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  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Science
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The scoop: Tesla is probably the most famous and influential inventor/scientist you never heard of.

A few things Tesla did:

  1. In 1904, Tesla invented an efficient bladeless turbine.
  2. Tesla proposed electric power generation through geothermal, solar and wind energy.
  3. Tesla speculated on the existence of the ionosphere years before we discovered it.

Bottom line: Tesla imagined the world in many ways more like a philosopher than a scientist. But his scientific mind was as infallible as any. One thing is for sure: the modern world would be far behind without Nikola Tesla.

Dig deeper → 5 min.

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

The scoop: American infrastructure is aging and the problem is two-fold. Large cities need federal funding to support ambitious projects, while small cities can't afford any new projects.

Disaster in Miami, Detroit: As the story unfolds, it appears the Surfside condo tower likely collapsed from deteriorating infrastructure. In the Midwest, Detroit suffered from unprecedented rain, but also decades of underinvestment.

Rising cost of construction: US infrastructure rebuilds are extremely expensive, 6th highest in the world. Despite that, we dedicate a lower percentage of our GDP to infrastructure than the EU or China.

One solution: Prioritize domestic infrastructure projects over foreign interventionism to fund new projects. Don't just use deficit money to fund it. In fact, money alone will not be sufficient to ensure new construction is a success.

Successful federal projects require careful planning, strategic management and people-first politics. America needs to rebuild itself bearing both today's economy and future economies in mind. It's important we don't forget either.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit

This week, I had the chance to sit down with Madison Rifkin, founder of Mount. Mount is a SaaS platform that enables private property (think airbnb) to launch, track and monetize their guest amenities. Those amenities can include things like bikes and e-scooters.

Mount allows travelers to use more sustainable modes of short distance travel in place of ubers or car rentals. And it accomplishes this without causing a scooter-frenzied-tourist headache for city administrators, because all of the equipment is completely owned and controlled by the host.

If you'd like to learn more about Mount and how they're disrupting the hospitality industry, check out the full Q&A below.

Check out our full interview.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: El Salvador announced that Bitcoin is now legal tender. Citizens can pay taxes with it and stuff.

Why it matters: El Salvador is the first country to recognize a cryptocurrency as a legal form of currency. This marks a major shift toward government's view of decentralized financial systems, and a potential shift away from central banks.

The energy problem: We all know Bitcoin has an energy problem. To combat that, El Salvador plans to use geothermal energy from its volcanoes to produce cheap, clean energy for bitcoin mining. Let's see if they can build sophisticated infrastructure to match pent-up demand.

Bottom line: In the rush to make bets on the future of finance, governments around the world are responding with crypto plans for citizens.

Question: Will this push for legal forms of cryptocurrency help or hurt its climate impact in the long-run?

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Water

10 reasons why seaweed farms are both sustainable and practical:

  1. Seaweed farms require no land.
  2. Seaweed farms are quite efficient, and can be harvested for commercial use within 90 days.
  3. Seaweed farms by-pass negative side-effects like deforestation or pesticide-use.
  4. Seaweed farms work in harmony with surrounding wildlife.
  5. Seaweed farms don't interfere with boats or ships, and create economic opportunities where none exist.
  6. Harvesting seaweed requires very little biofuel; it is a scalable process.
  7. Seaweed has multiple uses: it can produce both food and fuel.
  8. Seaweed is biodegradable, unlike solar panels and wind turbines that require heavy metals and create waste.
  9. Seaweed yields 30x more energy per acre than biofuel land crops like soy or corn.
  10. Only 2% of the fertile ocean is covered by kelp forests, so there is much more room to grow.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Science
  4. Uncategorized
  5. Water

The scoop: Jersey Shore has clean water compared to many parts of the country, but certain beaches still test unsafe for swimming more than 40% of the time.

Key causes of water contamination:

  • outdated sewage systems
  • overdevelopment of beachfronts
  • factory farming spillovers
  • storm runoff

Bottom line: Jersey Shore water was much dirtier 30 or 40 years ago. But some Jersey Shore towns still need serious help improving their water infrastructure. Read below to learn how they can fix that.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Business
  4. Profit
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Big picture: GM announced plans to release an electric Hummer in 2023. It got me thinking, is it time to make the switch to electric vehicles?

Benefit of electric vehicles:

  1. Lower carbon footprint... social impact ✓
  2. Lower maintenance costs... convenience factor ✓
  3. Tax credits... financial incentive ✓

Cost of electric vehicles:

  1. EVs require minerals like cobalt and lithium to function. Mineral mining is a tough industry with poor standards in developing countries like Bolivia and Chile. Organizations are working to change that.
  2. Electric vehicles have a limited driving range compared to their gas cousins. You may find yourself charging up more than usual.
  3. High sticker prices: The average price of a new electric vehicle is almost double the price of a gas car.
  4. Limited amount of charging stations: this is a tricky one, because there are still more charging stations per EV on the road than there are gas stations for gas cars. Unless you go on a road trip, most of your charging will probably be at home anyway.

Bottom line: With billions of dollars flowing in, electric vehicles are not only here to stay, they are booming.

If you 1) need a car in your life 2) want to be a part of a cleaner future and 3) can afford the extra monthly cost (for now), then making a switch to electric vehicles is the right thing to do.

Dig deeper ➝ 3 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: Overpopulation is a myth... because Jack Ma and Elon Musk said so. On a more serious note, a population collapse is more likely than an overpopulated planet.

Some talking points for the dinner table:

  1. Overcrowded cities ≠ overcrowded planet. The entire world population can fit in the state of Texas with the same population density as Manhattan.
  2. Lopsided populations will inevitably occur in modern advanced nations. That means young workers will be unable to support aging populations, causing natural population declines.
  3. 'Malthusian traps' refer to inevitable food shortages as populations grow. Either Malthus was right and some of us go hungry (as in we don't need to artificially halt population growth), or he's wrong and the population keeps growing sustainably through innovation.

Bottom line: The Earth has plenty to offer for 9 billion mouths. And a sustained population decline due to lower fertility rates is already becoming a realistic outcome. We just need to spread out more.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
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Big picture

  • If all sunlight received by Northern Africa converted into solar energy, it could power all of Europe more than 1000 times over.
  • Concentrated solar power (CSP) technology can use lenses and mirrors to store large amounts of solar heat. 
  • Tunisian transcontinental transmission of photovoltaic power (PV) and CSP prove this concept.
  • PV is more reliable for decentralized plants to power rural regions in Africa.

Between the lines

  • To better understand how a CSP plant works, check out the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert (link below)
  • Desert solar panels can improve climate conditions in the region.
    • Compared to sand, panels reflect lower amounts of heat to space.
    • The result: surface heating in the desert and cloud formation.
    • Changing the desert’s heat budget may increase rain, but too many panels can raise temperatures to an unproductive level. Panels are less reflective than desert soil. 

Questions to consider

  • Which companies/countries would fund the project? 
  • Who benefits most from affordable solar electricity, Africa or Europe? 
  • How can you export energy to nations inside and outside of Africa?

Why it matters

  • CSP can release energy overnight, creating a 24-hour source of energy.
  • CSP has a high initial set-up cost but has long-term advantages over traditional forms of energy generation such as hydroelectricity.

Bottom line The developing world has a unique opportunity to learn harsh lessons from 20th century economic development principles. Using natural phenomena like the Sahara Desert for solar energy or the Congo River for hydro, Africa can become the energy superpower of the future.

Dig deeper ➝ 2 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit
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The scoop: Food takeout and delivery accounts for considerable waste. About 29% of all greenhouse emissions come from packaging. And food takeout uses a lot of packaging.

Takeout packaging: You want a burrito? Let me wrap that in foil for you. Here's some plastic utensils and paper napkins wrapped in plastic to go along with your hand-held meal. Ok, now here are three packs of ketchup and hot sauce you didn't ask for because you have condiments at home. Let me put that in a paper bag placed in a plastic bag for you... even though you are about to eat it.

Sustainable solutions: Reduce and reuse. Buy in bulk. Use bulk alternatives when on the go. Shop at restaurants that use sustainable alternatives like plant fibers for their packaging. If you have a good relationship with your local food business, talk to them about affordable options.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
  5. Science
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The scoop: 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction.

Why it matters: We need bugs to survive and thrive.

  • Pollination: Pollinators pollinate plants; we need them to keep doing that.
  • Pest control: Paradoxically, predatory and parasitic insects kill pests.
  • Decomposition: Some insects are primary or secondary decomposers. They serve an important function to clean-up animal waste.
  • Food security: Many mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians depend on bugs for food. They are a quick and easy resource for a nutritious meal.
  • Research and innovation: Technology mimics nature (think birds and planes). Researchers can observe the ethology of insects and learn new ways to innovate. An example? Ant colony optimization in computer science.

What's causing the insect decline: Habitat loss from agriculture and urbanization is the #1 driver. Agro-chemical pollutants (think pesticides), invasive species and climate change also play a role. You can check out some cool charts and figures below to learn more.

How to help: Contribute to the fight against pesticides, support or start a small farm, and educate others about the importance of insects. A more positive perception of 'bug people' can also lead to change.

Bottom line: We need bugs to survive, yet insect populations are on the decline. This issue deserves more recognition.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Animals
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking
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The report: A 2016 study of over 8,000 threatened or near-threatened species found that over-exploitation and agricultural activity posed a much greater threat to biodiversity than climate change.

Why it matters: Climate change is long-term and abstract. But it also gets all the breaking news coverage. In reality, harsh trends like deforestation and poaching pose immediate threats to wildlife. They need urgent attention, too.

These tangible problems deserve similar attention to carbon emissions. Most ESG funds pour cash into (trendy) clean energy while critical species face extinction from other causes.

Sustainable suggestion: Environmental solutions should be more well-rounded. How can we work more cooperatively with intersecting threats like wildfire risk mitigation and ecological restoration, for example.

A forestry organization may want to clean-up deadwood to prevent harsher wildfires, but a conservation group will sue them for cutting down a sacred forest. A conservation group may want to support hunting an invasive species , but an animal rights group will publicly condemn them.

Organizations with differing philosophies should work more closely through coalitions and associations to understand their perspectives.

Bottom line: Climate change is important, and intersects with basically every ecological issue. Not arguing we should take it less seriously. But that behemoth threat will be much easier to manage if we knock off smaller issues that we see, touch and feel.

