First Nation residents exposed to dangerous levels of carcinogens

November 16, 2021 by  
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Aamjiwnaang First Nation residents in Ontario have learned that cancer-causing chemicals in their air are 44 times higher than recommended levels. The revelation came after years of fighting with officials to obtain data on water and air pollution levels. Aamjiwnaang First Nation is a small region in Ontario surrounded by petrochemical facilities. For years, the First Nation community suspected that the petrochemical companies were exposing them to dangerous pollutants . However, lack of access to data from previous investigations denied them the opportunity to know the truth. Related: Researchers and Indigenous groups collaborate to save caribou Global News obtained the recent data via freedom of information laws. The data revealed that the levels of benzene and sulfur dioxide were far higher than recommended. The revelation means that the government knew these carcinogenic compounds were present in both water and air but withheld the information.  In 2019, the U.N. special rapporteur on toxic chemicals, Baskut Tuncak, visited Aamjiwnaang and expressed concerns over the proximity of the affected areas to the intense petrochemical industries. Speaking to The Guardian, Tuncak said, “I was struck by the incredible proximity of the affected First Nation to dozens of intense chemical production and processing facilities, which resulted in incredible releases of pollution and waste affecting the [residents’] health.” There has been a public outcry in Canada over the government’s handling of this crucial data. A bill meant to address environmental racism was recently shot down in a snap election, making the fight for the right to information an even more difficult battle to win. The bill would have required the federal government to collect data on areas where environmental hazards happen near pulp mills, dumps and mines, then determine their link with the disasters. Further, the bill would have required the government to compensate those affected by pollution from these industries. Although Canada still lags in terms of laws to protect the public from pollution, various jurisdictions have been taking steps toward clear policies. For instance, Ontario has proposed new laws to strengthen the emission caps and connect First Nations to crucial environmental data. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Vegan food, clothing and lifestyle tips for World Vegan Day

November 1, 2021 by  
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Across print media and online resources, the vegan lifestyle seems to pop up everywhere. There are myriad reasons to embrace veganism, from saving the  environment  to caring about animals. Wherever you’re at on your vegan journey, from your first inquiry to complete dedication to the movement, we’ve got some information and tips to get you headed in the vegan direction.  Defining veganism What exactly does it mean to be vegan , and how does it compare to other diet plans? In the simplest form, a vegan diet is plant-based. Strict vegans do not eat any food that comes from an animal, including those foods animals produce such as eggs and honey. A vegan diet relies heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables but also leans into nuts, legumes, seeds, tofu, whole grains and other plant-based foods.  A vegan lifestyle is a statement against  animal  cruelty, so it goes further than just what a person eats. It’s a conscientious movement to not use, buy, or consume any animal-based products.  Related: 6 vegan jackfruit recipes to try for your next meal Benefits of a vegan lifestyle People choose a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is to protect the animals on the planet. Another predominant reason for adopting vegan ways is to benefit the environment. Raising animals is hard on the land. It requires a lot of food, typically in the form of grain, to feed chickens, pigs, cows and other animals. That food is grown, then fed to the animals before they’re slaughtered. Part of the food chain perhaps, but eating  plants  straight from the source eliminates many of the required resources for raising livestock. In addition, cows contribute to methane release, which is a greenhouse gas that adds to the carbon footprint.  