8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

January 1, 2020 by  
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Setting goals is a ubiquitous part of ushering in each new year. With a renewed vigor for healthy living, embrace the opportunity to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your routine. This task can be achieved in a variety of ways, from changing your diet to reducing waste . Wherever you are on your sustainable living journey, we’ve got some ideas for how to lower your carbon footprint and enhance your sense of commitment to the planet. Commit to less driving Reducing miles equals reducing carbon emissions . To minimize personal auto usage, use public transportation for your daily commute. If subways and buses don’t take you where you need to go, set up a carpool to eliminate multiple cars going to the same location. Over the course of a year, replacing your 10-mile drive to work or school at least one day each week will greatly reduce emissions. If possible, skip the car altogether by walking or using a bike. Alternately, look into electric cars if you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Even if you must rely on your car daily, you can still reduce miles by combining errands when you head to town, organizing a carpool for kid drop-offs and pickups, sending the kids to school on the bus, eating your lunch in the office instead of driving to a restaurant and walking or biking to places in your neighborhood instead of jumping in the car. Related: People for Bikes is making cycling safer with Ride Spot Start a garden There’s nothing better than having fresh, organic vegetables at your disposal and no better way to achieve that goal than by starting a garden. If you have the space, plan for the seasons with cool weather leafy veggies and carrots in the spring, a salsa garden in the summer and squash in the fall. In a small space, prepare a container garden on your patio with cherry tomatoes, herbs and peas. If you don’t have space for your own garden, bring together like-minded people and start a community garden. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work,” so having help with planting, maintaining and harvesting plants benefits everyone. If outdoor space isn’t an option, consider setting up a hydroponics system to grow indoors instead. Join an environmentally focused group Finding ways to help the environment can feel somewhat overwhelming, but when you join a group of like-minded people sharing in a common goal, you can achieve great things. Whether your passion is cleaning up the oceans or planting trees , find a local group that supports your cause. If there isn’t one in your area, set a goal to start one. Budget for the environment We are surrounded by prompts to constantly buy more stuff. Every billboard, bus and storefront is filled with enticing marketing meant to convince you that you need whatever they offer. But each product contributes to emissions from sourcing materials, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining warehouse and retail space and disposing of post-consumer waste. Of course, it’s important to make conscientious decisions about avoiding plastic and plastic foam, buying in bulk when possible and investing in durable products that will last many years rather than disposables, but avoiding the purchase in the first place is the best thing you can do for the planet. Boil purchases down to the essentials. Give experiences rather than physical gifts. Only buy in quantities you’re likely to use. Focus on multipurpose items that can suit alternate needs. Really evaluate whether you will use an item long-term. Set a goal to reduce unnecessary purchases, and do your budget a favor at the same time. Hint: Sharing or renting equipment, tools and supplies is another easy way to save money and reduce environmental impact. Take a class There are endless ways to lower your carbon footprint , so target a topic of interest and learn more about it. Some examples include beekeeping, preserving food, woodworking, sewing, gardening or learning how to build solar and wind technology. Become more self-sufficient by obtaining skills in homesteading, identifying edible plants or using plants in alternative ways. Reduce waste Becoming conscious of your waste is a huge step toward reducing it. Take a look at your typical waste. Do you fill a 64-gallon street container each week? If so, see if you can reduce that to a 32-gallon instead. If you don’t already, start recycling . Capabilities of local recycling centers vary widely across the nation, so educate yourself on the regional process. Most facilities accept glass, tin cans, large plastic containers and paper — at a minimum. Also, always return your bottles and aluminum cans for recycling or redemption. Related: Recycling Identifying Device takes the guesswork out of figuring out what is recyclable To repeat an earlier sentiment, the best way to reduce garbage is to keep it from entering the house in the first place. Look at the packaging when you make a purchase, and support companies that ship in recyclable or biodegradable containers. Set a tangible goal for yourself to reduce your waste production by half. Maybe next year, you can halve it again. Write a letter Believe it or not, companies want to know how you feel about their products. When you notice something you like, such as a commitment to carbon offsetting or sustainable material sourcing, let them know with your buying power and your word. Conversely, let businesses know when they miss the mark. Write a letter to the CEO or owner, and let them know you would be a loyal customer if they worked toward corporate responsibility. Near and far, make companies aware of changes they can make to be more sustainable. Offer suggestions to local restaurants to replace plastic straws or single-use plastic tablecloths. Ask if to-go containers are cardboard, and refuse them if an establishment only provides plastic foam. At a city, state or federal level, get your representative involved. Drop them a note each month of the year to let them know what is important to you. Educate them about issues they may not be aware of. Ask for representation around topics like reducing petroleum reliance, protecting nature and supporting organic farming. Make your voice heard by speaking out for what you believe. Clean your plate Feeding the planet’s population puts a burden on our limited resources, but there are many things you can do to lessen your individual impact. Start by buying as local as possible. Source food from the farmer’s market seasonally, and purchase directly from farms in your town. Buying organic produce supports farmers who make the extra effort to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of our waterways. You don’t want to eat chemical-laden food, anyway. Cut back on animal products, because animal farming is a major producer of methane. Skip meat a few days a week or altogether. Cut out dairy products where you can, too. Don’t buy more food than you need , and use up leftovers rather than throwing them out. Do most of your cooking at home. A commitment to home-cooked meals is better for your health, your budget and the planet. Setting resolutions for the new year is a healthy way to guide yourself toward your sustainability goals, which is a win for you and for Earth. Happy New Year! Images via Shutterstock

