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Keeping your camera off during virtual meetings can help save the environment

There are several ways consumers change their internet use to be more eco-conscious

Many consumers have made the switch from in-person work to working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this change has cut down on commuting times, it also has meant that consumers are spending a lot more time on the internet while at home.

A new study conducted by researchers from Purdue University explored how consumers can use all of this extra screen time to benefit the environment. According to the researchers, one of the best ways consumers can cut down on their carbon footprint is to keep their cameras turned off during virtual meetings. 

“Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless, but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality,” said researcher Kaveh Madani. “So without your consent, these platforms are increasing your environmental footprint.” 

Small changes make a big impact

The researchers gathered internet processing data from several countries around the world to better understand how consumers’ internet habits can influence various environmental outcomes. They looked at social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Zoom and explored how usage affected carbon, water, and land footprints. 

“If you just look at one type of footprint, you miss out on others that can provide a more holistic look at environmental impact,” said researcher Roshanak Nateghi. 

The researchers learned that streaming services and online video conferences are two of the biggest culprits in terms of negative impacts on the environment. However, by making simple switches, consumers help reduce the effect of such environmental damage. 

They explained that keeping your camera off during a virtual meeting can reduce the carbon, water, and land footprints by 96 percent, and swapping high definition streaming for standard definition can reduce these footprints by 86 percent. Opting against data downloads can also be incredibly beneficial for the environment. Currently, a one-hour video call uses up to 12 liters of water and produces 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide. 

While CO2 emissions have hit record lows since the start of the pandemic, the researchers worry about how continued excessive internet usage will continue to affect the environment. If consumers keep up at the current pace, carbon, water, and land footprints are anticipated to increase by the end of 2021.

“There are the best estimates given the available data,” said Nateghi. “In view of these reported surges, there is a hope now for higher transparency to guide policy.” 

Many consumers have made the switch from in-person work to working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this change has cut down on co...

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Climate change has led to billions of dollars in flood damages, study finds

More frequent extreme weather events have heightened the severity of flooding

Climate change is a source of stress for many consumers, and findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Stanford University may just add to that stress. 

Because climate change has led to more frequent weather events and more severe periods of precipitation, flooding has become a much more serious issue for many consumers. According to the researchers’ findings, flooding due to climate change has led to billions of dollars in damages in the last 30 years. 

“The fact that extreme precipitation has been increasing and will likely increase in the future is well known, but what effect that has had on financial damages has been uncertain,” said researcher Frances Davenport. “Our analysis allows us to isolate how much of those changes in precipitation translate to changes in the cost of flooding, both now and in the future.” 

Flood damage on the rise

The researchers’ goal was to determine whether rising flood damages were related to climate change or if there were other overriding socioeconomic factors that have come into play in recent years. They used existing economic models to compare climate change data, flood damages, and weather patterns between 1988 and 2017. 

“By bringing all those pieces together, this framework provides a novel quantification not only of how much historical changes in precipitation have contributed to the costs of flooding, but also how greenhouse gases influence the kind of precipitation events that cause the most damaging flood events,” said researcher Noah Diffenbaugh. 

The researchers found that over the last 30 years, flooding has yielded nearly $200 billion in related damages across the United States. They learned that climate change was directly linked to more than 35 percent of those costs, or roughly $75 billion in damages. The team explained that the severity of extreme weather events is mostly to blame in these cases, as flooding has only worsened as the weather has changed. 

“What we find is that, even in states where the long-term mean precipitation hasn’t changed, in most cases, the wettest events have intensified, increasing the financial damages relative to what would have occurred without the changes in precipitation,” said Davenport. 

This study points to just one area of significant cost that stems from climate change. Moving forward, the researchers hope that legislators can utilize these findings as the basis for serious climate-related policy change. Without changes, they believe flood damages will only surge higher as time goes on. 

“Accurately and comprehensively tallying the past and future costs of climate change is key to making good policy decisions,” said researcher Marshall Burke. “This work shows that past climate change has already cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, just due to flood damages alone.” 

Climate change is a source of stress for many consumers, and findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Stanford University may just add to th...

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Hope still exists in the fight against climate change, experts say

Policy-led interventions implemented around the world could lead to lasting improvements

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some positive news in terms of the environment, research shows that pollution is still a very real problem.

Though a lot of work still needs to be done, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter is detailing why hope still remains in the fight against climate change. According to the researchers, efforts put into place in two key areas -- lighter road transportation and power -- will likely benefit the environment for years to come. 

“We have left it too late to tackle climate change incrementally,” said researcher Tim Lenton. “Limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius now requires transformational change and a dramatic acceleration process.”

Tipping towards environmental advancements 

Lenton and his team are optimistic about the future of climate change because of what they refer to as “tipping points.” They explained that this happens when several small changes build on top of one another to create one lasting change. When it comes to climate change, the researchers anticipate tipping points to occur in the areas of power and lighter road transportation. In both cases, policy-led interventions have already been put into place to help set the scales in motion that will eventually create long-term change. 

In looking at power, the researchers explained that countries around the world are working to make coal plants a thing of the past. On a global scale, renewable energy sources are proving to be a more cost-effective method of generating power, which is minimizing the benefits associated with coal and fossil fuels. 

As these efforts continue, and renewable energy is utilized more and more, the researchers predict that there will no longer be any financial benefits of using coal or in maintaining coal plants. In time, the widespread use of solar or wind-powered energy will tip the scales and make coal-fueled power obsolete.

The researchers anticipate a similar tipping point to occur when electric cars are more widely used by consumers. Currently, the manufacturing costs of electric cars are making it difficult for them to be more accessible to car buyers. However, offsetting these costs is possible; the researchers explained that legislators in parts of the world that generate the highest car sales -- California, China, and the European Union -- can work together to mass-produce electric cars and lower costs. 

“If either of these efforts -- in power or road transport -- succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change,” Lenton said. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some positive news in terms of the environment, research shows that pollution is still a very real problem.Thou...

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Uber to expand ‘Uber Green’ to more cities as part of increased sustainability efforts

The company will also be focusing on electric vehicles and new initiatives in 2021

The new year is officially underway, and Uber is recommitting to some of the green initiatives that it promised to undertake towards the end of 2020.

On Tuesday, the company announced that it will be expanding its Uber Green ride option to over 1,400 more North American cities and towns. The offering allows riders to choose either an electric vehicle or a hybrid vehicle as their mode of transport. Drivers who have an eligible vehicle can earn a small bonus from each completed trip, and some of the money also goes towards greater adoption of electric vehicles. 

Uber is also adopting Uber Green into its Uber Pass membership service. Consumers who are enrolled in that program can receive 10 percent off on Green trips and on standard rides.

More sustainability efforts

Also included in Uber’s announcement was information on two new initiatives it has joined to help fight climate change. The first is its enrollment in the Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA), which is advocating for policies that will allow 100 percent electric vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030. 

“For the first time in a generation, transportation is the leading emitter of U.S. carbon emissions. By embracing EVs, federal policymakers can help drive innovation, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and improve air quality and public health,” Joe Britton, ZETA’s executive director, said in November.

The second initiative Uber has joined is Amazon’s and Global Optimism’s Climate Pledge, which seeks to meet the climate goals outlined in The Paris Agreement on a shorter timeline.

“Uber’s work to have 100% of rides taking place in zero-emission vehicles, on public transit, or with micromobility by 2040,” aligns with this pledge, the company said.

The new year is officially underway, and Uber is recommitting to some of the green initiatives that it promised to undertake towards the end of 2020.On...

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New York state’s pension fund to divest from all fossil fuel investments

Clean energy is increasingly becoming a bigger part of the energy sector

New York state’s pension fund found itself with a new world record on Thursday when it decided to become the largest pension fund to divest from all of its fossil fuel investments.

The fund -- which is the third largest pension fund in the U.S. with a value of $194.3 billion and more than one million members, retirees, and beneficiaries -- decided that selling off its “riskiest” oil and gas stocks is the right action to take due to growing climate concerns. The state’s final goal is to completely eliminate all carbon polluters from its investment portfolio by 2040. 

With a stroke of New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s pen, a clear message was sent that the smart money is on getting out of the fossil fuel game now rather than later.

“We continue to assess energy sector companies in our portfolio for their future ability to provide investment returns in light of the global consensus on climate change,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement Wednesday morning. 

“Those that fail to meet our minimum standards may be removed from our portfolio. Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investment’s long-term value at risk.”

The shape of things to come?

The Paris Climate Agreement is coming up on its fifth anniversary, but its last couple of years have been a tug of war. Once President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord, tech executives from Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others came together to voice their concerns. Meanwhile, the world’s five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies fought against governmental measures to curb emissions.

While the consumption side of fossil fuels hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 20 years, renewable energy -- hydroelectric power, geothermal, solar, and wind -- is getting closer in the energy sector’s rear view mirror. At last count, the renewable option was generating 17.6 percent of all electric power.

New York may be the first to come down this hard on fossil fuel, but other states have been working on similar moves. As of late April, 15 U.S. states and territories had taken either executive or legislative action toward a 100 percent clean energy future -- one that includes clean electricity policies and economy-wide greenhouse gas pollution-reduction programs.

What’s the energy future for consumers?

Even more important is the consumer side of the energy consumption equation. While the decrease in gas prices has American consumers moving toward buying more SUVs and trucks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps pushing for exponentially less polluting and more efficient vehicles. 

At home, clean energy, such as solar power, is also getting the reputation as a more environmentally friendly option. 

“Solar energy is most efficient in terms of environmental impact, whereas coal and natural gas are more efficient by reliable applications,” writes ConsumerAffairs’ Kathryn Parkman in her review of how certain energy resources impact consumers in terms of efficiency, cost, and long-term availability.

And, as for cost? “Given the consumption rate of fossil fuels, the world is reaching a point where there will be little choice in the matter. Nonrenewable fossil fuels are extracted at a much faster rate than they're being replenished. Because of this, some fossil fuels, like coal, are on track to be more expensive than solar within the next decade,” Parkman said.

New York state’s pension fund found itself with a new world record on Thursday when it decided to become the largest pension fund to divest from all of its...

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Consumers’ behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic are improving the environment

Researchers have found reduced air pollution levels, less deforestation, and better water quality

Recent studies have shown how environmental factors can play a large role in future pandemics, but a new study conducted by researchers from NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center is looking at how the environment has changed since the start of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

According to their findings, the pandemic could be responsible for a great deal of positive environmental change that has occurred this year. In comparing data between 2019 and 2020, the researchers noted improvements in air pollution, deforestation, and water quality in several parts of the world. 

“But we will need more research to clearly attribute environmental change to COVID,” said researcher Timothy Newman.

Improved environmental outcomes

The researchers used remote sensing data to look at specific environmental outcomes across different parts of the world to understand how things have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, they learned that things are environmentally very different from where they were before the pandemic.  

The study revealed that air pollution levels have improved greatly in India in recent months. Results showed that levels of the pollutant particulate matter (PM) 10 decreased significantly since the start of this year; that could be a result of fewer construction projects happening across the country because of pandemic-related lockdowns. 

Cleaner air in India also had an effect on snow in the Indus River Basin. The researchers learned that snow in this area has been less susceptible to pollutants since they are at reduced levels; that has led to an increase in the amount of time it takes the snow to melt. They explained that the snow was melting slower than it has in the last two decades, which is incredibly beneficial for the environment and the planet’s temperature. It also affects how quickly consumers in the River Basin have access to fresh water.

The researchers also looked at how water quality has changed since the start of the pandemic. They learned that New York City experienced significant improvements in this area. By eliminating millions of daily commuters, the water was less polluted overall, and it was found to be 40 percent clearer than it was at the start of the pandemic. 

In looking at deforestation efforts, the researchers learned that different areas have had different outcomes during the pandemic. While deforestation slowed in parts of Peru and Colombia, large parts of the Brazilian rainforest weren’t as lucky. 

Can the benefits last?

While many of these pandemic-related changes are beneficial to the environment, there’s a good chance that they won’t be long-lasting. 

Though consumers have been forced to change their behaviors in recent months, the researchers predict that once things revert back to how they were pre-pandemic, these environmental advancements won’t hold up.

Recent studies have shown how environmental factors can play a large role in future pandemics, but a new study conducted by researchers from NASA and the G...