The third primary benefit of eating plant-based food is for your health. Even with the vast array of diet plan options, nearly all include copious amounts of plant-based  recipes  for the same reason — eating this way has been proven to reduce inflammation and improve or reverse a host of common diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In addition, plants provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals to support a healthy lifestyle.  Those who’ve committed to the lifestyle often report additional benefits such as increased energy, clearer thinking, improved focus, better sleep, and weight loss.  Challenges of going vegan t’s not easy being vegan. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult. One of the primary challenges is simply finding foods you can eat. Read any label, and the majority of the time you’ll find some form of animal-based product. Go into most  restaurants , and you may have trouble finding anything other than a salad that fits the eating profile.  Another challenge is learning how to cook, order and eat in an entirely new way. Especially if you’re used to making meat -focused meals. Vegan substitutes The vegan movement has been around for decades. Some even argue that select Indigenous people invented the lifestyle. In recent decades, vegan foods have brought some good and some bad to the market via vegan substitute products. Processed  foods  always come with loads of unnecessary fats, salts and sugars. Even those labeled as vegan can be an unhealthy choice, so try to stay away from the freezer department unless you’re shopping for vegetables.  In the dairy department, vegan substitutes can add a lot of variety to your diet. Vegan cheese, butter and milk round out your fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains. Again though, watch for high levels of sugar, salt and anything artificial. When it comes to milk , there are increasing options in the form of nut milks. You’ll want to experiment with almond, coconut, oat, rice and soy milk. Vegan eating tips The number one tip to adopt a vegan lifestyle is to take it slow. Most people have been cooking and eating the same way since birth, so don’t try to reverse that in a single day. Instead, slowly incorporate changes each week or month. Swap out cow’s milk for a plant-based variety. Replace meat with beans in your soup, skip the meat in your burrito and stuff it with seasoned rice and vegetables instead. Go meatless one night each week. Aim to eat 80% plant-based. Whatever the change is, play with it until it becomes a habit. Then move on to the next goal. Tummy issues are also common at the beginning of a vegan diet. That’s because it’s high in fiber, and your system likely isn’t used to it. It’s another good reason to make the transition slowly to allow time for your system to adjust. During the process, pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel better after a fruit smoothie for breakfast rather than eggs and bacon? Did your nighttime heartburn go away? Do you find yourself avoiding the afternoon slump? How are you sleeping? Connecting good feelings like better focus and higher energy with the foods you eat is an intrinsic reward that will keep you on track. Try working up to a plant-based diet for breakfast and lunch, so you have a stretch of consecutive hours without animal products that allow you to evaluate how you feel. Vegan life beyond food Going vegan is a lifestyle that stretches well beyond what you eat. It’s a movement that factors into every purchase you make. Evaluate clothing to avoid wool, silk, leather, fur and suede. Also, read your makeup, shampoo, face wash and cleaning product labels. An increasing number of brands are labeling their products so you can easily find this information. However, your decision to go vegan doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything you own. Instead, use up the products you have while you transition to new brands. Also, get good use out of your clothing, so it doesn’t meet a premature date with the landfill. Via Shape and Bree’s Vegan Life Images via Pexels, Pixabay and iStock