We need smarter farming, more responsible animal agriculture, accountability for commercial hunting, fishing and logging. We need more stringent land protection in sensitive areas of the developing world. It's as important as climate change.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Climate Change
  2. Planet
  3. Science
  4. Water

A scientific process called desalination could help solve a looming water crisis.

With a higher demand for freshwater, a growing population will continue to pressure natural freshwater resources. Today, 1 in 9 people already lack access to safe water. If current water consumption trends persist, the demand for water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030.

Only 0.7% of Earth’s water is readily accessible as freshwater and 96.5% of it is saltwater. Through the process of desalination, scientists can turn saltwater into safe, drinking water. This process is either thermal-based (solar desalination) or membrane-based (reverse osmosis).

Why not implement desalination worldwide? There are environmental and economic challenges. For example, brine, the concentrated salt byproduct of desalination plants, is known to disrupt ocean ecosystems. But path to more sustainable alternatives exist.

If global water scarcity worsens, sustainable desalination plants can help provide fresh, potable water to vulnerable populations across the world.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
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The scoop: Biking connects billions of people from around the world. It can be a great tool to reduce personal carbon footprints too. But not all bike companies focus on ethics and sustainability.

The manufacturing problem: Since the 2000s, most bikes are manufactured in Asia, where workers’ rights are less transparent. It is difficult to track worker conditions in these parts of the world.

Steel requires energy: Metal itself can be sustainable, but certain forms of steel require lots of energy to extrapolate. It is important to look for sustainably-sourced steel.

Read below for a full list of ethical bike manufacturers.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
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The scoop: After spending a few summers commercial landscaping, I learned a thing or two about what to do and what to avoid if you care about the environment. Landscaping can be complementary to surrounding wildlife, or totally intrusive, depending on your strategy.

The key to sustainable landscaping: 1) Reduce open, unused space 2) Keep grass above 3 inches 3) The lusher the better 4) Use native plants, check for invasive ones 5) Maximize what you have, your yard can be largely self-sustaining.

Bottom line: You can work with your landscaper or do it yourself. Creating a sustainable landscaping strategy does not require additional work. In fact, if done right, it should require less maintenance. You just need a little research and attention to detail if you want it to look good too.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Doing
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Gardening can be as simple as putting a seed in the ground and watering it. But we tend to overcomplicate it. Many get discouraged when plants don’t grow properly. Looking for some quick garden wins? Here are 5 easy edible plants you can grow for all the gardening beginners out there.
  1. Doing
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The scoop: A compost pile is an eco-friendly, efficient way to maximize your garden’s potential. And it’s super easy to set-up and maintain.

Step 1: Pick a location, choose how to store it. Choosing a spot for your compost depends on where you live. If you end up putting it in a bin, poke some holes and cut out the bottom.

Step 2: Collect, collect, and collect more waste. Make it a habit to add organic materials to your compost. See below for a full list of compostable (and non-compostable) items.

Step 3: Wait, use, and maintain. After a few months, you will be dripping in black gold! Once your compost is set up, keep adding more materials to maintain it.

Dig deeper ➝ 3 min

  1. Lifestyle
  2. People
  3. Thinking

Cue the Billy Joel music... I'm movin' out. The limits of urban confinement are undeniable. The Suez Canal crisis is the latest excuse to leave big cities and invest in flyover country.

I've spent the past year exposing unsustainable lifestyles in major US cities. Urban efficiency in energy and transportation is now overshadowed by the literal garbage required to live in unnatural environments. Fewer people are commuting to cities. Can't make that argument anymore.

Plus, sustainable energy, agriculture, and transportation are more affordable than ever.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Brands
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The scoop: Patagonia is a forward-thinking billion-dollar brand. But there is always work to be done. Let's see how they chalk up.

Is Patagonia sustainable?

  • Patagonia uses mostly recycled materials.
  • They have a lifetime return and repair program for all of their products.
  • Patagonia still uses animals in their supply chain, but they try to do it as responsibly as possible. I'd rather see no animal use.
  • They are slightly above average when it comes to labor conditions.
  • Patagonia looks to go carbon neutral by 2025.

Zoom out: Patagonia hits on the environmental side, but they have some work to do, especially regarding transparency & ethics surrounding suppliers and animal welfare.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Better Markets
  4. Business
  5. Profit
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The scoop: NFTs went mainstream. Now more people are starting to realize Ethereum has a sustainable energy problem. There is a solution.

Not all blockchains are the same: Bitcoin uses about 1% of the world’s electricity. Ethereum is the second largest coin and runs on a similar model as Bitcoin. Neither are energy efficient.

Still, blockchain technology as a whole operates under many different consensus algorithms. Bitcoin and Ethereum’s proof-of-work model is just one version.

Sustainable proposals: Convert mining facilities to use more renewable forms of energy. That’s a good place to start.

More effectively, big coins like Bitcoin and Ethereum can operate using a proof-of-stake model to be more sustainable. This would allow fewer nodes (computers) to validate transactions on the public ledger and increase the energy efficiency of their blockchains.

Finally, emerging coins should look to more efficient consensus algos like Ripple as a model for sustainable crypto. That would propel the industry forward.

Bottom line: Progress is happening. There are existing solutions. The blockchain industry just needs a little nudge to do better.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

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Here's how to transform yourself into a minimalist:

  1. Track your purchases and categorize them. I break my purchases into "needs" (basic modern survival stuff), "boosts" (productive buys), and "luxuries" (extra things that make life more enjoyable).
  2. Think before you buy, think after. Why am I about to make this purchase? Now imagine making the purchase, how would you feel after one week, one month, one year?
  3. Take responsibility for a product's end-of-life. The trash can or recycling bin should be the last option. Can you share it, borrow it, sell it, repurpose it, thrift it, make it?

Bottom line: 'Less is more' stands the test of time; when you practice minimalism in an intentional way, everyone benefits. If you do shop, always keep ethics and savings in mind.

Dig deeper → 4 min


  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Business
  4. Profit
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The scoop: All plant milk is more sustainable than dairy milk. But that doesn't mean all plant milks are sustainable.

SR's favorites:

  • Pea milk: protein-rich, noninvasive crop, good taste.
  • Hemp/flax seed milk: nutritious and low emission-based.
  • Hazelnut milk: tastes great in a cup of coffee, pollinates naturally, grows on trees.

Bottom line: Every company has a different process, but we can draw conclusions about the sustainability of certain crops. As consumer interest in plant milk keeps growing, it's important to distinguish good labels from bad labels.

The best best thing you can do is make your own plant milk at home. Just take your favorite organic, fair-trade nut or seed and mix it with water in a blender. Details in the article!

Dig deeper → 6 min

  1. Better Brands
  2. Business
  3. Profit

Is Adidas a sustainable brand? In December, the global shoemaker announced plans to make 60% of its products using sustainable materials. They seem committed to a healthier planet.

Let's find out if Adidas is sustainable. Do they put their money where their mouth is?

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Water
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The scoop: Microplastics can be found in every crevice of the Earth. As they become more prevalent, they are more likely to impact human health.

Top ways to avoid microplastics:

  • Filtered tap water > bottled water.
  • Shellfish = microplastic.
  • Eat more fresh food, less takeout.

Zoom out: As the global production of plastic goes up, there will be more plastic to deal with. Research on the impact of microplastics on human health is still developing. Better to be safe than sorry.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

The scoop: Below-freezing temperatures blasted the southern US this week, prompting rolling blackouts over the past few days.

Key takeaways:

  • Texas was not prepared to deal with the energy demand spikes.
  • Natural gas & coal were not sufficient, renewables failed in freezing temperatures.
  • America still needs a cocktail of energy supply to meet increasing consumer demand.

Zoom out: The Texas energy security issue is something every American should pay attention to. How can we carefully adopt a renewable-first economy without compromising reliability?

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit
  4. Science
  5. Thinking

The scoop: Bill Gates published a new book about climate change. Why are we praising a tech entrepreneur pretending to be a scientist and public health official?

Why it matters: I think people like Bill Gates make everyday people more suspicious of actual science. Gates should step aside and let real scientists do the talking. Because as it turns out, he isn't always right.

My proposal: Let's praise and highlight actual climatologists dedicated to the field. He's not even a professional writer.

We need to build communication platforms for researchers, doctors, and scientists to bridge the gap between complex subject matter and public skepticism. Businessmen like Bill Gates only widen the gap (imo).

Bottom line: Let's hear the talking points not from some obscure monolithic gospel, but science-backed, distinguished talking points from recognizable human faces.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

During the past year, I noticed the rise of online shopping more than ever. One day I woke up and my parents were using Amazon as much as my younger sister. I realized even socially-conscious consumers couldn't resist the convenience of big online retailers.

Then, one night on my way home from band practice I got stuck behind a garbage truck on my block. Almost every recycling item was contained in an Amazon box.

The next day, I set out to create a sustainable shop for reusables and consumables.

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: 600 gallons of oil spilled into the San Francisco Bay yesterday from a Chevron refinery.

Some notes on the disaster:

  • Solutions exist, restoration efforts are more innovative, why does this keep happening?
  • Media tends to direct focus on corporations and federal government, but what role do local politics play in preventing environmental disasters?

Food for thought:

Looking back at the Chevron oil spill of 2021, we should be asking ourselves:

  1. Why did the oil spill happen?
  2. What actors played a role in this disaster?
  3. What steps can these actors take to prevent it from ever happening again?

Bottom line: If the answer is primarily political, sadly, it may not happen fast enough to stop the next disaster.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
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The scoop: Don't wait for the next big world event to prepare yourself. How can you make you and your family more 'disaster-proof'?

Some disaster-proof tools:

  1. Practice the 50/30/20 rule. Spend 50% on 'needs, 30% on wants, save 20%.
  2. Utilize your 5 PM - 12 AM. Build a side hustle or passive income outside of your day job.
  3. Network, network, network. The best time to network is when you think you don't have to. Always present your best self and treat everyone equally.
  4. Make a strategic relocation. If you're thinking about making a move, do it when things are mellow. Don't wait for the next big event to pack your bags.
  5. Learn new skills. It can be professional, it can be personal. You can be 20, you can be 60. Just learn something new every day, week or month.

These goals are not perfect for everyone. BUT at least one or two is a tangible goal you can strive for. Set quantitative targets with time intervals.