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Glitter is causing ecological damage to rivers, study finds

Researchers are concerned about how ecosystems will be affected by these microplastics

A new study conducted by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University found that glitter could be polluting rivers and creating ecological damage. In looking at both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable options, the researchers learned that the presence of glitter in rivers can have lasting effects on existing ecosystems. 

“Many of the microplastics found in our rivers and oceans have taken years to form, as larger pieces of plastic are broken down over time,” said researcher Dr. Dannielle Green. “However, glitter is a ready-made microplastic that is commonly found in our homes and, particularly through cosmetics, is washed off in our sinks and into the water system. 

“Our study is the first to look at the effects of glitter in a freshwater environment and we found that both conventional and alternative glitters can have a serious ecological impact on aquatic ecosystems within a short period of time.”

The damages of microplastics

For the study, the researchers observed the effects of different types of glitter on an aquatic ecosystem for five weeks. They analyzed both traditional, nonbiodegradable glitter, and two eco-friendly options: mica glitter, which is typically used in make-up products, and another type that is made of modified regenerated cellulose (MRC). 

The researchers learned that all three glitters negatively affected the aquatic ecosystem. They looked specifically at chlorophyll and root levels, which are responsible for the health and longevity of plant species, and each glitter sample yielded nearly identical results. Chlorophyll levels were roughly three times lower due to the presence of glitter and duckweed roots were half as long. 

The study also revealed that the eco-friendly glitter options attracted an invasive species of New Zealand mud snails. These creatures monopolize food and other resources, and they are more likely to populate an area that has a polluted water source. 

“All types, including so-called biodegradable glitter, have a negative effect on important primary producers which are the base of the food web, while glitter with a biodegradable cellulose core has an additional impact of encouraging the growth of invasive species,” Dr. Green said. 

While the researchers plan to do more work to better understand why glitter has this significant impact on aquatic ecosystems, they hope these findings highlight the dangers associated with microplastics

“We believe these effects could be caused by leachate from the glitters, possibly from their plastic coating or other materials involved in their production, and our future research will investigate this in greater detail,” Dr. Green said. 

A new study conducted by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University found that glitter could be polluting rivers and creating ecological damage. In looking...

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Amazon announces new climate initiative to help consumers shop for sustainable products

Shoppers will see a new label on products that meet the pledge’s standards

Eco-conscious consumers who shop online with Amazon will soon have a better way to pick products that adhere to their high environmental standards. The company announced this week that it is rolling out “Climate Pledge Friendly,” a new initiative that will place a label on products that meet at least one of 19 sustainability certifications. 

To start, Amazon says the initiative will add labels to over 25,000 eligible products. The initiative will cover products from multiple categories, including grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics.

“Climate Pledge Friendly is a simple way for customers to discover more sustainable products that help preserve the natural world,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “With 18 external certification programs and our own Compact by Design certification, we’re incentivizing selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations.”

Building on sustainable promises

The move builds upon the company’s previous commitment to meet standards set under the Paris Climate Agreement, which would bring the company to net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. 

In a press release, Amazon said it has already gone above and beyond those standards by committing to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, using fully-electric delivery vehicles, and donating billions to programs that support reforestation and a transition to a low carbon economy.

“Amazon’s initiative will drive scale and impact for more sustainable consumption by helping customers easily discover products that are Climate Pledge Friendly and encourage the manufacturers to make their products more sustainable,” said Fabian Garcia, President of Unilever North America.

To learn more about the Climate Pledge Friendly, consumers can visit Amazon’s website here.

Eco-conscious consumers who shop online with Amazon will soon have a better way to pick products that adhere to their high environmental standards. The com...

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Uber pledges to hit net-zero emissions by 2040

The ride-hailing giant has pledged to ‘more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change’

Uber has committed to becoming a zero-emission mobility platform by 2040. On Tuesday, the ride-hailing giant outlined several new initiatives that will help it meet that goal and mitigate its environmental impact.

“The path there will be electric. It will be shared. It will be with buses and trains and bicycles and scooters. These monumental changes won’t come easy. Or fast. But we have a plan to get there, and we need you to come along for the ride,” the company said in a statement.

The pandemic has given people “a glimpse of what life could be like with less traffic and cleaner air,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a virtual press event. However, the executive warned that emissions levels will soon return to normal.

COVID-19 “didn’t change the fact that climate change remains an existential threat and crisis that needs every person, every business in every nation to act,” he added. 

Switching to electric

Uber said on Tuesday that it is committing to getting its drivers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada to switch to using electric vehicles by 2025. To reach that goal, the company has set aside $800 million. Drivers can receive discounts on cars purchased or leased through Uber's auto partners, which include GM, Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi. 

Uber also wants to get its corporate operations down to net-zero emissions by 2030. 

The company also announced that it will launch “Uber Green” in 15 U.S. and Canadian cities. In exchange for paying a dollar more, riders can be picked up in an EV or hybrid electric vehicle. Uber said it expects the program to be launched in over 65 cities globally by the end of 2020.

“You can now tap a button and request a ride in an electric or hybrid vehicle in select cities around the world,” the company said. “Each Uber Green trip in a hybrid or electric vehicle emits at least 25% less carbon emissions compared to the average Uber ride.”

Uber has also released its first Climate Assessment and Performance Report to give people insight into how it’s doing in terms of lowering its emissions. The company found that vehicles on its platform were more efficient than cars with a single occupant, but its carbon intensity was higher than personal cars occupied by an “average” number of occupants. 

The ride-hailing firm said in the report that it hosted 4 billion rides across the U.S. and Canada from 2017 to 2019. However, officials said the current state of its operations is "unsustainable.” 

“It’s our responsibility as the largest mobility platform in the world to more aggressively tackle the challenge of climate change,” Uber said. “We want to do our part to build back better and drive a green recovery in our cities.”

Uber has committed to becoming a zero-emission mobility platform by 2040. On Tuesday, the ride-hailing giant outlined several new initiatives that will hel...

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Pollution could contribute to antibiotic resistance, study finds

Researchers say burning fossil fuels and certain agricultural processes could be to blame

Antibiotic resistance is a widespread issue, as some superbugs have adapted to withstand the antibacterial powers of hand sanitizer. 

Now, researchers from the University of Georgia are looking at how environmental factors could play a role in antibiotic resistance. According to their findings, pollution could increase the incidence of antibiotic resistance nationwide. 

“The overuse of antibiotics in the environment adds additional selection pressure on microorganisms that accelerates their ability to resist multiple classes of antibiotics,” said researcher Jesse C. Thomas IV. “But antibiotics aren’t the only source of selection pressure. Many bacteria possess genes that simultaneously work on multiple compounds that would be toxic to the cell, and this includes metals.” 

Environmental pressures

To understand how pollution can affect antibiotic resistance, the researchers analyzed soil samples from four spots in South Carolina. They evaluated the genetic make-up of the soil in order to determine any present bacteria that could be resistant to antibiotics. 

The researchers also paid particularly close attention to the effect of metals in the samples, as heavy metals aren’t biodegradable. This means that the effects of such contamination can last indefinitely. Ultimately, the team learned that the soil samples that were most contaminated by heavy metals were the most likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria. 

The study also revealed that there was a great deal of overlap between antibiotic-resistant genes and metal-resistant genes within the samples. This is important because heavy metals are often associated with antibiotic resistance, so this likely amplifies the resistance to traditional treatment methods. 

Specifically, the researchers found that these soil samples resisted the powers of three commonly used antibiotics that are used to treat infections: polymyxin, vancomycin, and bacitracin. 

Though the researchers plan to do more research on the relationship between metal resistance and antibiotic resistance, these findings are important because they can help identify how actions associated with pollution can contribute to antibiotic resistance. 

“We need a better understanding of how bacteria are evolving over time,” said Thomas. “This can impact our drinking water and our food and eventually our health.” 

Antibiotic resistance is a widespread issue, as some superbugs have adapted to withstand the antibacterial powers of hand sanitizer. Now, researchers f...

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Experts predict plastic pollution in the ocean will triple in the next 20 years

Efforts from both lawmakers and consumers are needed to slow down this worrying trend

Plastics, like straws and contact lenses, have been found to build up in the ocean, and it could take hundreds of years before they ever disintegrate. 

Now, a new study suggests that plastic pollution will likely get much worse over the next two decades if left unchecked. Researchers are predicting that if the current rate of pollution keeps up without intervention, pollution could increase threefold by 2040. 

“There’s no single solution to ocean plastic pollution, but through rapid and concerted action we can break the plastic wave,” said researcher Tom Dillon. “As this report shows, we can invest in a future of reduced waste, better health outcomes, greater job creation, and a cleaner and more resilient environment for both people and nature.” 

Preventing a growing problem

To measure and predict the plastic pollution in the oceans, the researchers created a model that helped them track current pollution progress. After adjusting the model for several potential interventions, they predicted what the oceans could look like in the next 20 years. 

Though the study showed that plastic pollution will multiply if nothing changes, the researchers explained that there are several tangible ways to work to reduce pollution -- and they come with several benefits. 

Improving recycling habits, opting for compostable items when possible, and increasing waste collection are just a handful of ways that real change can be made. And while all these efforts would work in reducing how much plastic lands in the ocean, there are more benefits than many consumers may realize. 

For starters, adopting these habits would create hundreds of thousands of jobs while also providing a huge environmental boost by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, being more proactive about plastic pollution in these ways could ultimately reduce ocean pollution by 80 percent. 

The researchers hope that consumers realize minor actions can add up and that plastic pollution in the oceans isn’t a doomed issue. With consistent efforts, significant strides can be made. 

“Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” said researcher Martin Stuchtey. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation. We have today all the solutions required to stem plastic flows by more than 80 percent. What we now need is the industry and government resolve to do so.” 

Plastics, like straws and contact lenses, have been found to build up in the ocean, and it could take hundreds of years before they ever disintegrate....

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California becomes first state to mandate shift to zero-emission trucks

A landmark regulation will increase sales of these vehicles starting in 2024

California has become the first state to require truck manufacturers to ramp up their zero-emission truck sales. Starting in 2024, the state’s auto manufacturers will be required to gradually increase the percentage of zero-emissions truck sales.

The “Advanced Clean Trucks” regulation, first introduced in 2016 under former Gov. Jerry Brown, received unanimous approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Thursday.

Under the rule, the percentage of light- and medium-duty trucks sales will be increased to 55 percent. The percentage of heavier duty electric trucks sold will be increased to 75 percent by 2035. By 2045, every new truck sold in the state will be zero-emission.

The regulation will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve quality in a state with particularly poor air quality. However, the impact of the regulation is expected to extend beyond state lines. Experts have noted that zero-emissions trucks sold in California engage in commercial travel across the nation, so emissions in other states will likely drop as well. 

A racial justice issue

Toxic air pollution is tied to the nation’s current push to achieve racial justice, since pollution from heavy-duty vehicles has been shown to disproportionately impact communities of color. CARB noted that trucks are responsible for 70 percent of smog-causing pollution. 

In an interview with Gizmodo, Costa Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, called the regulation a “huge deal” with the potential to promote air quality equity in the state.

“The reduction and eventual elimination of diesel emissions near where people live is an equity issue. It’s an environmental justice issue,” Samaras said. “These pollutants, they cause real health damages. And lots of times, it has been communities of color who have borne the brunt of these types of emissions. Electrifying all segments of transportation and having a very clear electric grid are two issues that we can’t wait on any longer.”

CARB said its goal is to facilitate the creation of “a self-sustaining zero-emission truck market,” similar to the one it has for passenger vehicles. The estimated emissions reduction from the new rule will help the state reach its emissions goals of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. 

“For decades, while the automobile has grown cleaner and more efficient, the other half of our transportation system has barely moved the needle on clean air,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said in a statement. “Diesel vehicles are the workhorses of the economy, and we need them to be part of the solution to persistent pockets of dirty air in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Now is the time – the technology is here and so is the need for investment.”

California has become the first state to require truck manufacturers to ramp up their zero-emission truck sales. Starting in 2024, the state’s auto manufac...

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Record levels of humidity and heat predicted to reach across the globe

Researchers worry about the effect this could have on humans

While many studies have reported on the consistently rising global temperatures, it’s still uncertain how such levels of heat will affect consumers

Now, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University found that parts of the world could begin to experience periods of heat and humidity that could make it dangerous for human survival. 

