The current tradition:
- 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/
- 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.
- 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:
- If you're going to buy a pumpkin, eat it (or let the squirrels eat it).
- Reuse, create or thrift a costume.
- 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
The scoop: The world uses a lot of materials to produce a lot of waste.
By the numbers:
- Asia accounts for 60% of mineral extraction and 67% of freshwater use.
- The world disperses 28.7 billion tons of fossil fuels and biomass energy.
- Europe, Asia and N. America account for 78% of fossil fuel output.
- It takes <resources to produce >materials.
- A lot of freshwater, an increasingly scarce resource, turns into wastewater every year.
- 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.
The scoop: China made an announcement to the UN with plans to go carbon neutral by 2060.
What to know:
- China is the number one carbon emitter in the world, with more carbon emissions thn the US and Europe combined.
- China is still investing heavily in coal-powered plants through 2020, de-legitimizing the carbon pledge.
- 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
Big picture: 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 abstract. It also gets all of the news coverage. In reality, ecological issues like deforestation and hunting play a significant role in the environment. These are tangible issues that we can fix before investing billions into an more abstract threat like climate change. Most of that money pours into clean energy while critical wildlife face extinction from other causes.
Sustainable suggestion: We need to approach the climate conversation in a way that works cooperatively with intersecting threats like wildfire risk mitigation or ecological restoration, not against them.
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. Let's stop doing that.
Bottom line: Climate change is important, and intersects with basically every ecological issue. But that behemoth threat will be much easier to manage if we can start knocking off the little guys that we can see, touch and feel. That would call for better farming, less hunting/finishing, more land protection in sensitive areas, and less logging.
Dig deeper → 3 min
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
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.
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.
- We keep running out of oil and then find more.
- It seems like the world is moving away from oil, but the US is producing more today than ever before.
- 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.
- If you stream videos, drive a car, or live in a colder climate, you probably use more fossil fuels than you think.
- 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
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
- Green energy does not have the capability to save the planet from a climate crisis.
- 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
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
The scoop Market research firm JD Power released a new index based on environmental, social and governance (ESG).
- 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