions, Japan may rebel and go to even further lengths to continue their whaling tactics. They will get more sneaky, more technologically developed, and potentially more violent; however, they cannot compete with an entire group of nations attempting to stop their evil once and for all. So, despite what new technologies and tactics Japan conjures up, the unity and power of those against whaling will overcome those for whaling.

E: Walt Disney's African Safari. October 22nd, 2014. 10:00-11:00 A.M.

When one thinks about Disney World, does he or she REALLY think about ecology and nature? If anything the parks only cause more pollution and damage to the environment; however, Walt Disney World has made an effort to preserve nature and threatened species around the world by creating the park Animal Kingdom. In this fun filled habitat, travelers can explore the wilderness of Asia and Africa, and all of their natural beauty, especially the always entertaining animals that call those places their home. One part imparticular truly brings the essence of the African savannah to the people of the United States: the Kilimanjaro Safari. During this one hour attraction a rickety safari trucks navigates through the African wilderness, bringing guests up close and personal with the wildlife preserved on the land. Allow me to tell you about my experience in the African Savannah.

Upon boarding the truck, I was a little skeptical at its structure. It almost seemed to be falling apart. But, I realized that this was all to set the feel of a real African Safari, so I just played along with it. Our entertaining guide soon took us into the wilderness, explaining our "mission" to stop elephant poaching and to preserve the animal life, and immediately I knew the ride would be interesting. Almost immediately we crossed the path of a beautiful antelope, just minding his own business. How was he not bothered by all of the noisy, bustling tourists in his way? I am happy that he wasn't, because I had never been that close to a part of African Wildlife like that. Next we ventured into open land where we witnessed termite mounds, hippos, crocodiles, and warthogs. Finally, the most magnificent creature I think I have ever seen emerged from the tall grass, nearly ten feet from our truck: a black rhinoceros. The mammoth creature meant no harm to us, nor did we mean any to him, and it was at that moment that I found hope: one day all humans and animals may coexist peacefully, because by nature we mean no harm to one another.  More incredible specimens of nature flaunted their beauty throughout the tour, such as giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, and gazelles, and sadly our adventure came to an end. I left that safari with a new perspective on nature, and how I MUST preserve its beauty for all to witness and enjoy.

I then returned to my environmental science class with a greater understanding of what Mrs. Coy was teaching us about. I saw how an ecosystem really works. All of the animals coexisted peacefully in one, rather small environment, healthily and happily. I was able to witness how each species benefitted another, such as termite mounds serving as scratching posts for elephants, and hippos providing protection for flamingos and cranes. It was incredibly humbling to witness the environment in its natural state, and I cannot wait to go back and do it all again.

O: Hold Your Arms and Save Those Whales: Greenpeace Condemns Japanese Whaling
Wheeler, Perry (2014, November 19) Greenpeace Condemns Japan's Rush to Resume Antarctic Whaling
Retrieved December 9, 2014 from

About two months ago, the International Whaling Commission requested that Japan cease their whaling in Antarctic waters; however, Japan insists on continuing its business venture of commercial whaling, thus insulting the entire Commission. The Court of Justice even rules Japan's actions as illegal because the program has no scientific reasoning; strictly business. Japan has tried to disguise its whaling industry as a scientific venture, but has failed when it had no proof of its scientific goals or studies. Seeing the opposition in the Antarctic, Japan is looking to begin whaling in a whale sanctuary, and all surrounding areas oppose to the venture there. If Japan wanted to conduct research that badly, they could join the existing group that researches without harming the whales.

Put plainly, Japan needs to stop. They are killing an unreasonable amounts of whales for unreasonable, selfish purposes. They do not need 250 whales to support an industry even if it was not frowned upon. These creatures are massive, and have enough blubber, oil, and bones to provide for Japan's trade partners. Money and selfishness are destroying an entire species, and Greenpeace is on the right track to stopping this travesty. They have caught Japan in the wrong too many times, saying that there is nothing scientific about their research, and that if Japan wants to conduct SCIENTIFIC research, they do not need to harm the whales. Should Greenpeace actually stop Japanese whaling for good, whales will have a chance to make a comeback as a species, and the balance will be restored in the ocean. Japan will make advancements to find new, less harmful ways to get their resources, thus advancing industry as a whole. Despite the benefits to stopping whaling, these pleas may only provoke Japan, and further motivate it to pursue new, more sneaky ways of whaling. Japan may feel suffocated retaliate either violently against people or against the whales. However, I believe that this is a fight for the better.

