Author Archive

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By: Ambika Chawla

As the Biden-Harris administration designates climate change as a policy priority, increasing attention will be given towards advancing federal legislation on climate change, while also strengthening the capacities of city governments to introduce ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation policies/initiatives. The Biden-Harris administration has also promised to make environmental justice a priority.   

Indeed, city governments are uniquely positioned to tackle pressing challenges as they are in closer proximity to their communities. In this way, city governments can more effectively develop policies, programs and other initiatives which respond directly to the concerns of their communities.  

In the United States, and globally, we find that cities are implementing innovative climate action plans. Not only are cities playing an important role in developing strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also introducing creative actions to build urban resilience to climate change. 

Boulder, Colorado, for example, has adopted its “Climate Action Plan (CAP)” with the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, while transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Boulder is also home to the nation’s first voter approved tax dedicated to addressing climate change, known as the Climate Action Plan Tax. 

The city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 and recently developed a city-wide “Resilience Strategy” with the aim to diminish the city’s vulnerabilities while increasing its resilience. 

And, Da Nang, which is one of the fastest growing cities in Vietnam, has designed its Green Growth City Development Strategy (GG-CDS), an urban masterplan which aims to create the first climate resilient city in Vietnam and in the Asia-Pacific region. 

These colorful and exciting examples demonstrate the many ways in which city governments, globally, are taking bold actions to tackle climate change. 

In tandem, we live in a rapidly urbanizing world. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population is predicted to be living in towns and cities, with almost 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa. Fast-growing megacities include Karachi, Dhaka, Shanghai, and New Delhi. Chinese cities are also growing at breakneck speed.

Finally, environmental justice organizations across U.S. cities are taking bold actions to address environmental inequalities in their communities. For example, organizations such as Groundwork USA are working to ensure that communities of color have greater access to green space in cities, particularly given the considerable health benefits (both psychological and physical) that urban nature brings to city residents.

Urban Climate Innovations

Based on my expertise in urban development and climate change, I recently developed my company “Urban Climate Innovations,” a woman-owned business which aims to catalyze low carbon, climate resilient, and equitable cities around the world. 

When I worked as a youth ambassador on climate change for UN-Habitat (the cities branch of the United Nations) I became passionate about raising policymaker and public awareness about the role of city-level governance to tackle pressing challenges. 

In this role, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent the concerns of young people, globally, at the UN climate conferences in Bali, Indonesia, Copenhagen, as well as in Bonn, Germany.  

My collaborative relationship with UN-Habitat continued and led me to Hanoi, Vietnam, where I led the development of the UN’s official policy report on cities and climate change for Vietnam. This was a wonderful and fulfilling role where I worked closely with UN officials from Vietnam, South Korea, and the Netherlands. 

I continue to engage with UN-Habitat as a member of the steering committee for the Urban Economy Forum, a coalition of city leaders, UN representatives, and urban development practitioners working to develop urban economies that adhere to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

More recently, I have become passionate about informing the public about environmental injustices occurring in communities. I have also written about how we can create a more diverse and inclusive environmental movement. My work has been published by Yes! magazine, Ensia, Environmental Health New, Green Biz, Daily Climate, Next City, among other media.  

My company, Urban Climate Innovations (UCI), excels at designing compelling and engaging policy reports which inform decision makers and the public about transformative solutions to our world’s most challenges. 

At the heart of Urban Climate Innovations (UCI) is a process of listening to the voices of underrepresented communities and including their opinions in policy documents.

UCI also possesses expertise on all facets related to climate change law and policy, including legal issues in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, renewable energy law and policy, and climate adaptation policy. 

If you are connected to an organization working on any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact me to learn more about the services offered at UCI, or if you would like me to be a guest speaker!  

You can learn more about Urban Climate Innovations at my website: www.urbanclimateinnovations.org. The site includes my policy reports, articles, and testimonials from colleagues, globally, who have collaborated with me in the past.   

Thank you to Eco Women for giving me the opportunity to share my story about my career and about my company! Keep up the great work! 

***

Ambika Chawla has professional experience in the areas of youth empowerment, climate change, urban development, and environmental law. She has collaborated with UN agencies, research institutes, and non-profit organizations in six countries across the globe. Ambika is passionate about advocating for healthy, equitable, climate resilient, and green towns and cities around the world.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on Forested turns modern-day food production on its head.

By: Emma Brown

On the outskirts of D.C., there’s a quiet little lot that makes for the perfect spot to lay out the picnic blanket and have a little snack. Except, there’s no need to bring your own food – those are foraged. 
The Emerson Food Forest of Hyattsville is one of several of its kind in the DMV area. Boasting a variety of native plants, from persimmons to papaws, the “forest” is a public food source.  

The site is a project of Forested, a local organization that seeks to redefine how we think about food production. 

It’s no secret that our modern food system is in dire need of an overhaul. The world’s topsoil– a nonrenewable resource – is rapidly declining, contributing to erosion and less nutrient-dense foods. Reliance on pesticides like neonicotinoids threatens public health and harms much-needed pollinators.  The over-abundant use of fertilizer has contributed to water pollution and fueled toxic algal blooms.  

Forested offers an alternative. On their Bowie, Maryland site, founder Lincoln Smith created a large-scale foraging “farm.” Forested is on a mission to prove that “forest garden ecosystems” can “sustainably supply a large portion of all food and forest products people need and use for healthy living.” 

