Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs

September 20, 2019 by  
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The environment shapes our society. Hence, as climate change worsens, so do healthcare costs. Both the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) jointly warn that because of these serious healthcare and medical costs, climate change is essentially a public health crisis . The NRDC-UCSF study is unprecedented. In previous surveys, healthcare costs had not been included in valuations of climate change damages. But with the NRDC-UCSF findings, links can now be established correlating health data with climate change. Prior governmental analyses only scrutinized costs related to property, agriculture and infrastructure losses. They neglected to consider costs related to mortality, hospitalization (emergency visits, outpatient medical care, prescribed medications) and lost wages. Related: Doctor’s orders — 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says Now, with NRDC’s new model, the research team quantified how climate change bears down on Americans’ health by examining the associated health costs. The study findings show that, over the course of 10 climate-sensitive events from the year 2012, Americans endured more than $10 billion in healthcare costs. As climate change exacerbates, costs will continue to rise. “Climate change represents a major public health emergency, but its destructive and expensive toll on Americans’ health has largely been absent from the climate policy debate,” stated Dr. Vijay Limaye, lead author and NRDC scientist. “Our research shows that health-related costs added at least another 26 percent to the national price tag for 2012 severe weather-related damages.” The research team exhorts that unchecked climate-related events will economically burden communities, especially unprepared ones. In particular, 10 harmful environmental issues — including allergenic pollen, extreme weather , harmful algal blooms, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious diseases from ticks and mosquitoes, ozone smog pollution, river flooding and wildfires —  merit public health attention. “This continuing untold human suffering and staggering cost is another reason we must take assertive action to curb climate change now,” Dr. Limaye warned. “Cutting greenhouse gas pollution and expanding clean energy , while also investing in preparedness and climate adaptation, is the prescription for a safer, healthier future.” NRDC recommends that investment in preparedness could save billions of dollars in future health costs and thus help to save lives. The research team likewise urges more comprehensive cost analyses to inform policy making, improved tracking of climate change-related outcomes as they relate to health issues, strategic community planning for climate adaptation (e.g. health advisories, early warning systems, better disease surveillance, even community redesign to better handle floods, hurricanes and wildfires) and nationwide efforts to reduce climate change triggers like pollution. NRDC also advises that taking steps now to counteract extreme climate change events would cost up to five times less than paying for event-related health consequences. Study co-author and NRDC senior scientist Kim Knowlton confirmed this. “Our research signals that all told, there could be tens to hundreds of billions of dollars in health costs already from recent climate-related exposures nationwide,” Knowlton said. “It’s clear that failing to address climate change, and soon, will cost us a fortune, including irreversible damage to our health.” + NRDC + GeoHealth Image via Robyn Wright

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Climate change is a public health issue amounting to billions in medical costs

Technology uses banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic

September 20, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution negatively impacts the health of our planet. Waste management has led to an irreversible environmental crisis that is felt by wildlife, especially in the oceans. One organization, called Banana Leaf Technology, is helping to address the stark reality by proposing banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic . Using 100 percent organic banana leaves as raw material, the novel, eco-friendly preservation technology transforms the cellular structure by enhancing its properties so that the leaves remain green for an entire year without any chemicals. Plus, their shelf lifespan is extended to up to three years. Related: Bananatex launches a sustainable material revolution at Milan Design Week After the preservation process, the enhanced leaves have increased load-bearing capabilities, resistance to extreme temperatures, durability, elasticity and flexibility. Banana Leaf Technology’s website additionally states that the processed leaves are more pathogen-resistant with antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. How does it do this? The technology fortifies the banana leaves’ cell walls and prevents pathogenic agents from degrading the processed biomaterial’s cells. Currently, Banana Leaf Technology offers 30 products that utilize its preservation methods. These products include plates, cups, cones, boxes, writing paper and envelopes. Because the patented Banana Leaf Technology is customizable, other products are expected to be developed in the future, such as natural packaging alternatives. Banana Leaf Technology products provide several advantages. Besides curtailing the destructive damages to wildlife and landfills, using preserved banana leaf products decreases the risks of plastic leaching byproducts and toxins into food and beverages, making them a far healthier cookware, dinnerware and food storage alternative to plastic. Moreover, after their primary use, they can, in turn, serve as animal fodder or garden fertilizer to make soil more arable. First formulated in 2010 by Tenith Adithyaa, a precocious 11-year-old who was working in his homemade laboratory, the now-patented Banana Leaf Technology has since received seven international awards. The company’s mission, according to its website, is “to solve the global climate crisis without compromising the economy.” Adithyaa’s vision is to make Banana Leaf Technology “available to all human beings, regardless of their geographical and economical boundaries.” Interestingly, the company’s current business model is to “sell the tech license worldwide to any company” that shares in Adithyaa’s vision. The website elaborates further, stipulating that “any commercial or non-commercial company can purchase the license to this technology by technology transfer. The license will be granted for lifetime to operate worldwide.” + Banana Leaf Technology Images via Banana Leaf Technology and Pkraemer

