Trees of Life

If you’re breathing, thank a tree.

Or if you’re see see this beautiful tree picture you may also thank a tree.

Among other things, trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen (actually all plants do this, but I’m talking about trees for now.) All humans take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Recycling the carbon dioxide of humans isn’t the only thing plants do because carbon dioxide is released by lot of things. By now we would have certainly choked ourselves out by now if it weren’t for plants.

For a planting cost of $250-600 (includes first 3 years of maintenance) a single street tree returns over $90,000 of direct benefits (not including aesthetic, social and natural) in the lifetime of the tree, says Dan Burden.

One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen, which could meet the annual need of 18 people.

They act as a filter for the air and water in all its forms such as runoff, sewage and just plain ground water. They conserve rainwater and reduce runoff and sediment deposit after storms.

Trees, shrubs and turf also filter air by removing dust and absorbing other pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

They help clean the soil and prevent erosion because tree roots bind the soil and their leaves break the force of wind and rain on soil.

They help reduce noise pollution (I will definitely be planting trees all around my house), flash flooding, provide shade and a windbreak.

Large trees are said to prevent crime. This article reports that a 10 percent increase in trees roughly equaled a 12 percent decrease in crime. Trees make a community seem more cared for and the perpetrator will believe they are more likely to get caught.

Trees are vital to sustain every kind of life yet we’re cutting them down without replacing them.

Each year the U.S. plants two and half million acres, which is smaller thank the size of Connecticut. From 2000-2005 we lost six percent of forests at a loss of 46,332 square miles, which is between the size of Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

I would say that we can definitely do better.

Here is pretty much everything you need to know about planting trees.

On the same site there is even information on how to start your own program on how to get more trees planted in your community.


Friendly Inspirations

A couple of days ago, my best friend called me and she needed help with her speech paper. She said she had been inspired by my upcycling projects. I’m completely flabbergasted. To know why you’ll have to know a couple of thinks about her and our relationship.

There are a couple of things you should know about my friend.

One- we’re almost polar opposites. As far as similar interests or personalities go, we are really not the same at all. She’s positive and I’m….not. She sees the best in people and I…don’t. She’s a drama major, which should tell you that she’s super outgoing and I am….not. The fact that she’s outgoing and I’m not is where I think we’ve always kind of had our bumpy places. I’m  content with just being and she always has to be busy, to be doing something and it frustrates her when she wasn’t. I thought when we went to our separated colleges that honestly I wouldn’t hear from her much after that. It always frustrated her that I wasn’t more outgoing or something and I figured she would find people who were more like her and that would be the end of that.  But that was 2 or 3 years ago and while we don’t talk a lot, I think we’re better friends because of it. I’ve worked on trying to talk more, but I think she has learned to appreciate our differences more, too.

Two- We both love to read. Not the same books, of course, but still it’s something. We both like, somewhat, the same type of movies. I’m more open-minded about what I read and what I watch. I like more action type stuff and she likes more fantasy type stuff, but it doesn’t kill me to watch it. We both loooove chocolate…and dessert. I think that similarity is what held us together all these years.

Three- She loves it when I write her notes. I have always loved to write, but I never considered it as a career until recently. I would usually try to curb it back to one page, but sometimes it was more. I didn’t write anyone else because no one really appreciated them. Writing sometimes brings a somewhat quirky personality out of me and I don’t think a lot of people appreciate it. At first I thought she didn’t like them or care about them because she never wrote back, but later I learned it was because she didn’t like to write. I didn’t know that because she was always so smart and wrote such good papers. And also because I loved to write with every fiber of being and I couldn’t imagine anyone could not like to write. But she loves my notes and she may be the only person in the world who likes my writing. I would love it if she wrote back, but oh well. I don’t write notes on paper any more. I would if we saw each other every day, but instead I send them on Facebook.

Four- She never judges me because of my negativity or cynicism or strong opinions.  People are always telling me that I shouldn’t think a certain way and that I should think that the world is just a bowl full of sunshine and butterflies. I tried to change the way I thought, but it never did work. Partly because I didn’t see anything wrong with having a different perspective. I saw it as honesty and people didn’t like it because they didn’t want to see it. I haven’t told her the worst of it, but I’ve come pretty close. She doesn’t always agree with me, sometimes she does and sometimes she tells me a different way of looking at it, but she never says that I’m a horrible person because of it. Which is such a relief. I don’t want to feel the way I do, but it is what it is and I can’t or won’t change my perception just because it’s hard to deal with. Sometimes I feel as if I’m a bad person because I won’t accept people’s standards. The world should be better. We should be better. She doesn’t make me feel bad. And at this point when I feel more negativity for humanity than I ever have before, this is what I appreciate about her the most.