Through their Hyattsville forest and other projects, the group encourages the deliberate reintegration of native food sources into urban community development – bringing food production to city dwellers’ literal front door. 

Forested’s Bowie, Maryland site offers even more. There, Smith hopes to demonstrate that forest food systems can prove just as “fruitful” as mono-crop farming and produce similar yields.  

The site is designed to maximize food production with as little human intervention as possible. Large fruiting trees line the property and are underplanted with berry bushes and shrubs. Kale and other vegetables form the lower ring – placed carefully on the western side of trees to ensure they receive adequate afternoon sunlight critical to their growth. 

Plants and trees are left to grow in their natural habitat, sans the aid of watering, pesticides, tilling, or extensive weeding. Unlike mono-crop farming, Forested’s approach promotes a robust ecosystem that attracts beneficial insects – nature’s own pest control.  The natural decay of leaves and other plant matter continually enriches the soil, virtually eliminating the need for fertilizer and preserving precious topsoil. 

The curious can tour or volunteer at the site. To learn more or donate, visit Forested.us.

***

Emma Brown’s works in progressive politics. She was raised on a family dairy farm in Southeast Ohio, where she developed an interest in sustainable food production. 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on 10 Ways to Become More Eco-Friendly While Living in the City

By: Jane Marsh

Living in urban regions presents various challenges to the eco-conscious citizen. When renting an apartment in a ten-story building, it is nearly impossible to influence the consumption patterns of every resident. Though managing utilities and choosing appliances is a distant dream, you can alter your lifestyle to shrink your carbon footprint.

1. Skip the Straw

Our local baristas may stick a straw in our iced coffees without a second thought. The thin plastic tubes allow us to drink with ease and cause environmental degradation. These single-use items are non recyclable, spending hundreds of years in landfills.

Most straws are non-biodegradable and break up into microplastics over time. Storm surges and heavy rain carry microplastics into rivers and the ocean. They disrupt the natural composition of the ocean floor, poisoning aquatic life and the marine ecosystem. Urban residents can limit plastic pollution by asking the barista to hold the straw.

2. Take the Bus

In the city, taking public transportation is ten times safer than driving a car. Taking the bus both limits your likelihood of getting in an accident and shrinks your carbon footprint, as the transportation sector generates 30% of American greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly 82% of all transportation emissions derive from personal cars and trucks. Buses only account for 6% of the carbon released, making it the greener transportation option. Eco-friendly individuals can leave their car keys at home and hop on the public bus.

3. Practice Sustainable Pet Care

Dogs are lovely city companions, making apartment living feel more like home. Many owners bathe their furry friends too frequently, wasting water and harming their coats. Overbathing can cause hot spots, sores, flaking and itchy welts.

You can decrease your water use and improve your pet’s health by bathing them less often. Biodegradable dog bags also offer a sustainable solution to plastic pollution. Individuals can locate compost bins in their neighborhood to dispose of their used baggies, providing nourishment for the earth.

4. Shop at Thrift Stores

Fast fashion companies generate synthetic textiles out of plastic. When we throw away old clothes composed of this material, they pollute the ocean with microplastics. Rather than placing these articles in the trash or financially supporting their production, you can buy secondhand clothing.

5. Adopt a Flexitarian Diet

Beef production emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The air pollutant contributes to adverse human health effects and climate change. Adopting a flexitarian diet can significantly shrink one’s carbon footprint.

A flexitarian diet consists of fruit, vegetable and grain consumption, with the occasional mean containing meal. Urban residents can limit their meat intake to increase the sustainability of their lifestyle.

6. Bring Your Own To-Go Container

To-go containers made of recyclable materials may end up in the blue bin without food remnants. For example, if an individual can thoroughly cleanse a pizza box of grease, cheese and crumble, they can place it in the recycling bin.

You can limit this challenge by bringing your own to-go container. Individuals can reuse glass and hard plastic containers for many years, decreasing their production of waste.   

7. Get a Reusable Cup

Single-use plastic coffee cups end up in landfills, contaminating soil, water and harming wildlife. The toxins that leak from plastic containers also cause adverse human health effects, like cancer. City residents can reduce environmental and human harm by investing in a reusable cup.

8. Grow Indoor Plants

Indoor plants may increase the aesthetic appeal of an apartment while filtering air pollution. Plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release clean oxygen. They improve your indoor air quality, helping you breathe easily, and offset your carbon emissions.

9. Transport by Bike

If you live far from a train or bus stop, you can invest in a bike to travel sustainably. You can reduce your carbon emissions by 0.5 tons annually by completing one trip a day by bike. When you travel solely by cycling, your footprint shrinks even further.

You can generate an eco-friendlier transportation method when using a thrifted bike. Rubber production has adverse effects on the environment and patching up tires can reduce negative impacts. Riding a vintage bike can also enhance your style, making you the trendiest cyclist on the road.

10. Make Green Cleaning Products

Conventional, store-bought cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that pollute the air and contaminate the soil. You can make your own eco-friendly cleaning products to reduce your environmental impact.

