How to support environmental justice

July 8, 2020 by  
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When most of us think about the environment, we tend to conjure certain images. Clean waterways and national parks full of trees or wildlife come to mind, especially since environmental news often focuses on polar ice caps melting in the Arctic, deforestation in the Amazon and animals close to extinction. How often, however, do we think about the human communities in our own backyard and where we fit into environmental issues? When climate change doesn’t seem to affect you directly, it can be easy to overlook. This is where environmental justice comes in. What is environmental justice? The United States  Environmental Protection Agency  defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” This goal will become reality “when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” This intersection between environmentalism and social justice forms an important branch of activism that focuses on people’s right to live safely without environmental hazards. Related: 5 growing environmental nonprofits to support in 2020 Concerns linked to hazardous  waste  sites, failing infrastructure and money-saving policy changes in vulnerable communities continue to plague the environment and the humans who live there. Low-income communities and communities of color are especially at risk; think Flint, Michigan, when a 2014 policy change led to at least 100,000 people losing access to clean water. Additional examples of environmental injustice remain plentiful. Low-income communities are more likely than the overall population to be affected by climate change threats (such as flooding), due to inadequate housing. A 2018  study  by the Environmental Protection Agency also found that  air polluting  facilities burdened Black communities at a rate 1.54 times higher than the overall population. Throughout the country, there are even neighborhoods without access to healthy food, and communities with toxic waterways and soil due to oil and gas extraction. How to help All of these environmental injustices can be daunting, but there are ways to help. Especially with  social media , something as simple as raising awareness of an issue can have a lasting effect. You can also show your support by getting involved with or donating to environmental justice  non-profits . One of the best ways to help is by backing socially-equal conservation policies and the organizations or politicians supporting them.  WE ACT  is an organization that helps low-income communities of color fight harmful environmental policies while participating in the creation of fair environmental policies.  Green For All  works to uplift the voices of low-income communities and people of color in the climate justice movement and fights to build a green economy that lifts people out of poverty. The NAACP also has an  Environmental and Climate Justice Program  to support community leadership in addressing environmental injustice and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities. Take the time to challenge unjust laws and violations of environmental policies in marginalized communities, too.  EarthJustice  believes that law is the most powerful tool for environmental change. The non-profit public interest environmental law organization supports an experienced legal team that represents their clients from small towns to large organizations (for free) in the fight against environmental injustice. Environmental justice work doesn’t stop there Indigenous communities are also disproportionately exposed to environmental contaminants, often due to federal and state laws that make it easier for extractive and polluting facilities to access tribal lands. A 2012  study  even found that Indigenous American communities face disproportionate health burdens and environmental health risks compared with the average North American population. Organizations like  Cultural Survival , which works to advance the rights and cultures of Indigenous people, and the  Indigenous Environmental Network , an alliance of Indigenous peoples who fight to address environmental and economic justice issues, help educate and empower Indigenous people while raising awareness for their environmental protection. Other facets of the environment, such as the  agricultural  sector, also experience injustice.  The National Black Farmers Association  is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the U.S., focusing on issues such as civil rights, land retention, education, agricultural training and rural economic development. A new generation leading the way Especially in recent years, with young leaders addressing the environmental tolls that harmful practices reap upon the planet, several organizations for young people have made tremendous strides in environmental justice.  The Sunrise Movement , a youth-led organization, advocates for political action on climate change and works to help elect leaders who stand up for the health and equal wellbeing of all people. Similarly, the  Power Shift Network  mobilizes the collective power of young people to fight against environmental racism by stopping dirty energy projects and campaigning to divest from  fossil fuels . Images via Pexels

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How to support environmental justice

