Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

To help the environment in 2020, just do less

Nicole Dieker, LIFEHACKER

If you’re still thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions, here’s one suggestion that can benefit not only your own life, but also the state of our planet: do less.

What does that mean? Less travel, especially if it involves flying. Fewer car trips; maybe it’s time to drop a few extracurriculars or social activities and block off one or two nights as “stay-home evenings.” Less time spent chasing novelty and entertainment and more time enjoying what you already have—and if you don’t have it already, you might be able to get it at the library.

At The New York Times, author and environmentalist Paul Greenberg lists a number of climate-related resolutions that we can implement for 2020, many of which are already very familiar: eat less meat (and opt for chicken and fish over pork and beef), avoid buying single-use plastics, unplug appliances when you’re not using them, and so on.

And then he mentions the value of spending more time at home, doing nothing:

Read more at: https://lifehacker.com/to-help-the-environment-in-2020-just-do-less-1840773817

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

A New Year’s climate diet

Paul Greenberg, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Most diets fail. They fail mostly because after a period of bingeing (for example, New Year’s Eve) we set unrealistic goals for reforming our bad ways. In time, self-control breaks down and we hunger to throw open the cupboards and binge again.

The same is true of the American carbon diet. After a period of bingeing (say, the last century), the United States is per capita the most prodigious emitter of carbon dioxide among the world’s top 10 economies. The average American generated around 15 metric tons of carbon per year in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency, using what it says is the most recent data available. Svelte France, by comparison, weighed in at 4.5 tons per capita, while Indians put out just 1.6 tons each.

To bring the planet to climate equilibrium would require a global per capita goal that falls halfway between France’s and India’s outputs, three metric tons, by 2050, according to a United Nations report from 2011. All of this may make the conscientious American want to drive the family S.U.V. into the nearest body of water and subsist on locally grown radishes. But I am fairly certain that as with food regimens, an extreme carbon diet will falter, and practitioners will soon retrieve their S.U.V.s and cheat so often with hamburgers that those local radishes will molder in the vegetable crisper.

But some diets do work. They tend to be modest in their goals, incorporating minor changes over long periods. That we need to transform the roots of our economy is unquestionable and something that must be fought for with intense social and political commitment.

Yet inertia abounds. Not every well-meaning American will engage in a protracted political struggle. Fortunately, there are smaller maintainable changes that would allow carbon couch potatoes to go from carbon obese to just carbon overweight.

Here then is something of a grocery list for the politically inert, things that can be done without a whole lot of effort that will lead to a carbon-slimmer 2020:

Have the chicken. Much has been made about the climate benefits of going vegan. If we switched to a vegan diet, we could cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 0.3 to 1.6 metric tons per person per year. I have made this change, but I doubt I could persuade a large portion of the country to choose pea protein over pot roast even when packaged as Beyond or Impossible meat.

For the legume-averse, chicken is relatively low impact. According to a study published by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, beef can require more than 27 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of meat eaten (much, much more if you compare foods based on protein content per unit of weight). A kilo of chicken, however, costs the planet about 6.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide. True, it’s not tofu (2.0) or lentils (0.9), but most red-blooded Americans know how to cook it.

Or the fish. Fish and shellfish can make for surprisingly carbon-dioxide-light meals, though not everything from the sea shrinks one’s emissions waistline. America’s favorite seafood, shrimp, can far exceed chicken and even rival pork. At the same time, a kilogram of most American-caught finfish, like the Alaska pollock, used for McDonald’s fish sandwich, comes in at a tofu-besting 1.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions. And depending on how you adjust for nutrient content, some varieties of farmed mussels can cost us just 0.6 kilograms of carbon per kilogram of mussel meat. Take that, lentil!

Do nothing better. Busy Americans fret about actually having to do something to address the climate crisis in their already hectic lives. But doing nothing better can add up to something. A 2018 study in the journal Nature notes that tourism accounts for about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Just one long-haul flight emits around a half-ton of carbon per person or a full ton of greenhouse effect if one considers other gases a jet puts into the upper atmosphere. Business and first-class air travel generates three to four tons of carbon per long-haul flight because of the extra space those fancier seats take up.

So doing nothing at home for your next vacation is an easy choice. Other better nothings include turning off your car rather than letting the engine idle, which accounts for about 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States a year.

Change the way other things in your life do nothing. Similarly when your appliances do nothing, they are often still burning fossil fuels. Standby power accounts for 4.6 percent of residential carbon emissions. Address this by turning off your internet router at night, shutting down your computer, unplugging your cellphone when it’s fully charged and choosing appliances that have low standby power requirements. To go beyond saving standby power, Karl Coplan, the author of “Live Sustainably Now,” suggests “depriving fossil fuel companies of their sales revenues by switching to a renewable-electricity contract and upgrading to an electric car the next chance you get.”