Five- I mentioned that she’s an extreme busy body. In high school she was in just about every extracurricular ever, except for sports. She was president or secretary or VP or something of most clubs. In college, I think she narrowed it down to mostly theatre or drama type things. She’s also extremely smart. Like straight A student smart. Sometimes I feel a bit unaccomplished, to say the least.

The other day, she called and asked if I would help her with a persuasive speech. She wanted to do it about…..upcycling. She never reads this blog, she hates news and she usually reads for pleasure, so I never expected her to want to read it. Sometimes I post my crafts on pinterest, so she’s been seeing them. I don’t talk to her that much and when I do it’s rarely about anything to do with this blog because I know she’s not interested, so I had no idea that she would be paying attention. She has always recycled and kind of in the environmental thing even before I was, but she does it because she knows it is the right thing and not because she knows all of the science behind it. Anyway, I definitely wasn’t expecting it, but I gave her some resources. I don’t know if she used them, but it got her started.

I’m mostly astounded because she’s never asked for my help with anything. She’s very independent. But she also asked me to listen to her informative speech about the color run.

She said I inspired her to write about upcycling because of my love for the environment and just because it’s cool. I’ll have you know that I haven’t inspired any one in my whole life, least of all her who is almost perfect in every way. So yes, I’m feeling pretty proud of it.

I hope you have a good day!


Chickens. Over 8 million of them are born and raised on a factory farm. They’re called Broiler chickens and they are what line our store shelves and mostly stock our refrigerator shelves. From the time they are born till the last second they die, they are just treated with such cruelty that it’s sickening. Like with the other farm animals, there is not a day that goes by that they are actually treated with any type of kindness. Everything that they go through from the crowding to the food they eat, to the lack of lighting goes against everything in their nature.

Because male chicks can’t lay eggs they have no value in the chicken industry. As soon as they hatch they are thrown away without even being killed. They often suffocate as other chicks are thrown on top of them.

They have all kinds of diseases, skin lesions and health complications. It’s awful. This breed is genetically predisposed for fast growth, lameness and heart disease. If they were fed an unrestricted diet only 20 percent would reach full growth. Instead, they are fed one-fourth of the food they would otherwise eat which causes malnutrition and frustration.

Chickens are seen inside cages on a truck near a poultry market in Dengzhou

In the 1950’s it took 84 days to grow a five pound chicken. How long does it take now? 45 days. What’s the difference? Today we rely on selective breeding, antibiotics and hormones to get us these diseased, health problem infested chickens. As a result of the speedy growth spurt, the chickens go through a number of problems such as, disorders and heart disease. One study said that , 90% had visible leg deformities and around 26% were suffering from chronic pain due to bone disease.  Leg deformities are fatal for 1% because they can no longer stand to reach food or water. Tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), an abnormal mass of cartilage at the growth plate of a bone, usually the tibia, is the cause of some leg problems. The end of the tibia may become enlarged and weakened, and the bone may bend backward as it grows. Lesions can become necrotic and may lead to spontaneous fracture, severe lameness, and, in some cases, the complete inability to stand.  Studies show that 45-57% of the chickens raised for meat consumption have this, but the disease is rare in other types of birds.  The chickens are now growing so fast that the heart and lungs aren’t developing fast enough to support the body, so they’re dying of congestive heart failure.

One study found that 92 percent of male breeders had pelvic limb lesions, 85 percent had total or partial rupture of ligaments or tendons, 54 percent had total ligament or tendon failure at one or more skeletal sites, and 16 percent had total detachment of the femoral head.

Broiler chickens are confined in grower houses which are usually long warehouses which house up to 20,000 chickens in a single shed. A five pound chicken is usually given a generous space the size of one piece of paper. As with the pigs, this causes a great amount of stress and makes it easier for diseases to run rampant. Because they are all packed together in such confined spaces and creates stress, each bird has a portion of their toes cut off and males have their combs and leg spurs removed, so they can’t harm each other as much. Their beaks are also cut off. Sometimes it’s so the chickens won’t peck each other to death and sometimes it’s so a feeding tube can shoved down their throat.  This of course is done without anesthetic.

After those 45 days, the chicken are transported to a slaughterhouse without food, water, or shelter from extreme temperatures.