Humans are only as sustainable as our ability to survive in harmony with nature. Invest in your survivability.

Dig deeper ➡ 3 min

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The scoop: Home gardening is a safe, simple way to take climate action in your backyard (or even in your kitchen!). You can also save yourself some $$, and get some much needed peace of mind.

What's wrong with the grocery store?

The industrial agricultural system takes a large toll on the environment. Whether cutting down trees for more farmland, or using fertilizer to increase crop yields, Big Ag is unsustainable in the long-term. Agriculture causes about 80% of worldwide deforestation efforts, with devastating environmental consequences.

Environmental benefits of home gardening: While home gardening won't change industrial agriculture, it can still have plenty of local environmental benefits on 1) your property and 2) its surrounding ecosystem.

Economic and health benefits: Studies show that being surrounded by more greenery can actually reduce stress and improve mental health. If your vegetation also grows well, you can save a few trips (and dollars) with some home-grown produce. If large vegetation is planted outdoors, you can even reduce electric bill consumption over time.

Bottom line: By expanding generalized access to indoor/outdoor gardening, we can teach more people to take decentralized climate action. It will also support more harmony with people and planet.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Brands
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The scoop: Is Beyond Meat sustainable? The plant-based protein maker has turned veganism mainstream. But they need to be more transparent.

Some talking points:

  • Beyond Meat packaging needs work. Their flagship product (Beyond Burger) is not compostable.
  • Beyond Meat uses 99% less water, 93% less land, 90% fewer greenhouse gases, and 46% less energy than a traditional beef burger.
  • Pea protein is a sustainable protein choice, but they should prioritize sustainable farming > organic farming.
  • A report from 2018 criticized Beyond Meat's transparency around sustainability reporting, giving them a 0%.

Bottom line: Beyond Meat needs to revisit its supply chain, but they are on the upward trajectory for both profitability and sustainability. Quality company that just needs to keep improving. Beyond Meat is on its way to being sustainable.

Dig deeper 6 min


  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy
Dig deeper to find out how Biden can build a message of unity for America…

Biden re-signed the Paris accord this week. Like I wrote about last week, the next four years will have major implications about the role of federal governance in climate mitigation.

Here at SR, we don’t endorse politicians but we certainly criticize them. Expect us to watch this administration closely and keep you up-to-date on America’s progress on environment-related issues.

  1. Better Markets
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  4. Tech
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The scoop: Uphold, a digital trading platform, released a digital carbon credit coin called UPCO2.

On a mission to democratize carbon: Think of corporations and governments as the gatekeepers of carbon credit markets. Using blockchain technology, UPCO2 hopes to ease the barrier to entry for ordinary people. UPCO2 can also help standardize carbon prices on a global level using voluntary carbon credits (VCUs).

Should you buy one? UPCO2 coins help reforestation efforts in areas like the Amazon, Congo Basin, and Indonesia. Carbon prices (like any commodity) are pretty volatile, but I predict durable demand for this asset. Everyday people want more ways to take climate action. This is one.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Brands
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The scoop: Starbucks does a lot of reacting instead of acting. In that light, I do not consider Starbucks to be a cultural nor sustainable leader in the food & beverage space.

Sooo is Starbucks sustainable? No. Especially in today's climate, you're better off making your own cup, or supporting a local indie coffee shop. It's worth the extra few cents to help a business owner put food on their family dinner table.

Dig deeper → 3 min.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
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The scoop: With control of Congress and the White House, the Democrats have the weight of the world take serious climate action. If they fail, perhaps government is incapable of getting the job done.

Some talking points:

  • Any climate plan taken in the next few years should be targeted at institutions, not individuals.
  • We're looking for stringent environmental protections laws, and harsher rules on corporate carbon emissions. Let's not damage SMB's either, please.
  • ^In that light, if there was a vaccine-like waitlist for taking climate action, corporations should be at the top of the list. Let's get them out of the way.

Bottom line: The legacy of federal governance (fair or not) lies in the hands of an aging Biden. If his administration fails to bring about tangible change, the distrust of government may be irrevocable.

Dig deeper --> 1 min

  1. Lifestyle
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  4. Thinking
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The scoop: Sustainability in 2020 was about transition. Let's make this decade about change (not the World Economic Forum kind... the ordinary people kind).

Top sustainability trends in 2020:

  1. Economics merge with environment
    • Rise of ESG superfunds
    • Corporate-social sustainability skyrockets
    • Individual sustainable investing spikes
  2. Climate awareness goes mainstream
    • Data showed most Americans now concerned about environmental issues.
    • Climate entered national politics.
    • Animals gained more rights - backed by science as much as emotion.
  3. Climate community can't stop fighting with itself. Here are different type of activists:
    • The optimist "Don't worry, science & tech will get us out of this mess!"
    • The concerned consumer "How can we blame corporations if we keep buying their products??"
    • The concerned citizen "The problem isn't with consumers, it's with citizens. You need to vote to make real change!"
    • The institutionalist "It doesn't matter what individuals do, it's governments and corporations that are to blame."
    • The doomsday-er "We are screwed no matter what, Kathy. Start preparing for the next Ice Age."
    • The compromiser "I think Biden made good cabinet choices for climate."
    • The radicalist "If you drive a gas car, I realistically can't spend Thanksgiving with you."

Bottom line: 2020 was a mixed year for sustainability, but we are bullish long-term.

Dig deeper → 7 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Tech
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Electronics produce millions of material waste every year. Here are some simple ways to recycle or repurpose your old gear.

Recycling electronics:

  • You can dispose of old batteries, computers, tvs, and phones at major retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowe's and Staples. Use a search engine to find one near you.
  • Make sure your device is shot before recycling it - you may be able to donate it, sell it online, or trade it in for a new device.
  • Always back-up old files and do a factory reset before selling, recycling or donating a device.

Bottom line: Being responsible with e-waste is an easy way to dampen your footprint and help under-served communities at the same time.

Dig deeper ➝ 4 min.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Below are top 10 head-scratchers for the so-called 'COVID-19 Relief Package'.

  1. Despite spending 15 years and billions of dollars, American counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan are ineffective (Foreign Aid)
  2. The Fish and Wildlife Service is subsidizing yachting (Environment, Energy,Science)
  3. NIH paid to find out if hot tubbing can lower stress (Health Care)
  4. Using CARES Act funds, the FAA renovated a taxiway at the airport on Nantucket Island most often used by private jets (Miscellaneous)
  5. NIH paid researchers to interview San Franciscans about how they use edible cannabis (Health Care)
  6. FEMA paid for test tubes for COVID tests but received contaminated mini soda bottles (Miscellaneous)
  7. NIH paid researchers to develop methods to stop grown adults from binge-watching television (Health Care)
  8. DOD lost more than 100drones over Afghanistan (Military)
  9. USAID is open to creating a venture capital fund in Bosnia & Herzegovina for bad investments (Foreign Aid)
  10. NSF ran lizards on a treadmill (Environment, Energy, Science)
  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Individuals need basic survival skills to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

Ways to be more independent + sustainable:

  • Grow your own food
  • Make something from scratch (DIY)
  • Learn one new hard skill every "x" (42 examples with how-to videos below)
  • Rescue an animal
  • Make your property inclusive to wildlife
  • Stop buying random shit
  • Choose fresh air over screen time (at least once a day)

Bottom line: If you understand how to be independent, you can seamlessly be your best sustainable self. If you are dependent on institutions in your everyday life, you are not a sustainable human. Sorry, not sorry.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

With the aim of reducing waste and overconsumption this holiday season, SR will be running a closed-loop, sustainable holiday gift exchange.

According to Stanford, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week!

We are here to combat that trend. Create an impact by contributing to our sustainable gift exchange. You can contribute anything from a deck of old baseball cards to an unopened pair of Airpods. Click here for instructions on how to participate.

  1. Better Brands
  2. Business
  3. Profit
Busy? Try the speed read.

Founder story: Elon Musk (co-founder) is a controversial figure with a complicated history. But he is a forward-thinker that can help drive a more sustainable future.

Industry standards: Automakers have a history of poor environmental standards. The manufacturing process requires loads of resources, equipment and infrastructure. Tesla has a $500bn+ market cap, so we understand that complete sustainability is difficult to accomplish.

Materials: Modern cars use metals (aluminum in common), silica, rubber, plastic, rubber, soy, wheat, rice… to name a few. In terms of sustainability, the lithium ion battery is most concerning.

Tesla's current battery uses cobalt... linked to human rights violations in the Congo. Cobalt also makes the vehicle more expensive. Tesla is currently working to remove cobalt from their supply chain.

Ethics: To hit ambitious production goals, Tesla overworked domestic workers in a pretty ugly way. That adds to their controversy in the Congo. Not a good look when a billionaire does so well and you find out workers were unhappy.

Bottom line: Tesla has sustainability tied to its mission, and they are doing awesome things in the solar energy space. Still, their current business model is not sustainable. Wait until Tesla removes cobalt, improves worker conditions and reduces vehicle prices to make an ethical purchase.

Dig deeper → 5 min.

  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Business
  4. Profit
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Hershey is accused of avoiding to pay premiums on cocoa deals that would help alleviate farmer poverty.

Hershey versus West Africa: Hershey denies the allegations. The lvory Coast and Ghana, who make up 2/3 of the world's cocoa production, are preventing Hershey from using sustainability schemes in West Africa.

These schemes allow brands to market their product (in this case chocolate) as fair-trade, ethical, etc.

A broader point about corporate sustainability: Hershey's (alleged) loophole attempt is all too common in the age of crony capitalism.

Corporate sustainability seeks long-term profits by aligning business models with healthier environments and more prosperous economies. Working around basic premiums that keep hard-working cocoa farmers out of deep poverty is not a sustainable business model.

Bottom line: West African cocoa regulators are sticking to their guns on this issue. I don't think they're bluffing. Recommendation: avoid Hershey products until they provide a more transparent response.

List of popular Hershey products to avoid this holiday season:

  1. Hershey's (duh)
  2. Butterfingers
  3. Reese's
  4. Pay Day
  5. Jolly Rancher
  6. Twizzler's
  7. York Peppermint
  8. Breath Savers
  9. Ice Breakers
  10. Heath Bar
  11. Rolo
  12. The Whatchamacallit Bar
  13. Take 5
  14. Milk Duds
  15. Mr. Goodbar
  16. Almond Joy
  17. Whoppers
  18. Kit Kat
  19. Good & Plenty
  20. Pirate's Booty
  21. SkinnyPop
  22. Krave Jerky

Dig deeper → 1 min

  1. Big Tech
  2. Profit
  3. Tech
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Just like coronavirus, digital media has reached its third wave. Millions of mostly conservative users are flocking to alternative media outlets like Parler and Rumble. Is it a trend or something more?

