Right to repair is on the way

April 5, 2021 by  
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Right to repair is on the way Suz Okie Mon, 04/05/2021 – 00:40 In the waning months of 2020, the European Union took ambitious steps to address the more than 12 million tons of electronic waste the bloc produces annually. Acknowledging that “Europe is living well beyond planetary boundaries,” a European Parliamen vote called for mandatory repairability scores for consumer electronics, amongst a host of other initiatives intended to extend products’ life spans. Wasting no time, several European nations jumped in on the (repair) action — the U.K. agreed to enforce EU repair rules, France launched a repairability index for select electronics and Austria  reduced taxes on small repairs.  While some feel these efforts don’t go far enough , they’re all seen as a huge win for the right to repair movement — an activist-led fight to give consumers (or third-party repair shops of their choosing) the legally protected freedom to fix and modify the products they own. What’s in a movement From tractors to TVs, when everyday products break they are difficult, if not impossible, to fix. Replacement parts and repair manuals are hard to come by; complex designs make disassembly unmanageable; and legal hurdles have been erected in the name of IP and consumer data protection, amongst other arguments. In many cases, it is easier to replace than it is to repair, and the activists behind the right to repair movement want this to change. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. All things considered, their arguments are pretty compelling. Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe — weighing in at more than 50 million metric tons annually. Within that stream — of which less than 20 percent is recycled — it’s estimated that we’re tossing $57 billion in precious metals and raw materials annually, not to mention the emissions that went towards material extraction, manufacturing and shipping. In a PC’s lifespan, upwards of 70 percent of the associated carbon emissions occur during manufacturing — and it’s estimated that by 2025, 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions will come from manufacturing smartphones, computers and TVs alone.  With all that embedded value and emissions, it makes good sense to keep products in use as long as possible. Extending the lifespan of American cell phones by just one year would be the carbon-reducing equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road .  Additionally, repair could collectively save American households $40 billion annually, and fixing easily repairable electronics could create 345,000 stable, local jobs . Most important — and perhaps most top of mind — repair can save lives. When the pandemic struck and the need for ventilators skyrocketed, financial, legal and training limitations set forth by manufacturers were restricting the repair of these devices , thus delaying life-saving treatment.  Movement in America Perhaps we can thank COVID-19 for shining a light on the lifesaving magic of the right to repair — according to recent coverage, the movement is “poised to explode.” While this momentum is evident in recent European legislation, across the pond the U.S. is experiencing traction of its own.  In August, the Critical Medical Infrastructure Right-to-Repair Act of 2020 marked the first time in U.S. history that a right to repair bill was proposed on the national level. Another notable moment was the inclusion of the right to repair agriculture equipment in the Democratic Party platform . Since then, more than half the states in the union have introduced right to repair bills that call for equal access to things such as replacement parts, training manuals and tools. While these bills are often limited to a specific industry — targeting electronics, appliances, automobiles, farming or medical equipment — the passage of just one could have ripple effects across the nation.  In November, Massachusetts passed a resolution to bolster its 2012 automotive right to repair law — the first and only right to repair law on the books in the U.S. The resolution expands the data and diagnostic information automakers are required to provide, thus enabling third-party repairs. Despite its limited scope, the 2012 law led to a national standard for automakers and the recent resolution is expected to have similar effects. “I feel excited about the level of momentum that is growing for right to repair,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association , recently shared with me. “It’s hard to predict which of the many bills that are being considered will clear all the hurdles — but with more bills the odds are better than ever.” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and another vocal repair proponent, also shared feeling hopeful: “The growing number [of bills] shows an increasing groundswell. People want this to happen.” So, what’s the holdup? According to Gordon-Byrne and Wiens, the biggest barrier to sweeping right to repair legislation is clear: manufacturer opposition.  With arguments ranging from consumer protection to safety concerns to quality control and beyond, manufacturers from diverse industries have fought right to repair bills, in some cases aggressively. “In New York state, there is $2.5 trillion in market cap registered to lobby against the right to repair bill,” Wiens noted. According to Gordon-Byrne, their motivations are somewhat singular: “Manufacturers are enjoying the benefits of monopolized repair.” There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. In spite of opposition, there’s a huge opportunity for manufacturers to throw their hat into a more inclusive repair ring. Robust repair offerings can generate new revenue streams, strengthen customer relationships, and revamp traditional business models , not to mention bolster a company’s sustainability chops.  “There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Build a model making money selling parts, or licensing models for 3D printed parts,” Wiens suggested. “Manufacturer service networks can be hugely lucrative, as we see in the medical device arena.”  A call to action From where I’m sitting, the value (and need) to scale repair is evident. So I’ll leave you readers with a few requests.  For manufacturers: Reap the financial, reputational and environmental benefits of repair by researching and investing in repairability programs. Not sure where to start? Fret not, GreenBiz has a framework for you.  For employees: “Work inside your companies to get them to take a public stance on this issue … [If policy teams within the most vocal opponents] drop their opposition, then these bills would pass quickly,” prompted Wiens.  For the rest of us: Visit the Repair Association’s Stand Up page to contact your legislator and voice your support. As Gordon-Byrne’s noted, “[It’s] free, super easy and — believe me — powerful. Every individual can make a difference.” Pull Quote Beyond enshrining consumer rights, the right to repair could combat planned obsolescence and a throwaway culture that has turned e-waste into the fastest growing waste stream around the globe. There’s a huge opportunity to build a thriving ecosystem around your products, and monetize them over the long run. Topics Circular Economy E-Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Vlad Teodor Close Authorship