Be really lazy and drink from the tap. What could be lazier than shuffling to your own sink and pouring yourself a glass of water? And yet nowadays we often replace this most low-effort of American habits with driving to a store and buying a plastic bottle of water. This can end up costing us significantly more in carbon dioxide emissions than drinking water from the tap, according to one 2009 Italian scientific analysis.

Ditch the car one day a week. Collectively Americans drive more than three trillion miles annually. (Over 10 years that would take us all the way to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth.) That comes out to about 4.6 tons of carbon per vehicle a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Transportation is the largest single contributor to American carbon emissions, the agency says. So skipping a day of driving each week would significantly decrease an individual’s contribution to emissions.

Upgrade a forest instead of your phone. A smartphone does not carry a huge carbon burden. Apple reports that a single iPhone 11 results in the emission of about 70 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions over its life cycle. But if you donated the several hundred dollars you typically spent on a phone upgrade to a program managing a carbon-sequestering ecosystem, you could shave a much greater portion of carbon from your budget. For the best possible carbon sequester, consider the mangrove. Mangrove forests are one of the world’s most powerful carbon sinks; those in the Amazon store twice as much carbon per acre as the region’s rain forests.

Divest from fossil fuels. All of us are implicated in the carbon economy through our daily financial transactions. The headline of a recent New Yorker essay by the climate activist Bill McKibben read, “Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warning Burns.” How to address this? “Switching to a fossil-free index fund is a no-brainer: Among other things they’re outperforming the market,” Mr. McKibben wrote me recently.

For those who don’t invest but do own a credit card and a bank account, Mr. McKibben suggested going a step further. “As we approach Earth Day at 50, cut up your Chase card or move your money to a new bank — JPMorgan Chase has become by far the largest funder of the fossil fuel industry.”

Here lies the truly profound global effect of the carbon-obese American economy, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations. Four of the world’s five largest institutional investors in fossil fuels are banks headquartered here in the U.S.A.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/31/opinion/climate-diet.html?searchResultPosition=3

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

Over 450,000 people sign petition urging Target to stop using plastic bags

Zack Budryk, THE HILL

More than 455,000 people have signed a petition calling on Target to discontinue the use of plastic bags, according to The Associated Press.

Petition organizer Theresa Carter will lead fellow shoppers in delivering the signatures to the retailer’s Minneapolis headquarters on Thursday, according to the AP.

“I’m a Target shopper. Hundreds of thousands of my petition’s signers are Target customers, and we have one clear message for Target: Please act to end plastic bag pollution,” Carter said in a statement.

“If other retailers like IKEA and Costco can do without plastic bags, I’m convinced Target can too,” she added.

In response, Target spokeswoman Danielle Schumann said the retailer has taken numerous steps to cut down on the use of plastic, including implementing recycling kiosks in stores in 2010, and said the stores’ plastic bags are made with 40 percent recycled materials, according to the AP.

“Target teams across the business are working to eliminate, reduce and find alternatives for plastics in our products, packaging and operations,” she added.

In addition to the other retailers mentioned by Carter, Oregon earlier this year approved a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, which followed more than a dozen Oregon cities enacting similar bans of their own.

Source: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/475842-over-450000-people-sign-petition-urging-target-to-stop-using

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Big lifestyle changes ‘needed to cut emissions’

Roger Harrabin, BBC NEWS

People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.

However, he said technology would help.

The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.

In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.

Read more at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49499521

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Amazon votes down employee-backed climate resolution

Olivia Rosane, ECOWATCH

Amazon shareholders voted down an employee-backed resolution calling for more aggressive action on climate change at their annual meeting Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The employee-filed resolution asked the company to develop a public plan for responding to extreme weather events and weaning itself off of fossil fuels. It was publicly backed by more than 7,600 employees, who signed their names to an open letter, a novel tactic for tech employee activism, The New York Times said.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group that grew out of the resolution, said in a press release they will file another if the company’s board doesn’t increase its climate commitments.

“The enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Amazon employee Rebecca Sheppard, who works in air cargo operations, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll be back.”

Ahead of the vote, the resolution had won the support of two of the largest proxy advisory firms in the U.S. — Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). Glass Lewis said that Amazon was less transparent about its sustainability plans than similar companies, The New York Times said. However, the Amazon Board formally opposed the resolution, meaning it faced an uphill battle to gain the 50 percent of support it would have needed to pass, according to the employee press release. Amazon will release the final vote tallies Friday, the company told the Los Angeles Times.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/amazon-climate-change-resolution-2637862790.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

California has a recycling crisis. The only way to solve it is to stop making so much trash

Times Editorial Board, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Californians use — and then toss — a tremendous amount of paper and plastic packaging material every day: takeout coffee cups and lids, cereal boxes, wine bottles, plastic bags, clamshell food containers, and on and on.

It’s hard for even the most militant environmentalist to avoid contributing to this waste stream, given the inescapability of products wrapped in some sort of disposable material. Even fruits and vegetables that are naturally encased in durable, compostable wrapping will be trundled up in plastic bags in the produce aisle for the trip home.