An all-purpose cleaner that is environmentally safe contains vinegar, water, soap and essential oils. Individuals may fill a reusable spray bottle with a ¼ cup of vinegar, two cups of water and a drop of soap and oil. Shake up the solution, spray and wipe down all surfaces and watch your apartment shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

Small Changes, Big Impacts

Though the eco-friendly methods presented above may seem small, their environmental impacts add up over time. If you are looking to enhance the sustainability of your lifestyle, you can start by adopting a small change, like skipping the straw. When you are ready to make a larger impact, you can hop on a vintage bike for your workday commute. 

***

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.

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By: Lindsay Hollingsworth

We’ve all seen them. The mosses creeping up foundations, the tiny leaves poking out from in between bricks, the young trees swaying merrily from their perches within gutters. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably taken secret joy in these tiny spots of green scattered throughout the city, even as those around you talk of untidiness and power washing.

While pursuing my master’s degree in Ireland, I had the opportunity to study these plants, hidden in plain sight in centuries-old stone walls. As I pursued my research, I learned that the scientific community has often overlooked wall plants as a point of potential ecological interest. Even as our understanding of cities as unique ecosystems has grown, wall plants and other urban botanicals remain a relatively underexplored topic. But there’s been just enough research done to give us tantalizing hints at a secret world of plants unfolding, like the frond of a fern, right under our noses – in the cracks and margins of our megastructures, and in the places that have become too ordinary to notice.

Wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) growing on an ancient stone wall (Photo by Lindsay Hollingsworth)

Some research has suggested that, like forests, wall vegetation has successional stages. As city dirt accumulates and concrete and mortar weathered, walls are first colonized by lichens, then by mosses, and then by vascular plants. And as these tiny microhabitats form, wall plants provide shelter for insects and small animals, who in turn may carry seeds to new crannies and crevices. And in some cases, the unique environmental conditions of walls may provide a sanctuary for important local plant species, especially those that might normally make their homes in cliffs and rocky terrain.

It is unfortunate that we know so little about these plants, especially when we could learn so much from them. With so many of us living in cities, and more predicted to migrate to them in the near future, the question of how to make our cities more verdant and sustainable becomes increasingly crucial. 

And this question is perhaps especially pertinent to sprawling cities like Washington, D.C., where urban development covers so much of the surrounding landscape, and where there is an increasing push to incorporate green walls and roofs into our city infrastructure. Understanding the circumstances which allow plants to grow on walls without human aid may help us to more efficiently cultivate vegetation on our buildings. Currently, one of the biggest drawbacks to green walls is the expense and labor required to maintain them. However, better knowledge of what plants are naturally suited to wall colonization in a particular climate, and under what conditions they will do so, could help us better select plants that require little intervention to thrive. 

Green walls on an urban apartment building (WikiMedia Commons)

Moreover, an understanding of wall plants as not just a nuisance or a curiosity, but as an important part of urban ecosystems, may allow us to see and develop our green walls and roofs to support plants and animals beyond our cities. Green walls and roofs have already been deservedly celebrated for their ability to reduce air pollution, but the way in which animals seem to use naturally occurring wall plants for shelter raises some intriguing possibilities. Perhaps if we can explore the potential of green walls and roofs as refuges and habitat corridors, we could create fundamental changes to the types of animals that can use urban spaces. Perhaps instead of being obstacles for migrating songbirds and butterflies, they could be waystations. 

 The next time you see a cranesbill or hart’s tongue poking out from in between the stones of a garden wall or the bricks of the building, I encourage you to stop and take notice. Admire its fortitude, to grow in a place where so few can. Try and see what circumstances, what characteristics of this particular wall have made its small life possible. And remember that even in a city with no forests or fields, we live, always, side-by-side with nature.

***

Lindsay Hollingsworth holds a master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation from Trinity College, Dublin, where she researched novel ecosystems, agroecology, and wall flora. She completed her undergraduate studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She currently works at an environmental consulting company, and volunteers with the local Potomac Conservancy.

The 1002 area

May
2021
07

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By: Jessica Miles

I want the Arctic and the polar bears to survive.

As part of their America First energy policy, the Trump administration pushed hard to open up America’s last wild spaces to oil and gas development. In December 2017, by attaching a rider to the 2017 Tax Bill, the Trump administration and leading Senate Republicans successfully opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. The administration tasked the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee in particular with finding an additional one billion dollars in revenue to offset the tax cuts.[1]

In total, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19.6 million acres. The coastal plain is only 1.5 million acres, but the potential for oil discovery has made it a contested battle ground since its inception.

Rep. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told a House-Senate conference committee that drilling in the ANWR could raise a billion dollars for the federal treasury over the next decade.[2] However, that highly unlikely number is based on wildly optimistic leased drilling sales and projections that the price of oil will increase. The Center for American Progress did its own analysis, and it is likelier that any drilling in the refuge will only bring in $37.5 million over the next ten years, less than half of what was promised.[3]

The lack of an income or sales tax on Alaska’s residents hamstrings the state government. Ninety percent of the state’s budget comes from the oil and gas industry, but the amount of oil passing through the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System has fallen steadily since 1988. As a result, Alaska is suffering from ballooning budget deficits. More than one-third of the state’s private sector jobs come from the oil and gas industry. Human-caused climate change has put an undue strain on the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population. The continuous melt of sea ice forces the bears inland, which is why the 1002 area has become such a critical denning habitat for females.[4]

Over the years, advocates for opening up the ANWR have expressed hope that there is as much oil in the coastal plain as there is in nearby places like Point Thompson field or Prudhoe Bay: at least 7 billion barrels, perhaps as much as 11.8 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The U.S. Geological Survey has said there is a five percent chance of finding 11.8 billion barrels of oil.[5]

Five percent.