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Right to repair is on the way

How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform

February 5, 2021 by  
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How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform Jim Giles Fri, 02/05/2021 – 01:00 For more great analysis of sustainable food systems, sign up for Food Weekly , our free email newsletter. I was chatting recently with a veteran strategy wonk about the world’s stuttering progress toward decarbonization. Electricity generation was an early focus. More recently, the transport sector began to move away from fossil fuels. But what about food and ag? Farm-to-fork emissions are on a par with transport and electricity, said the wonk, yet progress has been lamentably slow in comparison. It’s true: Food and ag are late to this party. But I increasingly find myself floored by the rate of progress in these sectors. It’s not uniform by any means — in fact, some food systems players are actively resisting reform. Still, the innovation in technologies, strategies and policies is remarkable. Here are three developments — all just from the past week — that speak to the sometimes dizzying pace of change. The price is (almost) right A couple of years back, I visited a U.S. startup and saw a nugget of chicken meat the team had grown in the lab. I asked if I could try some. No chance, they said. A plateful would cost several hundred dollars. This week, Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli startup, announced it can produce a cultured chicken breast for $7.50 . That’s many multiples more expensive than the chicken in your local supermarket, but it represents an astonishing reduction in price from even just a few years ago. In a 2013 demo, for instance, scientists showed off a lab-grown burger that cost $325,000.  It was an “odd demonstration of one view of the future of food,” the New York Times wrote at the time . Now the idea is no longer odd, and the future is almost here. Future Meat Technologies just raised $27 million in new funding from a roster of big names that includes Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland and S2G Ventures. The company hopes to start pilot production later this year. “We remain very optimistic that alternative protein foods will reach price parity and eventually price superiority with animal proteins over the next few years,” said Zak Weston at the Good Food Institute , a nonprofit that promotes alternative proteins, in response to the announcement. Why does this matter? Animal products are responsible for an outsized proportion of both food system emissions and the land we devote to agriculture. Shifting some production to a lab potentially could lead to big savings on both fronts. Carbon neutral, profit positive Last year, a leading U.S. dairy organization said it would transition the industry to “carbon neutral or better” by 2050. That’s a necessary target, but I found the announcement frustratingly light on specifics. Commitments to change three decades from now don’t mean much without a detailed plan on how to get there. Well, some details were filled in this week — and they’re encouraging. Using data shared by the industry, the Markets Institute at the World Wildlife Fund looked at the potential impact of emission-reductions options available to dairy farmers today, including feed additives that reduce methane-filled bovine burps and the use of digester technology to produce natural gas from manure . Large dairies, concluded WWF , could reach net-zero emissions within five years and generate a return of almost $2 million per farm in the process. That’s remarkable potential for an industry that’s responsible for around 2 percent of U.S. emissions. It’s not going to happen without government help, however. Many dairy operators can’t afford the upfront costs of digesters and can’t easily access renewable subsidies for the natural gas the equipment produces. That’s something the new U.S. administration should look at, which brings us to the week’s third development… Hit the ground running Rewind to before the presidential primaries. Back then, few environmental advocates would have chosen Joe Biden for president or Tom Vilsack, who led the Department of Agriculture under Barack Obama, as his ag secretary. Neither were deemed hawkish enough on climate. It’s true that Biden’s record on climate is muted. One of his trademarks as a politician, however, is his ability to sense the mood of his party. And, rIght now, many Democrats are demanding radical climate action. That’s why Biden’s executive order blitz contains several measures that focus on climate, including one that directs Vilsack to begin consultations on how to spread “climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations.” The results of this process could well be this year’s biggest story in sustainable food. As expected, Vilsack received bipartisan support at his confirmation hearing this week. By some analyses , he has $30 billion at his discretion. That’s more than enough to dramatically accelerate the take-up of regenerative agriculture and, if the practices work as hoped, to begin sequestering carbon in U.S. farmland. I hope that gives a sense of what’s happening in food systems right now. The sector may have been slower than others to respond to climate, but there’s no doubt that things are moving. Pull Quote We remain very optimistic that alternative protein foods will reach price parity and eventually price superiority with animal proteins over the next few years. Topics Food Systems Climate Change Innovation Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli startup, can now produce a cultured chicken breast for $7.50 . Photo courtesy of Future Meat