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8 attainable sustainability resolutions for 2020

Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff

November 19, 2019 by  
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It’s time to think about Spring. Yes, now, before the … The post Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Design Your Landscaping to Handle Stormwater Runoff

We Earthlings: We Can Change

November 19, 2019 by  
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When we put our minds to it, humanity can make … The post We Earthlings: We Can Change appeared first on Earth911.com.

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We Earthlings: We Can Change

Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species

September 26, 2019 by  
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Like any ecosystem , the San Marcos River is happier without invasive species taking over. This spring-fed river in San Marcos, Texas, maintains its 72-degree temperature year-round, making it popular with humans, fish and turtles who live in the area. But a problem arises when humans decide they no longer want their exotic aquarium fish and decide to release these non-native species into the river . Fortunately, the San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department has devised an innovative way to protect both the river and the unwanted fish. Inhabitat spoke with Melani Howard and Eric Weeks to learn more about San Marcos’ Pet Fish Drop Off program. Howard is the Habitat Conservation Plan Manager for San Marcos’ Engineering and Capital Improvements Department. Weeks is the coordinator of the Discovery Center, an interpretive center for the Blanco and San Marcos rivers, parks and associated trails. Related: Robotic fish offer a solution to controlling invasive species Inhabitat: How and when did the program start, and why was it needed? Howard and Weeks: The program started in 2017 to reduce the number of non-native fish being dumped into the San Marcos River from aquaria and, most importantly, to educate the public about the impacts of non-native fish on native populations. We started with a small outside pond, but the predators eventually turned it into a “food bowl,” so we had to move the program to our inside tanks.  We have three large aquaria — one is dedicated to native species and the other two we use for the Fish Drop Off program. Inhabitat: How many fish do you usually have at once? Howard and Weeks: We typically have anywhere between 15 to 30 fish total in both aquaria. Inhabitat: What types of fish have people dropped off? Howard and Weeks: Suckermouth catfish (our target fish to collect, as it is incredibly invasive ), goldfish, angelfish, neons, beta, zebra, bala, gourami, cichlid, rainbow, Oscar, aquatic frog, carp, tetra and platy. Inhabitat: Do the fish get “adopted” and brought home to new aquariums? If so, how does that process work? Howard and Weeks: Yes, all the fish are adoptable by anyone who wants them. The adoption process has been fairly constant, although has slowed down somewhat because of decreased marketing. Individuals just have to stop by the Discovery Center, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with their own take-home containers. Inhabitat: Who takes care of the fish, and what kind of care is provided? Howard and Weeks: Discovery Center staff cares for the fish. Care consists of regular cleaning, water changes and feeding. Inhabitat: What results have you seen from this program? Howard and Weeks: The program has been used by college students primarily, but we have also received goldfish after the carnival has been in town (ugh), and people are very grateful to have such a program. Adopters are also quite pleased to be getting free fish. But the most important result is public education regarding the impacts of aquaria dumping.  Inhabitat: What has the public response been? Howard and Weeks: Incredibly positive. It’s been fun. Inhabitat: Could you give us a brief overview of your involvement with the fish program, as well as your other duties as watershed protection manager? Howard and Weeks: My involvement consists of responding to questions and assisting the public with dropping off or adopting the pet fish, tracking the number of fish and species type dropped off/adopted for reports and ensuring proper care and feeding. We also have education and outreach with the intent to reduce the introduction of non-native fish species in the San Marcos River. Watershed protection manager duties include implementation of the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan to conserve habitat for endangered and threatened species that inhabit the upper San Marcos River. Conservation measures include non-native predator fish removal, non-native aquatic and terrestrial vegetation removal, aquatic and terrestrial native plantings, recreation management, litter removal, bank stabilization, education and outreach and water quality best management practices. Inhabitat: What are the main threats to the San Marcos River? Howard and Weeks: The primary threat is overpumping of the Edwards Aquifer, which feeds the San Marcos River, water quality impacts from urbanization, impacts of recreation, invasive species — all these threaten the diverse, high quality habitat in the river, which supports diverse natives including several endangered species . + Pet Fish Drop Off Program Images via Melani Howard