During the 1980’s oil companies capped and abandoned KIC-1, the only drill site to have operated in ANWR’s coastal plain. While the drill site no longer resembles the start of greyscale from GOT, the trauma lingers, preventing a full recovery. At the time, the site operators tried to be environmentally conscious, using timber rather than a gravel base. However, the timber killed all the vegetation underneath it. The KIC-1 project cost BP, Chevron and other oil companies $40 million dollars. The amount of recovered oil remains undisclosed. The Arctic is a delicate snowflake, and it takes a long time for injustices to heal, if they ever do.[6]

The data on possible oil well deposits in the coastal plain hasn’t been updated since the KIC-1 project. To determine how much oil rests under the surface, and update the maps, requires the use of seismic testing. Seismic testing involves sending high-pressure vibrations into the ground at 135-foot intervals. Teams of 160 workers have to move heavy equipment, including 90,000-pound trucks, over every inch of the 1.5 million miles of the coastal plain.[7]

The heavy seismic testing equipment could break through den roofs and crush the unsuspecting bears. Seismic testing disturbs denning females, causing mothers to abandon their cubs who cannot survive outside the den during the first three months of their life. Trump’s Department of Interior wanted to mitigate the impact by using forward looking infrared radar (FLIR) cameras to detect polar bear dens.[8]

On the surface, the proposal seemed reasonable enough. The problem remains, the FLIR cameras responsible for detecting polar bear dens are inaccurate. Carried by airplanes or helicopters, FLIR cameras can detect heat under the snow. But the cameras are finicky. To get a good reading, the weather has to be nearly perfect, not too much wind and little moisture. Too much snowfall can also interfere with the readings. Over roughly a decade of surveys, FLIR technology could only locate forty-five percent of the thirty-three known polar bear dens. Climate change and the rapid Arctic melting will only make FLIR detection that much harder.[9]

If a construction survey crew, unceremoniously and unannounced, wrecked a wall of private citizens’ homes while they were sleeping, the homeowners would be incensed. I believe that polar bears are sentient beings with souls similar to that of humans. I believe that female polar bears with cubs can provide love and care the same way a human mother would to her infant.

I want the Arctic and the polar bears to survive.

The good news is that oil companies have lost some of their financial backers, at least for risky projects like drilling in the Arctic. In February 2020, a group of House Democrats, spearheaded by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California), wrote a letter urging the heads of several major banks like JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley to stop funding drilling in the refuge.[10]

Environmental advocates and the Gwich’in Nation won a small victory with J.P. Morgan Chase’s announcement that they will no longer fund drilling in the Arctic. The decision is a boon for the environment, considering J.P. Morgan Chase is the largest funder of fossil fuel projects.[11] Getting the oil industry’s backers to pull their financial support from drilling in the refuge is a huge first step. But the Trump administration and Alaskan representatives have tried to open the coastal plain for drilling for decades. It’s unlikely that a small setback like this will ultimately curb Alaskan politicians or oil company CEO’s appetite for exploitation in the name of profit for long. 

I support carbon-tech like direct air capture because the less CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the less quickly the Arctic melts. And if direct air capture succeeds, it can have a much greater impact on reducing CO2 than I could as an individual. But direct air capture doesn’t stop oil drilling.

I’ve tried to turn my passion for the environment into concrete actions. In the past, I canvassed around Northern Virginia, trying to drum up support for clean energy policy. I interned for the environmental nonprofit The Wilderness Society. I interned for Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), who is part of the Safe Climate Caucus. Yet, I can’t help but feel like I am always playing catchup. When it comes to ANWR, I see a less clear path forward for individual action, but I know I can continue to write to my elected representatives urging them to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, attend protest marches when they pop up, and pray. I pray there are enough environmental lawyers and eyes on the continual threat to one of America’s last wild spaces. I pray that elected officials continue to do their job and listen to the public’s opposition.

But I intend to keep fighting. Will I fail? Probably. I’m not Superman.

I need the Arctic and the polar bears to survive. The Arctic is the one place where the world makes sense. I have pity for the people who continue to ride roughshod over the weak and exploit the land for their gain. I know they’ll have to look their god in the eye when asked if the destruction was worth it. I pity Republican politicians and oil company CEOs, because when they look inside themselves, they’ll find nothing but a black gaping hole where their souls should be. I pity them, because no matter what atrocities they are capable of inflicting today, the earth will survive. When the bodies of oil CEOs are turned to dust, when there is no one left to remember them, maybe then, they will understand what they did. Only then, the earth will finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief. And life, in whatever non-human form it takes, will start anew.