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How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform

Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

January 18, 2021 by  
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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership Terry F. Yosie Mon, 01/18/2021 – 02:00 The aftershocks of the Jan. 6 insurrection to block Congressional certification of the U.S. Presidential election will reverberate for many years. In the short run, there may be additional efforts to violently disrupt President-elect Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20, in addition to domestic terrorism activities aimed at state and local governments and other institutions. Such concerns have re-focused public expectations that leadership across all major institutions, public and private, must take sustained actions to support democracy. The Jan. 6 insurrection has transformed the nation’s political conversation and moved the support for democratic values to the top tier of advocacy. It has subsumed and reset the context for other key national priorities such as responding to the pandemic, climate change, economic renewal and social justice. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Not coincidentally, these same values enable enactment of core elements of the sustainability agenda for environmental protection, economic development and social responsibility. The accelerating debate over how best to protect and strengthen democracy bears close watching as a major barometer for the success of policies to advance sustainability. Political donations that undermine democracy Companies that make political donations, and institutions and individuals that receive them, are presently engaged in a frantic scramble to identify whether these funds are connected to groups associated with white nationalism, violence and sedition, or disruption of the election process. Numerous embarrassing examples already have emerged from leading U.S. institutions. They include: Comcast, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft and PepsiCo made contributions to the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which raised about $18 million in 2020. The RLDF actively participated in attempting to prevent the certification of the U.S. Presidential election, including the use of robocalls encouraging people across the country to assemble in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to march on the Capitol. The RAGA executive director subsequently has resigned. A large number of U.S. corporations provided political donations to two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House of Representations that sought to block certification of the Presidential election. Individual companies are belatedly recognizing that individuals on the rapidly expanding “sedition” list prepared by law enforcement authorities received their donations. Carnegie Mellon University, which for many years has accepted funds from the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation (a major funding source for many anti-environmental and right-wing political causes), established a fellow position at its Institute for Politics and Strategy for Richard Grenell, a senior Trump Administration official, who aggressively and publicly lobbied to overturn the U.S. election results. Good governance in donation practices In the midst of this political firestorm, a growing number of organizations, chiefly corporations, are examining whether their donations support anti-democratic politicians. Their practices include: Suspending immediately all corporate and employee contributions to any member of Congress who voted in objection to the certification of the Presidential election. Leading companies such as healthcare provider Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow Chemical and Marriott International have publicly announced this decision. Dow has further committed to suspending its political donations for the next election cycle (two years for a member of the House, six years for a senator). Reviewing the bylaws and governing policies of political action committees (the unit within a company that is legally authorized to collect and distribute political donations) to evaluate their consistency with a firm’s values and determine the criteria under which currently suspended political contributions can be reinstated or permanently revoked. This outcome will depend, in part, upon whether suspended political recipients re-affirm or reverse their position on electoral certification. Determining whether any recipients of political donations are identified on a law enforcement “seditionist list” subject to potential criminal or other penalties. To their chagrin, some American-based companies have determined a match between their donation recipients (as compiled by the U.S. Federal Election Commission that tracks political contributions) and individuals placed on the federal government’s sedition list. In the short run, these decisions will financially disadvantage Republican elected officials, as 139 members of Congress and eight senators from their party voted against certifying the presidential election results — even after the insurrection had occurred. Beyond these financial decisions are public statements by a limited number of business leaders who have called for the resignation of President Donald Trump. Most prominent has been Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. The insurrection “was a clear and present danger to our democracy … and we couldn’t stand for that,” he said. No other prominent business association has echoed Timmons’ declaration. Longer-term reforms Conventional behavior for financing the U.S. political system will await the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president and assume that momentous policy debates in the U.S. Congress over curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, investing in infrastructure that decarbonizes the economy and reforming immigration practices will slide the public’s current focus on political donations to the periphery. Several initiatives to manage the advocacy process can be implemented to raise the bar in support of democracy. They include: Redefining the criteria for advocacy donations so they are aligned with a company’s central values and promote pro-democratic policy objectives. Such criteria should be approved by the board of directors and should apply to both direct company contributions and allocations provided through a foundation. Expanding the transparency of political donations so they are approved through the corporate governance process and are included as part of the annual financial audit. The list of external recipients should be made accessible through a public website. Identifying and publicizing universities, think tanks and individuals that receive funding to generate studies, organize seminars or establish fellowships to research and publish on issues related to democracy, labor, regulatory or sustainability issues. Integrating the pro-climate change and sustainability efforts of asset managers, investors and non-governmental organizations directly with pro-democracy advocacy. Organizations such as Climate Action 100+ are well-positioned to add support of democracy to their current suite of environment, social and governance (ESG) priorities. Mobilizing a coalition of lawyers, thought leaders and political representatives to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This 2010 edict opened the floodgates for a dramatic expansion of money to influence political campaigns and regulatory policy decisions by prohibiting government from restricting independent expenditures for political communication and enabling donors to shield their identities. The adverse consequences of this decision continue through the ever-increasing amount of contributions to candidates and causes, much of it unaccounted for, anti-environmental and anti-democratic. Offsetting the discouraging news of political insurrection and the corruption of democracy is the hopeful indicator of expanded voter participation. Most Americans have a growing recognition of the fragile state of their country and are committed to a course of peaceful collaboration to address a growing list of problems. This is reflected in higher rates of voter participation in both the 2018 mid-term and 2020 Presidential elections. While encouraging, two election cycles do not represent a longer-term trend. Expanding pro-democracy advocacy can provide a rising tide for a number of economic, environmental and social justice proposals that lead to a more equitable and just society. Such is the means to grow a continuing pro-democracy majority while marginalizing extremist points of view. Pull Quote At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