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Innovative fish adoption program protects San Marcos River from invasive species

IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

September 26, 2019 by  
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The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — which is, in fact, the UN body responsible for communicating on the deteriorating climate — has officially recognized the oceans as a critical component in the climate change crisis. Warming ocean temperatures are becoming commonplace and are melting ice sheets and glaciers and contributing to rising sea levels. Additionally, the warm waters affect the ocean’s oxygen levels. As these phenomena accelerate toward a tipping point, nature’s ecosystems will be disrupted, and human society will be adversely affected. The IPCC’s announcement of its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate — which is based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles — signals a crucial milestone. If things remain as the status quo, then ecological upheaval is imminent. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change Our oceans comprise an important habitat that many living things, including humans, rely on for food and sustenance. Oceans also collectively absorb more than a quarter of the human-made carbon dioxide being produced, while simultaneously providing half of the oxygen created on our planet. Similarly, more than 90 percent of the heat generated via greenhouse gas emissions is likewise absorbed by our oceans. In this way, the oceans play a significant role in global climate regulation. But our climate is in dire crisis. Rising global temperatures are making oceans warmer through marine heatwaves. Warm ocean water is less likely to hold oxygen, leading to subsequent ocean acidification. Plus, warmer waters bleach coral reefs and also increase the likelihood of water chemistry disruptions, so that both bacterial and algal blooms become more common, as do red tides. Marine biodiversity is thrown off-kilter, leaving certain ocean regions devoid of life. Mass endangerment and extinctions of particular marine species becomes inevitable, and fishing yields dwindle considerably. Hence, for the 70-member coalition known as the Ocean and Climate Platform, the ocean’s sustainability comes into question. To stem the tide of climate catastrophe, the authors of the report are warning humanity and calling for policy change. If human-induced warming continues, there will come a time when the damage can no longer be healed. Immediate collaborative action is required, before it is too late, to reverse and remedy the climate crisis. + IPCC Image via Oregon State University

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IPCC landmark report warns about the state of the oceans, polar ice content and the climate crisis

Start Thinking About Your Spring Garden Now

September 5, 2019 by  
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Selfie-seekers are destroying California farmers’ sunflower fields