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Building Transparency brings carbon-cutting tools to construction

October 22, 2021 by  
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The conversation in environmental circles continuously loops back to the construction industry, with widely accepted estimates that building materials and carbon release from existing structures contribute 40% of global emissions. Building Transparency, a nonprofit dedicated to driving awareness around the effects of embodied emissions and supporting action to limit them, has developed a free tool anyone can use to achieve carbon reduction goals. Building Transparency’s premier service is called the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3). It’s sponsored by big companies such as Microsoft, Skanska, Amazon, Salesforce and Interface, which are working toward their own net-zero and carbon-negative goals. In all, around 50 organizations have signed on to help launch the project. Related: World Green Building Council fights for zero carbon The approach to carbon reduction strategies at every level, from residential homes to multi-building developments, is to start with low carbon-emitting building materials and minimize construction  waste . Through this process, businesses can make a dramatic impact by reducing the carbon footprint of their facilities, office buildings, manufacturing plants and retail stores. EC3 makes the process easier by helping companies set goals and reduce carbon through material selection and system evaluation.  EPDs, environmental product declarations, measure the environmental impact of a product throughout its lifecycle. Building Transparency has collected information on tens of thousands of digitized EPDs to include in the database. The nearly 17,000 users of the free tool can easily pull up this information, allowing architects, owners,  green building  certification programs, policymakers, designers and building decision-makers a condensed and reliable comparison of their material options.  “Building Transparency’s core mission is to provide the open access data and tools necessary to enable broad and swift action across the building industry in addressing embodied carbon’s role in climate change ,” the company states on its website. Building Transparency feels the EC3 tool is a contribution that will support the building and construction sector in their critical responsibility to lower carbon emissions. While there is a lot of chatter about creating a  minimal site impact  and focusing on energy efficiency, embodied carbon leaves a massive footprint, and it’s a relatively new topic to the conversation. Measuring this effect means measuring emissions produced by the sourcing and manufacturing of materials, supply chain, transport, installation, use and end-of-life disposal. That’s a lot to consider, and sifting through the information is a daunting task. The EC3 tool not only puts all that information in one area, making the decision-making process easier, but also provides transparency in an industry being held accountable for its responsibility to the  environment  and the population.  In addition to building and maintaining the EC3 database, Building Transparency provides education and the needed resources for decision-makers to take action with the information they acquire. With the EC3 tool in place, builders can quickly and reliably develop and implement plans for low carbon-emitting materials at every phase of projects.  As the company says, “Building designers, construction companies and material suppliers can directly measure, compare and reduce the embodied carbon in specific new buildings. For architects and engineers, the tool provides a simple way to assess the total embodied carbon of their projects and identify opportunities for improvement based on their specification choices.”  The material information goes beyond concrete, steel,  wood , glass, aluminum and insulation used in construction to interior design elements such as carpet, gypsum wallboard and ceiling tiles to identify low-carbon solutions. In addition to the EC3 and openEPD resources, Building Transparency has developed an app called Tally®, which according to the company is, “the first Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) app fully integrated into Autodesk® Revit®. The tool quantifies and analyzes carbon locked in building materials.” Tally, originally developed by KieranTimberlake, was adopted by Building Transparency earlier this year to make the app more accessible to the entire building and construction industry. Tally adds up the environmental impacts of material selections in real-time, which can sway the project toward carbon-conserving choices during pivotal points in the design process. Tally and EC3 work in conjunction, with the information generated in Tally importing directly into EC3. This puts these tools in one location to again support the goal of making planet-friendly decisions easier throughout the construction planning and building process. It works by allowing users to create a material profile that is then evaluated for its effect on land, air, and  water  systems. The user can create different material combinations and compare one design plan against another until they reach the optimal reduction in environmental impact.  The company reports, “Tally offers a full spectrum of information at great speed and accuracy, as the materials list automatically updates throughout the design phase in real-time. The app generates clear and transparent data graphics, facilitating vital communication regarding design choices between various groups within a project team. This practice ensures that the intent of the Tally LCA is carried through to the completed project, empowering choices to, for instance, to reduce embodied carbon and bringing carbon accountability to the building material supply chain.” + Building Transparency  Images via Building Transparency 

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Higg provides a sustainability report for consumer products