Some talking points for turkey dinner:

  1. Access to the internet, specifically social media, is closer to public utility than privilege.
  2. Tech media giants have evolved from startups to multinational corporations. They have matured well beyond the Silicon Valley VC golden child status-hood.
  3. Decentralized, federated social networks seem like the natural next phase for post-modern media. Will it be this year, this decade, or never?

What's next? We'll have to wait and see if major platforms like Twitter and Facebook actually see a decline in users. Right now, they seem too big to fail. Parler was the most downloaded app for most of this month. Time will tell if that's more than just a passing trend.

Dig deeper → 2 min.

  1. Business
  2. Good Reads
  3. Profit

Curious about running a sustainable small business? Once a fringe business strategy, sustainability has become a prerequisite for any new business hoping to succeed in the long-term. Whether you own a pizza shop, landscaping company, real-estate firm or just starting out, prioritizing sustainability is an easy and effective way to distinguish your small business and ensure long-term stability.

This guide will help you adapt, react and plan for the wave of industry trends that prioritize social impact in a post-pandemic world.

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy
  5. Thinking
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: The World Bank projects extreme poverty to rise for the first time since the 1990s, while 270 million people are at risk of starvation (2x higher than 2019).

Lockdowns and inequality: 20+ million Americans are still unemployed. 160,000 US business have closed. Despite that, Amazon, Wal-Mart and Costco (for example) are posting record high online sales.

What can we do? Go beyond SBA loans and stimulus checks. We should like, actually be doing everything we can to keep small business owners afloat.

Local coffee shops > Starbucks, Thrift > Marshall's, Art galleries for Home Decor > Amazon.

Bottom line: We can clean up this institutional mess by creating a new structure around congressional term limits, monopoly break-ups, whistleblower support, and free speech... or we can allow the same actors to weave the world we've grown to love and hate.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
  4. Thinking
Busy? Try the speed read.

What to know: For the first three US presidential elections, the runner-up became VP. The 12th amendment rewrote the rules in 1804 so that candidates ran with a running mate. Electors are required to submit one electoral vote for a candidate, and one electoral vote for a candidate's running mate.

Picture this: A climate-focused Gore sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden's economic recovery bid?

One more point: Imagine if a climate-focused Gore was sitting in during the Bush years, or a foreign-savvy Clinton was sitting at the table during the Trump circus. What could Trump do to help Biden during his economic recovery bid?

Bottom line: We all know the American republic is under scrutiny. Our divisive two-party system, though highly profitable for Big tech and media, is at its breaking point. In a close race, allowing a runner-up candidate to serve as veep could help quell the American political fire.

Dig deeper 🠒 2 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
Busy? Try the speed read.

The scoop: Biden vowed to sign the Paris agreement in his first day in office. As an environmentalist, I think it's all hype no action.

Why Paris no bien:

  1. It's a pledge, not a policy. There's no binding enforcement mechanism. So a country like Russia or Mexico can agree to it, but it doesn't hold them accountable.
  2. It lets China off the hook. China, the #1 carbon emitter in the world, can hide behind the US if we re-join it. If the US led the world on climate policy without Paris, it would expose China's energy reality (they are slated to make up nearly half of global coal demand in 2024).

Bottom line: We get it, Trump sucks and he left the Paris agreement so the Paris agreement must be amazing. Well, the Paris agreement is ultimately not that significant in terms of climate action. Policy reform > pretty pictures

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking
Busy? Try the speed read.

Big picture: Every influential organization and leader around the world (besides Trump) is telling us to Build Back Better. What are we trying to fix?

A little context: History shows how major global resets can fail poorer nations. Bretton Woods perpetuated inequality behind the veil of humanitarian activism. If the status quo changes the status quo, did the status quo really change?

Some talking points:

  1. Governments caused the COVID debacle, not the people. Yet, the people face the consequences.
  2. Governments (and international organizations), perpetrators of the broken system, want to fix it.
  3. Suggestions from big orgs are abstract and ambiguous, rather than tangible like term limits.

Bottom line: As we watch world leaders discuss recovery options, let’s prioritize tangible change rather than utopian fantasies.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Profit

The scoop: the IMF published a statement calling the pandemic recovery plan a ‘new Bretton Woods moment’.

What is Bretton Woods? Bretton Woods was an international conference that took place in 1944 with the goal of preventing another World War by establishing a new international monetary framework.

The legacy of Bretton Woods: Although the agreement no longer serves a purpose in the modern world, its effects are still being felt; there is more negotiation between nations both economically and politically and the global market is more interconnected than ever before.

Lessons for coronavirus, globalization:

1. Make politics people-oriented

Leaders and policy-makers of international organizations are motivated by self-interest and private sector pressure. Likewise, they propose policies that favor private interest and hurt the average worker.

2. Make international finance fair and equal

Loan conditionalities from the IMF are often attached without serious consideration for the interest of the borrowing nation or its citizens. Recommendations by the World Bank and IMF don't always resolve economic hardships for developing nations.

Bottom line: If this is a new Bretton Woods moment, perhaps we can learn a thing or two about our convoluted past of international do-good. Rather than just hit the reset button, we should consider how poverty alleviation requires more than a paycheck.

Dig deeper → 8 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Better Markets
  3. Business
  4. Profit

The scoop: Last week, Ripple’s CEO made an ambitious commitment to go carbon net-zero by 2030 in collaboration with conservation Rocky Mountain Institute and REBA, and pressured other crypto companies to do the same.

Talking points:

  1. Unlike Bitcoin, Ripple (XRP) was built with a finite supply (100 billion) at its inception, making it easier to control mining activities and mitigate its environmental footprint.
  2. Compared to Bitcoin’s 4.51 billion lightbulb hours needed to mine it, the XRP Ledger uses just 79,000.
  3. A lot needs to happen to make do on that claim, but Ripple is the first crypto looking to go carbon net-zero, and they have a plan (see below).

Bottom line: I don’t know if Ripple, Ethereum, and Bitcoin will one day replace Euros, Dollars and Yuan. With that said, why not bet a dollar on the possibility that they one day could?

Dig deeper → 3 min.

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit
  4. Tech

Why are wildfires detrimental to our environment?

  • Burn millions of acres of forests each year; trees are critical to (1) absorbing greenhouse gases to lessen the effects of climate change and (2) preserving biodiversity.
  • Kill and displace wildlife.
  • Disrupt water cycles and soil fertility.
  • Endanger lives and livelihood of local communities.

How are drones being used to fight wildfires?

  • Provide real-time support on the ground for firefighters to improve safety.
  • Map weather patterns to prevent spreading of the fire to mitigate environmental destruction.

What are the benefits of a drone compared to a traditional aircraft?

  • Safer since you don’t need a pilot to operate it.
  • More versatile since a drone can fly in poor conditions and hard to reach spaces.
  • More accurate by using GPS and imaging technologies to generate a “smart map.”

Bottom line

More recently, the use of drones for fire prevention in the U.S. has been gaining support from the federal government. Regulatory hurdles are starting to lessen. Plus, the civil-use of drones is now more widely accepted.

Drones are becoming a key technological advancement in fighting wildfires. They can not only protect our communities, but they can also mitigate the environmental impact caused by fires.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The current tradition:

  1. Lot'sa pumpkin picking: American farmers produce billions of pounds worth of pumpkin every year. When they end up in the garbage, they decompose in landfills and emit methane/
  2. Cheap costume wearing: Costumes from Big Retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart use cheap materials and labor. Many people only wear their costumes once or twice before throwing it out.
  3. Kids candy eating: Candy sales are up 13% this year despite the pandemic. Candy wrappers are are often improperly disposed of, and many treats use harmful ingredients like palm oil (causes deforestation).

Proposed solutions for Hallogreen:

  1. If you're going to buy a pumpkin, eat it (or let the squirrels eat it).
  2. Reuse, create or thrift a costume.
  3. Don't eat candy because it's basically corn starch with sugar and food dye. If you are sugar-crazed (not judging you), just make sure you dispose of it properly by checking for recycling labels and washing out food oils before throwing it in the blue bin.

Bottom line: Let's use 2020 as an opportunity to reflect and reform wasteful traditions by making this October Hallogreen.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Energy
  4. Energy and Environment
  5. Profit

The International Energy Agency (IEA) rolled out its annual World Energy Outlook report with a bombshell. Solar power is expected to replace coal as the #1 source of energy production by 2025.

The backstory: In the last few years, governments and corporations flooded billions of dollars into the renewable energy space. Wind & solar energy have become cheaper than gas & oil as a result. It is now easier to manufacture and install solar panels than ever before.

By the numbers:

  • The IEA thinks 80% of new power generation will come from renewables.
  • We need to boost up investment in the energy grid by at least $460 billion in 2030 to hit our goals.
  • The global economy will return to pre-covid levels in 2021, but 7% smaller over long term compared to 2019 projections.

Between the lines: China alone will account for 40% of global growth for electricity demand over the next ten years. Southeast Asia and Africa will see major demand increases for energy over the next few decades.

Meanwhile, IEA's report found that global CO2 emissions will not return to 2019 levels until 2027, due to energy mix with renewables and coal's big drop in 2020.

Zoom out: We need a structural transformation of the global energy sector to hit on sdg's (those UN-sanctioned green goals we keep talking about), and that requires a lot of clean capital stock.

The report makes it clear that low growth of emissions ≠ a climate change solution. It's a means to an end.

Bottom line: Solar will replace coal as king sometime this decade.

Dig deeper → <2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Profit
  4. Thinking

The scoop: The world uses a lot of materials to produce a lot of waste.

By the numbers:

  1. Asia accounts for 60% of mineral extraction and 67% of freshwater use.
  2. The world disperses 28.7 billion tons of fossil fuels and biomass energy.
  3. Europe, Asia and N. America account for 78% of fossil fuel output.

Key takeaways:

  1. It takes <resources to produce >materials.
  2. A lot of freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, turns into wastewater every year.
  3. Most raw materials and natural resources end up in the land, air or water.