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Technology uses banana leaves as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic

The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

March 1, 2019 by  
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Having access to soft, fluffy toilet paper is one of those modern conveniences that makes life in the 21st century that much easier. But did you know that using this luxury could be doing more damage to the environment than driving a large, gas-guzzling SUV? On average, every American uses three rolls of  toilet paper  each week (28 pounds per year), meaning that just 4 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 20 percent of total tissue consumption. This is destroying forests and impacting climate change in a significant way. “The Issue with Tissue” A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council titled “The Issue with Tissue” said that many toilet paper manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia Pacific use wood pulp from Canadian forests and zero recycled content when making their at-home toilet paper. “Most Americans probably do not know that the toilet paper they flush away comes from ancient forests, but clear-cutting those forests is costing the planet a great deal,” Anthony Swift, director of the NRDC’s Canada Project, said in a news release. “Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change .” What is toilet paper made of? Companies use different ingredients to make tissue products, but the typical main ingredient is paper pulp. It can come from a variety of sources, like post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content or wheat straw and bamboo . However, the most common source of paper pulp by far is wood, AKA virgin fiber, because it has never been used in another product. Virgin fiber is “environmentally destructive” according to the NRDC. The two types of virgin pulp are softwood and hardwood, with softwood coming from spruce and other coniferous trees and hardwood coming from deciduous trees. Spruce and other coniferous trees are found in places like the southeastern U.S. and the Canadian boreal, and they produce long fibers that strengthen the tissue. Related: Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity Without getting too scientific, making pulp from virgin fiber requires a mill that makes logs into wood chips, plus an energy-intensive chemical process to separate the wood fibers. To whiten the pulp, it also has to go through a chemical bleaching process. Making toilet paper from 100 percent virgin fiber “generates three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp,” according to the NRDC report. Manufacturing a single roll of toilet paper also uses 37 gallons of water , and transporting the paper can waste loads of gas. Sustainability scores The NRDC report gave “sustainability-based scores” for different at-home toilet paper brands. Because they use zero recycled content in their products, brands like Charmin Ultra, Quilted Northern, Kirkland, Up & Up Soft and Strong and Angel Soft received an “F.” Scott 1000, Scott Comfort Plus, Cottonelle Ultra and Trader Joe’s Super Soft Bath Tissue received a “D.” Brands that scored an “A” because they use recycled paper include 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Earth’s First, Natural Value, Green Forest, Seventh Generation and Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue. The report concluded that when it comes to using sustainable components, Procter & Gamble was the worst paper company in the U.S. P&G has yet to comment on the report. A Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said that the company does use recovered fiber in addition to virgin wood, and a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said the company’s goal is to cut the virgin pulp content in its products in half by 2025. Eco-friendly alternatives Who Gives A Crap This company began with crowdfunding back in 2012, and it has been growing ever since. It offers  eco-friendly toilet paper made from 100 percent recycled paper as well as no added inks, dyes or scents. Who Gives A Crap claims its 3-ply is as “soft as unicorn kisses and as strong as 1,000 ponies,” and you can buy it in bulk at just $1 per jumbo roll, which is 400 sheets. This company also donates 50 percent of profits to help improve sanitation and build toilets in developing countries. Family cloth This might be an option that is out of most people’s comfort zone , but in the spirit of cloth diapers comes family cloth —  wiping with fabric swatches , which are then placed in a wet-dry bag and laundered so they can be reused . Bidet attachment For some reason, Americans haven’t fallen in love with alternatives like bidets as many Europeans have. This is unfortunate, because bidets have amazing environmental benefits. Plus, they are great for personal hygiene. Related: How to upgrade your toilet with a handheld bidet sprayer If you aren’t familiar with a bidet attachment, it is a fixture that you add to your toilet seat. It will wash your bum and genitalia with water after you use the toilet. You can greatly reduce the need for toilet paper in your house by adding a bidet attachment to your toilet. If everyone in America reduced their toilet paper use by just one roll per week, it would save thousands of trees and have a significant environmental impact. Images via Shutterstock

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The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

Built to last: The business case for living buildings in 2019

February 12, 2019 by  
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And four value propositions that have incentivized companies and organizations such as NRDC, Etsy and Google to complete them.