DIVAK sunglasses protect your eyes and the planet

July 8, 2020 by  
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DIVAK is one company that believes that protecting your eyes can also mean protecting the planet. With new-to-the-market, wood-framed sunglasses , there’s no need to make a choice between the two. DIVAK sunglasses are the product of a partnership made in Bulgaria between Kiril, who worked as an online marketing specialist, and Ivo, a wood specialist who spent years making sunglasses for fun. More than simply protective eyewear, DIVAK sunglasses are made with the very specific goal of honoring nature during the design and manufacturing process. To meet this goal, the duo developed a process of turning wood into a fashion statement. The resulting sunglasses are eco-friendly, ultra-strong and made of real wood . Related: Sustainably sourced sunglasses built to last a lifetime rather than a season Relying on natural materials was important to the DIVAK team, so it selected birch wood, a natural, biodegradable and renewable resource. The company also uses only non-toxic glue and recyclable materials for the other components of the sunglasses. As an added show of its commitment to nature, DIVAK will plant five trees into the wilds of Bulgaria for every pair of sunglasses purchased. Handcrafted to enhance the wooden texture, the sunglasses are made using an eight-step process that makes the wood look rich and elegant and highlights the grain for an individual look to each pair. To further the quality of construction, DIVAK lenses are made with high-quality German triacetate. The polarized lenses offer UV 400 protection and are pressure-, impact- and water-resistant. DIVAK sunglasses come in two universal designs: The Tribal model comes in both large and small sizes, while the Cat Eye model features a more rounded appearance and is offered in one standard size. No matter the style , each pair is accompanied by a matching wooden case. To encourage a full circle of sustainable practices, the company will send free replacement parts if a frame or temple breaks, and it also encourages customers to return old DIVAK sunglasses. DIVAK will dismantle the sunglasses, keep parts that can be used again and recycle the other pieces. Plus, it offers a 50% discount on the next pair. The company’s Kickstarter campaign was a raging success, earning $14,571 of a $5,000 goal with 194 backers. Now fully funded, the team has moved into production and is working through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure shipments to its backers. DIVAK is accepting additional pre-orders, too. + DIVAK Images via DIVAK

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DIVAK sunglasses protect your eyes and the planet

Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

May 5, 2020 by  
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While your home energy bill may have increased while you shelter in place, the planet’s overall energy use has taken a significant downturn. According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first quarter report, global carbon emissions could be down by 8% this year, the biggest drop the agency has ever seen. In the first quarter of 2020, global energy demand decreased by 3.8%, thanks in large part to lockdowns in Europe and North America. The report collected data for 30 countries from January 1 through April 14. The analysis concluded that countries in full lockdown averaged a 25% weekly decline in energy demand, while countries in partial lockdown averaged 18%. While your own energy bill probably won’t reflect this trend, reductions in energy use by industrial and commercial concerns far outweigh upticks in residential demand. “For weeks, the shape of demand resembled that of a prolonged Sunday,” the report said. In short, the longer and more stringent the lockdown, the better for Earth’s atmosphere. Related: 6 ways to save energy while sheltering in place “This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a press release. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.” Global coal demand fell by nearly 8% compared with 2019’s first quarter. Analysts attributed this to a mild winter, the growth in renewable energy sources and the pandemic’s hard hit on China’s coal-based economy. Oil demand was also down, falling nearly 5%. The extreme aviation slowdown accounted for much of the oil decline, paired with global road transport activity dropping by half. “Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Birol said. “And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve. But governments can learn from that experience by putting clean energy technologies — renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture — at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.” + International Energy Agency Image via Marcin Jozwiak

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Greenhouse gas emissions expected to hit record decline

January 2020 was the hottest January on record

February 14, 2020 by  
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Citing 141 years of records, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has called last month the hottest January of all, to date. Meanwhile, the 10 warmest January temperatures all took place this century, since 2002, highlighting the accelerated climate crisis . Typically, the first month of the year is the coldest. But recent recordings reveal significantly warmer average temperatures. As NOAA reported, “January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average.” Related: Antarctica reaches record high temperature NOAA also found that “The January global land and ocean surface temperature was the highest on record at 2.05 degrees F (1.14 degrees C) above the 20th-century average. This surpassed the record set in January 2016 by 0.04 of a degree F (0.02 of a degree C).” Last month registered 2.70 degrees F above average for the Northern Hemisphere, while the Southern Hemisphere docked at 1.40 degrees F above average. This was closely tied to a considerable lack of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. Yet another worrisome trend is that both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice coverage were significantly diminished. According to NASA, 97% of publishing climate scientists recognize human activity as the culprit in the alarming uptick of global temperatures — specifically the burning of fossil fuels , the misuse of land by logging and animal husbandry for the meat industry — all of which increase concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. These runaway global temperatures have had far-reaching repercussions, such as creating climate extremes, unpredictable precipitation, retreating glaciers, sea level rise , ecosystem imbalances and endangerment of many flora and fauna. If left unmitigated, the climate crisis will start to adversely affect humans further by disrupting food supplies, causing property damage, burdening economies, inciting population displacement and compounding the magnitude of public health issues. + NOAA + NASA Image via Angie Agostino