“Previous studies projected that this would happen several decades from now, but this shows it’s happening right now,” said researcher Colin Raymond. “The time these events last will increase, and the areas they affect will grow in direct correlation with global warming.” 

Bracing for the heat

The researchers evaluated weather patterns around the world from 1979 through 2017. They learned that extreme periods of heat and humidity became twice as likely over that time period. The primary concern is that the heat will affect nearly every facet of consumers’ lives, including their physical health and finances. 

While most consumers are used to seeing a heat index to measure the heat and humidity in their area, meteorologists use the “wet bulb” Centigrade scale. A reading of 32 C or higher is considered to be extreme heat, and the researchers explained that this threshold can make it nearly impossible for consumers to be outside. In terms of Fahrenheit, 32 C comes out to 132 degrees, making these temperatures dangerous for humans. 

The researchers noted that the number of readings of at least 32 C have doubled over time, and periods of such intense heat and humidity are only expected to increase. “It’s hard to exaggerate the effects of anything that gets into the 30s,” said Raymond. 

Eliminating jobs

In addition to the risks to consumers’ health, which are amplified in the humidity, the researchers explained that these frequent high temperatures will have an effect on the economy, as many jobs will become impossible. 

While air conditioning can certainly relieve some of the burden, many regions around the world with the highest temperatures aren’t equipped with air conditioning units, and the effects of staying indoors for long periods of time will be felt around the world. 

“These measurements imply that some areas of Earth are much closer than expected to attaining sustained intolerable heat,” said researcher Steven Sherwood. “It was previously believed we had a much larger margin of safety.” 

While many studies have reported on the consistently rising global temperatures, it’s still uncertain how such levels of heat will affect consumers. No...

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Solar and wind energy companies face project delays due to COVID-19

The health crisis has dealt setbacks to the renewable energy industry

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on renewable energy projects and threatens to hamper efforts to curtail climate change. Thousands of clean-energy workers have filed for unemployment and, as a result, the installation of solar energy systems and other renewable energy projects has been put on hold. 

“There are many smaller companies going out of business as we speak,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association told the Associated Press. “Up to half our jobs are at risk.”

Scientists have expressed concern that the coronavirus-related delay in clean energy projects could hinder efforts to combat climate change. 

Workers benched and projects delayed

Social distancing orders have had the biggest impact on solar panel installation on rooftops and the addition of energy-efficiency measures inside homes, according to the Washington Post. 

“Shelter in place puts limitations on how people can work,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told the Post. “Literally, people don’t want other people inside their houses to fix electrical boxes. And there are no door-to-door sales.”

Wind energy companies also expect progress to be slowed this year as the nation deals with the coronavirus pandemic. The American Wind Energy Association said it was “on a roll” right up until the last month or two. Now, projects that would add 25 gigawatts of wind power to the U.S. grid are at risk of being scaled back or even canceled over the next two years due to the health crisis. 

“Pre-pandemic, there were great dreams and aspirations for a record-setting year,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of Longroad Energy, a utility-scale wind and solar developer. “I’m sure we’re not going to have that.”

Expediting the transition to responsible energy use should be made a priority as the economy reopens, Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer with Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine, which studies climate change and oceans, told the AP.

“My hope is that we would use this as an opportunity to build toward an economy that doesn’t depend on burning coal and oil and that is more resilient to the climate impacts that are heading our way,” Pershing said.

Consumers interested in harnessing the power of solar energy can visit our guide here to connect with an authorized professional. 

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on renewable energy projects and threatens to hamper efforts to curtail climate change. Thousands of clean-energy...

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New technology isn't the answer for fighting climate change

Experts say more work needs to be done on the local level to see considerable change

Climate change has created a great deal of stress among consumers, as there is no shortage of health concerns related to rising temperatures and escalating air pollution levels. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from Lancaster University has found that consumers shouldn’t wait around for new technologies to help reduce the effects of climate change. Instead, the team says consumers and policymakers need to work together to make shifts in our daily lives in order to see real change. 

“For forty years, climate action has been delayed by technological promises,” said researchers Duncan McLaren and Nils Markusson. “Contemporary promises are equally dangerous. Our work exposes how such promises have raised expectations of more effective policy options becoming available in the future, and thereby enabled a continued politics of prevarication and inadequate action.” 

Creating cultural change

For their study, McLaren and Markusson evaluated technological promises dating back to the early 1990s. They explained that experts have been working to reduce the harmful effects of climate change in a five-step approach: 

  • Stabilization 

  • Percentage emissions reductions 

  • Atmospheric concentrations

  • Cumulative budgets

  • Outcome temperatures 

In each phase, experts have tried utilizing various technological advances that were believed to be the answer to fighting climate change. The researchers note that some strategies that have been used over the years include nuclear power, bioenergy, emissions technologies, and improved energy efficiency, among several others. 

However, despite these efforts, not much progress has been made. According to McLaren and Markusson, the greatest change will come from cultural shifts as opposed to technological advances. 

“Each novel promise not only competes with existing ideas, but also downplays any sense of urgency, enabling the repeated deferral of political deadlines for climate action and undermining societal commitment to meaningful responses,” the researchers explained. 

Moving forward, the researchers want to put the onus on leaders to make real change happen on the climate change front. If there is a shift in societal behaviors and attitudes, then consumers can expect to put up a solid fight against climate change. 

“Putting our hopes in yet more new technologies is unwise,” McLaren and Markusson said. “Instead, cultural, social, and political transformation is essential to enable widespread deployment of both behavioural and technological responses to climate change.” 

Climate change has created a great deal of stress among consumers, as there is no shortage of health concerns related to rising temperatures and escalating...

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Parents contribute to more pollution than non-parents, study finds

Researchers suggest that having children makes consumers less eco-conscious

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and organizers will be trying to host a massive online event to make consumers more aware about the dangers of climate change. But a recent study shows that there may be one section of the population that is less likely to absorb this information and use it in their everyday lives.

Researchers from the University of Wyoming have found that parents are less likely to be as eco-friendly as non-parents. The team says the finding was surprising because of how important climate change can be to future generations.

"While having children makes people focus more on the future and, presumably, care more about the environment, our study suggests that parenthood does not cause people to become 'greener,'" said researchers Jason Shogren and Linda Thunstrom. 

"Becoming a parent can transform a person -- he or she thinks more about the future and worries about future risks imposed on their children and progeny. But, while having children might be transformational, our results suggest that parents' concerns about climate change do not cause them to be 'greener' than non-parent adults."

Convenience and time constraints

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing the spending habits of parents and non-parents in Sweden. They found that families with children utilized services and consumed goods that emitted higher levels of CO2. The research team explained that this might be the case because more importance is being placed on convenience because of the time constraints that parents face each day.

“The difference in CO2 emissions between parents and non-parents is substantial, and that's primarily because of increased transportation and food consumption changes," the researchers explained. "Parents may need to be in more places in one day...They also need to feed more people. Eating more pre-prepared, red meat carbon-intensive meals may add convenience and save time."

Shogren and Thunstrom note that these findings are particularly significant because they were conducted in Sweden, which is widely accepted to be more eco-conscious than other nations around the world. This means that the CO2 statistics for other Western countries could be even more pronounced.

The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, and organizers will be trying to host a massive online event to make consumers more aware about the dangers of climate...

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Consumers and countries with more money waste more food

Researchers say more food is wasted than most people might think

There are many factors that contribute to consumers’ food waste, but findings from a recent study suggest that how much money you earn and spend could play more of a key role than previously thought.

Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands conducted an analysis that sought to link spending with food waste. They found that relatively low levels of spending were linked with higher levels of waste.

“According to our estimates, annual per capita consumer expenditure of about 2450 (International 2005 USD) or about $6.70/day/capita, is the level at which policy-makers should start paying particular attention to consumer [food waste] in a country and implement consumer awareness and education programs to counter it before it explodes,” the researchers said.

Focus on high-income and developing nations

The team came to their conclusions after analyzing data collected by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). While creating their model, the team found that current FAO estimates focused on food waste were drastically underestimated. 

"Novel research using energy requirement and consumer affluence data shows that consumers waste more than twice as much food as is commonly believed,” the study authors stated. 

To solve this problem, the team suggests that policymakers specifically focus on reducing food waste in high-income countries. Following that, they recommend focusing on countries where affluence is growing so that emerging economies and nations do not follow a similar path.

“If these growing economies follow the same growth paths as the developed regions, we will soon see similar [food waste] patterns evolving,” the researchers warn.

The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

There are many factors that contribute to consumers’ food waste, but findings from a recent study suggest that how much money you earn and spend could play...

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Children are most likely to feel the negative health effects of climate change

Researchers say exposure to climate change in utero can lead to health complications

The ways in which climate change affect consumers’ health -- particularly the youngest population -- have been documented at length. But new findings continue to shed more light on this area of study.

Now, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center have found that children are the most likely demographic to experience health complications that arise from climate change. In fact, many could be exposed to those effects before they’re born. 

“It is impossible to predict the scope and impact of climate change in future generations,” wrote researcher Dr. Susan E. Pacheco. “However, the convergence of multiple adverse health outcomes, coming from different pathways of exposure in the prenatal and postnatal life, will likely have a compounding effect that will accelerate or worsen the morbidity and mortality of many health conditions.” 

Children at risk

As temperatures continue to rise around the world and natural disasters become more frequent, Dr. Pacheco explained how the children are at the greatest risk of feeling the effects of living under such conditions. 

She points to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which maintains that a steady increase in global temperatures will lead to three major risk factors for consumers to contend with: 

  • An increase of heat waves and fires, which will lead to greater numbers of disease and increased mortality rates as both food- and waterborne illnesses are likely to increase; 

  • An increase in pollutants that halt food production, which will affect consumers’ overall nutrition; and

  • An increase in diseases spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas.

While Dr. Pacheco is concerned about how these conditions will affect children when they’re young, her research also revealed that it could actually affect them before they’re born. Maternal stress, either from outside factors or due to weather-related disasters, was linked with birth complications that included low birth weight and premature birth. 

Pacheco says it isn’t uncommon for children’s caretakers to struggle mentally and physically in their roles following natural disasters, which can leave young ones lacking basic care and amenities. 

Taking action

Children’s long-term health will continue to be at risk from a health standpoint, as they will not only grow up under these conditions but will experience them getting worse over time. 

“We will continue to see an increase in heat-associated conditions in children, such as asthma, Lyme disease, as well as an increase in congenital heart defects,” said Dr. Pacheco. 

Dr. Pacheco has a very simple call to action for consumers moving forward: avoid complacency. She explained that climate change won’t just disappear without serious intervention, and the youngest population is likely to suffer the most. 

“We cannot act as if we are immune to these threats,” she said. “We can jump to action or stand in complacent indifference.”

The ways in which climate change affect consumers’ health -- particularly the youngest population -- have been documented at length. But new findings conti...

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Americans are wasting nearly a third of all food in their homes

Researchers say this translates to hundreds of billions of dollars per year

Many consumers are making conscious efforts to reduce their food waste, which oftentimes requires a careful reading and understanding of food labels

However, researchers from Penn State have found that despite these sustainability efforts, food waste is still running rampant across the United States, with consumers throwing away nearly one-third of all food in their homes. 

“Our findings are consistent with previous studies, which have shown that that 30 percent and 40 percent of the total food supply in the United States goes uneaten -- and that means that resources used to produce the uneaten food, including land, energy, water, and labor, are wasted as well,” said researcher Edward Jaenicke. 

“But this study is the first to identify and analyze the level of food waste for individual households, which has been nearly impossible to estimate because comprehensive, current data on uneaten food at the household level do not exist.” 

The food waste epidemic

The researchers analyzed 4,000 responses to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition Survey. 

Because respondents to the survey are required to provide information like height, weight, gender, and age, the researchers could use these factors to most accurately assess food waste. Participants reported on the food they were getting and throwing away, and the researchers were able to calculate the waste by determining how much food the participants’ bodies physically required. 

While food waste was occurring in nearly 32 percent of all participants’ homes, the researchers learned that some participants were more likely to waste than others. 

For example, proximity to the grocery store was a factor in food waste, as those who had a further commute back and forth to the store were less likely to waste food. Conversely, households following specific, oftentimes healthy, diets were throwing away more food, most likely because the shelf life of fruits and vegetables isn’t very long. 