New Zealand targets carbon neutrality by 2025 amidst climate emergency

December 3, 2020 by  
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New Zealand has joined 32 other nations in formally acknowledging a climate emergency. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described climate change as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and pledged that New Zealand would have a carbon-neutral government by 2025. But not all New Zealand governmental officials agreed. The Green Party and the M?ori Party supported the motion, which noted an “alarming trend in species decline and global biodiversity .” The National Party and Act Party opposed it. Related: Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050 Since New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016, its good intentions have not been matched by progress in reducing emissions . New Zealand is among 12 out of 43 industrialized countries whose net emissions increased between 1990 and 2018. In the last 20 years, the country’s net emissions rose 60%. “The irony is, even under Trump , the U.S. is going to have made better per-capita reductions than we have,” said Bronwyn Hayward, a political science professor at University of Canterbury, as reported by The Guardian . National Party leader Judith Collins called the emergency declaration virtue signaling. “We think it’s all very well to declare an emergency but there’s no proper plan in place as to how to deal with it,” Collins told Radio New Zealand. She pointed out that only about 10% of the government’s vehicle fleet is electric . The vehicle situation is one of the topics Ardern plans to address. In the future, the government sector will only buy electric or hybrid vehicles. Coal-fired boilers will also be phased out of public service buildings. “This declaration is an acknowledgement of the next generation. An acknowledgement of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now,” Ardern said. “It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope.” Via The Guardian Image via Dan Freeman

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Make the most of your late summer garden with these tips