August 23, 2021 by  
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The race is on to battle climate change in notable and impactful ways. While every citizen can help by reducing emissions and lowering their carbon footprint, the largest contributors to the problem are businesses. Even companies with good intentions when it comes to monitoring materials and manufacturing may be contributing to the problem more than they think. Higg is a technological solution to this problem that addresses the issue by providing a score for a product’s impact. To understand the solution, we must first consider the problem. The life-cycle of a product begins with material selection, goes through production and moves onto delivery before it ever reaches consumer hands. Along the way, every decision can weigh heavily on the planet’s resources by stripping the land, using valuable resources like water and contributing to  waste  and pollution. Higg is a data-driven system that gives businesses the information they need when making eco-friendly decisions. This data allows them to avoid these contributing factors and instead rely on the most innovative solutions for a low carbon footprint at every level. Related: PaperTale app shows the ethics and sustainability of clothing with a simple scan Higg CEO Jason Kibbey says, “Higg has spent the last couple years working with consumer goods facilities, brands, and retailers to collect valuable data that helps companies measure their social and  environmental  impacts in a comparable way.” Higg works with companies to input and analyze data, giving them the power to better understand the environmental and social impact of each step in the cycle. Take, for example, a clothing company. With Higg tools, companies can measure the footprint of the plant where fabric is made. This includes water consumption, electrical usage,  pollution  and more. From there, the company can evaluate the manufacturing process of the product in the same categories and others, like wages, working conditions and safety. Post production, the clothing is shipped, so the analysis further tracks the impact of packaging, transport emissions and the environmental burden at the retail level.  The culmination of this information provides a critical tool for transparency in consumer goods industries. Providing a macro and micro view of the cradle-to-grave impact of individual products not only gives consumers more purchasing power but provides companies valuable, data-based information to share with investors, partners and customers.  “In order to achieve true sustainability change at the pace necessary to reach climate goals, consumer industries need access to rich, comparable, and actionable data. Without knowing true environmental performance, it’s impossible to know which steps companies should take to reduce impact, which actions make the biggest difference, or if industries are moving fast enough,” Kibbey added.  Along the way, the systems maintain a database of information that businesses can tap into when making decisions. For example, through data collection, a company can quickly see the  energy efficiency  of a particular manufacturing plant or compare the waste from different production facilities. Rather than individual reports that may be slanted in favor or disfavor of a particular company, Higg’s system is standardized for reliable comparisons of information that can be measured, managed and shared within and outside the company. This information is a powerful tool in the effort to enable true sustainability in corporate actions. “Higg provides easily synthesized data which makes it simple for companies to take meaningful action towards positive environmental and social impacts,” Kibbey said. While Higg is an essential tool for the decision-making process of eco-minded businesses, it’s equally valuable for the everyday consumer who is looking to make wise purchasing decisions. With these tools at its disposal, any apparel company can clean up its act. The information is now out there to understand a product’s impact. From there, it’s a company’s responsibility to evaluate and improve every step of its processes. This includes choosing the least-impactful materials to supporting manufacturing plants with fair trade policies and renewable energy investments to selecting packaging that is  recycled  and recyclable. With what equates to a sustainability score, consumers will be able to directly compare the actions of an increasing number of companies when choosing what products best align with their personal environmental goals.  Higg is a spinoff of a prior partnership between Patagonia and Walmart that set a mission to reduce the footprint of the apparel and footwear industries. This nonprofit industry association, called the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, resulted in the “development of the Higg Index, a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of supply chain sustainability,” according to Higg. The team at Higg comes from varied backgrounds, yet they all center around the same belief in making it easier for businesses and consumers to contribute to the solutions for a sustainable future for the planet. Mimi Frusha, COO at Higg, says, “We have a global crisis on our hands. Being part of Higg is how I contribute to what we all have ahead of us.” Josh Henretig, VP Global Partnerships, reinforces that thinking saying, “The urgency and complexity of the climate crisis is simply too large for any single organization to solve alone. We need the collective action of partnership and the speed and scale of technology if we are going to reverse the harmful impacts of human activity on the environment.” + Higg Images via Higg 

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How HP Inc. uses sustainability to drive commercial sales

August 16, 2021 by  
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For the past two fiscal years, HP Inc. has generated more than $1 billion in commercial business tied directly to sustainability considerations. It first started trumpeting this information in 2018.

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The frustrating, exhilarating task of swimming upstream

August 16, 2021 by  
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Anyone working in the field of sustainability will tell you that it is not for the faint of heart. We fight the current, occasionally flounder and keep on moving upstream. It’s a hard job. 

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The frustrating, exhilarating task of swimming upstream

Steelmaker ArcelorMittal’s $10 billion climate plan

August 16, 2021 by  
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Green hydrogen, renewable power, scrap metal recycling and science-based targets all form part of steelmaking giant’s decarbonization vision unveiled today

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Steelmaker ArcelorMittal’s $10 billion climate plan

To sell EVs, are automakers ready to ditch dealerships?

August 4, 2021 by  
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Dealership employees are extremely under-equipped with knowledge about available current financial incentives, charging infrastructure and other information specific to EV ownership.

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To sell EVs, are automakers ready to ditch dealerships?

Why food production is as dangerous for the planet as fossil fuels

August 4, 2021 by  
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Traditional food production is causing cataphoric losses to nature.

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It’s time to redefine sustainability

