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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

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  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.
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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

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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

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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

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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

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What’s the matter: Greenhouse gas emissions fell sharply with COVID-19 lockdowns, but as governments ease restrictions, emissions are rebounding faster than expected. It begs the question: if a global pandemic can’t meaningfully cut emissions, what can?

By the numbers

  • Of the nearly $12 trillion committed by the world’s 50 largest economies to the coronavirus recovery, “only about $18 billion has been targeted at post-carbon economic priorities such as developing renewable energy or incentivizing clean industry.”
  • To achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold targeted by the Paris Agreement in 2015, we would need to cut emissions by at least 7% every year indefinitely

Next Steps: As we wrote about earlier this month, Europe has proposed an $826 billion green COVID-19 recovery plan. But the rest of the developed world, especially America, is still thinking brown. COVID-19 makes it clear that individual action will not be enough to fix the climate crisis. We need major structural changes at the governmental (and multinational) level to move forward.

→ Dig deeper (3 min. read)

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Hot take music festivals need sustainability now more than ever.

What’s the matter The music industry is an integral part of society, but it has some catching up to do in the world of sustainability. With constant traveling, waste production and energy demands, tours and festivals carry a heavy environmental impact.

By the numbers

  • A UK study found that in 2015, five artists collectively generated 19,314 kilograms of CO2 emissions between April and September (the equivalent of 1 million people’s CO2 emission per year)
  • Tours can go through 18,720 plastic bottles a year

Bottom line While touring and festivals may be environmentally harmful now, there are many potential solutions for eliminating single-use plastics, utilizing biodiesel in transportation, recycling batteries, sourcing merchandise made from organic materials, promoting carpooling to the event, and educating fans.

Dig deeper → 2 min

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How it stands

  • An estimated 45-70% of clothing donated in Western countries (US, UK, Germany) enters the global used clothing trade.
  • Clothing is sold to traders in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda) and ends up in used clothing markets in cities, towns and villages.

Background

  • Starting in 1980, economic liberalization (i.e. reforms to open their borders to international trade) in Sub-Saharan Africa caused domestic manufacturing to decline and increased demand for imported, cheap, used clothing to the region. 
  • The used clothing trade is a lucrative profession for those with limited job prospects. A used clothing trader in Nairobi can make up to 1000 shillings a day ($9 USD), 10 times the prevailing wage.
  • In 2016, the East Africa Community (EAC)  - an intergovernmental organization of six East African countries - decided to ban all imports of used clothing by 2019 to boost local manufacturing and create employment opportunities. The effects of this ban are unclear.

What can we do

  • The problems plaguing the Sub-Saharan African textile industry are complicated to say the least. Limiting the used clothing trade is not enough to reinvigorate manufacturing.
  • Dominant trends like fast fashion encourage consumers to buy new and improved products and discard the old ones at the expense of manufacturing economies in developing nations. Next time you go to donate those old T-shirts, carefully consider the downstream impacts. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.

Dig deeper → 3 min

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What’s the sitch? For all the innovations we have today, access to quality food is still a critical issue across the globe. Food disparity is driven by a number of factors, such as income inequality and local production levels.

Big picture The barriers that prevent many people from eating healthier are interconnected with race, inequality, and systemic biases embedded in our society. Race, education, careers, income, and housing all play a role in determining food access.

Why it matters Overcoming system inefficiencies like excessive subsidies for meat production helps to lower barriers to healthier foods but it will take a national and global effort to completely eradicate systemic inequalities.

Dig deeper → 1 min

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