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Built to last: The business case for living buildings in 2019

Court orders EPA to ban pesticide that causes learning disabilities in children

August 10, 2018 by  
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After over a decade of fighting, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has finally scored a victory in securing the ban of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a court order to the EPA  requiring it to ban the chemical agent, which has harmful neurodevelopmental effects. Longstanding studies have indicated that exposure to chlorpyrifos can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities such as ADHD, developmental delays, and a lower IQ. Related: Unreleased internal FDA emails show glyphosate weedkiller residue in almost every food tested The NRDC and a coalition of labor and health organizations were represented by EarthJustice in the court case. The court found that the EPA broke the law by ignoring proven scientific evidence – including some evidence discovered by the agency itself – that chlorpyrifos could harm children who consumed produce treated with the chemical . Even small quantities of ingestion can cause developmental issues for some children, and so the long-overdue ban has left many parents relieved. “Some things are too sacred to play politics with—and our kids top the list,” said Erik Olson, the senior director of NRDC’s Health and Food program. “This is a victory for parents everywhere who want to feed their kids fruits and veggies without fear it’s harming their brains or poisoning communities.” States such as Hawaii had undertaken solitary battles against chlorpyrifos, banning it before the court ruling. However, many (including the NRDC) are upset it took so long for these protections to expand. Thankfully, yesterday’s court order mark a significant step toward protecting the food supply from chlorpyrifos at the national level. + EarthJustice Via NRDC

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Court orders EPA to ban pesticide that causes learning disabilities in children

Save local wildlife with a stylish FrogLog in your pool

August 10, 2018 by  
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One of the worst things for pool owners in the sweltering summer months is going out for a swim to cool down and enjoy time with friends and family, only to find a critter has made it into their splash-zone and couldn’t find a way out. In an effort to save local animals , the FrogLog offers a simple escape route for small creatures who might otherwise drown in a pool. So, how does it work exactly? Adhere it to the side of the pool, where animals such as mice, squirrels and frogs have a tendency to swim as they try to escape, and the mesh netting surrounding the FrogLog will allow them to climb up to dry land. No guidance is needed — the animals will circle the edge of the pool and happen upon the FrogLog themselves. The ramp allows them to scurry or hop — whatever their style — out of the pool instead of drowning. Related: This modular outdoor swimming pool from Finland could make a splash near you The FrogLog is effective in saving reptiles and amphibians such as frogs, turtles and lizards; mammals such as rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels; and birds and baby ducklings among many other small creatures. Since wildlife biologist Rich Mason started the project 14 years ago, the FrogLog has saved more than one million animals. Related: Fish-friendly whirlpool turbine makes hydropower green again Efficient and compact, only one FrogLog is needed for a pool measuring 15 feet by 30 feet. If you choose to run your pump and filter at night, keep your chlorine levels high, have multiple skimmers or just happen to have a super luxurious mega-pool sitting in your backyard, you may need an extra FrogLog or two. Not to worry though, at an affordable $22.99, the clever contraption is a no-brainer decision in keeping your pool clean, reducing maintenance and rescuing native animals in style. + FrogLog Image via FrogLog

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Save local wildlife with a stylish FrogLog in your pool

Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

June 29, 2016 by  
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Monarch butterflies are finally on the rebound. With the colorful pollinators threatened by everything from pesticides to habitat destruction, the U.S. government pledged $3.2 million to the cause last year. Back in March, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico survey found reason for hope, showing a substantial population increase in migration numbers. But the butterflies aren’t in the clear just yet. According to University of Chicago professor Marcus Kronforst, in 1996 around one billion monarchs migrated, but in 2013 there were just 35 million. The March WWF Mexico survey revealed the insects were rebounding, with numbers rising to roughly 150 million. More milkweed planted has played a part in the rebound, as has weather that suits the butterflies. Related: 8 Ways that you can help save monarch butterflies Natural Resources Defense Council scientist Sylvia Fallon recently told Reuters they are hopeful about curbing butterfly losses. But, she warned,”we must be careful not to declare victory too soon.” She was all too right. Researchers from the United States and Mexico utilized drones and satellite images to uncover evidence of illegal logging in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site . They published a paper in American Entomologist , in which they report around 25 acres of trees have been chopped down in the last year, destroying important habitat. Mexico environmental officials arrested 35 loggers in early to mid 2015, but landowners claim logging has been ongoing despite the arrests. The researchers began to grasp the scope of the illegal activity through imagery. Sweet Briar College professor Lincoln Brower, lead author on the paper, told TakePart, “You can’t have huge trucks removing all of this wood without knowledge of what’s going on. It really questions the governance of the reserve.” Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Endangered Species Program Director Sarina Jepsen said that monarch conservation efforts have centered around the problems of pesticides and planting milkweed, but that we shouldn’t forget butterflies also battle deforestation . Via TakePart and Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons and Luna sin estrellas on Flickr

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Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

Zero Food Waste On Display At New Grocery Concept

April 12, 2016 by  
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Food waste is an ongoing challenge and balancing act for grocery stores. How much of a challenge? Digest these statistics for a moment. According to a recent NRDC issue paper on food waste, ‘in-store food losses in the United States totaled an…

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Zero Food Waste On Display At New Grocery Concept

Amazon data centers and the Ohio energy conundrum

June 10, 2015 by  
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Samantha Williams of the NRDC argues that Ohio’s renewable energy restrictions present a difficult obstacle for Amazon’s newly proposed data center in the state.

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Amazon data centers and the Ohio energy conundrum

Looking for a faster pace at Bonn climate talks

June 10, 2015 by  
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We need a document everyone can get behind, but as the Paris summit nears, questions remain.

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Looking for a faster pace at Bonn climate talks

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