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January 2020 was the hottest January on record

A locally led move toward microgrids in Puerto Rico

September 25, 2019 by  
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The shift can promote energy equity, foster local ownership and avoid expensive and polluting investments in fossil fuels.

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A locally led move toward microgrids in Puerto Rico

Beautiful, solar-powered EV charging stations promise to charge a vehicle in 15 minutes

June 21, 2019 by  
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Copenhagen-based architectural firm COBE has just unveiled what are possibly the most beautiful and sustainable electric vehicle charging stations in the world. Built entirely from recyclable materials and powered by solar energy, these ultra-fast charging stations not only recharge a vehicle in just 15 minutes but also offer drivers a welcoming place to rest and relax. The first COBE-designed EV charging station was installed on the E20 motorway in the Danish city of Fredericia, with 47 more planned along Scandinavian highways: seven more in Denmark, 20 in Sweden and 20 in Norway. Created in partnership with Powered by E.ON Drive & Clever, the COBE-designed EV charging station consists of a series of “trees” made primarily from certified wood. The tree-inspired structures feature a canopy that provides shade and protection from the elements, while also providing space for a green roof and solar panels. The modular structures are scalable so that multiple “tree” structures can be combined into a “grove.” The Fredericia charging station features a “grove” of 12 “trees” with a 400-square-meter canopy. The Danish Society for Nature Conservation helped select the plantings that surround the charging station to enhance biodiversity and create a calming, “zen-like” atmosphere radically different from a traditional gas station setting. Related: World’s first electric road that charges moving vehicles debuts in Sweden “ Electric vehicles are the way of the future,” said Dan Stubbergaard, architect and founder of COBE. “With our design, we offer EV drivers a time-out and an opportunity to mentally recharge in a green oasis. The energy and the technology are green, so we wanted the architecture, the materials and the concept to reflect that. So, we designed a charging station in sustainable materials placed in a clean, calm setting with trees and plantings that offer people a dose of mindfulness on the highway.” The firm’s design of the ultra-fast EV charging station won the infrastructure award of the 2018 Danish Building Awards and is being implemented across Scandinavia with support from EU Commission projects Connecting Europe Facility and High Speed Electric Mobility Across Europe. + COBE Images via COBE and Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

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Australia will not reach its carbon reduction targets by 2030, claims new study

February 5, 2019 by  
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An international group called the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a damaging report on Australia’s energy policies, placing doubts that the government will reach its carbon reduction targets by 2030. Australia previously agreed to cut carbon emissions by around 26 percent by the year 2030. Although the country will likely reach the carbon goals it set by 2020, the OECD claims they will not hit their target in 2030. “The country will fall short of its 2030 emissions target without a major effort to move to a low-carbon model,” the report explained. “Australia should consider pricing carbon emissions more effectively and doing more to integrate renewables into the electricity sector.” The OECD is an international organization comprised of 36 countries that aims to encourage sustainable economic growth. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the group’s climate study contends that Australia is unique in that its greenhouse gases have actually increased over the past 10 years. Related: Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline The group also contends that Australia is far from reaching any of its emissions goals by the target date of 2030. The report suggested that Australia should price emissions better and incorporate more renewable energy sources into its long-term plans. Although Australia has an uphill battle if it wants to meet its goals by 2030, it has made some progress over the past few years. This includes using more natural gas instead of coal and relying more on renewable energy sources for electricity. Unfortunately, these efforts have done little to curb the rise in carbon emissions . Despite lowering its reliance on coal, Australia still uses non-renewable energy sources for most of its electricity. The government also supports the consumption of certain fossil fuels, which contribute greatly to carbon emissions throughout the country. That said, use of renewable energy sources is on the rise, which is definitely a good sign. In response to the negative report, Australia’s Environment Minister, Melissa Price, claims that the country is on pace to meet its carbon goals by the year 2030. Even if the current policies are not enough to reduce carbon by 26 percent, the fact that they are scalable has Price convinced that the goal will eventually be met. Via Sydney Morning Herald Image via Shutterstock