Bottom line: The current production process outweighs Earth's production capacity. To solve that, we need to maximize the life-cycle of products, treat natural resources carefully, and minimize waste.

Dig deeper → <1 min.

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

Big picture: Navigating food labels that empower sustainable consumption should not be a challenging mess. We created a sustainable food shopping guide to help you navigate the label overload using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a metric. 

Why it matters: We live in a world of greenwashing and companies working to get a competitive advantage with “natural” and “sustainable labels. Our extra spending dollars should go to companies and certifiers making strides towards the Sustainable Development Goals – not those greenwashing.

Our recommendations: Overall, choose products that fit your needs and your budget. In a grocery store setting, choose third-party certified products to ensure they are meeting the standards that support sustainability. Fair Trade, American Grass-fed, and USDA Organic are reliable certification labels that have standards striving towards environmental and social sustainability.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Cities and Communities
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

The scoop: In 2018, global risk firm Verisk combined UN population data with their Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) and found that 84 of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world face 'extreme risk' from climate change. The remaining 14 faced fell under the 'high risk' categories.

By the numbers:

  1. 95% of the 234 cities most affected by climate change fall in Africa & Asia.
  2. 86% of the 292 'low risk' cities are located in Europe and the Americas

Between the lines:

  • The world's poorest with higher rates of urbanization = face greatest threats from climate disruption.
  • The world's most advanced economies (US, China, India, Europe) account for half of the world's carbon emissions.
  • The International Monetary Fund estimates that 8 out of the 10 fastest growing economies between 2018 and 2023 will be African countries, posing serious risk to companies operating in the region.

Bottom line: There is a clear correlation between climate change vulnerability and population growth. This is occurring in the fast growing economic region of the world, making an even stronger case to invest in climate resilience. Secondly, advanced economies (as the cause but not the victim) have a moral, social and economic responsibility to mitigate the impact of carbon emissions.

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

The scoop: The world witnessed the first ever climate change question in a US presidential debate. They spent 10 minutes on the topic.

Why it matters: Recent polls revealed 12% of likely voters considered climate change to be their #1 issue behind the economy and coronavirus.

Stuff to know: Biden suggested that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation. The Amazon rainforest is made up of 300 billion trees and 1/5 of the world's species. Trump acknowledge anthropogenic climate change (sort of) for the first time.

Bottom line: The world is suffering from a public health disaster that has leaked into the global economy, yet voters still consider climate change a centerpiece issue. That is a sign of things to come.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit

The scoop: Golf is still growing, but it needs to incorporate sustainable practices to keep trending up.

Why it matters: Golf uses 2 billion gallons of water every day, and makes up over a million acres of land in the US alone.

Our recommendations:

  1. Invest in new technologies that conserve freshwater.
  2. Take advantage of regenerative and eco-friendly management practices like limiting the use of pesticides, encouraging the growth of wild plants off the fairway, or enacting policies that treat wildlife responsibly.

Bottom line: As a major outdoor sport, golf has a serious opportunity here to capture the hearts of young athletes. As much as it will be challenge, golf and sustainability can work together very well.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Lifestyle
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy
  4. Thinking

The scoop: China made an announcement to the UN with plans to go carbon neutral by 2060.

What to know:

  1. China is the number one carbon emitter in the world, with more carbon emissions thn the US and Europe combined.
  2. China is still investing heavily in coal-powered plants through 2020, de-legitimizing the carbon pledge.
  3. The UN took the pledge very seriously, indicating its unwillingness to criticize Chinese climate policy.

Bottom line: China’s carbon pledge is smoke and mirrors. The announcement comes weeks before a major US election when voters are antsy. The United Nations needs to focus on human rights efforts, not tweeting celebration emojis for empty words.

Dig deeper 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

What is period poverty? Inequalities related to menstruation. That includes the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, etc.

Who does it affect? Students, low-income and homeless women and girls, transgender and non-binary individuals, and the imprisoned all struggle with period poverty. Girls with special needs and disabilities are also disproportionately affected.

What are the main causes?

  • Improper education― we often stigmatize menstruation.
  • Economic barriers―menstrual products are costly (and in some cases taxed).

Why is it a problem? Period poverty increases physical health risks, such as reproductive and urinary tract infections, when the proper resources are not easily accessible. This causes women to turn to unsafe substitutes. Period poverty also widens the educational and economic gap.

Periods and planet

  • In North America, about 20 billion tampons and pads go to landfills every year, and the non-organic items take at least 500 to 800 years to decompose.
  • Disposable menstrual products are the fifth most common type of waste washing up on beaches, according to a report by the European Commission
  • The manufacturing of disposable menstrual hygiene products generates a total carbon footprint of about 15 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually―the equivalent of burning about 35 million barrels of oil, according to the United Nations Environmental Program

How can we promote sustainable periods?

  • Choose reusable menstrual products (e.g., period proof underwear, menstrual cup, and reusable tampon applicators and pads)
  • Choose cotton products and support transparent brands if disposable products are necessary
  • Demand that corporations make plastic-free sanitary products

Bottom line By normalizing menstruation and destroying taboos around the natural process, we can prioritize menstrual equity policy that makes sustainable menstrual products and sanitation available for all.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Land
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The scoop: There is an understandable skepticism around GMOs due to our bias for natural products. But GMOs have many undeniable social and environmental benefits.

What to know: The science agrees with the use of GMOs – 90% of scientists believe they are safe.

  • GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. It is the process of selectively breeding plants with other genes to create desirable characteristics.
  • GMO characteristics have the potential to address food security with projects like Golden Rice.
  • GMOs can also help reduce food waste and help growers adapt to climate change with drought, heat, or flood tolerant seed varieties.
  • While GMOs are often negatively associated with health and sustainability, there is little to no science to support this claim.
  • There is overwhelmingly more research that supports GMO's ability to positively influence health and sustainability.

Bottom line: GMOs have become somewhat of a controversy, but the scientific consensus shows they are safe. In the face of a growing population and increased land use, we need a more efficient agriculture industry to be sustainable. GMOs are at the core of a more sustainable future, and more efficient food systems.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Animals
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Thinking

Question: How can sustainability succeed without laws protecting animals?

The science is out on animals. Man's outdated perceptions of our underwater and in-the-forest cousins are coming to light as science meets PETA.

Animals are sentient beings. It's not a romance novel, it's the world we live in. Animals experience a wide range of emotions.

The animal manifesto: Every squirrel, every rabbit, every bear, every fish serves a clear, identifiable role in Earth's ecosystem except for two creatures: invasive species like pythons in the Everglades.... and mankind.

Humans as protectors: Man certainly plays a role in this crazy floating ball universe, but we've drifted so far from our hunter-gatherer origins that our ecological purpose is becoming harder and harder to define. As such, it is the moral responsibility of man to act as benevolent stewards for the vulnerable, voiceless animal kingdom.

Animal lives matter: The next sustainability chapter of post-industrial society begins with a recognition of animals as they are, fellow Earthlings deserving of basic rights.

Bottom line Today, most advanced nations do not recognize animals as sentient beings. And we expect sustainable lifestyles to be widely adopted in our homes? You have to learn how to drive a car before lifting up the hood to fix it.

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet

Big picture Solar PV and onshore wind (for new-build generation) is now cheaper for 2/3 of the global population, including the US and China.

Downsides of solar-wind Critics of widespread wind & solar point to its over-hyped environmental prowess and inefficiency.

  1. Capacity factors and values: The sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow.
    • The capacity factor of renewables are lower than that of coal, gas and nuclear, who have a capacity factor of 85-90 percent. Onshore wind units place 40 percent capacity, whereas solar facilities use 30 percent or less.
    • Capacity values are “the ability to reliably meet demand.” Using capacity values as a metric, the price of wind & solar spikes due to the unreliability during peak demand and necessary back-ups on stand-by to ensure contingent power. As reliability and capacity values go ↑, the price of renewables will go ↓
    • If widely adopted, renewables would cost higher on average. Less efficient geographic regions need to build solar and wind infrastructure, reducing economies of scale.
    • The Institute for Energy Research estimates that wind power is about twice as expensive as conventional gas-fired power, and that solar power is almost three times as expensive (relative to its capacity value).
    • Capacity factors/values summarized: wind & solar is cheaper in 2/3 of the world, but when you factor in reliability and contingency, it is still more costly.
  2. Environmental cost: It's better than oil, it's serious. Let's talk about it.
    • Heavy land use: The Green New Deal would require over 100 million acres to power America at the same capacity as oil & gas. That’s larger than the state of California. With all that space needed, it would inevitably spill into ecologically sensitive areas.
    • Production and disposal: We would probably import metals for the wind turbines and solar panels from China. Even with tariffs, it makes more economic sense. As much as 78 million metric tons worldwide by 2050 will come from solar panel waste.
    • Impact on wildlife: hundreds of thousands of birds die every year at the hands of wind turbines.
    • Weak regulation: Wind energy development, for example, has voluntary, non-mandatory federal guidelines (even during the Obama years). Assuming that wind energy companies would behave better than their fossil fuel predecessors and willingly regulate themselves is a mistake.
  3. Reliability: Frequent backups still use fossil fuels.
    • When wind and solar can't produce enough electricity, fossil fuels are used as backups.
    • The problem? Based on today's reliability of renewables, the climate impact of a GND-sized solar-wind market would be near net-zero.

Bottom line We can now say wind & solar are cheaper (at face value) than oil & gas (in most of the world). But that's just the first step. If we want to continue the shift away from fossil fuels, we still need better solutions.

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Land
  3. Planet
  4. Tech

What is vertical farming? Indoor agriculture (like greenhouses) using vertical space to optimize crop production in a controlled environment

Pros

  • Minimized pests and pesticides
  • Greater precision and control over water and nutrients, less waste
  • More food produced per acre of land, more sustainable for our planet in the long run
  • Reduced distribution supply chains delivering fresher produce to customers at greater speed

Cons

  • Higher costs
  • Deep know-how and expertise required 
  • Limited number of crops can be grown profitably (leafy greens vs. strawberries that require more sunlight and thus more electricity)

Why vertical farming? The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted food supply chains around the world. The shift to remote work increased office space vacancies... creating an opportunity to redesign spaces. Now is a good time to rethink ways to feed a growing population, especially in urban cities. We need to better adapt to supply and demand shocks.