“More than two-thirds of households in our study have food-waste estimates of between 20 percent and 50 percent,” Jaenicke said. “However, even the least wasteful households waste 8.7 percent of the food it acquires.” 

Plan before you shop

According to Jaenicke, planning before going to the grocery store is essential, as those who went grocery shopping with a list were also less likely to waste food. 

“This suggests that planning and food management are factors that influence the amount of wasted food,” said Jaenicke. 

The researchers hope that these findings can inspire further work in this area, as knowing what leads consumers to waste food can hopefully help put plans in place to reduce such waste. 

“While the precise measurement of food waste is important, it may be equally important to investigate further how household-specific factors influence how much food is wasted,” said Jaenicke. “We hope our methodology provides a new lens through which to analyze individual household food waste.” 

Many consumers are making conscious efforts to reduce their food waste, which oftentimes requires a careful reading and understanding of food labels. H...

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America’s investment in renewable energy takes another move up the ladder

Companies are coming up with plenty of cost-saving ways for consumers to make their homes more eco-friendly

America’s renewable energy sector hasn’t let the Trump administration's views on green energy and climate change get in the way for a second. According to research by BloombergNEF, the U.S. invested  $55.5 billion in green technologies last year, a sizable increase of 28 percent.

That $55 billion puts the U.S. second only to China and solidly ahead of Europe. Renewable energy investment in both of those continents slid -- China by 8 percent to $83.4 billion and Europe by 7 percent to $54.3 billion.

Conversely, Brazil’s investments skyrocketed, too -- 74 percent to $6.5 billion -- even though the country is saddled by its own climate-skeptic President, Jair Bolsonaro. 

Could the answer be blowing in the wind?

Bloomberg’s research says the U.S. surge comes out of wind and solar companies that were rushing to qualify for federal tax credits before they are taken off the table later this year.

“It’s notable that in the third year of the Trump presidency, which has not been particularly supportive of renewables, U.S. clean energy investment set a new record by a country mile,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BNEF.

All in

“Electricity utilities have begun to note the importance of providing renewable energy, and many have begun to invest in these technologies,” is what T. Wang sees from Statista’s perch

“Using large-scale renewable projects for rural areas or developing countries can also benefit these regions, as electricity in these areas is typically of poor quality, inefficiently used, and unreliably supplied. Using renewable energy can improve the quality of life and economic production, and benefit the environment.”

Getting all the way there will take some time. Nonetheless, some companies aren’t waiting. Apple, for one, is looking to be powered by renewable energy not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

Are you interested in determining if your house is a good candidate for renewable technologies? Are you curious about how you can refit your home with renewable-powered air conditioners, water heaters, and other equipment? If so, ConsumerAffairs has created a guide on the companies offering those services. It’s available here.

America’s renewable energy sector hasn’t let the Trump administration's views on green energy and climate change get in the way for a second. According to...

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Living away from nature can make you less eco-conscious, study finds

The findings explain why it’s important for urban consumers to reconnect with the great outdoors

It can be invigorating for urban-dwelling consumers to get away from the cities they live in and spend some time in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, a recent study suggests that those who don’t get this chance may be more negatively affected than they think.

Researchers from the University of Exeter suggest that those who don’t take time to reconnect with nature are less likely to make decisions that benefit the environment. Conversely, they say that those who are able to experience nature more often are more likely to make eco-conscious choices.

“Over 80 percent of the English population now live in urban areas and are increasingly detached from the natural world,” said Dr. Ian Alcock, lead author of the study.

“The results are correlational so there is always the issue of untangling cause and effect, but our results based on a very large representative sample are consistent with experimental work which shows that people become more pro-environmental after time spent in natural vs. urban settings,” added co-researcher Dr. Mat White.

Creating green spaces

The research team came to their conclusions after looking at survey responses from over 24,000 respondents. Participants answered questions about their exposure to nature, the number of trips they take to green spaces like parks and beaches, and their overall feelings about the natural world. 

Responses showed that consumers who lived in greener neighborhoods or along the coast were more likely to make eco-friendly choices in their day-to-day lives. The finding held true against several factors, such as gender, age, and socioeconomic status. 

To bring urban consumers into a more eco-friendly mindset, the researchers hope that city officials take greater steps when it comes to creating green spaces in cities that consumers can visit. 

“Greening our cities is often proposed to help us adapt to climate change -- for example, city parks and trees can reduce urban heat spots. But our results suggest urban greening could help reduce the damaging behaviours which cause environmental problems in the first place by reconnecting people to the natural world,” said Alcock. 

The full study has been published in the journal Environment International.

It can be invigorating for urban-dwelling consumers to get away from the cities they live in and spend some time in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, a re...

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Conservation efforts could be detrimental to farmers, experts find

Some sustainability efforts can lead to big financial losses

Consumers have started taking more eco-friendly measures, including switching up their eating and shopping habits, in an effort to be kinder to the earth. However, a new study discovered how certain conservation efforts could come with some unexpected repercussions. 

Researchers from Michigan State University found that reforestation efforts, which work to transform farmland into forests as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, often come with rather large price tags that the poorest farmers are left to pay. 

“The ignorance of this hidden cost might leave local communities under-compensated under the program and exacerbate poverty,” said researcher Hongbo Yang. “Such problems may ultimately compromise the sustainability of conservation. As losses due to human-wildlife conflicts increase, farmers may increasingly resent conservation efforts.” 

Where do the costs come from?

To understand how farmers can become vulnerable to unexpected costs and other constraints on their general day-to-day tasks, the researchers evaluated the effects of a popular reforestation effort in China known as the Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP).  

In transforming part of their land from cropland to forests, the researchers learned that the farmers' livelihoods were seriously compromised, as they now had smaller plots of land to reap profits from. 

While this alone was troubling, the research also revealed that the transformation process, though beneficial to the environment, proved to be the perfect atmosphere for bugs and other pests. So, the farmers not only had less farmland to work with, but what they did have was compromised by an assortment of critters. 

The researchers worked to estimate how these efforts affected farmers’ bottom lines, and they determined that farmers lost nearly 30 percent of their earnings, while nearly 65 percent of their goods were destroyed by pestering wildlife. 

“Those sweeping conservation efforts in returning cropland to vegetated land might have done so with an until-now hidden consequence: it increased the wildlife damage to remaining cropland and thus caused unintended cost that whittled away at the program’s compensation for farmers,” said Yang. 

Finding better conservation policies

Moving forward, the researchers are concerned with how these conservation efforts could affect farmers, particularly those already struggling monetarily. They hope that new efforts can be initiated that are beneficial to all parties. 

“Conservation policies only can endure, and be declared successful, when both nature and humans thrive,” and researcher Jianguo Liu. “Many of these trade-offs and inequities are difficult to spot unless you take a very broad, deep look at the situation, yet these balances are crucial to success.” 

Consumers have started taking more eco-friendly measures, including switching up their eating and shopping habits, in an effort to be kinder to the earth....

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Consumers could have an inflated sense of how eco-friendly they are

Researchers found that consumers are incredibly confident when it comes to their sustainability efforts

As climate change threats continue to loom, consumers have started taking their own measures to lessen their ecological footprints. 

Now, researchers from the University of Gothenburg have found that many consumers could be overly confident when it comes to the steps they’re taking to better the environment. According to a survey, many individuals believe that they’re practicing more sustainable habits than the average consumer. 

“The results point out our tendency to overestimate our own abilities, which is in line with previous studies where most people consider themselves to be more honest, more creative, and better drivers than others,” said researcher Magnus Bergquist. “This study shows that over-optimism, or the ‘better-than-average’ effect, also applies to environmentally friendly behaviours.” 

Understanding consumers’ mindsets

To get a sense of how consumers view their own environmentally friendly behaviors, the researchers conducted a survey of consumers from different parts of the world -- India, England, Sweden, and the United States. 

The survey required participants to report on how often they completed sustainable behaviors, including anything from opting for eco-friendly products or reducing how often they use single-use plastic. 

The researchers learned that the majority of participants rated themselves as above average citizens when it comes to caring for the environment. This was true when the participants ranked themselves against strangers and people they know in their day-to-day lives. 

This could become troubling, as the researchers worry that this overconfidence will lead consumers to scale back on the activities and actions that are benefiting the environment because they think that they’re already doing more than enough. 

Working harder

The researchers say this attitude among consumers is common for more than just environmental efforts. However, it’s important that consumers look honestly at the ways they’re being proactive about sustainability and work to be more encouraging in future efforts. 

“If you think about it logically, the majority cannot be more environmentally friendly than others,” said Bergquist. “One way to change this faulty opinion, is to inform people that others actually behave environmentally friendly, and thereby creating an environmentally friendly norm. Social norms affect us also in this area, we know this from previous studies.”  

As climate change threats continue to loom, consumers have started taking their own measures to lessen their ecological footprints. Now, researchers fr...

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Tech executives call for U.S. to stay in Paris Climate Agreement

The Trump administration announced plans to begin the withdrawal process last month

In an open letter published Monday, U.S. business leaders pushed for the government to renew its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter comes roughly a month after the Trump administration announced that it would begin formally withdrawing from the climate pact. 

Tech executives -- including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla’s Elon Musk, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and The Walt Disney Company’s Bob Iger, among others -- expressed strong support for the idea of staying in the Paris Agreement. 

"There has been progress, but not enough," reads the United For The Paris Agreement letter. "This moment calls for greater, more accelerated action than we've seen. It calls for the strong policy framework the Paris Agreement provides, one that allows the US the freedom to choose our own path to emissions reductions."

Need for government action 

Beyond signaling their support of the agreement, the company executives urged the United States to reconsider its plan to withdraw from the climate pact. On Twitter, Apple CEO Tim Cook said "humanity has never faced a greater or more urgent threat than climate change."

The agreement, they say, will help counter the effects of climate change as well as pave the way for a “just transition” of the U.S. workforce to “new decent, family supporting jobs and economic opportunity.” 

The joint statement was signed by the heads of 75 companies, along with the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million workers. 

“We the undersigned are a group of CEOs who employ more than 2 million people in the United States and union leaders who represent 12.5 million workers,” the letter reads. “Together, we know that driving progress on addressing climate change is what’s best for the economic health, jobs, and competitiveness of our companies and our country.” 

In an open letter published Monday, U.S. business leaders pushed for the government to renew its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter come...

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Rolling back environmental regulations could endanger consumers' health, researchers say

A study warns consumers about the environmental dangers they could face in the near future

As new reports continue to reveal the potential environmental threats consumers could face if real change isn’t made, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have conducted a study that predicts what could happen if regulations designed to protect the environment are reversed. 

The researchers focused on the fight against ozone, which is incredibly harmful to consumers’ breathing and overall respiratory health. They found just how difficult it would be to reverse the effects of perpetuated environmental damages if current regulations were rolled back. 

“Ozone can occur hundreds of miles away, so if controls are loosened in one state to save industry money there, a state downstream may have to spend even more to try to meet ozone targets,” said researcher Ted Russell. “You transfer the problem and the costs. Most U.S. cities are already not in attainment, and this will likely make it harder for them to get there.” 

The wide-reaching effects of ozone

The researchers’ study is thorough in identifying the wide range of effects that increased ozone can have on the environment and consumers’ health more generally. The research team says prominent policy decisions are at the core of these negative consequences. 

For starters, they explain how the struggle between government officials to get on the same page about climate change, and implement policy that reflects those attitudes, has the potential to derail positive efforts. Specifically, they point to attempts by the Trump Administration to pass legislation that would make it easier to burn fossil fuels, while also continuing to fight regulations that would reduce the overall ozone production. 

Moreover, governmental incentives to go green -- like opting for solar panels or using more wind-powered energy sources -- are being cut, which can contribute to an increase in pollution while also making it harder for consumers to do their part for the environment. 

“Incentives are being retired like production and investment tax credits, which have been very influential in solar and wind,” said researcher Marilyn Brown. “The Investment Tax Credit gives a 30 percent tax reduction for investments in solar or wind farms or the purchase of solar rooftop panels by homeowners. The Production Tax Credit for utilities reduces tax liabilities by 23 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources.” 