August 31, 2020 by  
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Just because summer is winding down doesn’t mean your gardening has to. In fact, late summer is when the natural world begins preparing for winter and even the seemingly far-off spring. When scheduling for your late summer gardening, plan ahead for the animals , nutrients in the dirt, the changing landscape and colors for subsequent seasons. Create shelter for animals Deadheading and pruning is a common activity in late summer before the cold winter days roll in. If you have the room, consider using those branches to create a protective habitat for animals in your area. After all, they are looking for a warm place to call home, too.  Related: Summer gardening tips for a great harvest Also think about pollinators during your plant selection process. Find native plants with a natural appeal to draw in bees, butterflies and birds, who will spread the seeds, enjoy the nectar and pollinate nearby food and other plants.  There are some pests you don’t want to invite to the party, so use natural repellents to treat the mosquitos, aphids, slugs, beetles, spider mites, scale, whiteflies, grasshoppers and other busy pests that tend to chew through your plants. Care for your soil The drying leaves and dying buds of late summer may make it look like the activity of the season has died down, but in reality, the root systems are coming to life in preparation for the seasons to come. Apply fertilizer to your lawn and plants so they don’t have to work so hard to acquire the nutrients they need. Also continue to provide water as needed. Go ahead and use the rest of the collected rain barrel water before the rain starts again. By the way, if you haven’t set up your water collection system , now is the perfect time to do so. Be conscious of other water waste that could be used in the garden. For example, after boiling pasta, blanching vegetables and canning, allow the water to cool and pour it on plants outdoors. You can also collect water in the shower or reuse bathwater. Late summer is a great time to add mulch to your plants. Not only does it help retain the moisture in the soil, but it also adds vital nutrients. Send branches through a chipper or rely on grass clippings or hay. Just be sure the mulch is weed-free or you could be planting a problem to deal with next year. Plant now and order ahead According to Monrovia , a leading nursery company, certain plants work best for late summer plantings. The company suggests the Strawberry Shake Hydrangea for creamy white to pink blooms in zones 4-8. Evolution Sedum comes in three varieties with hearty stems that maintain their stature throughout the season. Also consider the assortment of color options found in the Grace N’ Grit Roses for a long-lasting wave of color throughout the seasons. Another recommendation is the FloralBerry Sangria Hypericum, which provides fall blooms and berries. Late summer is a great time to plan for the fall , so think ahead to what you will need to plant in the coming season as well. Spring bulbs will need to go in the ground soon, so get your orders in for tulips, crocus and daffodils. Plus, go ahead and plant spring blooming trees, shrubs and perennials. Monrovia suggests Crimson Kisses Weigela for a colorful and compact plant that will bloom throughout the spring and fall. Harlequin Penstemon is a good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, and Little Joker Physocarpus is drought-tolerant and disease-resistant. Enjoy the season September brings cooler evenings and mornings to most time zones while maintaining many comfortable, workable hours in the day. In contrast to blistering heat in the height of summer or the frigid cold that may be coming, late summer is an enjoyable time to dig, plant, weed and haul. Divide the load As the daylilies and hostas lose blooms and begin to hunker down for the next season, grab your shovel and begin dividing them into additional plants. A hearty hosta may have 70 or more “eyes”. Leaving them in groups of at least 12 can provide at least five new plants to share or plant elsewhere. Plus it gives the original plant more vigor to grow. This is true with many dividable plants, so get your pots and shovel ready.  Plant cool-weather crops While the flurry of gardening is typically associated with spring, many foods thrive in the late summer season, providing fresh produce as autumn arrives. Plant the same cool-weather crops with short seasons you planted in the spring: spinach , lettuce and other greens, beets, carrots, peas and beans. Feed the compost bin While you’re cleaning out the wilting summer plants from the vegetable garden, add those valuable nutrients to the compost bin. Toss in the end-of-the-season grass clippings and some of the smaller twigs and branches from deadheading and pruning existing plants. All of these ingredients will break down over winter, preparing a compost of food for spring plantings. Avoid adding any leaves infected with black spot, mildew or other diseases that can contaminate the compost . + Monrovia Images via Pete Nuij , Goumbik , Genevieve Belcher , Rudy and Peter Skitterians , Pasja1000 , Devanath , Herb007 and Albrecht Fietz

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Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