[1] This paragraph is sourced from Matt Lee-Ashley and Jenny Rowland-Shea’s article on the Center for American Progress website. Lee-Ashely, Matt and Rowland-Shea, Jenny. “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 101.” Center American Progress, 10 Oct 2017, americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2017/10/10/440559/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-101/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[2] Bourne, Joel K., Jr. “Arctic Refuge Has Lots of Wildlife—Oil, Maybe Not So Much.” National Geographic, 19 Dec 2017, nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/12/arctic-wildlife-refuge-tax-bill-oil-drilling-environment/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[3] See footnote 13

[4] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Joel K. Bourne Jr.’s June 2018 article for National Geographic. Bourne, Joel K., Jr. “This Refuge May Be the Most Contested Land in the U.S.” National Geographic, June 2018, nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-america-oil-risk/. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[5] See footnote 14

[6] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Henry Foutain’s April 2019 article in The New York Times. Fountain, Henry. “Here’s What Oil Drilling Looks Like in the Arctic Refuge, 30 Years Later.” The New York Times, 3 Apr 2019. nytimes.com/2017/12/15/climate/arctic-drilling-anwr.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[7] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Wes Silar’s September 2019 Outside Magazine Online article. Siler, Wes. “With Drilling ANWR a Go, Polar Bears Will Suffer.” Outside Online, 13 Sep 2019, outsideonline.com/2402095/anwr-drilling-doi-polar-bears. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[8] See footnote 19

[9] This paragraph is sourced from Henry Fountain’s February 2020 article in The New York Times. Fountain, Henry. “Oil Industry Tool to Spare Polar Bears Is More Miss Than Hit.” The New York Times, 27 Feb 2020, nytimes.com/2020/02/27/climate/polar-bears-arctic-national-wildlife-reserve.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[10] The information in this paragraph is sourced from Rachel Frazin’s February 2020 article in The Hill. Frazin, Rachel. “House Democrats urge banks to not fund drilling in Arctic refuge.” The Hill, 20 Feb 2020, thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/483871-33-democratic-lawmakers-urge-banks-to-halt-funding-anwr-drilling. Accessed 5 Mar 2020.

[11] Funes, Yessenia. “Largest Bank in the US Will Not Fund Fossil Fuel Extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Gizmodo, 25 Feb 2020, earther.gizmodo.com/largest-bank-in-the-us-will-stop-funding-fossil-fuel-ex-1841907860. Accessed 9 Mar 2020.

***

Jessica Miles holds an MFA in creative nonfiction with a concentration in nature writing. She is passionate about the polar bears and the Arctic.

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By: Jane Marsh

Environmental consciousness is rising, and civilians are taking action. Electric cars, solar panels and smart thermostats aid residents in shrinking their carbon footprint. Much of this technological action focuses on energy use, forgetting to acknowledge another form of degradation.

As the global temperature increases and glaciers disintegrate, we face a severe threat to humanity. Around one and three people globally lack access to clean drinking water. The decrease in water quality derives from an increase in pollution.

When universal sustainability falls behind, society faces fatal consequences. Fortunately, there are direct actions we can take to conserve the aquatic ecosystem. To evaluate these solutions, we must first unveil the troubles. 

Issues in Sustainability and Water Quality

Dead Zones

Farmers use pesticides and fertilizers to yield more fruitful crops. When heavy rains pass through agricultural regions, the water carries these artificial nutrients away from farms through rivers and streams. The discharge filters into the ocean, where marine life consumes it.

Fertilizers promote the overgrowth of algae that zooplankton consume. The microbial specie’s feces exhaust the ocean’s oxygen, making it uninhabitable to all marine life.   

As oceanic fish and plants die, it leaves the ecosystem off balance, setting a rippling effect throughout the sea. Reducing the number of species that filter bacteria and toxins in the water make for the overproduction of destructing elements. It also limits the amount of seafood available to humans, which some regions rely on for sustained nutrition.There are currently 25% of marine mammals on the endangered species list. If humanity continues to use pesticides and artificial fertilizers in agricultural production, this percentage will increase.

Polluted Reservoirs

Many folks source their drinking water from reservoirs, lakes, and other bodies of freshwater. There are two significant human impacts on the conservation of these water sources.

Eutrophication is the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and water species, which an increase in photosynthesizing elements causes. Like the ocean, fresh bodies of water can experience agricultural runoff, which offsets the organic ecosystem. This harms the filtration process of drinking water.

Deforestation around fresh bodies of water also affects its drinkability. Limiting the number of surrounding trees reduces shade, increasing the sunlight needed to promote photosynthesis. This encourages algae blooms, further destroying the aquatic habitat.

A decrease in bordering trees also increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment. This further promotes photosynthesis.    

Oil Pollution

Offshore drilling poses a significant threat to marine species. As we continue to drive fossil fuel burning cars, the oil demand will remain high. This demand pushes the production of offshore drilling.Oil spills, leaks, and mismanagement of rigs cause the oil to enter the ocean. This material cannot disintegrate and forms a thick sludge. The substance suffocates fish, blocks sunlight from plants, and destroys ocean floor habitats.

Sustainable Solutions

Humanity may engage in various sustainable actions to limit environmental degradation and increase Earth’s water quality. Enhancing aquatic habitats, reducing pesticide use, reducing stormwater runoff and limiting fossil fuel usage can conserve the purity of bodies of water.

Aquatic Aid

We can support endangered species by preserving their habitat. Built-up sediment and debris at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs constructed by runoff limits aquatic homes. Humans can take action to rebuild this region.

One can utilize dredges to remove harmful buildup on the bottom of a body of water. Digging up and vacuuming away this contaminated sediment allows for aquatic species to flourish in a supported environment.  

Organic Alternatives

Farmers may also reduce their pesticide use to limit oceanic degradation. Rather than using toxic artificial fertilizers and chemicals, producers can utilize organic alternatives.