The researchers used this information to create a model that predicts how different parts of the world would be affected by rising ozone levels. They project that rising temperatures worldwide and the continued production of fossil fuels will cause ozone levels to continue to rise. The cost of caring for such side effects may also increase, while the overall health of consumers is projected to worsen. 

“Additional ozone is tough to control technologically,” said Russell. “The costs would be very high -- tens of billions of dollars. In the meantime, more people than would die than otherwise would have.” 

As new reports continue to reveal the potential environmental threats consumers could face if real change isn’t made, researchers from the Georgia Institut...

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Increases in tourism have led to increases in carbon emissions

Reducing the number of connecting flights can greatly benefit the environment, researchers say

With the busy summer travel season now in the rearview mirror, researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio have analyzed how increased travel is affecting the environment. 

The team found that excessive plane travel, particularly when consumers book flights that require a connection to their final destination, is increasing total carbon emissions. 

“This paper provides one of the first efforts to quantify the carbon emissions associated with tourist air travel in the continental United States,” said researcher Neil Debbage. 

Choosing non-stop flights

The researchers analyzed data from the International Civil Aviation Organization to get a better understanding of how consumers’ travel plans were impacting the environment. 

The study focused on plane routes (both connecting and non-stop flights) to 13 major tourist spots in the U.S. The list included Miami-Dade county and Los Angeles county, as well as 10 of the biggest cities in the northeast, like Boston and New York. 

Ultimately, the researchers discovered that air travel was a major contributor to an increase in carbon emissions, with connecting flights producing worse environmental outcomes than non-stop flights. 

The researchers explained that suggested emission limits have been put in place in an effort to keep pollution under control, with 575 carbon dioxide kg/person per year being the magic number. The study revealed that while many direct flights have been successful in staying under that figure, the same success hasn’t been possible with connecting flights. 

After analyzing all of the flights involved in this study, the researchers found that around half went above suggested limits. The findings emphasize just how widespread this issue is, as most consumers tend not to think past the price tag when booking flights -- especially when fares continue to increase over the summer months. 

While Debbage suggests that consumers “select nonstop routes whenever possible” as a way to cut down on carbon emissions, it’s crucial that lawmakers do their part to ensure that everything possible is being done to combat rising emissions levels. 

With the busy summer travel season now in the rearview mirror, researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio have analyzed how increased travel i...

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Fighting climate change could be good for business

Researchers say ignoring the problem could come with disastrous side effects

While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia found that businesses should consider increasing their sustainability efforts. 

The study revealed that ignoring the issue of climate change will not only create more problems for consumers, but it will also cost companies more money in the long-run than it would have if they had taken more active steps.

“Acting on climate change has a good return on investment when one considers the damages avoided by acting,” said researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. 

Positive return on fighting climate change

The researchers are concerned about the world at large, but they believe that climate change can be particularly harsh on poorer populations and regions. They want to enlist the help of world leaders to help make a change. 

The team addressed several facets of climate change that could have a devastating effect on people, places, and animals, including rising sea levels, massive animal extinctions, and rising global temperatures. 

“This is not an academic issue, it is a matter of life and death for people everywhere,” said researcher Michael Taylor. “That said, people from small island States and low-lying countries are in the immediate cross-hairs of climate change.” 

Much of the researchers’ findings look at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which focused on reducing the rising global temperature. 

Though experts previously thought that limiting global warming to just two degrees Celsius would be sufficient, Hoegh-Guldberg and his team say that keeping that figure closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius would actually be the best scenario. However, they say it’s up to lawmakers to put the initiatives in motion that will help slow global warming. 

“If such a policy is not implemented, we will continue on the upward trajectory of burning fossil fuels and continuing deforestation, which will expand the already large-scale degradation of ecosystems,” said researcher Rachel Warren. “To be honest, the overall picture is very grim unless we act.” 

The researchers hope that world leaders and policymakers take these warnings seriously and do everything in their power to preserve the environment. 

“Current emission reduction commitments are inadequate risk throwing many nations into chaos and harm, with a particular vulnerability of poor peoples,” said Hoegh-Guldberg. “To avoid this, we must accelerate action and tighten emission reduction targets so that they fall in line with the Paris Agreement.” 

“Tackling climate change is a tall order,” he continued. “However, there is no alternative from the perspective of human well-being -- and too much at stake not to act urgently on this issue.” 

While many consumers have started doing more in their daily lives to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the Universi...

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Amazon pledges to meet standards set by the Paris climate agreement early

The company has a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and reaching net zero carbon by 2040

Amazon announced on Thursday that it has signed on to a commitment to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement a full decade earlier than initially proposed. 

The “Climate Pledge,” which Amazon is the first corporation to sign, seeks to drive down companies’ carbon emissions to net zero by 2040 instead of 2050, as previously outlined in the Paris Accord.

“We’re done being in the middle of the herd on this issue—we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in a press release.

Bezos says he hopes other big companies will sign the Climate Pledge in the near future “because the need for speed is very great.” 

Reducing climate impact

The company’s pledge to ramp up its carbon-reduction efforts comes a day before thousands of Amazon employees plan to walk out of the company’s Seattle headquarters to protest Amazon’s insufficient efforts to address the climate crisis. 

"As employees at one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, our role in facing the climate crisis is to ensure our company is leading on climate, not following," Amazon Employees for Climate Justice wrote in a Medium post. "We have to take responsibility for the impact that our business has on the planet and on people."

At a press conference in Washington DC, Bezos told reporters that Amazon intends to “alter its “actual business activities to eliminate carbon” and acquire “credible” carbon offsets based on “nature-based solutions,” including solar energy. 

Dave Clark, senior vice president of Amazon Operations, said Amazon has already ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from startup Rivian to support the company’s environmental goals. In a tweet, Clark noted that it’s “the largest order of electric delivery vehicles ever” and that consumers will start seeing them on the roads starting in 2021. 

Amazon announced on Thursday that it has signed on to a commitment to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement a full decade earlier than initially pr...

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EPA repealing Obama-era expansion of Clean Water Act

The previous administration enlarged the definition of waterways and wetlands

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is repealing a 2015 Obama administration-era rule that expanded the government’s definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. 

EPA, along with the U.S. Army, is recodifying the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule change, ending what it called a regulatory patchwork.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the move corrects “the previous administration’s overreach” in implementing federal regulations.

“This is a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide,” Wheeler said.

Quick reaction

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the move. The American Fisheries Society was among the first to warn of the impact when the rule was proposed, saying the action would significantly narrow the scope of protections for U.S. waters. 

“The proposal would replace the science-based 2015 rule which includes protections for headwaters, intermittent and ephemeral streams, and wetlands,” the group said at the tiime. “The new proposal (Replacement Rule) would substantially weaken the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s most effective natural resource laws.”

Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), says the Trump administration’s action will likely be challenged in court.

“The Clean Water Rule represented solid science and smart public policy,” Devine said in a statement. “Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders.”

Complexity of the waterway system

When it implemented the rule in 2015, the Obama administration said it was acknowledging the complexity of the nation’s waterway system and its importance to environmental health. But farmers, ranchers, and developers complained that the expanded definition of what constitutes a waterway was significantly limiting what they could do on their land.

In announcing the final rule, Wheeler said the Obama-era rule had produced numerous complaints and lawsuits from as many as 31 states. The Trump administration announced a review of WOTUS soon after taking office.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is repealing a 2015 Obama administration-era rule that expanded the government’s definition of “waters of the Uni...

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Trump administration moves to undo rules requiring more energy-efficient lightbulbs

Opponents of the planned change say it could lead to higher annual energy costs for consumers

The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized its rollback of requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs. Wednesday’s filing by the Department of Energy (DOE) would prevent a set of efficiency requirements from taking effect in January 2020. 

The requirements would have applied to about half of the 6 billion light bulbs used in the nation and “would have avoided millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere,” according to CNBC

Opponents of the rule change say undoing the Bush-era requirements -- which were approved by a bipartisan Congress in 2007 and aimed to phase out inefficient bulbs -- could speed up global warming by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

However, the DOE claims the change won’t have significant repercussions since it will only impact a small percentage of the lighting market. 

“A more strict standard would only affect a small slice of the market,” a DOE official told reporters. “This is not a rule that radically affects the lighting market overall.”

The bulbs that would be affected by the change include decorative globes in bathrooms, candle-shaped lights, three-way lightbulbs, and reflector bulbs. If the rule change goes into effect in January as planned, the efficiency requirements for those four categories of bulbs would be eliminated. 

Consumers could pay more

Consumer groups have estimated that less efficient bulbs will also lead to higher annual energy costs for U.S. consumers. 

“The Energy Department flat out got it wrong today,” said Jason Hartke, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a group representing industrial, technological, and clean energy companies. 

“Instead of moving us forward, this rule will keep more energy-wasting bulbs on store shelves and saddle the average American household with about $100 in unnecessary energy costs every year. At a time when we need to take aggressive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this is an unforced error,” Hartke said.

The changes are likely to face opposition in the coming months.  

“We will explore all options, including litigation, to stop this completely misguided and unlawful action,” Noah Horowitz, director of the Center for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

“Today’s action sets the United States up to become the world’s dumping ground for the inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs being phased out around the world. Given the worsening climate crisis, this is no time to significantly increase pollution and consumer energy bills just so a few lighting companies can make more money selling inefficient bulbs.”

The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized its rollback of requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs. Wednesday’s filing by the Department of...

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Marriott eliminating single-use toiletry bottles

Like other hotel chains, Marriott is aiming to reduce its plastic waste

In a move intended to cut down on plastic waste, Marriott International has announced that it will no longer be stocking its rooms with travel-sized toiletries. 

The hotel chain said on Wednesday that tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and bath gel will be replaced with larger, pump-topped bottles or wall-mounted dispensers. 

Marriott said it tested the swap in some of its North American locations last year. Now, the company says most of its 7,000 locations across the globe will see the change implemented by December 2020. 

With wider implementation, the chain expects to reduce its plastic disposal by 30 percent. Almost two million pounds of plastic will be diverted from landfills as a result of the change, according to Marriott.

"Our guests are looking to us to make changes that will create a meaningful difference for the environment while not sacrificing the quality service and experience they expect from our hotels," Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

Others in the industry have also announced efforts to minimize their impact on the environment. Last month, IHG (which owns Holiday Inn) said it planned to eliminate tiny tubes of toiletries and replace them with larger-sized bottles. The Walt Disney Co. has also said it’s in the process of eliminating individual toiletries from its hotel rooms.  

In a move intended to cut down on plastic waste, Marriott International has announced that it will no longer be stocking its rooms with travel-sized toilet...

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Tesla relaunches solar panel business

Consumers can now rent panels for a monthly fee

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company is relaunching its solar power program and giving consumers the ability to rent panels. 

Consumers in a half dozen states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico) will be able to rent solar power systems on a monthly basis. 

Prices for a small array of panels will start at $50 a month, or $65 in California. Tesla won’t be implementing a long-term contract, so consumers can cancel anytime. However, the company’s website notes that there is a $1,500 charge to remove panels. 

Decline in solar business

Tesla fueled its solar power business plan through the $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity in 2016, but installations have declined in recent quarters and the electric automaker stopped selling the systems in Home Depot stores. 

Rebooting the program and adding rental offerings could boost sales by appealing to homeowners who are wary of the idea of a long-term contract. 

Musk says solar panels can cut costs so much that it's "like having a money printer on your roof." The initial cost includes panel installation, hardware, and ongoing maintenance.

Last month, Musk said he’s aiming to manufacture about 1,000 solar rooftops a week by the end of 2019.

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that his company is relaunching its solar power program and giving consumers the abil...

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Google pledges to use only recycled materials in all hardware products

The promise extends to all ‘Made by Google’ products

Google has become the latest company to promise that it will be improving its sustainability efforts in the coming years. 

In a blog post on Monday, the tech giant announced that it will be using all recycled materials to create its hardware products by 2022. The pledge extends to all “Made by Google” products, including Pixel smartphones, Google Nest, Google Home speakers, and other gadgets and accessories. 

“We’re always working to do more, faster. But today we’re laying the foundation for what we believe will be a way of doing business that commits to building better products better,” said Anna Meegan, Google’s head of sustainability and consumer hardware.

Focusing on sustainability

In addition to making its “Made by Google” products from only recycled materials, Google says that it will ensure that all of its shipments going to or from customers will be carbon neutral by 2020. 

