A few days ago, while eating in a restaurant, the drink I ordered came with a straw. As he handed it to me, the waiter volunteered that it was made from biodegradable plastic. “No more soggy paper straws,” he joked. But I had to wonder: would the straw really biodegrade in the landfill it was destined for or did the manufacturers evaluate its end-of-life behaviour exclusively under controlled composting conditions? Worse still, what would happen if it did make its way into the ocean? Would its impacts be as significant as those of demonized conventional plastic straws, or would it readily decompose in a marine environment?
Author Archives: amymcmackin
There’s no room for perfectionism within environmentalism
Many environmentalists advocate perfectionist lifestyles as the ideal way for individuals to reduce their impact on the planet. But perfectionism is a slippery slope in any domain, often pursued at a detriment to mental health and self-worth. Besides, in the context of current scientific knowledge and global supply chains, true environmental perfectionism is impossible. SustainabilityContinue reading “There’s no room for perfectionism within environmentalism”
Sciencewashing: the new greenwashing?
While visiting Fiji in 1983, environmentalist Jay Westerveld became intrigued by a note hanging in his hotel room. The message urged guests to reuse their towels to protect the coral reefs and oceans, concluding with the phrase “help us to help our environment.” At first glance, the message seemed well-intentioned. However, beyond the four wallsContinue reading “Sciencewashing: the new greenwashing?”
Clean Beauty or Anti-Science: Part II
This article is a continuation of my last post, published on February 28th, 2022. Clean – for you and the environment “Clean” branding and greenwashing – a misleading marketing strategy used to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly – are often intertwined. While most instances of greenwashing are subtle, impliedContinue reading “Clean Beauty or Anti-Science: Part II”
Clean Beauty or Anti-Science: Part I
As a teen in the early 2010s, I remember watching YouTube videos of influencers’ makeup collections. These people would have thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics stashed away in custom Ikea closets, opening drawers to reveal hundreds of lipsticks in nearly indistinguishable shades or eyeshadow palettes of every imaginable color. In recent years, these over-the-topContinue reading “Clean Beauty or Anti-Science: Part I”
High-steaks: the push for lab-grown meat
China has been in the news a lot recently. Headlines cover everything from their handling of the pandemic to alleged human rights abuses, rising carbon emissions to the upcoming winter Olympic games. But with the release of the Chinese five-year agricultural plan on January 26th, the media buzz was, for once, seemingly uncontroversial. Much toContinue reading “High-steaks: the push for lab-grown meat”
Refrigerants: pick your poison
Walk into any grocery store, big or small, and you’ll be met with walls of freezers and fridges working to keep your favorite foods fresh. A century ago, rudimentary refrigeration came from insulated rooms, filled with blocks of ice harvested in the winter months. Today’s refrigeration is much more sophisticated and reliable: behind these meticulouslyContinue reading “Refrigerants: pick your poison”
Wintertime Wonders: the stunning science of snowflakes
As I write these words, in sleepy small-town La Pocatière, Quebec, the snow is falling. For mid-December, this is unsurprising in my part of the world, as is the case in many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Christmas is just around the corner, and it certainly feels like the holiday season as I admireContinue reading “Wintertime Wonders: the stunning science of snowflakes”
Candles – Satisfying or Sinister?
‘Tis the season. With snow falling outside, nothing feels better than being curled up inside enjoying a book or movie – maybe with a candle burning at your side. Candles, emblematic of colder weather, are a source of comfort for many. American retail sales of candles are estimated at $3.45 billion annually, and candles areContinue reading “Candles – Satisfying or Sinister?”
Artificial sweeteners: are they truly as sweet as they taste?
Strange beginnings It’s the number one rule in chemistry: don’t lick the science. When working with new or unknown molecules this is good advice, as any given substance has the potential to have toxic effects. But in a few instances, researchers have accidentally tasted their experiments, only to make some interesting discoveries. In 1897, aContinue reading “Artificial sweeteners: are they truly as sweet as they taste?”