October 28, 2019 by  
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Holidays and celebrations can take a toll on the environment. Between waste and consumption, Halloween festivities leave behind a giant carbon footprint. But with a little purposeful planning, your holiday can be fun and eco-friendly at the same time.  Go plastic free Obviously plastic is problematic for the planet from the petroleum used in production to the lack of sustainable disposal options. With some foresight you can mostly avoid plastic in favor of alternatives. For costumes, shop local or make your own so you can see plastic parts and avoid shipping packaging. Make costumes from natural fibers such as organic cotton or hemp. Use accessories of metal or wood. Swap out plastic trick-or-treat buckets with pillow cases or reusable shopping bags. Related: Light your pumpkins the EEK-o-friendly way this Halloween Multi-purpose decor One way to cut back on the “stuff” you accumulate for the holiday is to think seasonally. Focus on decor that can serve throughout the fall season rather than just until Halloween. Hay bales, corn stocks, pumpkins, gourds and potted plants create a welcoming display at the front door that is both sustainable and inviting well past Thanksgiving. Inside the home, target the classic sights, sounds and smells of fall with pumpkin spice candles, reflective glass displays and wreaths from burlap, straw or herbs. Organic plant-based food Holidays are for celebrating with friends and Halloween is the perfect time to invite your favorite witches and demons over for a party. Since it’s always in season to be nice to the planet, plan your party around organic (no pesticides and other toxins in the water and soil), plant-based (sans the carbon footprint of meat production) food . Make taco dip with tortilla headstones, adorable pumpkin cookies, a veggie platter in the shape of a skeleton or individual spider pizzas. Save gas Reducing gas consumption avoids the need for more oil drilling and limits your contribution to air pollution. Pick up your party supplies in advance when you are already running other errands to avoid extra trips to the store. Also, stay in your neighborhood for trick or treating if possible. Zero waste Aim for zero waste during Halloween as a challenge to yourself and your family. Work together to brainstorm ways to keep trash from taking over the holiday. Using the real plates and utensils is a great start, but you can avoid the need for dinnerware altogether by creating a menu consisting only of finger foods. Drag out the cloth napkins, too. Avoid throwing out your costume at the end of the holiday by using recyclable materials such as cardboard or save the outfit for another occasion. Be sure to donate or resell when it’s time for the final goodbye. Go second hand If Halloween is really your season to shine and you enjoy widespread decorating, spend some time at the local thrift shop where holiday decor comes in year-round. While you might still end up with non eco-friendly materials like plastic , giving those items a second life keeps them out of landfills. This is also true for costumes, lawn decorations and clothing. Tricks and treats Candy has become an integral part of the holiday and you can enjoy a treat without contributing to wasteful consumption. Start by setting a reasonable limit. While it’s fun to be out with the kids on Halloween, the treats they gather shouldn’t last until Valentine’s Day. There’s not much you can do about the plastic you’ll acquire during your trip around the neighborhood, but you can do your part when it comes to making a conscience choice about what you hand out at your door. Shop from fair trade companies and look for sustainable packaging. Also consider non-candy items or offer up a trick instead. Cut the electric bill You can enjoy your party without a spike in electrical use by making a few simple changes. Skip the TV shows and music and consider cutting the electricity all together. Halloween is the perfect occasion to take the party outside to celebrate around a wood fire under the stars and the harvest moon. Drop some submersible LED lights in the bottom of the apple dunk barrel and use solar lights to create paths or designate gathering areas. If the weather in your area isn’t cooperating with a nature party, bring it inside for a blackout party instead. Grab the solar lights from the yard and further illuminate the space with beeswax candles displayed on reflective metal or glass plates. For entertainment, share spooky stories and explain the history of the holiday to the younger generations.  Halloween is a ghoulishly fun holiday, but it doesn’t have to have a gastly impact on the planet. Set an example for your kids, guests and neighbors with thoughtful decor, costumes and party ideas that just may inspire them to make Halloween a real treat for the planet, too. Images via Shutterstock

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Have an eco-friendly Halloween and aim for zero-waste this October