A touch on Big Tech Algorithmic or machine-learning solutions are applied to the biggest challenge in agriculture: optimization. Artificial intelligence (AI) helps minimize food waste by figuring out the right amount of energy, water, and nutrients required to produce food. 

Bottom line With increased pressure on supply chains around the globe, rethinking traditional farming and redirecting efforts toward vertical farming (and AI) will address food security challenges and reduce waste in the future.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Big picture With social distancing mandates and divisive partisanship on the Hill, experts speculate as much as a week’s delay on election results. They need to manually count millions of mail-in ballots. And the side-effects of a delayed election are enormous. Who would act as President while we counted the winner?

Possible outcomes

  1. As the law currently states, the Speaker of the House, followed by the President Pro Tempore, would fall in succession to serve in the case of a disputed presidency. President Pelosi?
  2. BUT, Congressional elections occur every two years. That means that every single House seat will expire on Jan 3. That means if the House majority is unclear, the Speaker of the House may be disputed also.
  3. Section 3 of the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, outlined an alternative for undecided presidential elections. Basically, Congress can dub any "Person" deemed suitable for office to serve as president in the interim. That list would stretch out to Former Presidents, Secretaries of State, etc.

What it all means I know it’s become quite a partisan issue, but I truly believe our best bet is to vote at the booth and minimize mail-in ballots. It’s in the best interest of our safety, integrity and ensured continuity as a nation. Enact whatever social distancing policies we need, designate specific time slots for seniors, but make it happen. If Costco can do it, so can we.

Bottom line Given the current political climate, an election dependent on mail votes could be catastrophic.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Big Tech
  2. Profit
  3. Tech

The scoop Tech companies can use AI to compose new songs using existing datasets of music. This poses a serious threat to musicians and artists. Let's talk about it.

About the tech

  1. AIVA Technologies, based in Luxembourg, created an AI that composes music for movies, commercials, games and TV shows.
  2. OpenAI’s Jukebox allows users to generate genre-specific music. You can look up an artist and select a genre. Theoretically, it would fuse that artist with a Mississippi the selected genre.
  3. Holograms tours are becoming increasingly popular. Eventually, using AI composition tools and hologram tech, deceased artists will be able to tour new music... and it will be hard to tell the difference from a standard pop concert.
  4. VOCALOID is a voice synthesizing software that allows users to create 'virtual pop stars'. They are already widely popular in Asia.
  5. Other voice synthesizing tools allow users to imitate famous voices and spit out whatever output you'd like. Copyright law hasn't caught up to this deepfake dystopian reality, so feel free to go make Jay-Z say whatever you want.

Humans > robots ... for now At least for the foreseeable future, AI is incapable of creating music without mimicking an existing data set that originated from human innovation. Similar to the way AIVA pitched their product, Artificial Intelligence can be used to help the artist speed-up and maximize the composition process. It should be treated as a tool, not a replacement.

Zoom out There will always be a place for bipedal fleshbags in the arts. With or without AI in music. Why? Because the consumers of creation are also fleshbags, and we want to be wowed and wooed by the hairy, smelly creatures that feel and squeal just like we do.

What does this have to do with sustainability? Supporting a pro-human future (in the face of tech) is a critical component of a sustainable future. We need to develop new technologies in a way that prioritizes happiness and harmony over production and profit.

Dig deeper → 9 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

The scoop The 2020 election is just around the corner. Where do Biden and Trump stand on sustainability?

Biden's campaign website highlights that he plans to implement the key foundational elements for building a sustainable future –

  1. Comprehensive climate plan w/ emphasis on clean energy and international cooperation.
  2. Racial equity as a centerpiece for environmental justice.

Trump's campaign focuses on a short-term growth mindset of maximizing existing industries and economic growth.

  1. The decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, slashing federal funding for environmental initiatives, and weakening environmental protection acts to prop up corporations.
  2. America-first policy
  3. Lower corporate/individual taxes

Bottom line Biden’s plan for a sustainable future is pretty on point – better/more affordable housing plans, a massive Green Deal, and of course working on racial reform. Trump’s plan is to “go, go, go!”.

Dig deeper → >1 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Thinking

The scoop It's been 161 years since the US drilled oil for the first time. Let's talk about the history and future of oil, and where it fits into our plans for better planet.

Talking points

  1. We keep running out of oil and then find more.
  2. It seems like the world is moving away from oil, but the US is producing more today than ever before.
  3. Unconventional oil, which is oil that is extracted by non-traditional means, is more problematic given its more likely to use more costly and environmentally disruptive processes.
  4. If you stream videos, drive a car, or live in a colder climate, you probably use more fossil fuels than you think.
  5. To move away from oil, we need to either invest heavily in a climate plan at an institutional level (cons: more government market intervention, higher taxes) or create a marketplace where renewables are the more viable option for businesses and consumers.

Final thoughts More investment in renewables will help ‘fuel’ the transition away from oil. In the meantime, let’s get the Republican party to acknowledge climate change.

Dig deeper 2 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

The scoop With increased pressure on supply chains from COVID-19, food systems are seeing a shift toward local-purchasing. For environmental purposes, maintaining local food supplies post-pandemic will be crucial.

Support farmers markets, food hubs, and community-supported agriculture. Ride the wave toward more resilient and sustainable food systems.

Things to know

  • Large-scale and complex food systems buckled under the unpredictability and immeasurable pressures of a global pandemic
    • Millions of pounds of food products lost across the US
    • Grocery stores are dealing with food shortages
  • Consumers are shifting to purchasing locally and local farmers face an increased demand for local food
  • We need resilient and sustainable food systems even after the pandemic
  • How to support local and shop small:
    • Farmers’ Markets
    • Community Supported Agriculture Programs
    • Food Hubs

Bottom line Eating local should not be expensive or exclusive. You can buy local food based on what fits your schedule and budget. Sustainable and local food systems rely on consumer behavior.

There is no doubt a major increase in local purchasing during COVID. However, reaching sustainable development goals and building resiliency in food systems requires your action to support local farmers. Buy local.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Business
  3. Profit

The scoop A new stock exchange was approved by the SEC in 2019. It focuses on long-term sustainability. We thought it demanded more PR.

Things to know

  1. 87% of executives and directors feel most pressured to demonstrate strong financial performance within two years.
  2. If all US companies had employed long-term strategies, they would have added
    • $1 trillion to U.S. GDP
    • Five million jobs between 2001 and 2015
  3. Economic earnings for long-term firms grew on average 81% more than other firms.

Long Term Stock Exchange was founded by Eric Ries after an international tour for his NYT best-seller Lean Startup. The stock exchange uses principles-based listing standards for new companies.

Bottom line In a time in which we face unprecedented and urgent long-term problems such as climate change, racial injustice, and the threat of epidemics, it is crucial that our infrastructure supports the long-term solutions needed to tackle such complex problems.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Big Tech
  2. Profit
  3. Tech

What's happening Neuralink, a neural tech company owned by Elon Musk, is hosting a public event this Friday, August 28th. The event will feature a live demo of the innovative new technology.

What is Neuralink? The four by four millimeter chip sits in a sealed cylinder where it is inserted in the back of your head. Made up of 1,024 electrodes, the N1 works with your brain's neurons to solve neurological mysteries.

Musk believes the micro-chip will be able to solve any neurological disorder from Parkinson's to Alzheimer's.

Why it matters The technological prospects of solving neurological mysteries is fascinating and worthy of covering.

This emerging new era in the human timeline will make or break the human future, and quite possibly the natural world.

Some talking points

  1. Philosophical questions: Humans are flawed. That makes us human. If Neuralink makes our brains perfect, free of mistakes and failures, what does that world look like?
  2. Hacking: Technology is advancing faster than laws and regulations. Legal and compliance frameworks just can’t keep up. How can we safely stop hackers from entering our brains?
  3. Global inequality: When Neuralink inevitably matures into a product for convenience rather than desperation, rich kids who can afford neural chips will advance even faster beyond less-privileged peers.

Bottom line When do we take it 'too far'? Will we ever?

Let's learn the lessons of our past, and put reasonable pressure on innovative new technologies before they get too big to fail. That way we can ensure that the innovation is serving the best interest and will of the people, rather than exacerbating our greatest problems.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

What are you talking about? Plogging. AKA jogging while picking up litter. Yes, you can exercise and help the environment AT THE SAME TIME.

Pro-tips for plogging

  1. Safety: Look before you touch and use good judgment. If you suspect something may be hazardous, leave it be and notify your local township!
  2. Reycling properly: Recycle according to local laws. Most parks and rec facilities have recycling bins. Use them! If you are unsure about your local recycling policy, look up '{city/town} {state} recycling' on your favorite search engine
  3. Local clean-ups: Check your area for local clean-ups at parks, lakes, rivers and highways.
  4. Share on social: Use #plogging and post your eco-warrior efforts on social media so other people can learn about this awesome trend!

Dig deeper >1 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Land
  3. Planet
  4. Science

The scoop Pesticides promote large-scale agriculture, yet damage environmental and human health…

Risks for humans

  • At least 200,000 deaths each year.
  • Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
  • Hormone disruption, developmental disorders, sterility
  • Loss of: memory, motor skills, vision and coordination
  • Asthma, allergies, hypersensitivity

Environmental risks Traces of pesticides are found in the air, soil, and water (thus spreading far and harming wildlife including: pollinators, amphibians, birds, fish, and invertebrates). Bee colony collapse and reproductive issues are highly concerning.

What can be done? A “systemic denial fueled by the pesticide and agroindustry” keep pesticides on the market. Luckily, the UN proposes international guidelines on regulating pesticides, while promoting agroecology: a practice which combines science and local knowledge to create community-based, agricultural systems.

The UN finds that Agroecology can “feed the entire world population and ensure that they are adequately nourished.” Using agroecology, the world could be fed, and we could drop the risks that pesticides inflict!

What can I do?

  • Research your local Congressman’s stance on Pesticide Bans. Vote!
  • Grow a garden. You’ll help pollinators and enjoy pesticide-free produce.
  • Helpful resources…
    • Watch Neonicotinoids: The New DDT? free 
    • Watch: Circle of Poison
    • Read Silent Spring

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

What’s happening On Monday, the Trump administration approved drilling plans for an oil and gas leasing program in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Energy vs. Environment This is a big policy win for Republicans in a decades-long fight for energy independence. However, the South Carolina-sized refuge has never been used for oil extraction and for good reason.