To keep grasshoppers from disrupting crop growth, farmers can plant calendula, cilantro, or horehound around the perimeter of their land. They can also ward off mice by planting mint and peppermint, two herbs that they despise.

There are various other sustainable gardening solutions that farmers can use to limit pesticide and fertilizer runoff. One can also reduce the amount of water traveling through agricultural regions by collecting and reusing rainwater.     

Rainwater Harvesting Systems

To reduce the number of chemicals and debris carried into the ocean and freshwater sources, one can install a rainwater harvesting system. The technology collects and stores rainwater for residential usage. They vary from advanced techniques to manual aids.

Some barrels hold stormwater and purify it. Homeowners can use the water for showering, washing clothes, and drinking. Basic systems do not filter water, but homeowners can still use it for irrigation, washing cars, flushing toilets and more.

Reusing stormwater reduces environmental degradation caused by runoff and water waste.  

Renewable Energy Sourcing

Society can reduce its carbon emissions by limiting the demand for offshore drilling. Utilizing renewable energy sources to fuel cars, home heating and more can reduce this demand.

Citizens may install solar panels on homes, commercial buildings and farms to limit our need to burn fossil fuels. One may also use wind turbines to source renewable energy to fuel their life. As we reduce our carbon emissions, we limit the amount of oil in the ocean and the climate changes.

Consumer Education

Individuals’ actions influence the sustainability of the planet, but the impact is limited. To access global conservation, we must have difficult conversations with community leaders and government officials.

Prioritizing water conversation can reduce degradation and the threat to clean drinking water. You can talk to your community about adding solar panels to commercial buildings and rain harvesting systems throughout your county. One may also vote to restrict pesticides and artificial fertilizers from the agricultural industry.

When we all work together, we can access sustainable solutions. These actions can preserve the amount of seafood available to coastal residents and species and adequate hydration.

Jane Marsh is an environmental writer. You can keep up with her work on her site Environment.co.

One Small Action

Apr
2021
18

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By: Kathy Chambliss

A vibrant orange and black butterfly settles onto a nodding bright yellow flower. The nectar from this flower, a native Rudbeckia species, will sustain the Monarch butterfly on its unfathomable journey to the mountains of Mexico. Nearby, honeybees and other insects hum and hover over goldenrod species (Solidago) and asters (Symphyotrichum sp.).

Fig. 1 Monarch on Rudbeckia sp.
Fig. 2 Honeybee in a field of Goldenrod
Fig. 3 Sulphurs on Asters

We don’t need to visit a meadow or forest to witness these interactions. We can plant and advocate for native plants in the spaces we inhabit: where we live, work, shop, and exercise. We can purchase native plants and seeds from local growers, gardens, and arboreta.

Fig. 5 Early Spring Paw Paw Blooms
Fig. 6 Eastern Dogwood
 Fig. 7 Highbush Blueberry

When we plant or advocate for native plant species, we address several environmental issues: climate change, habitat loss, poor air and water quality. Moreover, native plants catalyze positive changes. They invite native insects and native birds back into our lives.

Fig. 8 Painted Lady on a Coneflower
Fig. 9 Cloudless Sulphur on a native Honeysuckle

We gain beauty and peace of mind, knowing that in our own small corners of the world, we have provided sustenance for species whose lives are quietly unfolding alongside of and supporting our own. A small individual action shared and adopted by more and more individuals, amplifies impact.

Fig. 10 Child with a Tiger Swallowtail on Joe-Pye Weed

Resources: Native Plant Finder, Homegrown National Park , U.S. Botanic Garden Native Plant Recommendations

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“Dr. Kathy” is happiest when she is working alongside others to achieve shared goals that are regenerative and giving, and when she is hanging out with, beholding, and photographing other species in wilderness areas. A traveler and a volunteer, she has worked on citizen science and cultural projects in countries across the globe. Her current work with Goucher College & NorthBay Education fits her focus on projects and programs that empower, connect, and give.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on 5 Books to Inspire Climate Action in 2021

By: Sydney O’Shaughnessy

With the first 100 days of the year successfully put behind us and Earth Day rapidly approaching, now is the best time to crack open a new book, dig deep, and recommit ourselves to climate action. 

However, with a crisis as large as climate change, it can be challenging to know where to start. To help inspire you, we’ve curated a list of five books, written by women, on the state of the climate, the solutions in play, and the pathways forward. The novels provide scientific, political, and ecological insights without sacrificing the unique human elements that make the fight against climate change so dire. 

So grab some tea and let’s get reading!

#1 – All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson

All We Can Save puts women at the heart of climate change discussions by highlighting the work of dozens of women environmental leaders. Self-described as “the feminist climate renaissance,” this anthology of essays and poems hopes to challenge the status quo on how to tackle the climate crisis.  

“It’s time to wholeheartedly support those who are lighting the way to a just and livable future and to grow feminist climate leadership across all genders and in every corner,” the website states.

Edited by two climate leaders, this novel is an excellent way to get your feet wet about the breadth of climate change and the solutions in place to move forward.

#2 – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

By: Robin Wall Kimmerer

A household favorite, Braiding Sweetgrass is a must read for those wanting to feel more connected to the natural rhythms of the planet. Author Robin Wall Kimmerer connects her experiences as an Indigenous woman and mother with her career in botany to illustrate how to listen to the lessons other living beings have to offer.