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Australia will not reach its carbon reduction targets by 2030, claims new study

9 corporate venture funds shaping clean energy innovation

November 8, 2018 by  
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Big utilities and fossil fuels giants are taking a more active interest in innovation.

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DNC votes to ban fossil fuel company donations

June 14, 2018 by  
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The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recently adopted a ban on donations coming from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost reported . The executive committee voted unanimously on a resolution proposed by political strategist Christine Pelosi that doesn’t allow the organization to accept contributions from corporate political action committees (PACs) connected to the oil and gas industry . The text of the resolution says, “…fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change , fought the growth of clean renewable energy , and corrupted our political system.” Oil and gas companies in 2016 spent $7.6 million on Democratic races, compared to $53.7 million in direct donations to Republicans . In 2018, Republicans have taken 89 percent of the oil and gas industry’s donations thus far. The DNC confirmed the recent vote to HuffPost but did not comment on the record. Related: Climate change video directed by James Cameron heats up the DNC The resolution’s text says “hundreds of individual Democratic political candidates for office across the country have pledged not to take money from the fossil fuel industry.” Former president Barack Obama prohibited contributions from corporate PACs after winning the Democratic party’s nomination, but former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted that ban before the 2016 election. HuffPost reported the DNC might consider a second resolution in August at a Chicago full board meeting to ban contributions greater than $200 from people working for the fossil fuel industry. Co-author of the recent resolution RL Miller told HuffPost, “So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine. But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.” + (((sfpelosi))) on Medium Via HuffPost Image via Depositphotos

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American Express to offer credit card created with upcycled ocean plastic

June 14, 2018 by  
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Plastic is part of so many products in our day-to-day lives, from obvious ones like plastic bags to ones you may not often think about, like your plastic credit card. American Express plans to offer the first credit card ever made with ocean plastic in a collaboration with Parley for the Oceans . The company is also committing to reduce single-use plastics in its operations worldwide. We’re collaborating w/ @parleyxxx to combat marine plastic pollution. Learn abt our plans to introduce an Amex Card made primarily from plastics recovered from the ocean & our journey to reduce single-use plastic globally https://t.co/tAWsHPjWES #AmexLife #KeepItBlue #AmexParley pic.twitter.com/7WdNeGBz3H — American Express (@AmericanExpress) June 7, 2018 American Express’s ocean plastic card will be manufactured primarily with recovered plastic from coasts and the oceans and is intended to raise awareness of ocean plastic pollution . In a press release , the company said the card is a prototype at the moment, but could be ready for the public in around 12 months. Related: Adidas unveils a Manchester United jersey created with ocean plastic Parley’s Avoid, Intercept, Redesign (AIR) philosophy is also inspiring an American Express corporate pledge to “limit single-use plastics, intercept plastic waste and redesign existing materials and plastic products.” American Express provided six steps it will take, including phasing out single-use plastic straws and stirrers for Centurion airport lounges and major offices in about a month, and phasing out single-use plastics for the airport lounges by the end of 2018. It will also undertake annual company-run river and coastal clean-ups. American Express aims to lower virgin plastic in card products, and create what it described as a comprehensive waste reduction strategy to up recycling rates and cut single-use plastic in its operations by the end of 2018. Finally, the company will pursue a zero waste certification by 2025 for its New York City headquarters. “Every second breath we take is created by the oceans ,” Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch said in a statement . “Without them, we can’t exist. American Express is creating a symbol of change and inviting their network to shape a blue future, one based on creativity, collaboration and eco-innovation.” + American Express + Parley for the Oceans Image courtesy of American Express

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