Those disturbed by the amount of trash they produce have been able to assuage their guilty consciences by making sure every potential recyclable item ended up in the blue recycling bin. Surely there could be no long-term environmental toll if every empty plastic soda bottle and chipboard six-pack carrier was diverted from the landfill and remade into a cozy fleece jacket or an organic chemistry textbook.

What a lovely story. Too bad it’s about as true as a happily-ever-after fairy tale. Recycling has never been the solution to the problem posed by empty beer cans, plastic takeout containers and other single-use items, just a way to mitigate the effects enough to pretend that all this waste is not really wasteful. But reality is becoming harder to ignore now that the foreign market for our trash is collapsing. Hallelujah to that, as it might just be the impetus needed to force society to confront the disposable culture that is trashing the planet.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-recycling-crisis-20180526-story.html

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

Daisy Dunne, ECOWATCH-CARBON BRIEF

Worldwide tourism accounted for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.

The study, which looks at the spending habits of travelers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought.

The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris agreement, a study author told Carbon Brief.

However, the results may still be underestimating the total carbon footprint of tourism, another scientist told Carbon Brief, because they do not consider the impact of non-CO2 emissions from the aviation industry.

Tourism’s Footprint

The global tourism industry is rapidly expanding. Fueled by falling air travel prices and a growing global middle class, the number of international holiday-makers is currently growing at a rate of 3-5 percent per year.

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, explores how the recent growth of global tourism has impacted greenhouse gas emissions.
Tourists contribute to climate change in a number of ways—through travel by air, rail and road, for example, and by consuming goods and services, such as food, accommodation and souvenirs.

For the new analysis, the researchers considered all of these factors together in order to calculate tourism’s “global carbon footprint,” explained study author Dr. Arunima Malik, a lecturer in sustainability from the University of Sydney. She told Carbon Brief:

“Our analysis is comprehensive and, hence, takes into account all the upstream supply chains to quantify the impacts of tourist spending on food, clothing, transport and hospitality.”

The research finds that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s annual global carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

This figure is four times higher than previous estimates and accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the research finds. The rise is largely driven by an increased demand for goods and services—rather than air travel, the research finds.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/tourism-global-greenhouse-gas-2566752788.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. 

Miguel Jaller, VOX

…online shopping would be greener than driving to local stores if we did three simple things: 1) Planned ahead and consolidated our orders so we get everything we need in fewer shipments; 2) Avoided expedited shipping (even if it’s free); 3) Bought less stuff.

Given the date, it’s a near-certainty that a package marking one holiday or another has already landed on your doorstep, and that others are making their way there now. It’s also very likely that you didn’t stop to think much about the environmental implications of how the package got there. Most of us don’t, but there are very good reasons to start.
We’re shopping online more than ever throughout the year, but December represents an astonishing climax of consumer activity. The US Postal Service anticipates making 850 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — shipping around 15 percent of the entire year’s packages in a little over a month. That’s 10 percent more holiday shipments than just last year, and the environmental impact is growing along with it.

In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call “the last mile,” meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The “last mile” can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)

Before the online revolution, the majority of last-mile deliveries were to stores, which tended to cluster in areas that can be more easily served by large trucks. Today, most packages are now going directly to residential addresses. We’ve traded trips to the mall, in relatively fuel-efficient cars, for deliveries to residential neighborhoods by trucks and other vehicles. The last mile today ends on our doorsteps.

Read more at: Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. – Vox

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags ,

Why Apple's new iPhone is bad for the environment

Jacob Passy, MARKETWATCH
The new iPhone will come with a sleeker design and improved functions – but it also carries a hefty environmental price tag.
On Tuesday, Apple announced three new models of its smartphone device: The higher end iPhone X (pronounced “ten” at $999) and the more modestly priced iPhone 8 (starting at $699 for 64GB) and iPhone 8S models (starting at $799 for 64GB.) The new iPhone has facial-recognition technology and wireless charging, and has a battery that’s two hours longer than previous iPhones.
But even that cost pales in comparison with the cost to the environment: There have been 7.1 billion smartphones manufactured since 2007, according to Greenpeace – enough to equip nearly every person in the world with a device. Yet, new devices like the iPhone 8 continue to be produced as consumers seek out new and improved models, creating significant concerns related to the environmental impact smartphones have.
Read more at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-apples-new-iphone-is-bad-for-the-environment-2017-09-12

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

The hidden environmental costs of dog and cat food 

Karin Brulliard, THE WASHINGTON POST
Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.
Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations. If these pets established a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption.
Needless to say, producing that meat  — which requires more land, water and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food  — creates a lot of greenhouse gases: as many as 64 million tons annually, or about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year. That doesn’t mean pet-keeping must be eschewed for the sake of the planet, but “neither is it an unalloyed good,” Okin wrote in a study published this week in PLOS One.
“If you are worried about the environment, then in the same way you might consider what kind of car you buy … this is something that might be on your radar,” Okin said in an interview. “But it’s not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about. ”
Read more at: The hidden environmental costs of dog and cat food – The Washington Post