O: Greenpeace Reacts to US-China Climate Announcement
Smyth, Joe (2014, November 12) Greenpeace reaction to US-China climate announcement
Retrieved December 8, 2014 from

The two largest pollution admitting cultures, America and China, both released statements that they will lower their pollution emission by 25% between 2025 and 2030, and although some fossil-fuel industry preserving politicians pose as a barrier, this is a major step for a cleaner planet. These goals are great, but Greenpeace believes that the countries are not aiming high enough. The Greenpeace Energy Revolution believes that we can reduce carbon levels by 40% by 2025 in comparison to 25%, while also creating more jobs and boosting the economy. Li Shuo, a Greenpeace representative in China, is delighted by the two countries' realizations and taking of responsibility, she believes that both sides have yet to set effective goals, and until then, our air will not be as clean as it should be.

The fact that China is willing to change its notoriously industrial economy for the sake of the earth gives me hope in humanity. All along, to be honest, I thought that China was an evil communist culture that did not care about anything but itself, but obviously this statement proved me wrong. Also, I have never seen America set such solid goals for a better environment. If I could take one thing from this article, it is definitely hope. However, apparently these goals are not good enough. I do not have the knowledge on what percent reduction these countries COULD achieve, but if America can set higher, but still realistic goals, it should. Aiming TOO high could be detrimental, though. These statements have set a goal for the country, and has narrowed everything down into one plausible project. Should America and China work together, two of the largest countries in the world, great advancements for all mankind could be made, and other countries may be inspired to join. However, politicians may see this as an excuse to act out against the destruction of the fossil fuel industry. Many people have invested in that industry, and would lose major money if it fell, so these people may entice politicians and people of power to act against these statements and goals. I genuinely hope that the light side will conquer, bettering the ecosystem that is Earth.

O: Cleaning Up an Arctic Oil Spill Would Be IMPOSSIBLE
Donaghy, Tim (2015, January 15) Why Cleaning Up an Arctic Oil Spill Would Be Impossible
Retrieved February 17, 2015 from

Even after their clumsy attempt at drilling for oil in 2012, Shell announced that they may begin to drill in the Arctic Chukchi Sea; however, environmentalists have reached a "response gap," meaning that in the case of an Arctic oil spill, regular cleaning remedies may not work successfully. There are three popular cleaning methods: 1) mechanical recovery, (2) burning, and (3) dispersants. Mechanical recovery is using floating booms to contain the oil, while rigs go around skimming the oil out of the water. Burning  is burning the oil in the water, but is less economically friendly than mechanical recovery because it releases deadly toxins into the air, and leaves residue that must be skimmed as well. Dispersant are a last resort because the dispersed chemicals may damage the ecosystem, though it is an effective method. All of these methods usually work, but would be compromised in the harsh Arctic environment. The large Arctic waves would render floating booms ineffective, and the extreme cold weather makes it difficult to disperse chemicals, and also makes it nearly impossible for clean up workers to safely clean up the spill. These defects are also only predictions, for we cannot predict what other conditions may compromise the use of traditional cleanup methods, such as a lack of resources or an extreme weather event.

If cleanup experts can make this many predictions without taking into consideration other unpredictable events, drilling in the Arctic cannot be a good idea. The life in the Arctic is already in danger due to pollution and global warming, so if oil added to this pollution, the life would not stand a chance against this invasion. The company, however, does need oil. It is a fuel company, and, of course, the world and the economy needs fuel. The Arctic has yet to be drilled, so there must be a ton of oil waiting to contribute to human society; nonetheless, at what cost? What if Shell messes up like they did in 2012? What if there is an "uncleanable" spill? The money earned from collecting all of that oil from the Arctic will be spent in attempt to clean it, which would be more difficult than the regular oil spill. Though the negatives have not yet happened, the predicted negatives outweigh the predicted positives, and I hope that money does not get the best of Shell's common sense.

