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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

***

“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.”

***

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.

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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. 

***

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

***

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. 

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By: Kelley Dennings

The pandemic may have everyone stuck at home, but for many people the location of home is changing. In the months between February and July 2020, as COVID-19 crept across the country, there was a nearly 4% increase in moves compared to the previous year as people fled big cities or dorm rooms or went looking for a change of pace. Temporary moves were up 27% for the same period, and there’s no indication this migration is slowing down.

I’m no exception. When my lease expired in December, I packed my things and temporarily relocated to the sunny south for the winter. What might make my move a little different, though, is that I tried my best to create very little waste.

Whether you’re headed across town or across the country, moving often leaves behind a mountain of waste. Every year Americans trash an estimated 16.8 billion pounds of junk when they move. They also use 900 million boxes and 90 million pounds of packing paper. Even if some of it gets recycled, disposing of all that waste demands energy and other resources, contributing to habitat loss, pollution and the climate crisis.

But there are steps you can take, like I did, to reduce the risk that moving to your new home will cost wild animals and plants their home.

Once I made the decision to move, I also made the decision to consciously consume by buying only what I absolutely needed. This helped me reduce the amount of stuff I had to move and/or rehome.

One place I focused was food because up to 40 percent of food that is produced in the U.S. every year is wasted. I learned to meal plan each week, helping me use up what was left in my refrigerator, cabinets and freezer. Sharing food might feel weird during COVID, but anything unopened I gave to a neighbor or local food pantry and made a mental note to purchase less of it next time. 

To stop junk mail from following me to my new place, I tracked what was being mailed to me for a month and then sent back the business reply envelope with a note asking to be removed from their list. You can also visit CatalogChoice to remove your name from other mailing lists you may not know you are on.

The one thing that’s hard to avoid acquiring during a move is boxes. Rather than buying brand-new moving boxes I got them for free by requesting them from online groups like FreecycleNextDoor or Facebook’s Buy Nothing group, but you can also get them for free from liquor and grocery stores. There are also companies that rent reusable plastic boxes, but if you move a lot like me you might want to invest in purchasing your own reusable tubs.

I skipped the packing paper and instead used my own towels, rags, sheets, pillows and clothes to protect my more fragile items. Using what I already had as packing material saved paper and its associated natural resources.

Most of my usable but unwanted items were given away through contactless online programs and outdoor curb alerts. The online outlets were great for things a regular charitable organization wouldn’t take, like my leftover holiday ribbon or a half-used roll of piping insulation.

In the end I gave two bags of winter clothes to a local charitable organization supporting homeless women.  Due to the pandemic, I called them first to ask what they were accepting and how they were handling donations. If you want to ensure your items go to organizations with values you support, look up the charity on Charity Navigator or Guidestar first.

The best way to help the planet is to prevent waste in the first place, because by the time you’re choosing between the donation or recycling bin all of the land, water, energy and other materials that went into producing your stuff has already been spent.

But there are several categories of items that can’t or shouldn’t be put in the regular trash or recycling. While packing up my stuff I unearthed old electronics, expired medicine and household hazardous waste like chemicals, batteries and lightbulbs. By recycling and properly disposing of these items I helped keep toxins out of the environment. E-waste, for example, represents 2% of America’s trash in landfills but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste which can harm soil, water and wildlife.

Whether you’re hiring professional movers or recruiting friends and family to help you during this upside-down time like I did, take precautions to keep everyone healthy by wearing reusable masks and gloves and staying socially distant when possible. The pandemic may add some challenges to your move — it may even be the reason you’re moving in the first place  — but with a bit of planning, it’s possible to come up with a strategy for a more sustainable move that creates less waste and keeps everyone safe.

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Kelley Dennings is a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. She has worked for local and state government recycling departments and now focuses on waste prevention and reuse.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on D.C. Gardeners are Growing Food to Combat Climate Change

By: Julia John

Nine-and-a-half years ago, lifelong gardener Kathy Jentz pushed to convert a brownfield site by her Silver Spring home into a community garden to expand sunny growing space for nearby urban residents. Today, with the removal of several inches of gravel, the addition of several tons of topsoil, and the dedication of dozens of local gardeners, the Fenton Community Garden is a productive Climate Victory Garden mere steps past the Washington, D.C. border. It’s one of hundreds in the D.C. metro area that not only offers fresh produce but also offsets greenhouse gas emissions.

““The more we can do it [offset carbon], the better,”

—Kathy Jentz
Photo Credit: Kathy Jentz

“The more we can do it [offset carbon], the better,” said Washington Gardener Magazine editor Jentz. She plants lettuce, radish, asparagus, strawberry, and thornless blackberry for publication research alongside her interns on one of the garden’s 44 plots.

Launched in D.C. in 2018, Green America’s Climate Victory Gardens campaign encourages gardeners of all levels worldwide to mitigate climate impacts by planting gardens, restoring soil health, and sequestering atmospheric carbon. The nonprofit modeled the effort on the world-wars-era victory gardening movement, when 20 million gardeners, united by the urgent cause of supporting the troops, grew two-fifths of the United States’ fruits and vegetables.