10 healthy Halloween treats to make this October

October 25, 2019 by  
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Halloween is notorious for one thing: candy. While it is expected for everyone to indulge every once in a while, most people choose to forget about their health completely when it comes to Halloween , using the holiday as an excuse to eat too many artificial sweets. We’ve rounded up a list of 10 healthier options for Halloween party treats that are good for you while still maintaining the spooky holiday spirit. Bell pepper jack-o’-lanterns The best way to trick (and treat) your kids into eating their vegetables this Halloween has to be these quirky bell pepper jack-o’-lanterns. Carefully use a small paring knife or cookie cutter to cut the classic jack-o’-lantern shape into fresh bell peppers. Get creative with different shapes for the mouth, eyes and nose. Stuff the tops with salad or fresh veggie sticks and serve with a side of homemade hummus or balsamic dressing. Save any extra bell peppers in the fridge to use in a stir fry or soup the next day. Chicken, bison or plant-based meatball eyeballs Swapping beef for ground chicken, 100 percent grass-fed bison or veggies and beans in a meatball recipe is a leaner, healthier alternative. Pop on some sliced olives to turn your meatballs into eyeballs, or stick thinly sliced bell peppers into the sides to make them look like spiders. Place your meatballs on a bed of your favorite homemade sauce with either zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or brown rice pasta. Vegan cupcakes Take your favorite vegan cupcake recipe (we suggest our Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes ) and spice it up with a little Halloween flair. Top the cupcakes with delicious Greek yogurt frosting and fresh strawberry or raspberry compote for a blood-colored statement, or mix in some all-natural food coloring. Turmeric makes a good substitution for orange food coloring and matcha for green if you want to go with a pumpkin theme. Apple monsters Cut up some green apples into slices and sandwich your favorite nut butter in between. Stick in sunflower seeds to look like pointy monster teeth and add a sliced strawberry tongue. Instead of candy googly eyes, make eyeballs out of blueberries or grapes, and stick them into the tops of the apples with toothpicks.  Pumpkin soup witch’s brew Swap a regular bowl for a hollowed-out pumpkin tureen , and add a Halloween-themed topping to go along with your pumpkin soup. Use a bat-shaped cookie cutter to create bats out of whole-grain toast for dipping, or make a spider web shape out of crème fraîche to get extra festive. To double up on the party snacks, roast the pumpkin seeds from the tureen with salt, and set them out for your guests. Mandarin orange pumpkins and banana ghosts These little mandarin orange “pumpkins” are packed with vitamin D, and the accompanying banana “ghosts” are full of potassium . But the best part about making them? It is so easy, the whole family can join in. Peel mandarin oranges and stick a small slice of celery into the top to create the pumpkin stems. Use nut butter as a glue to place dark chocolate chips as the eyes and mouth on halved bananas for a ghostly face. Veggie dog mummies Swap classic hot dogs for vegan or veggie dogs for this flaky, filling recipe. Buy a pre-made dough or make your own, and cut it into strips before wrapping it around your hot dogs for a mummified look. Place your mummies on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the dogs are hot all the way through and the dough is golden brown. Homemade ketchup or honey mustard go great for dipping. Olive spiders Olives are high in antioxidants, healthy fats and vitamin B, not to mention they are low in cholesterol and high in fiber — a recipe for good gut and heart health. Connect two olives, one large and one small, together with a toothpick. Stick dried spaghetti pasta into the sides for legs (don’t forget to save the pasta to cook later so it doesn’t go to waste !). Candy or caramel apples Make your own caramel or candy apples using organic ingredients, and choose healthier toppings such as dark chocolate, chopped almonds, chopped dates, dried fruit or coconut flakes. For a party-friendly dish, arrange apple slices on a Halloween platter and drizzle with caramel sauce in a creepy, spider-web design. Mashed cauliflower ghosts Going low-carb this Halloween? Mashed cauliflower is a super healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. Spoon your mash into a piping bag to help shape it into ghost form and decorate with cut chives, black olives, peas or sesame seeds. To make sure they hold their shape, you can opt to bake or broil them in the oven for a few minutes until the mash is firm. Images via Shutterstock

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10 healthy Halloween treats to make this October