July 8, 2019 by  
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A rush of tourists seeking the perfect selfie is putting California flora at risk. In the spring, masses of visitors flocked to small towns in southern California to snap photos with the super bloom of poppies along the roads and hillsides. Now, visitors are traveling miles to say cheese next to vibrant, sky-high sunflowers in Solano County. One or two photos might be okay, but when so many people trample — and trespass — on farmers’ fields, the entire farm suffers. Residents of the county made multiple calls to the local sheriff’s department after private property and crops were repeatedly trampled by eager amateur photographers. The sheriff’s department dispatched a public service announcement via social media: “As alluring as a picturesque sunflower field may be to a dedicated selfie seeker, farmers in Solano County are asking visitors to PLEASE respect their property when they’re trying to snap that perfect shot.” Related: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific During the poppy super bloom, Borrego Springs ran out of food, gas, hotel rooms and cash in the ATM just trying to handle the surge of tourists. The line of cars was backed up at least 20 miles down the road as visitors stopped to snap their photos of the blooming flowers . But many of the sunflower fields are part of private land and businesses and are critical to farmers’ livelihoods. Sunflowers are often sold as fresh-cut flowers but also for sunflower seeds and sunflower butter. Many farmers rely on the sunflowers for cross pollination and to feed important pollinators that their crops rely on, like native bees and honey bees . In Solano County, both farmers and residents are distressed that the visitors have little respect for private property signage and boundaries. Some tourists are going so far as to bring picnics and set up on farmers’ land like it’s a national park . “They’re having picnics, wine and cheese right there in the corner and I’m going ‘Really?’” a sunflower farmer, Craig Ginos, told CBS Sacramento . Via The Guardian and CBS Sacramento Image via Peter de Vink

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Selfie-seekers are destroying California farmers’ sunflower fields

Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

June 24, 2019 by  
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Multiple studies have found arsenic in bottled water sold around the country. Major companies Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper are under fire for their spring water brands Peñafiel and Starkey, which, according to the California Center for Environmental Health, exceed the federal limit for arsenic. Keurig Dr. Pepper has voluntarily withdrawn its unflavored mineral water from shelves at retail outlets like Target and Walmart and is offering a refund for customers that return the contaminated bottles. Related: Ragú pasta sauce pulled from shelves for possible plastic contamination A corroborating study by Consumer Reports also found that the waters exceeded the federal limits for arsenic by 10 parts per billion. Despite pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Whole Foods has not issued a recall . According to Whole Foods, an internal study found that its water is within the federal safety limits. The Center for Environmental Health did not release the exact findings of its study, as it has launched a lawsuit against both companies. The specific results of the analysis are confidential until further notice. “Arsenic when present in the diet at very high levels, well above those detected in recent samples of Peñafiel, is associated with numerous chronic diseases ,” Keurig Dr Pepper said in a company press release. “Water quality tests of Peñafiel samples conducted by an independent laboratory on behalf of Keurig Dr Pepper detected arsenic at levels that exceeded the FDA’s bottled water standards for mineral water of 10 ppb.” Peñafiel is imported from Mexico, where bottling has halted until further investigation. Starkey is bottled from a spring source in Idaho that was recently lauded for its purity during the brand’s launch in 2016. By 2017, however, the Food and Drug Administration had already recalled the water for the first time. Bottled water is the top selling bottled beverage in the U.S., with most consumers assuming it is safer and more regulated than municipal tap water. Via Huffington Post Image via FotoBlend

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Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