Now, across the D.C. region, households, community gardens, urban farms, schools, businesses, and other organizations tend to over 400 Climate Victory Gardens.

“Together, they span nearly 14 acres and draw down approximately 35 tons of carbon per year—equivalent to offsetting roughly 284,000 miles driven.”

—Julia john

“Garden activism is real and powerful,” said Carissa Tirado-Marks, school garden and sustainability coordinator at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in D.C.

A Climate Victory Garden can be just a couple square feet or even a few indoor pots. With the right methods, any garden can enhance soil, capture carbon, and produce healthy food.

Climate Victory Gardening follows ten practices that protect the soil, store carbon in it, and cut emissions from garden inputs. Basic steps involve covering soils with organic matter, composting, avoiding chemicals, and promoting biodiversity. Additional tips include incorporating perennial and native plants.

Photo Credit: Kathy Jentz

“Gardens have a special place in urban settings,” said Jes Walton, Food Campaigns Director at Green America. “They’re a way for folks to connect to the land. They provide an opportunity for community building. In D.C., gardens have played an important role in human and ecological health and increasing food security, from World-War-I Victory Gardens to today’s Climate Victory Gardens.”

The 2.7-acre Glover Park Community Garden is the District’s largest Climate Victory Garden. Situated within Rock Creek Park, it actually began as a Victory Garden that tackled World-War-II food shortages. Today, its 150 plots supply organic vegetables and herbs for household, charitable, and instructional use. 

Many smaller D.C. gardens joined the Climate Victory Gardens campaign through Love & Carrots, a woman-owned company that has installed organic vegetable and flower gardens around the city since 2011. The landscapers also help clients care for gardens via coaching and maintenance programs.

Photo Credit: Carissa Tirado-Marks

Schools are popular locations for Climate Victory Gardens. In 2014, Mundo Verde’s Truxton Circle campus transformed 700 square feet of asphalt into a bounty of greens, peas, turnips, sunchokes, squashes, cabbages, celery, peppers, tomatoes, berries, figs, watermelons, herbs, and native species.

“A lot of people walk by during the day…ask about what is growing in the garden and leave with their arms full of greens and herbs,” Tirado-Marks said.

The space commemorates the land’s indigenous roots and grows food for students, their families, and the afterschool garden market by harnessing soil-building techniques, she said. These include rotating crops, leaving soils undisturbed, using cover crops in the cold season, and applying compost from the garden’s compost system and from its hens and worm bins.

Through engaging with this outdoor classroom and urban wildlife habitat, Tirado-Marks said, “students learn that natural, social, and economic systems are linked and interdependent. They build a foundation for understanding and treasuring ecological systems and begin to understand intergenerational responsibility and act with this mindset.” 

Photo Credit: Carissa Tirado-Marks

“They build a foundation for understanding and treasuring ecological systems and begin to understand intergenerational responsibility and act with this mindset.”

—Carissa Tirado-Marks

As an educator, she believes that “growing hyper-locally and keeping healthy food in communities should not be revolutionary.” And she hopes that “society will recognize the value of gardens—for learning, for healing, and for survival—and that eventually, gardens will be supported and evenly distributed throughout D.C. and beyond.”

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Julia John is a former Green America food campaigns intern. She received a Masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 and currently writes about sustainable agriculture for Food Tank.

posted by | on , , , | 2 comments

By: Angela Trenkle

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

If you are a resident in the DC Metropolitan area, chances are you have come across the Potomac River in some form, whether it is the river proper or one of the river’s tributaries, the mighty Potomac River is a landmark of the area in the same way that some of the famous buildings are in the downtown DC area. There are tales of the Potomac that stretch back to some of the nation’s earliest presidents reaping its benefits. If rivers could talk, the Potomac would have an endless number of historical accounts to pass along for the world to learn.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

Today, the Potomac River watershed is home to approximately 5 million people as well as millions of animals and plants that depend on it for its many resources. Clean drinking water is at the top of the list followed by food sources for both humans and animals that occupy the watershed. The river is also utilized by hundreds during the warmer months of the year for recreational activities, including, but not limited to, kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird watching, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th, 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge on the Potomac River

For a period of time from the 1960s to the late 2000s, the Potomac River was in a state of decline and poor health. Water clarity was at an all time low, trash and algae were abundant, and native fish suffered because of the urban runoff that was making its way into their homes along the river. This has begun to turn around since the beginning of the 2010s, thanks to several key processes that were put into place. 

One such process is the creation of the Potomac River Report Card. The report card, which began in 2007, provides residents of the watershed an easy format to view the different aspects of the river in terms of its health and the areas in which it improves as well as declines. This gives residents of the watershed a visual of what is happening and the areas that they can target for improvement. Thanks to this report card, in addition to the other processes put into place for the river, the Potomac has gone from an abysmal grade of “D” in 2007 to a peak grade of a “B” just three years ago in 2018. In 2020, the grade slipped slightly to a B-, showing that the river recovery is plateauing. Now is a turning point to ensure that it does not slip any further.

Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on November 8th 2020 at Great Falls Park in Virginia

To ensure that the flora and fauna thrive as well as make sure that our grandchildren can appreciate the river in the same way we have, you too can do your part to make a difference. Some ways that you can help include:

  1. Participating in stream cleanups to prevent water pollution and premature death of wildlife.
  2. Planting trees as forest buffers to cool stream temperatures and create forest corridors for animal travel.
  3. Use your voice to advocate for stronger water protection laws. 
  4. Donate to organizations that are working towards protecting the Potomac River and its tributaries.
Photo Credit: Angela Trenkle, on August 8th 2020 at Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge (See left of photo)

As you can see, there are many benefits to the Potomac River not only for us, but for the animals and plants that depend on it for survival. By each of us doing our part and coming together with a common goal to make a difference, we can ensure that the Potomac is around for many generations to enjoy.

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Angela Trenkle is a scientific technical writer who was born and raised in Maryland. Her love of science combined with her passion for writing led her into the field of scientific technical communication at a pre-clinical research organization where her work involves contributing to the documentation of study reports for various infectious diseases including COVID-19. Preserving the natural world is an important goal for her and she plans to use what she has learned over the years to help do her part in restoring local watersheds for future generations to enjoy. When she is not working, she enjoys reading, writing, traveling, running, weightlifting, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

posted by | on , , | Comments Off on 6 Ways to Federally Aid the Adoption of EVs

By: Jane Marsh

People look forward to a future with flying cars and hovercrafts, but the future of transportation is already here. Electric vehicles have begun to cut down natural gas consumption that hurts the environment for those who can afford them. Many now wonder how the government could fuel the adoption of electric vehicles so they become the mainstream option for the average consumer.

These strategies are the latest ideas from environmentalists and federal experts. Some may take years to implement, while others could happen immediately. They would all open up the world of electric vehicles and get the world closer to a pollution-free existence.

1. Address Rising Oil Costs

Even though anyone can stop by a gas station whenever their car needs a refill, fossil fuels are running out. Industry experts estimate that the world will run out of fossil fuels by 2060, rendering all traditional vehicles useless.

The federal government could create campaigns to stress the importance of finding new fuel because of this approaching deadline. It’s in the consumer’s best interest whether or not they’re concerned about the environment.

2. Invest in Fuel Research

Electric charging stations aren’t currently widespread, so people may not switch to electric vehicles because they’d feel limited in where they could drive. The government could fuel the adoption of electric vehicles by investing in alternative types of charging stations. 

Water already powers 7% of U.S. electricity, so it could charge electric cars by local rivers and waterfalls. The charging stations would be strategic, but they would expand electric vehicle use into rural areas that didn’t previously have access to them.

3. Educate the Public About Emissions

Consumers may see electric cars as a luxury because of their price tag, distracting people from their necessity. The government could educate the public about carbon emissions by comparing electric and gas cars. They could point out that electric vehicles produce 50% fewer emissions than cars that run on gas, even when used for decades.

It would also help to make the problem personal. It’s easier to wave off climate concerns when people hear that emissions will create lasting damage in a few decades. Instead, they should know critical information about how greenhouse gases like carbon cause the following health effects:

  • Cancer
  • Developmental issues
  • Respiratory diseases

People will live a healthier, potentially longer life by switching to electric vehicles, but they won’t know that until it’s a well-known fact. The federal government’s access to news networks and international publications could get that started.

4. Expand Tax Credits

Anyone who buys an electric vehicle gets a federal tax credit, but it doesn’t apply to people who lease their cars. Currently, leased electric cars give the tax credit to the leasing company, providing no extra benefit to consumers.

Expanding this credit to leased cars would add incentive and fuel the adoption of electric vehicles. It would meet consumers where their financial abilities can take them and give them a tax discount that would further improve their living conditions.

5. Buy EVs for Federal Purposes

Advocates and experts can tell people to use electric cars, but actions speak louder than words. If those same people don’t use electric vehicles, it speaks to how practical they really are. The government should lead by example, which may begin soon.

The current presidential administration vowed to replace the federal vehicle fleet with electric vehicles. It would require 645,000 vehicles and doesn’t currently have a timeline. However, getting this effort started would normalize their use and make electric cars more conventional.

6. Introduce Federal Rebates

Rebates are similar to tax credits in that they give money back to the consumers, but rebates make that happen much faster. If federal rebates existed for electric vehicles, people would immediately get part of their purchase back in their pocket. It would make ownership possible for many moderate to low-income individuals, especially since they won’t match traditional vehicle affordability until closer to 2030.

Government Action Could Change the Game

If the government utilized these strategies, they could fuel the adoption of electric vehicles and greatly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. It would save people from a future with no fossil fuels and make electric cars affordable instead of remaining a dream for the average citizen.

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