The pristine land, made up of a biodiverse plant and wildlife population, deserves protection now more than ever. America is already oil-abundant. We don't need more drilling.

So we are oil rich, why the move? Short answer: $$$$. Oil companies drilling on federal lands get a break on royalties.

Threat to Gwich’in people Gwich’in leaders are vocal about their fight against drilling in the coastal plains of ANWR. The Gwich’in people have lived in the ANWR for over a millenia.

What can you do

  1. You can sign a petition, available at the bottom of this article.
  2. Alaskans can vote in the upcoming Senatorial race; the incumbent candidate supports ANWR drilling.

Dig deeper → 1 min

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

Veep nominee Harris Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate this week. She is the first woman of color to sit on a national ticket.

What to know After dropping out before the first primary, Kamala Harris has been working with other prominent Democrats to push several new climate bills with a concentration on matters of justice.

Call it what you want, but most political pundits point to Kamala's identity as a woman of color as the main reason for the Democratic Party's, I mean, Biden's strategic selection.

One big thing One of the more interesting prospects of a Biden-Harris ticket is the reemergence of 2015 Paris Agreement. As it stands today, the US will formally quit the Paris Agreement on 4 November, 2020, the day after the election.

My take on Paris I'm not convinced (and neither are some experts) that an international agreement is the answer to climate action without true compliance. What holds nations accountable for these commitments?

As the US-China economic race continues, the Paris Agreement would become more of a cat-and-mouse due to the associated costs of energy reduction than an actual solution.

A Biden-Harris ticket through the lens of climate:

  1. New legislation committed to environmental justice
  2. A series of executive orders designed to build a clean economy; there will be ambitious targets for 2025.
  3. A proposal to make a $1.7 trillion federal investment into climate resilience over the next 10 years.
  4. New efforts toward climate diplomacy/increased cooperation with other nations, traditional allies.
  5. More stringent environmental regulation, increase environmental standards for infrastructure projects.

Bottom line Neither Biden or Harris are climate experts. Their careers were not built on climate activism. However, they are concerned about these critical issues and will hire a team of dedicated experts.

Americans want purpose not perfection. In a candidate, I think everyday voters are looking for public consideration, personal accountability, and the ability to get shit done.

Dig deeper 5 min

  1. Lifestyle
  2. People
  3. Thinking

What to know Michael Moore’s 'Planet of the Humans' criticizes the green energy movement. It was met with outrage from the environmental community. The movie was re-released after a copyright infringement for free viewing on June 5th.

The film's argument 'Planet of the Humans' argues that

  1. Green energy does not have the capability to save the planet from a climate crisis.
  2. Leading environmental organizations’ motives are muddied by ties to the fossil fuel industry.

The critics Environmentalist Josh Fox and others rebuked the film for its inaccuracies. Most of the footage is from 5-15 years ago, and information about solar and wind technology is also stuck in that time period. Despite this, the footage is misleadingly not marked with dates.

Zoom out It is true that green energy technology can be poorly implemented, but this does not mean that green energy as a whole is useless, as the film suggests. In the words of Fox, “to attack the basic premise that renewable energy works is patently absurd.”

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Planet
  3. Tech
  4. Water

What's the situation? A stricken ship has leaked over 1,000 tons of oil over the coast of Mauritius. Experts fear that the ship may soon break in half, which could have devastating effects on the surrounding environment.

How did it happen? It is believed that harsh weather conditions caused the leak.

Who caused it? The cracked vessel, MV Wakashio, is operated by the Japanese Mitsui OSK Lines.

More facts The spill occurred near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems, as well as the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve. There are also mangrove plantations and well-known beaches nearby.

Threatened birds, captive fruit bats, and thousands of plants were removed from a nearby island, Ile aux Aigrettes by conservation activists.

Using technology to mitigate spills Human error is the leading cause for maritime accidents.

By integrating AI into the complicated world of global transportation, we can reduce and possibly even eliminate the risks associated with long-distance, heavy-duty shipping routes.

AI can…

  • Use predictive analysis to prevent spills
  • Expedite response-time
  • Mitigate risks for clean-up efforts

Bottom line Using AI in shipping and clean-ups lessens the risk of future spills, and reduces the impact of existing disasters.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Doing
  3. Lifestyle
  4. People
  1. Capture: This app helps you measure your carbon footprint
  2. RecycleCoach: Become a better recycler using this app!
  3. Buycott: Become a smarter and more conscious consumer using this app
  4. Waze: Use this app to find alternate routes and save money and gas, while reducing the environmental impact of your commute!
  5. PaperKarma: Track and cut paper waste by stopping junk mail using this app.
  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

Good stuff to know Under normal circumstances, NEPA sets a hard, but simple line for federal action on construction projects. Before the government can move ahead with a proposed project, it must:

  • Determine the future environmental impact of the project
  • Alert the public of its plans
  • Consult other alternatives to the proposal
  • Invite public commentary

The court ruling NEPA applies to 'major federal actions,' and courts have recently interpreted this term broadly.

What it means The Trump administration may pick and choose which of its projects count as 'major federal actions'. Discretion on a project’s classification lies with the agencies overseeing its completion.

Now, 'cumulative” and “indirect' effects are no longer required for agencies’ consideration. With that, NEPA maintains that decisions must “make sense for tomorrow as well as today.”

Bottom line This broad interpretation of NEPA eviscerates two of the most important protections of the act.

Civil rights lawyers and community activists are now joining forces to defeat the deafening blow to communities of color in the latest series of Trumpian environmental rollbacks.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit

What to know American aluminum can suppliers are experiencing a shortage. Unpredictable consumer behavior and increased demand led suppliers to miss production levels and now beverage brands must scramble to compete for what's left.

Why it matters The overall shift from single-use plastics has also led major drink makers to shift from plastic bottles to aluminum cans. And while aluminum cans don't last in the atmosphere forever, they still can have damning effects on waste management. We are living in a world where China doesn't want our trash anymore, and recyclable aluminum cans are more of a band-aid solution of a larger problem.

The silver lining Consider it a stress test. With real-world examples about the fragility of our global system in place, we can now create applicable solutions outside the classroom.

Key recommendations for the shortage

  1. Brands can adapt by providing bulk alternatives to the traditional 12 oz can.
  2. Brands can also educate consumers on the label about the importance of maintaining a can's shape for recycling purposes. I was a beer can crusher in college, and I had no clue that crushing a beer can would make it near impossible to recycle.
  3. To consumer, do you love beer? Me too. Go to your local brewery, and fill up a growler. You can fill up a lot of beer for a great price, straight from the tap. You can support a local business, and the beer tastes fantastic if you pick the right brewer. There are more quality independent breweries out there today than ever before.

Dig deeper → 1 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

What to Know

  • The House and Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) in a bipartisan agreement
  • The GAOA accomplishes two goals.
    1. $9 billion for deferred maintenance
    2. Guaranteed $900 million annually in perpetuity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • The fund also supports the National Parks Service, Forest Service, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education

Why it Matters

  • The GAOA will help maintain NPS lands that have been loved to death with a 50% increase in visitor rate since the 1980’s
  • Conservation does not have to be a partisan issue. The passing of GAOA demonstrates room for common ground when it comes to environmental protection

Dig deeper → <1 min

  1. Energy
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Planet
  4. Science

How it works

  • When microorganisms (e.g.bacteria) break down organic matter like manure and food waste anaerobically (without oxygen), biogas is released. Bio gas consists primarily of carbon dioxide and methane - one of the primary components of natural gas.
  • Farmers place animal manure, food waste and agricultural waste in an anaerobic digester with a pipe to extract the gas.
  • The solid byproduct is used as livestock bedding, soil amendments or in biodegradable planting pots, and the liquid byproduct is a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Benefits of Biogas-based Energy

  1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodigesters divert carbon dioxide and methane that would normally be released into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm can be reduced by 35% when biogas-based electricity replaces grid-based electricity.
  2. Cost savings. On-site biodigesters help farmers save on electricity bills and fertilizer. A farmer told The Washington Post that he saved anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 a year on electricity, heating, fertilizer, and animal bedding with a biodigester.
  3. Renewable. Biogas is generally considered renewable as it is produced by animal and plant waste and the source is not limited in quantity like coal or natural gas.

Bottom Line

  • Biogas generation is becoming increasingly popular. From 2000 to 2020, the number of operational anaerobic digesters in the United States has grown from 24 to 255.
  • Biogas is a popular mode of energy production in India and China, which have 4.54 million and 27 million biogas plants respectively.
  • As the world divests from fossil fuels, new and varied energy sources will be necessary to satisfy the energy needs of the world and biogas can help. Biogas just goes to show you that not all waste is useless. One cow’s waste is another man’s treasure.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

Hot take The Zero Waste movement is failing.

Some key talking points

1. Barrier to entry The environmental movement has struggled with inclusivity and accessibility since its inception. Geographic location can heavily impact one’s ability to practice zero waste.

Bulk food stores, farmers markets and zero-waste shops sprout up in trendy metropolitan cities like San Francisco, but are rarely sighted in rural towns.

2. Trendy products = more consumption Pressure on companies to be more sustainable is seemingly a victory for environmentalists. However, as consumer-centric businesses seize upon Zero Waste trends, the advertising has paradoxically become about consuming more, rather than less (there are exceptions).

Alternatives to Zero Waste

  • Diet Reducing consumption is largely considered the single most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. Second to that is purchasing local foods and unprocessed foods.
  • Transportation Reduce reliance on car and air travel. Use public transportation, or bike. Or, you can never leave your house again because... covid.
  • Fast Fashion Avoid the incredible footprint of fast fashion. Buy second hand, stay informed. Unlearn the tendency to purchase quantity over quality.
  • Activism The climate crisis was caused by individual consumers. To change what you can’t directly control, become involved in activism. Looking for a place to start? Try Fridays For Future or Sunrise Movement.

Proposal Instead of the Zero Waste movement, let’s call it the Low Impact movement. Names are powerful, and not only is this phrasing more attainable, it is less self-righteous and exclusionary.

This is a beautiful movement that has lost its authenticity. The more genuine we can make it, the more impactful and widespread it will become.

Dig deeper → 7 min

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

Big picture Two-thirds of Americans believe the US government must act more urgently to slow global warming. As November's presidential election nears, climate change policy will likely earn a top-ten spot in debate topics.