Officials say that the move is inspired by the idea that all of the company’s products eventually be designed so that they can last as long as possible while simultaneously being easier to recycle at the end of their life cycle. In an interview with Fast Company, Google hardware design team head Ivy Ross explains how sustainability came to the forefront of the design process.

“Some people think design is about making things look pretty or look good,” she said. “And really design is about solving problems for humanity...I said to the team, wait a minute, [sustainability] is just another problem and is probably the most important problem of our lifetime. Won’t we feel great as designers if we are taking that on?”

This isn’t the first hint that Google has been leaning towards sustainable practices. Meegan points out that the company was able to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent from 2017 to 2018. It’s also currently looking to provide Nest thermostats to 1 million “consumers in need” in hopes of reducing energy costs.

Google has become the latest company to promise that it will be improving its sustainability efforts in the coming years. In a blog post on Monday, the...

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Inconsistency at the heart of the Paris Climate Agreement struggles

Experts call for greater transparency among the countries involved

In a new study, researchers deconstructed the struggles many nations are facing in trying to gain ground when it comes to meeting the tenants of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The agreement involves individual countries creating pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs); however, it’s a lack of consistency in the formatting of those pledges that creates the biggest stumbling blocks for progress, experts say. 

“The Paris Climate Agreement was a step in the right direction for international climate policy,” said researcher Lewis King. “But in its current form, it is at best inadequate and at worst grossly ineffective. Our study highlights significant issues around transparency and consistency in the agreement’s pledges, which may be a contributory factor towards the lack of ambition in the pledges from parties.” 

Getting inside the pledges

The researchers analyzed the various pledges by breaking them down into four categories: emission intensity reductions, absolute emission reduction targets, “business as usual” (BAU) reduction, and pledges that didn’t include emissions targets. 

The biggest issue has been clarity. Because the individual countries have so many options when it comes to formatting the pledges, it’s difficult for experts to understand how effective the pledges are in completing what they set out to, which is why there have been so many discrepancies.  

Though the goal of all countries is to reduce emissions, the various formatting options leave many pledges with ambiguous language. Though experts work to put all pledges on the same playing field, some countries end up with emissions increases by 2030, as opposed to decreases. 

“Not only does this make associated pledges difficult to interpret and compare to other pledges without detailed analysis, but may produce a psychological effect of reducing ambition level due to framing the pledge as a percentage reduction even though emissions actually increase,” said researcher Jeroen van den Bergh. 

According to the researchers, absolute emission reduction targets are typically the most effective, as this requires countries to set goals for reducing emissions by a specific percentage, based on a baseline from years’ past -- typically between 1990 and 2014 -- with a target year in mind to reach the goal. Some countries are ambitious enough to shoot for 2025, though the majority are set on 2030. 

“We found that authentic absolute reduction pledges had the highest ambition in terms of tangible emission reduction,” said King. “By contrast, pledges in the other three categories tend to produce low ambitions with significant emissions increases of 29-53 percent at a global level.” 

The researchers hope that countries involved in the Paris Climate Agreement can work to create uniform pledges, so as to minimize confusion, streamline the process, and make it easier for nations to reach their goals and feel good about doing so. 

“Society has the right to be able to clearly understand and compare climate change commitments by countries, including whether they are fair, ambitious, and add up to international climate goals,” said King. “We also know that providing consistent and easily comparable information about national climate goals helps with public acceptance.” 

The fight against climate change

As pollution continues to get worse in the United States, and new studies consistently report on how dangerous it can be to consumers’ health, there are some forces working to fight climate change. 

Companies like Facebook and Lyft have become dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while a group of young Americans have taken up a lawsuit against the Trump administration because of an alleged lack of concern regarding climate change. 

The group, going by the name Youth, believes that the Trump administration has violated consumers’ constitutional rights in not doing more to fight against climate change. 

In a new study, researchers deconstructed the struggles many nations are facing in trying to gain ground when it comes to meeting the tenants of the Paris...

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Shale natural gas development hampers consumer outdoor activities, study finds

Previously protected areas used for hiking and camping are now being threatened by gas development operations

While countless efforts are being made by consumers to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of New Hampshire suggests that shale natural gas development are taking away areas consumers commonly enjoy for outdoor recreation.

According to the researchers, outdoor activities like hiking and camping have become severely impacted due to shale natural gas development (SGD) efforts. 

“What most people don’t realize is that a lot of the shale natural gas energy development is happening within or adjacent to public parks and protected areas,” said researcher Michael Ferguson. “So those who love playing in the great outdoors are often encountering anything from heavy duty truck traffic congestion to actual construction and drilling operations while recreating on public lands.” 

What this looks like

The researchers were inspired to start this research project after learning how the Trump administration had given the green light for SGD efforts on land that was previously protected from such projects. 

Areas that have been commonly used by consumers to hike or camp are instead being used for exploration of oil and natural gas, and these digs are impeding the ways that consumers can engage in outdoor activities. The researchers focused their study on recreationists in Pennsylvania, as the state is home to natural gas deposits, as well as countless outdoor options for residents. 

Perhaps the most important finding from this study was that consumers no longer had the freedom of traversing the outdoors. The researchers say many consumers had to switch up their plans or activities because areas they frequented were no longer protected from SGD. 

More specifically, nearly 24 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed for the study reported a direct impact due to SGD, whether it was encountering SGD workers, well sites, or pipelines along their route, or experiencing heavier than usual truck traffic while out. 

Ultimately, around 14 percent of those surveyed were affected in ways that directly impacted their activities, some so much so that it prevented future trips to Pennsylvania for such excursions; others were forced to avoid certain areas because of SGD activity. 

The researchers point out that outdoor activities provide a huge influx of income to the U.S. government, and interfering with such activities will start to interfere with those profits. Moreover, they explained that SGD efforts can do more than just push recreationists off once-protected land, as these efforts can also do permanent damage to the environment. 

“The outdoor recreation industry has quietly positioned itself as a massive economic sector in the United States,” said Ferguson. “As SGD grows in the United States, the number of affected recreationists could increase and current numbers of those impacted could rise. It is important for lawmakers, natural resource managers, and industry representatives to recognize that outdoor recreation is an increasingly critical component of the economy and should have a seat at the table when looking at responsible SGD.” 

Staying safe

As detrimental as SGD can be to outdoor activities, recent incidents have also proven how dangerous the natural gas can be. Late last year, a pipeline in Pennsylvania’s Beaver County exploded, damaging homes and cars up to 500 feet away, and creating a landslide near the site of the landslide. 

Earlier this year, still feeling the effects of the explosion, Pennsylvania suspended the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, from getting new state permits, as the company was unable to properly stabilize the areas affected by the explosion. 

“There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

While countless efforts are being made by consumers to reduce their carbon footprints, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of New Hamp...

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Pepsi to start selling canned Aquafina water

The move is part of a larger effort to reduce plastic pollution

PepsiCo has announced that it will start selling canned water as part of an effort to curb its plastic use. 

Aquafina water, which is owned by Pepsi, will be sold in aluminum cans at locations around the U.S. Pepsi also plans to use 100 percent recycled plastic for its LIFEWTR bottles and switch to using only cans for its Bubly brand sparkling water instead of plastic bottles. 

The changes, which will go into effect in 2020, will eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of virgin plastic and about 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the company.

"Tackling plastic waste is one of my top priorities and I take this challenge personally," PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a statement. "As one of the world's leading food and beverage companies, we recognize the significant role PepsiCo can play in helping to change the way society makes, uses, and disposes of plastics.” 

Pepsi said it’s aiming to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable and use 25 percent recycled plastic in all of its packaging by 2025. 

“We are doing our part to address the issue head on by reducing, recycling and reinventing our packaging to make it more sustainable, and we won't stop until we live in a world where plastics are renewed and reused,” Laguarta said. 

Eliminating plastic pollution

Pepsi joins a growing list of companies, restaurants, and retailers that have pledged to reduce their plastic use. Starbucks recently announced that it would begin offering new cold cup lids that do not require a straw. The coffee chain said it’s aiming to eliminate single-use plastic straws at all of its locations worldwide by next year. McDonald’s is also trying to phase out plastic straws

In May, Whole Foods announced that it will stop offering plastic straws at all of its locations in the U.S., as well as in Canada, and the United Kingdom. Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola has announced that it’s aiming to recycle 75 percent of the bottles it sells by 2020. 

The initiatives come amid predictions that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if current trends continue.

PepsiCo has announced that it will start selling canned water as part of an effort to curb its plastic use. Aquafina water, which is owned by Pepsi, wi...

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Bayer to invest $5.6 billion in developing alternatives to glyphosate

The company says its investment will help create ‘additional methods to combat weeds’

Amid mounting legal claims that the herbicide glyphosate causes cancer, Bayer has announced that it plans to invest $5.6 billion in developing new weedkillers over the next ten years. Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, says the move is intended to address public concerns about the risks of the ingredient.

While Bayer has maintained that glyphosate is safe, thousands of plaintiffs have claimed that long-term exposure to Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup was a factor in their cancer diagnoses.

Last August, a San Francisco jury awarded a former school groundskeeper $289 million after finding that his cancer was the result of years of using Roundup. More recently, a California jury awarded a couple $2 billion in damages after finding that sustained exposure to Roundup led to their cancer diagnoses.

Four years ago, the World Health Organization's cancer agency classified glyphosate as a “probable” carcinogen. The herbicide has been detected in beers and wines, pet food, oat-based cereals and even linked to shorter pregnancies.

To date, more than 13,000 lawsuits claim glyphosate is carcinogenic.

Developing alternative options

In a statement on Friday, Bayer said its multi-billion dollar investment won’t put an end to the use of glyphosate, but it will hopefully expand the number of comparable weed-killing options available to growers.

"While glyphosate will continue to play an important role in agriculture and in Bayer’s portfolio, the company is committed to offering more choices for growers," the company said.

Through its research and development investments, Bayer aims to create “tailored integrated weed management solutions” as well as “help develop customized solutions for farmers at a local level.” Additionally, Bayer says it’s aiming to "reduce the environmental impact” of its products by 30 percent by 2030.

Amid mounting legal claims that the herbicide glyphosate causes cancer, Bayer has announced that it plans to invest $5.6 billion in developing new weedkill...

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Major corporations disclose risks of climate crisis in new report

Hundreds of large companies say extreme weather could cause serious problems for their business

As the risks of climate change become increasingly worrisome, many of the world’s largest companies are preparing for the financial impact of the climate crisis, according to a new analysis of corporate disclosures.

More than 200 big businesses say they’re preparing to see climate-related costs amounting to nearly $1 trillion within the next five to seven years unless they take steps to prepare, the New York Times reports.

The risk assessment, conducted by the nonprofit CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), revealed that extreme weather is likely to bring about risks which include having to close down facilities in threatened locations, paying more for insurance, and the impact of consumers switching to more environmentally friendly corporations.

“Changing precipitation patterns, droughts, flooding, and tropical cyclones could potentially damage our manufacturing, research and development, and warehousing/distribution facilities and those of our key suppliers, especially in flood prone areas,” Eli Lilly & Co said. “In 2017, our operations in Mexico, US and Puerto Rico were hit by a string of devastating earthquakes and hurricanes.”

Assessing risks to operations

"The numbers that we're seeing are already huge, but it's clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg," Bruno Sarda, North America president for CDP, told the Times.

But when it comes to predicting the impact of the climate crisis, many companies still underestimate the dangers that are likely to occur as a result of earth’s climate system hitting a “catastrophic tipping point” without “rapid cuts in carbon emissions,” Reuters noted.

“Most companies still have a long way to go in terms of properly assessing climate risk,” said report author Nicolette Bartlett, CDP’s director of climate change.

By having executives report the foreseeable risks of the climate crisis, advocates of greater disclosure “hope to spur enough investment in cleaner industries to cut carbon emissions in time to meet global climate goals,” according to Reuters.

As the risks of climate change become increasingly worrisome, many of the world’s largest companies are preparing for the financial impact of the climate c...