E: Unplugged in Tapalpa, Mexico. February 18-23

Welcome back, tackk followers! So, I spent the last five days in Tapalpa, Mexico (about 2 hours away from the city of Guadalajara), completely unplugged and shoved into nature, meaning cold showers, poor indoor plumbing, and freezing cold mornings in the mountains. The experience all started at O'hare airport at 11:30 P.M. where we waited until 2 A.M. for our flight into Guadalajara International Airport. This is where the real journey began. Because I had never been out of the country, the culture shock hit me immediately. I would say I am an above average Spanish student, but I had never been completely surrounded by the language, unable to escape to english without getting lost in translation. I was unable to get cell phone service, I could not connect to Wi-Fi, and the feeling of disconnection and deprivation began; however, these feelings began to wear away as I headed outside to my cab.

Upon stepping outside, all I could feel was sunshine, warmth, and small. The mountains were massive! I had never seen such mountains, especially an active volcano, in my entire life, and I just felt like an ant. So, after driving for 45 minutes in the taxi and 3 hours in a bus with a ton of random, foreign strangers, we finally reached the retreat land. The scenery left me breathless. We started at a small dirt drive where the main cabin was located, then trudged our way up an incredibly steep hill, or what I like to call the bane of my existence, to the other cabins and the "comedor," or cafeteria. Little did I know, these few buildings and this massive forest would house some of the best memories of my life.

Over the next couple of days, I bonded surprisingly quickly with my cabin mates and group mates, exchanging kind and funny words in both Spanish and English. I ate every meal with a different group of people because they were so welcoming. They made me forget that every shower I took was cold, that I could not throw my own toilet paper in the toilet, and that my cabin was infested with spiders. At this camp, I was truly within nature, especially on Saturday night. Saturday morning we all climbed into the back of a few pick up trucks and drove to Tapalpa, a pueblo nearby. All day we did service outside with our teams, mine doing reparations at a park and sweeping the grounds. We later had to walk all about the pueblo looking for our own work without pay. Finally, after this incredibly long and demanding day, we were blessed to find out that we had  10 mile hike back to the grounds awaiting us. I do not regret a single second of that walking. We had little to no light for most of the adventure, and the forest greeted us with ditches, bumps, and bugs galore. But the sky was flawlessly dotted with bright stars, and the air felt as pure as a baby's soul. I talked with my new friends for the entire walk, and before I knew it, we were sitting in the comedor eating hamburgers.

However, all good things must come to an end. The last day had arrived and we all said our goodbyes before leaving for the airport. Although this was mostly a Spanish leadership camp rather than an environmental science camp, I can pull many things from this experience that relate to the course. First of all, I got to experience a developing setting first hand. The pueblo had hardly any electricity, and the businesses were incredibly small. We also spent almost every waking moment outside. The grounds were set smack dab in the middle of a forest, and so I got to sit and observe the tranquility, and also got to experience mountains for the first time. The mountains never left my site, and I honestly gazed at them for hours on end. Tapalpa was an experience of a lifetime, and I would give anything to live so humbly again with the same people.

Let's Stop Digging!
Guest Post (2015, February 4)
We're In A Hole. Let's Stop Digging: Prevent Fracked Gas Exports in Oregon
Retrieved March 1, 2015 from

Despite the fact that we are almost up to our eyeballs in greenhouse emission debt, a Canadian gas company is genuinely insisting on the Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) proposal that would construct a 230-mile pipeline to transport fracked gas from the Rocky Mountain states to export from the Oregon coast at Coos Bay. This project would make the company filthy rich while making the air just filthy. This project would encourage more fracking in the Rocky Mountains, and the government is unknowingly supporting this as well by supporting the project, oblivious to its obvious effects on the environment. The company keeps reminding the public of the jobs it would create, but the jobs are only temporary as is the gas, and the long term effects such as logging, water pollution, habitat fragmentation, and air pollution are here to stay. This company is also moving us further and further away from the future of renewable energy and the government's support of such methods.