What to know

  • 63% of Americans feel as if climate change is directly or indirectly affecting their communities and livelihoods.
  • 65% believe the federal government is not doing enough to combat climate change.
  • 79% of respondents advise federal investment in alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.

Politics politics politics

  • Democrats have increased their awareness of the dangers of climate change by 27% since 2009.
  • Republicans and Republican-leaning voters developed only a 6% greater consciousness of climate change.
  • Partisanship seems to color most people's views about local climate change effects more than anything else.
  • Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say climate change impacts their local community.
  • Moderate-liberal Republican and Republican-leaning voters acknowledge the local impacts of climate change more frequently than their more conservative counterparts.

Bottom line Come November, policy differences between the presidential candidates on climate change will become abundantly clear. Political analysts will have to examine what level of influence climate will have over election results.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People

The problem with food waste

  • 30% of all food in the US is thrown out (UN Environment)
  • Food waste is often incinerated, which causes pollution... instead of feeding hungry mouths, or nourishing soil as compost. 
  • Food waste harms the environment, which is already stressed by food production’s demand for land, water, and the associated release of greenhouse gas emissions.

What you can do

  1. Plan meals ahead of time
  2. Use leftovers creatively, in multiple ways
  3. Shop responsibly, with a purpose
  4. Store food intelligently; don't let it go bad too soon
  5. Support local initiatives, there are good-neighbor ways to help

Bottom line As individuals, we can reduce the environmental consequences of food waste by making simple adjustments to our food habits. Cultivating awareness around food waste will help us work towards a more sustainable food system.

Dig deeper → 4 min

  1. Better Brands
  2. Better Business
  3. Business
  4. Profit

The scoop As consumer goods go green, PepsiCo announced last week its plan to further develop and scale the world’s first recyclable paper bottle.

Paper bottles PepsiCo will begin testing on the new paper bottle in 2021. The bottle is made from sustainably sourced pulp to meet food-safe standards and is designed to be fully recyclable in standard waste streams.

Bottom line

  • We need innovation and ambition in the food & beverage space, this is a good place to start
  • Limiting the amount of waste in the ocean is always a win, but Pepsi still has a long way to go
  • Organizations are building new, innovative ways to clean up Pepsi’s mess.
  • This is definitely a bit of greenwashing
    • The announcement calls for R&D testing in 2021, so we may not see paper bottles on the shelf for some time.
    • Furthermore, Pepsi did not elaborate on its major paper proposal’s inevitable impact on trees.
    • Will there be ecological offsets for the increased production of PepsiCo recyclable paper bottles?

Dig deeper → >1 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Better Markets
  3. Business
  4. Profit

The scoop BlackRock’s Larry Fink warns CEOs that the risks associated with climate change will compromise returns without reallocation of capitol, calling for potentially the biggest divestment in finance history.

Why it matters BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, pledges to divest from fossil fuels and coal, increase investment transparency, and promote firm accountability throughout their sustainable transition.

Bottom line Though his letter is a step in the right direction, it merely foreshadows the significant changes yet to come. Executives will either embrace innovation today or be overshadowed by forward-thinking leaders.

Dig deeper → 3 min

  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit

How it stands

  • Companies frequently implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs (which include sustainability initiatives) in order to improve their image in the eyes of investors and customers, which in turn boosts profits.
  • But it is unclear if CSR programs actually make the world a better place
  • Most of the information about a company’s environmental footprint is only available through the company itself, presenting an obstacle to objective evaluation.

Examples

  • Coca-Cola claims to have reduced the water footprint of their drinks. But their calculations do not include the water used in the supply chain that provides the ingredients and packaging for the final product.
  • CSR programs (like Coca-Cola’s) often use offsets which instead of conserving limited resources lead to increased consumption.
  • Unilever claims to use a scientific approach to sustainability, trying to reduce their own emissions instead of investing in offsets for carbon neutrality.
  • More recently, Unilever announced the addition of carbon footprint labels on all products to increase transparency.

Bottom line

  • While the effectiveness of corporate sustainability programs is mixed, the fact that sustainability is on their radar and part of their marketing strategy is a big step forward. 
  • Don’t take everything you hear at face value. Take a deep dive into a company’s sustainability practices and decide for yourself.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Energy and Environment
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
  4. Thinking

The scoop Market research firm JD Power released a new index based on environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Key findings

  • Consumer awareness and engagement with utility climate initiatives are very low
  • Most concerned cities: NYC, LA and Portland are most concerned cities on climate change
  • Climate change skeptics: Wyoming and Alabama have the largest percentages of climate change skeptics
  • Business customers more engaged in sustainability than residential customers

Why it matters Sustainability has a communication and education problem. Companies in traditional industries like electricity need to adapt marketing initiatives to match 21st century tools, and communicate better with consumers.

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Climate Change
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Planet
  5. Politics and Policy

What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.

The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.

The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.

After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.

Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.

Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.

Dig deeper --> 3 min

  1. Doing
  2. Good Reads
  3. Lifestyle
  4. People
  5. Thinking

What is environmental racism? Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate burden on minority neighborhoods from  air and water borne hazards that impact their quality of life and health outcomes.

Rooted in racial discrimination and a lack of political power and voice, environmental racism continues to drive the systemic segregation of minority communities.

Impact Overwhelmingly, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities bear the burden of environmental racism.

Limited by government and industrial policies, minority communities are compromised by poor environmental quality as well as a lack of opportunities for social mobility and jobs, thereby segregating minority groups from their white counterparts.

For example, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race continues to be the most pertinent predictor of the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities in America.

Bottom line People of color will continue to suffer from a disproportionate number of health-related issues due to environmental racism unless serious attention and action is brought to the environmental justice movement, which advocates for healthy, sustainable, and livable communities.

Now is the time for communities to demand state and federal accountability and mobilize to raise the political capital of neighboring minority communities.

Dig deeper → 8 min

  1. Cities and Communities
  2. Federal
  3. People
  4. Politics and Policy

The Scoop Two new cases in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. add to the growing body of lawsuits trying to hold Big Oil accountable for deliberately concealing their role in harming environmental and human health. 

Breaking down the lawsuits

  • Minnesota’s Attorney General (AG) is suing Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute for violating Minnesota laws against consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, and false advertising. The lawsuit claims that oil and gas companies were aware of the environmental and health effects of their products as far back as the 1970s and 80s, but launched a “campaign of deception.”
  • Washington D.C.’s AG similarly is suing ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell for “systematically and intentionally misl[eading] consumers in Washington, D.C. about the central role their products play in causing climate change.” in violation of Washington D.C.’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

Why it matters By charging Big Oil with consumer fraud, Minnesota and Washington D.C.’s cases closely resemble lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the 1990s which charged Big Tobacco with suppressing evidence for the dangers of smoking and misleading the public. With the clear similarities between these cases, there is hope for similar verdicts; including, heavy penalties (up to $6.5 billion) that could fund climate change resiliency programs.

Dig deeper → 5 min

  1. Federal
  2. People
  3. Politics and Policy

The scoop In June 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled a 547-page, sweeping climate plan that aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and net-negative emissions thereafter. 

Why it matters The plan seeks to uplift Americans and support front-line and low-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. Driven by science and economics, it also centers around environmental justice, with an opening paragraph alluding to the passing of George Floyd.

Bottom line The report is the most ambitious proposal to combat climate change we've seen from Democrats. Energy Innovation, an independent policy modeling company, projects that the plan would achieve a 37% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2048. If implemented, it would also save 62,000 lives annually by 2050 and $8 trillion in health and climate costs.

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  1. Better Business
  2. Business
  3. Profit

The billion-dollar banana maker announced an ambitious plan to eliminate fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025, and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Dole's plan Turn food waste into repurposed solutions like...

  1. Pineapple skin packaging
  2. New snacks made from rejected fruit
  3. Facilities powered by food waste converted into electricity.

What to expect Other major food producers will respond. The goal-setting sustainability trend continues, and only time will tell whether R&D goal-making converts into tangible results.

In the meantime, you can feel a little bit better about your next purchase of a Nicaraguan-born Dole banana.

Dig deeper --> 1 min

  1. Climate Change
  2. Energy and Environment
  3. Land
  4. Planet
  5. Science

What to know

  • Over 332 active fires are burning over 1.6 million hectares of land in Siberia
  • Parts of the Arctic Circle have been burning since July 2019
  • These wildfires originated from a combination of natural causes including temperatures reaching 30 ℃, wind, and dry thunderstorms
  • The cost-benefit ratio of saving these ecosystems indicates that Siberia should let the wildfires burn until rain comes because most of them are not directly endangering civilization
  • These fires are so humongous their smoke blew across the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea to reach Oregon, Alaska, and Canada

Key Takeaway

  • Wildfires are destroying valuable ecosystems in the Arctic Circle
  • High temperatures melted the permafrost early, releasing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapped underneath and contributing to climate change
  • Temperatures in the Arctic Circle reached record highs within the past six months, only exacerbating the fires
  • Human-caused climate change intensified these fires in a variety of ways
  • We must act on climate change before other extreme weather events begin to seriously affect a greater number of humans

Dig deeper → 2 min

  1. Better Markets
  2. Energy
  3. Energy and Environment
  4. Planet

The scoop The price of crude oil plummeted following the outbreak of the novel COVID-19. As 2020 began, Brent crude oil - the global oil benchmark - cost $64/barrel. By April 21st, 2020, the price had dropped to $17/barrel. What happened? 

Future of Oil

  • The volatility and steep decline in oil prices may lead some producers to shut down operations. Shale oil extraction pioneer Chesapeake Energy recently declared bankruptcy. Many oil giants are delaying expansion projects.
  • Investors are now less inclined to invest in oil & gas --  lower prices = greater risk, less profit. Energy was the worst performing sector in the S&P 500 index for four out of the last six years.

Environmental impact Climate awareness already poses a threat to Big Oil. With this economic crisis, investors might turn to renewable energy. Renewables are more price stable, cheap, and cost-competitive, even during low prices of oil.

Bottom line It’s impossible to predict the future. Big Oil will certainly survive the pandemic, but its century-long domination of energy may soon end. One thing’s for sure -- clean technology has a strong outlook, and can certainly give oil and gas companies a run for their money. Not only from its greenness, but also in its economics.

Dig deeper → 3 min