“In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.” 

From flowers to fruit and sweetgrass to frogs, this novel pushes the reader to hear the language of the Earth and live in harmony with the natural world.

#3 – On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal

By: Naomi Klein

From bestselling author and activist Naomi Klein, On Fire, brings the climate crisis to the here and now. Often discussed as a future problem, climate change is impacting communities around the world. This series of essays details the very real and present threat of climate change while also presenting valuable insights for how to combat this issue. 

“With dispatches from the ghostly Great Barrier Reef to the smoke-choked skies of the Pacific Northwest, to post-hurricane Puerto Rico, to a Vatican waking up to the case for radical change, recognizing that we will rise to the existential challenge of climate change only if we are willing to transform the systems that produced this crisis — On Fire captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the fiery energy of a global movement demanding a catalytic Green New Deal.”

#4 – What Can I Do?: The Truth About Climate Change and How to Fix It

By: Jane Fonda

A biography by Jane Fonda, What Can I Do details Fonda’s journey from climate despair to climate action. This novel combines speeches from community organizers and climate scientists with Fonda’s personal reflections on her life as an activist. 

“This is the last possible moment in history when changing course can mean saving lives and species on an unimaginable scale. It’s too late for moderation.”

A call-to-action, this novel also sets the tone for the future of environmental activism and details specific step-by-step ways individuals can join the fight.

#5 – No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference

By: Greta Thunberg

No One Is Too Small is a collection of speeches given by Thunberg throughout her quick rise as a youth climate leader. Thunberg has inspired millions of people to act through her global Fridays for Future protests and has spoken with numerous governments urging them to take immediate action on climate change.

“Her book is a rallying cry for why we must all wake up and fight to protect the living planet, no matter how powerless we feel. Our future depends upon it.”

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Sydney O’Shaughnessy is the Communications Associate for the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. She has degrees in environmental science and journalism and primarily focuses her work around highlighting community-driven climate change solutions.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Introduction to the B Corporation Movement

By: Callie Yow

Beginnings of the B Corp Ideal

The B Corporation movement is possible because of the ambition of companies to use their business as a force for good and as a method of turning societal ideals into action. 

Consider outspoken brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia. Since 1978 Ben and Jerry’s has utilized their marketing strategy to advance social responsibility. As a result, Ben and Jerry’s stands out on the shelf and during pivotal social movements. Similarly, Patagonia has engaged in ingenuous business practices and proactive community minded programs to contribute to an equitable and inclusive environment both in the store and in society since 1973.  

In 2006, the B Corporation movement was founded to challenge outdated business models prioritizing shareholder value instead of equitable practices for stakeholders. The B Corporation certification recognizes long-term planning and purpose as equally important to profit. This distinction offers a foundation on which businesses can identify, assess, and improve their operations to drive greater positive impact. 

What is a B Corp?

On its website, B Corporation describes the movement as follows: “By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment.” 

Figure 1: Source: bcorporation.net

Certified B Corporations are companies that have met strict requirements in five focus areas: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Companies are evaluated by B Lab and given a score between 0 and 200. To become a certified B Corp, the company must score a minimum of 80 points. The B Corp movement creates a collaborative space for brands to collectively build a community from shared value in the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.

Both B Corps and benefit corporations offer more transparent practices, but they are not the same. On one hand, the B Corporation Certification is a third-party certification administered by B Lab based on a company’s performance using the impact assessment tool. On the other hand, benefit corporations are legal structures for a business with legal accountability or interest to pursue positive stakeholder engagement. 

The B Impact Assessment 

The B Impact Assessment (BIA) is a free tool available to anyone interested in gaging their company’s impact before committing to the certification process. This assessment tool provides a standardized framework for measuring impact on stakeholders, allowing businesses to better understand their social and environmental performance in clear terms. 

Pursuing the B Corp certification is a forward-looking step toward improved corporate social responsibility and elevates processes within your business model while highlighting brand purpose. Becoming certified does expose your business in areas where improvement may be needed. This exposure accredits your company as transparent and customer focused. Just make sure you can address and improve upon those blind spots realized through the assessment. 

Reasons to Certify and Some Considerations

Certification as a B Corporation differentiates a business from its competitors and provides numerous benefits including: allowing relationship building, attracting like-minded talent searching for socially conscious companies, amplifying the brand voice, and improving overall measurable impact.  

Despite the many positives that come from joining this community driven by purpose and integrity, there is associated risk. B Lab requires a rigorous process in which companies must provide proof of their organization’s operations and an annual fee is required to keep the certification active. This cost is calculated based on the company’s annual sales and may exclude smaller companies with a lower budget or fewer employees.

Further, while certification is a great way to improve accountability, it can also be a stressful process that makes it difficult for a business to correctly quantify their impact while answering the questionnaire.. There is not a grayscale, which can be either a positive or a negative depending on your company’s processes.

The B Corp certification is the only holistic review of a company’s performance and may be worth the intensive certification process. Consider how the certification would improve your business, most importantly how you would build upon your current mission statement to achieve your company goals.

The Future of B Corp

The B Corp certification is more than just a credential— it is a movement that challenges businesses to be a force for good through purpose-driven actions that create positive change. Customers can support companies, (such as Seventh Generation, King Arthur Flour, and New Belgium Brewing),  that are prioritizing positive social, economic, and environmental impact by using B Corporation’s search function.