If I could, I would protest the building of this project day in and day out. Next to the damaging greenhouse gases, this project would only cause disruption in the daily lives of animals and people in the area. Habitats would be destroyed, and people's lives would be put in danger. Now, back to the main issue: the greenhouse gases. This project only encourages the emission of these deadly poisons by prompting other companies to go at this source as well and exploit it. Leakage is bound to happen, and if it does not, the gas will be emitted some time in the near future. This project, too, is holding the world back. If we see an easy source of energy, we will go after it and avoid the rough but necessary road. This road is MANDATORY, though, because our earth can no longer handle greenhouse gases, and we must now put this money and time toward renewable resources and energy sources such as air, water, and solar power. Yes, this project will create jobs for the unemployed. Yes, this project will make a ton of money for the company. And yes, this project will fuel the world's machinery. But are all of these money based accomplishments going to matter when the world undergoes dramatic climate change? I do not think so. These people are going to wish they had the money spent on projects like these to work toward better projects on renewable resources to save the planet.

4th Quarter ScrapESbook

E: The Day I Almost Unintentionally Killed a Baby Tree at Marist High School

Pictured above is part of my Environmental Science class and I, along with our Tree Keeper friend, planting a new tree on the Marist property. However, I did not only learn about the physical aspects of planting a tree. I learned about why trees die in our community, the practical uses for trees by families, and how to properly care for the tree. The most important thing I learned, however, was that I should NEVER grab a tree by its stem when it is little, because this could internally damage the tree and never repair itself. Overall, it was a learning experience not only for everyone there, but also for my mom, who now knows not to overload the tree with mulch, and too inoculate our poor white ash trees that are subject to bug infestation.

E: Our Day With the Macroinvertebrates at McClaughry Springs. April 27th, 2015

Last Monday, my environmental science class and I met a new friend at the McClaughry Springs Forest Preserve. Friend is the appropriate name for our new acquaintance, because he is from The Friends of the Chicago River, a group of environmental enthusiasts that works to protect the Chicago River and all of its appendages. Our journey began upon arriving to the beautiful, blooming site, when our teacher, Ms. Coy, put us right to work. My group's first task: to measure the water quality of the little stream that ran through our site. Of course I was reluctant to get my new Nike gym shoes a little muddy, but I wanted to get in on the action, so I grabbed a test tube and measured the dissolved oxygen in the water. After collecting the water and dissolving the tablet (which takes a tedious amount of time inverting the tube), the dissolved oxygen levels displayed "good" water quality, as did the rest of the samples that we took such as nitrate, phosphate, and salinity. Our next assignment was to wade through the river and catch as many different species of macroinvertebrates as we could. This was my absolute favorite part because I got to see organisms that I have never seen before such as crayfish, mayfly larvae, and midge larvae. Following this was the less exciting task of taking a nature walk throughout the site, and writing down things about the environment such as what the river looks like, and what the land around the river looks like.

Our class next gathered together and took a hike through the site, marking down items on our scavenger hunt list that we were given. And finally, my most favorite part of the whole day came. We were given a few questions to answer on our own, and I found the most secluded place by the bridge, right on the bank of the river. The sheet asked me what I heard, saw, smelt, and felt in my spot. Taking the time to close my eyes and listen closely to the sounds around me put me in an irreplaceable state of total peace and happiness. I heard the quiet rush of the river. I heard branches falling fifty feet to the ground from tree tops. I heard birds from yards and yards away chirping in the Spring sun. I then drew a little, insignificant leaf. However, as time went on, the leaf grew more and more significant because I was only focused on that object for that time. The whole experience taught me that I could find interest in anything so long that I keep my focus.

The class and I had already done many of the activities included on our trip, but the water source was different and more processed than the natural river we worked with. This experience put us in a real life, natural setting so that we may apply our skills as the Friends of the Chicago River do, and this trip also tied the whole course together.  It put us in the midst of everything we had learned: all of the cycles, all of the states of matter, all of the organisms, a biome, and simply just put us in the environment. The field trip to McClaughry Springs provided a beautiful example of what we are working to learn about and to preserve.

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Great Job Elyse! 50/50 :)

3 years ago

2nd Qt = 50/50!!!

2 years ago

What a trip! It sounds like a great time, thanks for sharing your reflections. 50/50.
P.s. For 4th quarter can you show where it begins...thanks!!!

2 years ago

What a great reflection on the field trip! Plus I'm glad you learned how to properly handle trees! (You are such a good sport!) :) thanks for a great year, Elyse!!! 50/50