In the U.S. there is no law that requires chickens to be unconscious during slaughter, so as soon as they arrive at the slaughterhouse, the chicken are dumped onto a conveyor belt, hung upside down in shackles by their legs. Then their throats are slit by either a hand or a machine.  An upwards of 8,400 chickens go through this in one hour. Mistakes are made and many chickens are still alive when they enter the tanks of scalding water.

These current standards insure that every single chicken experiences some kind of pain. If anti-cruelty laws applied to farm animals, but there is no such discretion

Click here for some solutions.

Beef: Part 1

I sort of wrote about this subject before, so instead of repeating it, I’ll just add on.

But 84% of the slaughter is controlled by 4 companies.

Total U.S. beef consumption for a population of 311,800,000
2002: 27.9 billion pounds
2004: 27.8 billion pounds
2006: 28.1 billion pounds
2008: 27.3 billion pounds
2010: 26.4 billion pounds

A typical life of a cow goes like this: It’s born, when it reaches 400-500 pounds it usually gets sold. It grows to 700-800 pounds. During this time it eats grass, but during its last 120-180 days it gets a high-energy diet consisting of corn in a feedlot. Or that’s what Bill Haw, CEO of Kansas City’s National Farms which is one of the biggest feedlots in the country.


Michael Pollan paints a slightly different picture. He calls them a city of the 14th century, a time before modern sanitation.

“They’re from the time when cities really were stinky. When they were teeming and filthy and pestilential and liable to be ridden with plague, because you had people coming from many, many different places, bringing many, many different microbes into a concentrated area where they could spread them around.”

The only reason we’re not reliving a black plague type nightmare is because antibiotics have been our saving grace.

“Every hour I was on this feedlot, another tanker truck came in filled with liquefied fat. Another one with liquefied protein. Every hour there was another truck with 50,000 pounds of corn. You see all the feedstuff coming into the city, and you see the waste going out. The wastes, by and large, are manure, trucks coming in from farms carrying it away. But a lot of this was pooled in these lagoons, which were just full of this.”

Cows in Manure

Cows standing in manure.

Around six months, a cow has usually seen its last blade of grass. We used to grow a cow for four to five years, but we’ve now cut it down to 14 months, according to Pollan.


Cows have evolved to eat grass. They have a four chambered stomach called a rumen that digests grass in successive stages.

In the first two compartments of the stomach, the grass is mixed with saliva and is separated into liquid and solid layers. The solid clumps join together and form a cud.

The cud is then regurgitated where it is slowly chewed to further mix it with saliva and break it down to smaller particle sized bits. After the grass is suitably liquid, it passes into the third stomach chamber where the water and many of the inorganic minerals are absorbed into the bloodstream. Eventually the grass is turned into a protein.

Next it goes to the final chamber which is most equivalent to the human single chambered stomach. The material is then transported to the small intestine where digestion and absorption continues.

Finally it off to the large intestine where fermentation continues and then it’s on to the exit door.

That’s how it works when the cow eats grass as it was designed to do; this is beef production nature’s way. On a normal grass diet, it takes a steer around five years or so to reach a slaughter weight of 1200 pounds or more.

But after 6 months they no longer eat grass. They’re fed a steady stream of corn. They’re stomachs weren’t designed for corn, so this leads to many of their health problems.

We fix this by adding a steady stream of antibiotics into their diet. That fixes a small portion of the problem because they don’t get sick as much, but they’re digestion is still out of whack. What happens to us when our digestion is out of whack? Exactly. And the same thing happens to them.

As they burp, methane gas is released. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas and it contributes to global warming.

Also in this upset stomach scene, they swallow saliva which keeps their stomach base instead of acidic. This combined with a corn diet, leads to formation of slime which covers the rumen. This prevents gas from being to escape, so the rumen keeps filling with air like a balloon. Eventually it starts to press on the heart and lungs which will lead to suffocation if nothing is done.

They also can get acidosis, which is an acidifying of the rumen. … And when the animals get acid stomach, it’s a really bad case of heartburn, and they go off their feed. Eventually, if you give them too much corn too quickly, it ulcerates the rumen; bacteria escape from the rumen into the blood stream, and end up in the liver, creating liver abscesses which are treated with more antibiotics.

Liver abscesses could end up with a completely shot liver.

But you’ll like what Bill Haw had as a response, “I think what we have found in the industry today is that the liver is not a very economically viable part of the animal. There’s been a willingness to sacrifice the quality of the liver for the overall growth of the animal, which far transcends the value of the liver that may be damaged in the process.”

Isn’t he a peach?

Click here for part 2 and here for solutions to some of these problems.