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Poland Spring pledges to use entirely recycled plastic bottles

All still water sold in containers smaller than one gallon will be sold in recycled plastic bottles within the next few years

Amid growing concern about the harmful effects of plastic on the world’s oceans, Nestle’s Poland Spring has announced that it’s transitioning toward the use of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

The company said it plans to use recycled plastic bottles across 25 percent of its entire product portfolio by 2021. By 2025, it’s aiming to increase that percentage to 50 percent. The brand’s push to begin using more recycled materials starts this month with its one-liter bottles of non-carbonated water, which will now be made using 100 percent rPET (recycled plastic).

Earlier this year, Poland Spring launched Poland Spring Origin. The 900ml bottles are also made of 100 percent recycled plastic.

"As a company, we've already put our stake in the ground when it comes to taking the 'single' out of 'single-use' plastic bottles," says Fernando Mercé, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé Waters North America. "As we begin to transform Poland Spring, our most iconic brand, to 100% recycled plastic packaging, we will begin to bring this commitment to life for our consumers in a tangible way. Bottles like these, which are made from 100% recycled plastic and are 100% recyclable, are proof that a fully circular economy is within our reach."

Keeping plastic out of oceans

Poland Spring, which has faced lawsuits from consumers accusing the company of selling groundwater, joins other brands who have pledged to use more recycled materials over the next few years.

Back in October, hundreds of organizations vowed to eliminate plastic waste from their operations by 2025 as part of a global campaign led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Other companies have set to curb their impact on the environment by phasing out single-use straws and plastic bags.

Researchers have calculated that if current trends continue, there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by 2050. But using recycled plastic helps keep plastic out of landfills and oceans, according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

Amid growing concern about the harmful effects of plastic on the world’s oceans, Nestle’s Poland Spring has announced that it’s transitioning toward the us...

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Youth’s climate change concerns raise the stakes in a lawsuit against the Trump administration

It’s a ‘moonshot,’ but moonshots have changed the course of history before

Despite the efforts of the Trump administration to divorce itself from the issue of climate change, a group of 21 young Americans, representing themselves under the moniker of “Youth,” are far from giving up. The group has filed a new lawsuit against the administration claiming that climate concerns are being handled so carelessly that it’s a violation of their constitutional rights.

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court previously greenlighted the case, the feds are fighting back in a renewed effort to block the lawsuit from ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

Calling the lawsuit "radical" and an "anathema," Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the Trump-nominated United States Assistant Attorney General (AG) for the Environment and Natural Resources Division -- and not exactly a favorite of environmentalists -- argued that the suit should be tossed out for the sole reason that it is a "direct attack on the separation of powers" among the three branches of the federal government” and “would have earth-shattering consequences.”

Youth filed its original constitutional climate lawsuit, titled Juliana v. U.S. (Juliana), against the U.S. government in U.S. District Court four years ago. Partnering with Youth as a co-plaintiff is Earth Guardians, an organization that “trains diverse youth to be effective leaders in the environmental, climate and social justice movements across the globe” through the use of art, music, and civic engagement.

The complaint alleges that because the affirmative actions the U.S. has put in place cause climate change, the U.S., therefore, has breached younger Americans’ constitutional rights to equal protection; their incalculable, inherent, and inalienable natural rights; and their rights as beneficiaries of the federal public trust.

A “moonshot,” but promising

When the lawsuit first appeared, University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood told CNN that the suit was “the biggest case on the planet,” likening it to a moonshot attempt much like Brown v. Board of Education was in an effort to desegregate public schools.

The Juliana case isn’t flying solo on the younger generation’s fight against climate change. It’s also got a peer lawsuit in the Netherlands. Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told CNN that Juliana is the "most promising" legal action on climate change in the world at the moment.”

The U.S., however, seems to have a radically different point-of-view. AG Clark railed against the growing trend of letting policy be decided by those in the scientific community and those he viewed as sympathizers.

“When did America risk coming to be ruled by foreign scientists and apparatchiks at the United Nations? The answer, it would seem, is ever since Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama, chose to issue a rule determining that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare,” Clark said.

Despite the efforts of the Trump administration to divorce itself from the issue of climate change, a group of 21 young Americans, representing themselves...

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EPA awards $9.3 million to replace older diesel school buses

Over 140 school bus fleets in 43 states and territories were selected as winners

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $9.3 million in grants to school districts in 43 states and territories to help replace older diesel school buses. The money will be put towards buying new buses that create fewer emissions to help reduce pollution.

The districts managing the school bus fleets will receive rebates through the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) funding. Applicants who applied for the grant money will receive between $15,000 and $20,000 if they are replacing buses that have model year engines that are from 2006 or earlier.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that initiative will help protect the health of young children who use the buses to get to school. A total of 473 older diesel models will be replaced under the program.

“Children’s health is a top priority for EPA, and these grants will help provide cleaner air and a healthier ride to and from school for America’s children,” he said. “This DERA funding reflects broader children’s health agenda and commitment to ensure all children can live, learn, and play in healthy and clean environments.”

Reducing emissions

The EPA points out that it has been working to reduce pollutants from diesel vehicles by implementing stricter environmental standards on new vehicles. However, the agency says that many older vehicles with higher emissions rates are still operating on U.S. roads.

A recent study from George Washington University found that current levels of traffic-related pollution have contributed to millions of cases of childhood asthma across the globe. Dense urban areas are hot spots for these asthma cases, and the researchers caution that cleaner vehicles will be needed to reverse this worrying trend.

“Improving access to cleaner forms of transportation, like electrified public transport and active commuting by cycling and walking, would not only bring down [pollution] levels, but would also reduce asthma, enhance physical fitness, and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr. Susan C. Anenberg.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $9.3 million in grants to school districts in 43 states and territories to help replace older di...

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Los Angeles launches its own Green New Deal

The plan calls for electric vehicles and less driving. But the advocates who popularized the idea nationally aren’t impressed

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday announced plans for a local Green New Deal initiative.

Under the  plan, Los Angeles residents will have to cut their driving by 50 percent over the next three decades and use transportation other than a personal car for at least half of their trips by 2035. The plan also calls for 10,000 chargers for electric vehicles to be installed across the city.

At the municipal level, the initiative will require renovations on all city-owned buildings to make them “all-electric.” The plan also calls for an end to styrofoam and for the planting of 90,000 trees by 2021. Plastic straws and single-use containers will be phased out by 2028. Overall, Garcetti says, the plan will help Los Angeles become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popularized the idea of a Green New Deal following protests by the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots environmental non-profit.

In a blog post, Sunrise Movement organizers gave a grim assessment of Los Angeles’ local answer to the national proposal.

“That is not a Green New Deal,” the organization said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday announced plans for a local Green New Deal initiative.Under the  plan, Los Angeles residents will have to cut...

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Homes with solar panels sell for nearly 5 percent more

Going green could make you some green

Research consistently shows that consumers shopping for homes are impressed when a home has energy efficient features. After all, that can save money for as long as you own the home.

But some energy efficient features are more attractive than others. A new Zillow analysis has found that homes equipped with solar panels sell for 4.1 percent more on average than homes without them.

The premium will vary by housing market. In New York, for example, solar panels will raise a home price by 5.4 percent, but that figure drops to 3.6 percent in Los Angeles.

"Energy conservation isn't only good for the environment, it can also translate into big savings on electricity bills as well as help to reduce the strain on the electrical grid," said Zillow senior economist Sarah Mikhitarian. "The Sun Number provides a starting point for potential energy savings, but speaking with a local expert can help homeowners decide whether it pencils out.

Sun Number

The Sun Number is a calculation Zillow has placed on listed homes to give prospective buyers an indication of the home’s solar potential, along with what an owner can expect to save in energy costs.

Mikhitarian says the higher the Sun Number, the greater the savings, and that usually translates into a higher selling price when the house goes on the market.

“Homes with solar energy systems often sell for more than comparable homes without solar power,” she said. “This premium is largely reflective of the future energy cost savings associated with the system."

The formula

Coming up with a Sun Number involves more than simply counting sunny days in a particular area. There’s an actual company called Sun Company that measures the roof of each home and calculates the pitch, orientation, and size of each roof plane.

That enables it to determine the amount of sunlight that hits the roof, accounting for negative elements like trees and other buildings that might provide shade. It tops off the process by considering the local cost of electricity and local weather conditions. A Sun Number is between 0 and 100, with higher numbers being more cost effective for solar.

Zillow said it analyzed more than 500 housing markets in the U.S. and, as you might expect, the top 10 Sun Numbers are found in the sunny Southwest. However, there are a few surprises, with San Jose recording a Sun Number of 90 and San Francisco ahead of San Diego. Nationally, the median Sun Number is 78.

Research consistently shows that consumers shopping for homes are impressed when a home has energy efficient features. After all, that can save money for a...

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Trump signs order to allow natural gas on freight rail, igniting ‘bomb train’ fears

The oil and gas industry is hopeful that it can transport more natural gas by rail and override authority of states that reject pipelines

President Trump is trying to make it even easier for the oil and gas industry to remain the dominant source of energy. He signed executive orders on Wednesday that the oil and gas industry hopes will strip states of their authority to reject pipeline projects and expand the transport of fossil fuels by rail.

“When states say ‘no’ to the development of natural gas pipelines, they force utilities to curb safe and affordable service and refuse access to new customers, including new businesses,” said the CEO of the  American Gas Association.

One of the executive orders that Trump signed Wednesday will give the president’s office full authority to approve or deny an international pipeline permit. Trump cited “obstruction” in New York when signing the order.

State leaders in New York recently voted to block a natural gas pipeline project that already received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in 2014. Though any order stripping states of regulatory authority is likely to be fought in the courts, Trump says his move will prevent states like New York from “hurting the economy.”

“President Trump’s executive order is a gross overreach of federal authority that undermines New York’s ability to protect our water quality and our environment,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded in a statement.

For years, the  pipeline regulator known as FERC has taken what tribes, states, environmentalist activists, and others describe as a lax approach to pipeline approval, leaving it to states to decide whether to allow a project after a minimal federal safety review. Many states in the South, Midwest, and Northeast have also been welcoming to pipeline projects, though some are starting to change their tune.

In Pennsylvania, state regulators recently decided to stall construction on a massive Energy Transfer Partners project after a series of environmental violations.  

Risk of train explosions

The second executive order that Trump signed allows the industry to transport natural gas by rail car. Currently, only crude oil can be transported by rail domestically or outside U.S. borders.

The oil and gas industry and freight industry says that using trains to transport natural gas is safe and will help consumers in the Northeast get cheaper energy. But after a 4,000 percent increase in shipping crude oil by rail over the past fifteen years, experts have counted an unprecedented amount of explosive train accidents and deadly spills.

The most famous example of a so-called “bomb train” is the runaway train carrying crude oil that killed 40 people in a small town in Quebec in 2013.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” Emily Jeffers, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told Bloomberg News about the plan allowing natural gas on trains.  “You’re transporting an extraordinarily flammable and dangerous substance through highly populated areas with basically no environmental protection.”

President Trump is trying to make it even easier on the oil and gas industry to remain the dominant source of energy. He signed executive orders on Wednesd...

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New York bans single-use plastic bags

The state’s plastic bag ban will go into effect next March

Under new legislation passed in the New York state budget, single-use plastic bags will be banned statewide starting March 1, 2020.

The plan gives individual counties in New York the option of charging 5 cents per paper bag, with 2 cents going to local governments and 3 cents to the state's Environmental Protection Fund. The idea is to push consumers toward using reusable bags instead of simply switching from plastic to paper.

“Carve outs” woven into the deal state that consumers can still get plastic carry-out bags for food, have dry cleaned items placed in plastic bags, and put produce in plastic bags at the grocery store.

"I am proud to announce that together, we got it done," Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats said in a joint statement announcing the plastic bag ban and other budget agreements.

New York steps up sustainability efforts

The agreement makes New York the third state, after Hawaii and California, to enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags. The deal is intended to keep plastic bags from damaging waterways and ecosystems.

"With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers," Cuomo said in a statement Friday when the deal was announced by hadn’t yet been finalized.

“Every year, there are billions – billions with a ‘b’ – of bags that are thrown away after just one use. The average plastic bag use is about 12 minutes… we just have this disposable plastic craze and it is adding up,” added state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Island), who sponsored the bill.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he has “long advocated” for a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and has vowed to work on a plan to help people get reusable bags.

“These bags litter our streets and threaten our planet,” de Blasio said in a statement. “It is our job to lead the fight against climate change and fossil fuels so that our kids aren't forced to deal with the irreparable consequences.”

