Jared Wolf's articles

  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  • outdated sewage systems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. 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. 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
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
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
  2. Lifestyle
  3. People
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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
  2. Business
  3. Profit
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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

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