Ah, the cat bib.

Cat BibI’m not sure if it is a well-kept secret or not, but I have a certain distaste for cats, likely originating when I was two and family friend’s Siamese cat crawled up my back as I was singing Happy Birthday. A distressing event.

I’ve never really warmed up to them for many reasons including:

  • the aforementioned Siamese birthday incident
  • the fact that they shit in a box in your house
  • they shit in a box and then cat owners let them walk on kitchen counter-tops, dining room tables
  • the fact that they’ll also shit in sandboxes & garden beds
  • cat parasites affect our personality
  • they’re an ecological disaster killing millions of native birds, herptiles & other small wildlife every year

The best solution for the last point is to keep you cat indoors (sorry about the kitty-litter thing though). Some (unreasonable) people seem to believe that their cat needs to be outside. Luckily, there seems to be something of a solution for those outdoor cats: The CatBib (pictured above).

Link: The CatBib Stops Cats from Catching Birds!

Surrogate Species: Beavers help Frogs and Toads survive

Researches at the U of Alberta have found that significantly more frogs & toads (5.7 more new wood frogs [Rana sylvatica], 29 times more western toads [Bufo boreas] and 24 times more boreal chorus frogs [Pseudacris maculata]) could be found in the ponds created behind beaver (Castor canadensis) dams when compared to nearby free-flowing bodies of water. Reasons for the amphibian’s success are suggested as the warmer, well-oxygenated water that is created in the new beaver pond habitat.

Dr. Cindy Paszkowski, one of the researchers suggests that:

“The concept of surrogate species in conservation planning offers simple, ecologically-based solutions to help conserve and manage ecosystems”

So, rather than seeing as being pests blocking culverts (the role that beavers are increasingly cast), these rodents can now be seen as important (integral?) to the success of amphibian populations.

Link: Beavers Helping Frogs And Toads Survive

More reading: Recent article from Biodiversity and Conservation on assessing the effectiveness of surrogate species approaches to biological conservation [PDF alert]

Corn Plastic to the (?) Rescue

Lee, Katie and I had a discussion a ways back on the use of plastic bags for picking up dog shit. Our chat was along these lines: Given that plastic bags seem to be the easiest way to do pick shit up, and since plastic bags seem to be symptomatic of our “convenience today for a hellish tomorrow” culture, is there such thing as a good plastic bag? Or, putting it another (awkward) way, is there a “less-bad” plastic bag?

We considered re-using those plastic bags that we seem to accumulate through daily living. The cost is agreeable (hidden in the price of groceries for example), but does nothing to address the concern with plastic bags’ longevity. As well, since we shop with re-usable bags now and generally say “no thanks” when offered a plastic bag elsewhere in life, we would seemingly have to take a step back to get our supply.

We also considered bio-degradable plastic bags. At the local “green living” store, Grassroots, we could buy 30 Scoopies bags for $4.50 that are supposed to “disappear” in 18 months (whatever that means). That’s about $ 0.15 a bag. But for someone living in an apartment building, without access to a compost bin, these bags would end up going into the garbage. Hidden under dozens of feet of waste, even the most biodegradable stuff in the world won’t disappear for dozens of years (not enough oxygen down there for microbes to do their thang’).

Right now we’re purchasing 50 small bags for $0.99 at Honest Ed’s, which works out to $0.02 a dump. This is (seemingly) the least-sustainable choice. But here’s some food for thought from the Smithsonian Magazine that seems to defy common sense and perhaps makes our choice of bags a “better” one:

According to a biodegradability standard that Mojo helped develop, PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” in fewer than 90 days. What’s a controlled composting environment? Not your backyard bin, pit or tumbling barrel. It’s a large facility where compost—essentially, plant scraps being digested by microbes into fertilizer—reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is “biodegradable.” But in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make that happen. NatureWorks has identified 113 such facilities nationwide—some handle industrial food-processing waste or yard trimmings, others are college or prison operations—but only about a quarter of them accept residential foodscraps collected by municipalities.

Link: Corn Plastic to the Rescue