A guide to going green for the back-to-school season

August 9, 2019 by  
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As summer comes to a close, our focus shifts to back-to-school. There’s so much to do between registering, shopping, picking up supplies and coordinating all the activities filling the calendar. If you’re looking for ways to act more sustainably this school year, we’ve got you covered in multiple areas. Transportation We all know that using our cars consumes fossil fuels and leaves a carbon tire print. Unless you live in a town that shuttles kids to school via electric trolley, it’s hard to figure out a sustainable way to transport the kiddos back and forth. This is a case of progress over perfection, and remember that every act helps. Related: The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills Walking and biking are the most sustainable ways to get to school. Older kids can trek off on their own or with a group of friends. Escort younger kids and get in your exercise, too. If you don’t live close enough for biking or walking, consider the public transit system. The buses and subways are running, so using them instead of your car staves off air pollution . The same goes for the gas-guzzling school bus. It will run the route every day whether kids ride or not, so it’s a more eco-friendly option to take advantage of the bus service instead of driving each day. If driving is your only option, set up a carpool before and after school to minimize the number of cars going to the same place. Be sure to shut off the engine while you wait at the bus stop or school. Clothing One of the only things many kids get excited about when heading back to school is the new school clothes. As you know, though, clothing doesn’t have to be new to be hip, cool or trendy. Head out to the thrift shop to scour the options. When you do buy new, look for organic cotton, bamboo and other natural fabrics . For a fun option, host a clothing swap party. You know your daughter is constantly trading clothes with her friends anyway, and it’s the perfect opportunity to clean out the closet before the school year begins. Have everyone bring their pre-loved clothing, belts, handbags and shoes to the party, where they can reconnect with each other as summer comes to a close and maybe find some new clothes they love at the same time. Lunches Sometimes getting kids to eat healthy food at home is enough of a challenge, but mix that with portability and the fact that you’re not there to supervise, and lunchtime might start to feel like you’re playing the lottery. Let your kids have a say in what they want to take for lunches, but set boundaries. Remember the toddler stage when they got to make their own decisions about which of the two outfits they would like to wear that day? Same concept. Offer healthy meal and snack options, from which your child can choose. Make lunchbox-friendly entrees in advance, freeze items for easy grab-and-go snacks and breakfasts, re-package bulk items ahead of time and make a meal plan to minimize the morning hassle and simplify the grocery shopping. Map out two weeks of lunches, and repeat the schedule so the same lunch only comes around a few times each month. Agree to ban single-use water bottles and individual packaging from the lunch box. Use stainless steel or glass containers instead of plastic resealable bags. Order or make some reusable beeswax wraps for sandwiches. Add a metal or other non-plastic lunch box, and you have the foundation for a nearly waste-free lunch system. School supplies The basic laws of minimization apply here. Start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Check that tote of pushed-aside writing utensils, and resharpen the crayons and colored pencils. Inspect markers, pens and pencils. Grab the compass and protractor your older child no longer needs to give to the younger kids, and reuse the same rulers. Finish filling up the notebooks from last year when applicable, and make a few book covers. Chances are you even have tissues and 3×5 cards around that you can donate to the classroom. Once you’ve compared your inventory to the supply list, streamline your shopping. Make a “must have” list and vow to stick to it, at least for the first round of school supplies. There seems to be a phenomenon that makes kids feel they need the newest, shiniest everything before school starts, yet a few weeks in, any pencil will do. Related: The pros and cons of online versus in-store shopping When you do make school purchases, think long-term. Buying quality items is an earth-friendly decision that benefits everyone. Look for durable backpacks and binders that you won’t have to replace each year. Avoid themed folders and bags that your child will want to replace when the superhero phase passes. Beyond durability, hunt down sustainable options like those that are biodegradable , refillable and recyclable and contain post-consumer content and recycled materials. Reduce paper While you’re gearing up for the new year, look for ways to minimize paper communication by getting your email updated. Add your child’s teachers and administrators to your contacts, and sign-up for electronic classroom updates if possible. With any papers that do come, be sure to reuse or recycle them after they are no longer needed. Sports and activities With the new school year comes uniforms, gear and supplies for the extra-curricular activities, too. Again, look for secondhand gear, or borrow from friends. Hit up the local sporting goods resale shop or online marketplaces. When it comes to fundraising for those uber-expensive requirements, send flyers electronically, watch for wasteful packaging from vendors and seek out services the team can offer instead of products to sell. Also take advantage of carpool options for practices, games and competitions, and put all those activities into your meal planning calendar to avoid the dinner hassle. On activity nights, plan ahead for a slow cooker meal or leftovers instead of relying on fast food or pre-packaged dinners. With just a bit of planning, you can get the school season started with all the right supplies and habits needed for a successful and sustainable year. Images via Element5 Digital , Jaden C. , Prudence Earl , U.S. Department of Agriculture , Dawid Ma?ecki , Freddie Marriage and Picture Back

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A guide to going green for the back-to-school season

How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party

July 11, 2019 by  
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Sustainability-focused parents are just as excited about whether they’re having … The post How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party

How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party

July 11, 2019 by  
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Comments Off on How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party

Sustainability-focused parents are just as excited about whether they’re having … The post How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Throw a No-Waste Gender Reveal Party

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