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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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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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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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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