June 24, 2019 by  
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With a goal of replacing fast fashion with consciously consumed fashion, Frances Austen’s summer 2019 collection features 100 percent biodegradable sweaters made from sustainably sourced cashmere and silk. After many years in the fashion business, Frances Austen founder Margaret Coblentz was tired of seeing the trends in fast fashion , including a flurry of wasteful production and post-consumer disposal. With the clothing industry consistently falling into the highest-ranking waste production industries, she decided to do something about it with a very basic philosophy — make quality clothing that is versatile and long-lasting. Her goal is to encourage consumers to re-wear clothing, both because it’s good for the planet and because they love what they’re wearing. With that in mind, the luxury product line aims to be both trendy and timeless. Related: H&M releases sustainable fashion line made from fruit and algae “The lightbulb moment was years in the making,” Coblentz said. “After a decade of witnessing firsthand the overproduction of fast fashion that is not re-wearable, recyclable or re-sellable, we decided to do something about it. We saw amazing qualities in luxury fabrics , silk and cashmere, and envisioned game-changing clothing that is 100 percent sexy on you as well as the environment. If you want to help the planet, it starts by re-wearing your clothes, and our aim at Frances Austen is to make that easier for you. All our pieces are made to last, versatile for every occasion and comprised of biodegradable materials and are 100 percent cashmere.” Sustainability begins with the materials used during production, so the yarn comes from specialists in the industry, spun by Cariaggi in Italy. All of the yarn is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, a certification only earned with chemical-free production and high international safety standards. For production, the company partnered with Johnstons of Elgin, a family-owned factory in Scotland. In business for over 200 years, it is the largest employer in the small community of Hawick. Long associated with luxury and an emphasis on craftsmanship, Johnstons of Elgin is a name known for its socially responsible practices. With reliable material and manufacturing partnerships in place, Frances Austen shifted focus to long-lasting durable designs in the sweaters themselves. Dedicated to using the finest fibers (15 micron), the goal of less pilling leads to durability and a softer feel over the life of the garment. Hoping to meet the needs of a range of consumers, the product line includes crop designs, lantern sleeve, raw edge crew and a longer, reversible V-neck in a range of colors from citrine and kiwi to traditional charcoal and soft white. As a result of my interest in writing about the sustainably focused 2019 summer sweater line, Frances Austen sent me a sample sweater to experience. The Reversible V in blush mauve is uniquely designed to allow a deep V front or a stylish V back and crew neck front. In my opinion, this adds to the versatility of the piece, giving it more value as a long-lasting article in my closet. The material is remarkably soft and comfortable on the skin. Time will tell the story of durability, but I’m excited to put it to the test as a staple of my wardrobe for many years to come. + Frances Austen Images via Frances Austen and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product overview and review is not sponsored by Frances Austen. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

Boston’s mayor announces curbside compost program

June 24, 2019 by  
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Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh wants to know: are you going to compost that? Because chances are you should. Walsh has announced a plan to ensure that 100 percent of compostable waste is diverted from landfills by 2050. According the city’s estimates, 36 percent of the trash that Bostonians are throwing away should be composted and 39 percent should be recycled. This is a huge amount of waste going to the wrong place (landfills or incinerators) and ultimately equates to 6 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions . Related: Washington becomes the first state to allow human composting Mayor Walsh is determined to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and believes an overhaul of the waste services in the city can make major progress in the right direction. The city has requested proposals from companies willing to provide curbside composting services to Boston residents for a subscription fee, which the government plans to subsidize. Right across the Charles River, the neighboring city of Cambridge already started providing free curbside composting for residents last year, but Boston has six times the population. Boston also plans to expand the window of time that yard waste is collected and launch a textile pick-up program. Last year, the city also announced a plan to ban single-use plastic bags throughout the city. “Preparing Boston for climate change means ensuring our city is sustainable, both now and in the future,” Walsh said. “We need to lead and design city policies that work for our residents and for the environment and world we depend upon. These initiatives will lead Boston toward becoming a zero-waste city and invest in the future of residents and generations to come.” To help out with the transition toward zero-waste , Boston received a grant from Cocoa-Cola to increase the number of recycling bins, signage and trash services in city parks. Boston was one of seven cities to receive this pilot funding from Coca-Cola. The switch to a more comprehensive waste system will require re-educating Bostonians about how to recycle and what to compost. The city’s website recommends residents download the city’s free “ Trash Day ” app, with which users can look up specific items and learn exactly how to dispose of them. Via Curbed Image via Shutterstock

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Boston’s mayor announces curbside compost program

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