Since B Corporation’s founding in 2006, over 3,800 companies across 150 industries have joined this community. It is incredibly encouraging to see brands from all over the world engaging in conversations that place people and planet ahead of profit so we may collectively grow to new models focused in addressing the triple bottom line. 

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Callie has a strong appreciation for the natural world and combines her passions for writing, relationship building, and environmental justice to advocate for better management of materials in her personal and professional life. She currently manages corporate relations at a nonprofit that plans and operates paint stewardship programs to keep paint out of the waste stream.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on 7 Ways to Make Sustainable and Ethical Fashion a Wardrobe Staple

By: Camille Bangug

The first time I Marie Kondo-ed my wardrobe, I remember the sheer horror I felt at the pile of clothes sitting in front of me. What was I going to do with all these clothes? I couldn’t just throw them out, and even if I did, where would they even go? 

After a frantic Google search to figure out what happens to discarded clothing, I found myself falling down a dizzying rabbit hole as I learned about fashion’s impact on the environment and its history with labor abuse and exploitation. Fashion is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater, 10% of global carbon emissions, and 92 million tons of textile waste annually. On top of that, the industry is guilty of some of the most horrifying modern workers’ rights violations including the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh and rampant wage theft due to COVID-19 disruptions resulting in millions of garment workers around the world struggling to survive.

My first reaction was to research my way out of the problem. I spent hours trying to find ways to make more sustainable and ethical purchases. I scoured secondhand retailers, developed lists of ethical brands and potential clothing rental sites, and tried to educate friends and family members. After years of finding piecemeal solutions, I realized I was not addressing the issue’s root cause: unchecked consumerism. To be truly sustainable, I needed to completely rethink my mindset, rather than rely on finding alternative ways to overconsume.

To save you from your own Google rabbit hole, I’ve compiled some tips I’ve learned along the way to help you support a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry:

1.       Love what you have

The fashion industry spends billions of dollars each year in designs and marketing to convince us that our current wardrobes are outdated.  However, the most sustainable wardrobe is the one in your closet right now. (Even those fast fashion items!) Take care of the clothes you already have, including the ones from fast fashion brands, and they’ll have the potential to last you years to come.

2.       Learn to mend

Learning to mend my clothes has been one of the best lessons I’ve learned in quarantine. Even my fast fashion items that seem to tear easy can be easily mended by learning just a few stitches. Although there are no shortage of online tutorials on how to sew, one of my favorite sustainable fashion non-profits Fashion Revolution, has multiple ‘How To’ guides on how to mend clothing that can be found here.

3.       If you want to wear something new, try to borrow or rent first

While I’ve missed having excuses to get dressed up in quarantine, in the pre (and post!) pandemic world, dressing up doesn’t have to mean buying a new outfit. Borrowing from friends or renting from sites like Rent the Runway or Nuuly can help give you a standout, trendy look without having to buy something new.

4.       Can’t borrow? Try secondhand first

Visit local consignment shops, charity shops, or even thrift stores to find unique, gently used clothing. Some of my favorite sites in the DC area include Current Boutique (14th St or Clarendon locations), Frugalista, and Meeps Vintage. If you don’t feel comfortable going in person, sites like ThredUp and Poshmark make secondhand shopping much easier online, allowing you to sort by brands and your sizes.

5.       If you buy new, buy clothes that you know will last

If you need a new basic item, consider investing in an item that you know will last. Sustainable shops can be great options to buy those longer term, investment pieces. Good on You, for example, is one of my favorite online sources to find high quality, sustainable brands that replace common fast fashion brands.

6.       Remember that donations are not a dumpster

Although the clutter of unused clothes can be draining, remember that donations are only helpful when they satisfy a real, community need. Sort out your items in great condition and consider selling to consignment shops or donating needed items to mutual aid groups and non-profits in your neighborhood. Facebook Marketplace and Buy Nothing groups are also great places to give your clothes new life elsewhere. For older, poor quality items that you’ve worn to their full life, visit this article from Trash is for Tossers for potential options on where to recycle old items (disclaimer that some of these may be better than others – H&M’s textile recycling program has often been accused of greenwashing)

7.       Don’t sweat the occasional fast fashion purchase, but take time to learn about activism efforts to create a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry

While each of these tips are important in their own ways, this is my most important takeaway for those who hope to create a more just and sustainable fashion industry. In the grand scheme of things, buying that one fast fashion sweatsuit for a serotonin boost mid-quarantine is not going to change too much about fashion’s impact on the environment. However, critical evaluations of personal consumption habits will be meaningless unless we simultaneously advocate for an ethical and sustainable fashion industry. Individual actions, coupled with advocacy for systemic change, will help us reimagine a fashion industry that serves all individuals along its value chain – from garment workers producing goods, to consumers purchasing items in store. To learn more and plug into existing efforts, some great places to start include Garment Workers Center LA, Fashion Revolution, and the ongoing #PayUp Fashion campaign

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Camille Bangug is an Analyst within Deloitte’s Startup Innovation and Ecosystem practice, focusing on Industry 4.0 technologies and startups. She is passionate about sustainability, circularity, and environmental justice. Prior to joining Deloitte, Camille graduated from Georgetown University with a major in International Politics and Development, and these days can be found scouring the city for its best pastries and green spaces.