July 27, 2021 by  
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It’s time to redefine sustainability Esteban Guerrero Tue, 07/27/2021 – 02:15 It’s time we should be able to explain sustainability to a 5-year-old — in five words or less. There really aren’t many simple definitions of sustainability. This matters because if we want more people to contribute to a sustainable future, they would first need to know what to do, what the goal is. As expressed by social and environmental leaders recently, people need to become their own problem solvers — and doers — in their communities. Outside-in, top-down solutions alone won’t do it. Therefore, wouldn’t it be more effective if people could just glance at a good definition of sustainability, easily retain it in memory and know exactly what to do from there? Any definition first needs to clearly explain its target word. A very short definition runs the risk of not containing enough words to meet that goal. But what if we could distill the essence of a target word so that a few keywords containing enough meaning could accomplish both goals? Wouldn’t it be more effective if people could just glance at a good definition of sustainability, easily retain it in memory and know exactly what to do from there? Upon hearing any new statement, our short-term memory gets triggered first. As Christopher Poppas stated , this area temporarily stores information, but can only hold up to seven “items” at a time, for roughly 10 to 60 seconds. For this information to enter your long-term memory, however, your brain filters through it and only keeps the key points. Therefore, the shorter definition will stay with you longer, because your brain doesn’t have to filter out information because every word within a small definition counts. Existing definitions Let’s begin with the most well-known definition of sustainability, from the Brundtland report: “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs […] Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations for a better life.” Although comprehensive, this definition is too long, even for sustainability professionals to try to recite. I looked at over 70 of the top schools, corporations and organizations in hopes of finding shorter but equally comprehensive definitions. Unfortunately, some definitions were too complex; others, not comprehensive enough. For example: Only 42.7 percent of the definitions mention “people” and “coexist.” Fewer, 22.7 percent, discussed our planet, resources and nature. And only 13.6 percent of the definitions included words such as “future,” “permanent” or “forever.” But nearly no definition explained what people should actually be caring about in terms of sustainability. Only 6.4 percent of the definitions used the word “fulfillment” while 8.2 percent discusses “meeting needs.” Fortunately, when we consider all these definitions in aggregate, we can see three essential themes: we want to include everyone; we want to enable people to lead the fulfilling lives they want; and we also want to enable future generations to do the same. The Brundtland definition above includes all three themes. So, if most of the other definitions do not include all three themes, or they do, but not in significantly fewer words, why are they useful? They do not offer anything new nor are they more effective at delivering the same message. To be transparent, I did find a few short definitions, but here is why they don’t work: “People, profit, planet ” is a definition by John Elkington and was very powerful and useful when it first came out, partly because of its alliteration and partly because it does seem to allude to the essential elements of sustainability. However, it is open-ended; you still have to explain to your audience what each word means. “Healthy people, healthy planet”  has a few problems. For one, is “being healthy” equivalent to “leading a fulfilling life”? “Enough for all (or “for everyone”) forever”  is the closest definition we found to adequately and simply define sustainability. It implies that people have needs to meet, that everyone should have access to resources and that these resources must be maintained. But the word “enough” is limiting. Having “enough” may not lead everyone to a fulfilled life. If mankind is to reach a truly sustained level of prosperity, we must recognize that fulfillment is a key goal to accomplish. Life is not only about meeting material needs but also about pursuing joys and aspirations. Redefining sustainability Just how much yet another definition will help? Be the judge yourself: “Fulfillment… For everyone… Forever” These 4 words (“The Three Fs”) contain all three essential elements and are very easy to remember: Fulfillment : everyone should feel confident to live the lives they dream of, not just aim for sustenance For everyone : all of mankind is included; no one should be left behind Forever : expresses the desired endless continuation of this world and encourages everyone to treat it — and each other — the best possible way to ensure future generations can enjoy life, too And this definition is actionable — you can begin acting on sustainability by contributing anything you can on any of the three dimensions: You could focus on leading a truly better life. You could help your current and future loved ones do the same. Or, you could help ensure we better (re)use resources to enable the above. That’s it. You don’t need to be an expert. Anything that you do, to fulfill yourself and everyone else, forever, helps. The next step Now that you have an easy and actionable definition, ask yourself: What’s keeping people from living more fulfilling lives? Why don’t we have full inclusion throughout everything? When will we start acting on forever instead of just the near term? Additional research will show that we need to bring about three things: empowerment; empathy; and embracing — “The Three Es.” By using each of these words as actionable verbs (empower, empathize, embrace), we can begin to evolve the current socioeconomic system at a faster rate into one that finally delivers fulfillment, for everyone, forever — for certain. Pull Quote Wouldn’t it be more effective if people could just glance at a good definition of sustainability, easily retain it in memory and know exactly what to do from there? Topics Marketing & Communication Sustainability Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz

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