Under new legislation passed in the New York state budget, single-use plastic bags will be banned statewide starting March 1, 2020.The plan gives indiv...

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Climate change could lead to financial crisis, Fed researcher warns

Environmental changes and the cost of adapting could adversely affect the economy

A senior policy adviser working with the Federal Reserve says that the negative impact of climate change won’t just stop at the environment; it could also lead us into our next financial crisis.

In an economic letter published on Monday, Glenn D. Rudebusch explained that environmental changes, as well as the way that society prepares for those changes, could have important consequences for the U.S. economy. He urges policymakers to plan accordingly to avoid the worst possible outcome.

“Some central banks...recognize that climate change is becoming increasingly relevant for monetary policy,” he said. “For example, climate-related financial risks could affect the economy through elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis.”

The costs of natural disasters

In his report, Rudebusch says that natural disasters and changing conditions could cause great harm to certain industries. Hurricanes, extensive flooding, or droughts could lead to infrastructure damage, agricultural losses, and price spikes for certain commodities that will hurt consumers and businesses financially.

Of course, those risks aren’t just present in the U.S. Rudebusch says that disasters in different areas of the world affect everyone because of the connectedness of the global economy.

“Even weather disasters abroad can disrupt exports, imports, and supply chains close to home,” he said.

Greener technologies and policies

While many nations are exploring options when it comes to converting to a low-carbon, environmentally friendly economy, Rudebusch says that the Fed is not able to tailor all of its policies towards these initiatives. However, he does say that certain government actions, such as introducing a carbon tax, could spur industries to adapt to cleaner technologies.  

“A carbon tax that is set at the proper level can appropriately incentivize innovations in clean technology and the transition from a high- to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

“A comprehensive set of government policies may be required, including clean-energy and carbon-capture research and development incentives, energy efficiency standards, and low-carbon public investment.”

Rudebusch’s full report can be viewed here.

A senior policy adviser working with the Federal Reserve says that the negative impact of climate change won’t just stop at the environment; it could also...

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Top oil and gas producers have spent $1 billion to fight climate policy, report says

The world’s top oil corporations were on board with the Paris Agreement but have spent $1 billion lobbying since then

The world’s five biggest publicly traded oil and gas companies in recent years have fought against measures to curb emissions even as they claimed to support environmental measures like the Paris Agreement, according to new research by InfluenceMap, a UK-based nonprofit that tracks corporate spending.

InfluenceMap analyzed public disclosures that the corporations made in financial filings, as well as donations that the corporations made to outside lobbying and trade groups. The researchers found that ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total spent a combined $1 billion on “misleading climate-related branding and lobbying” since the historic Paris Agreement made headlines in 2016.

“These efforts are overwhelmingly in conflict with the goals of this landmark global climate accord and designed to maintain the social and legal license to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” InfluenceMap writes.

The lobbying work and branding took various forms. ExxonMobil, for example, engaged in direct government lobbying, as it has for decades. But the oil giant also spent $2 million on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads promoting the benefits of fossil fuels.

In recent years, major oil corporations such as Exxon have stressed that climate change is a real problem that it plans to help solve. But behind closed doors, the oil industry appears to be betting on a future that is increasingly dependent on fossil fuels, as ConsumerAffairs has previously reported.

Meanwhile, the European Union appears to be attempting to crack down on corporate lobbying efforts. Following the release of the InflencueMap report, the EU parliament is reportedly now discussing whether Exxon should lose its lobbying privileges in the EU altogether. A vote on the matter is scheduled for April.

The world’s five biggest publicly traded oil and gas companies in recent years have fought against measures to curb emissions even as they claimed to suppo...

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Saving electricity can also save lives, new study finds

Researchers say there are more benefits to turning off lights than just reducing your electric bill

Keeping lights off when they’re not being used is a surefire way for consumers to lower their electric bills; however, it could also help increase their lifespans.

According to researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, turning off lights can be beneficial to consumers’ health by lowering levels of air pollution.

“By saving electricity, we can also save lives,” said researcher David Abel. “There is a range of health benefits. It’s a bonus. We find there are extra health reasons to turn off a light.”

Saving more than just energy

During the summer months when energy use is at its peak, the researchers calculated air quality, human mortality, and power plant emissions to see how energy use and energy efficiency affect consumers’ health.

The key here is for consumers to be smart about their power use by being energy efficient, as doing so can come with some life-saving rewards.

The researchers found that increasing energy efficiency by 12 percent during the summertime would have huge effects on consumer health, the environment, and electricity costs. Promoting energy efficiency creates cleaner air for consumers, which the researchers say would save roughly $4 billion and nearly 500 lives per year.

“We’re trying to clarify how changes in energy systems have benefits for public health,” said researcher Tracey Holloway. “For the most part, the energy community is not focused on the human health effects of air pollution.”

The health effects associated with air pollution are lengthy, as exposure to certain chemicals has negatively affected children and sent consumers to the emergency room with more frequency. Keeping energy efficiency at the forefront would help to alleviate some of these concerns and help save lives.

With tangible facts and figures in place, the researchers are now hoping that the findings from this study inspire lawmakers to put legislation in place that would benefit consumer health long-term, while also being kind to the environment.

“This seems like a missed opportunity,” Holloway said. “Energy efficiency is free, yet it is not being included in the basket of solutions.”

Potential health risks

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported last year that air pollution kills seven million people per year, and a recent report found that air pollution only got worse in 2018.

It seems there’s no escape from air pollution, as doing chores around the house can contribute to indoor air pollution. One study found that pregnant women exposed to certain air pollutants are at a considerable risk of having a premature birth or bearing a child with low birth weight.

Keeping lights off when they’re not being used is a surefire way for consumers to lower their electric bills; however, it could also help increase their li...

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Investors are making a big play in reversing food waste

Don’t blame restaurants or farmers. Most of the squander happens right in our own homes

Waste not, want not.

The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coalition ReFed says that companies fighting food waste have pulled in some $125 million in venture capital and private equity funding in 2018.

And, like most everything else these days, consumers have technology to thank for the forward movement on keeping food products fresher for longer.

As an example, ReFed points to Walmart. In its perishables supply chain, the big box retailer recently experimented with smart labeling technology where electronic devices are attached to produce shipping containers and crates in an effort to monitor spoilage. While the technology wasn’t part of its existing bailiwick, Walmart saw enough long-term potential in reducing inventory loss to make the investment.

“Investors are seeing that food waste is a big business opportunity,” Michelle Masek, head of marketing at Apeel Sciences, told Bloomberg News. Apeel recently formed a partnership with a major European supplier of avocados that will use a water-based solution that the company says extends the ripeness for another four days or so.

The environmental challenge

“Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen how climate change and resource utilization are closely linked, and food is one of the most important resources in that equation,” wrote ReFed in an analysis of the study.

“This puts food waste squarely at the center of many global challenges. Reducing food waste would have a game-changing impact on natural resources depletion and degradation, food insecurity, national security, and climate change. As one of the largest economies and agricultural producers in the world, we believe the United States has a major role to play in setting an example and contributing to significant food waste reduction.”

Any way you look at it, food waste is a crisis. Today, the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten.

Each and every year, more than 50 million tons of food ends up in landfills. On top of that, an additional 10.1 million tons remains unharvested at farms. An even sadder fact is that 49 million Americans have a hard time putting food on their table.

Clean up your own backyard

While having garbage pickup is a nice thing for the consumer to have, ReFed estimates that cities actually lose money on the deal. As an example, the coalition cites Baltimore.

“If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection for composting in the Baltimore area by 10 percent, an annual systemwide net cost of $700,000 to collect and process 140,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $230,000. If it were possible to reduce the cost of collection in the Los Angeles area by 15 percent, an annual system-wide net cost of $5 million to collect and process 800,000 tons of food waste could become a net benefit of $1.2 million.”

While you might think that farms, manufacturers, and restaurants are to blame for most of that, think again. In the U.S., about 43 percent of all the waste happens at the end of the food chain -- in the kitchen at home, according to an earlier ReFed report. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found two-thirds of the food wasted at home is edible.

ReFed says that consumers are fully aware of their shortcomings. They feel guilty, but just not guilty enough to try to make a difference.

Waste not, want not.The fact that consumers are focusing on reducing food waste isn’t lost on the investment community. A new report by non-profit coal...

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Survey says millennials would take a pay cut to work for an environmentally conscious company

The big question is who’s going to take responsibility for making America greener?

Let’s talk trade-offs…

Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pun intended) -- and, more than likely, a millennial.

A new survey by Swytch -- a blockchain-based clean energy platform -- examined workforce sentiments as they relate to employers’ corporate sustainability pursuits.

In that study, almost 50 percent of all respondents and 75 percent of millennial workers said they would make that trade-off. As a matter of fact, 10+ percent would take a cut in pay between $5,000-$10,000, and slightly more than three percent said they’d be willing to go even further and take a pay cut of over $10,000 a year if they believed the employer had a “green” frame-of-mind.

Age matters when it comes to making that large of a trade-off, though. The survey found that fewer than 25 percent of Gen Xers (now between 40 and 53 years old) would make the change and that number drops to 17 percent for baby boomers.

Are we green enough for you?

Swytch’s study demonstrates that it’s not good enough just to say a company is green -- it needs to demonstrate that time after time, year after year.

Close to 70 percent of the respondents said that a strong sustainability plan would affect their decision to stay with a company long term.

And, they mean it. Nearly 30 percent said they’ve left a company because of its absence of a corporate sustainability plan. Eleven percent said they’ve pulled up and left over that factor more than once.

“As a growing number of employees are eager to see corporations take a stand on environmental responsibility, employers will have to respond accordingly in order to attract and retain top talent,” Evan Caron, co-founder and managing director of Swytch told Medium.

Red state, Blue state, Green state?

If you’re thinking that being environmentally proactive is more of a liberal than a conservative thing, you’d be wrong, albeit slightly.

A formidable number on both sides -- 95 percent of liberals and 89 percent of conservatives -- said that companies should be rewarded for producing and/or consuming renewable energy.

However, finding the right party to step up and make that forward motion happen is a big question. More than 30 percent of respondents feel that the national government should be in charge of tackling climate change, while only about 25 percent think that large corporations should be responsible.

Let’s talk trade-offs…Would you take a cut in pay to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible? If you said yes, you’re in good company (pu...

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Pipeline company behind infamous Standing Rock protest accused of blowing up a house in Pennsylvania

Energy Transfer Partners enjoyed support from Pennsylvania's state government until recently

The Pennsylvania state government says that a major oil and gas pipeline company, currently building a network of pipelines in the state to transport fracked gas and chemical byproducts from the fracking, has failed to take responsibility for an explosion that destroyed a house and other property last year.

Energy Transfer Partners is the Texas-based pipeline magnate that built its crude oil pipeline through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes who descended on the reservation in late 2016 famously convinced the Corps of Engineers to halt a key construction permit, though the move was only temporary. The Dakota Access Pipeline went back online under Trump and has been in operation for two years.

Energy Transfer Partners has also kept busy building new pipelines in Louisiana, Texas, and Pennsylvania over the past few years. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere had been welcoming of the projects, granting permits even over the objections of local activists who cited environmental concerns similar to those that the Standing Rock Sioux raised.

But things went downhill in Pennsylvania on September 11 last year. The Revolution Pipeline, a project run by Energy Transfer Partners subsidiary Sunoco, had only been in operation for a week when a fire erupted in Beaver County, destroying a home 500 feet away from the blast.

“An initial site assessment reveals evidence of a landslide in the vicinity of the pipeline,” a Sunoco spokesman told a local newspaper.

Failure to meet state laws

Because oil and gas pipelines are known to cause landslides, state officials said that it was up to Sunoco to find a way to stabilize the areas that had been disturbed during construction. Sunoco needed to prevent further erosion, per state government instructions. The state even gave Sunoco an October 29 deadline to fix the erosion problems.

But Energy Transfer Partners failed to meet the deadline, the state says. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced last Friday that the company had failed to control erosion or stabilize the problematic areas.

As a result, Energy Transfer Partners is suspended from obtaining new permits in the state, though its projects that are already permitted remain unaffected for now.

“There has been a failure by Energy Transfer and its subsidiaries to respect our laws and our communities,” Governor Tom Wolf said in an uncharacteristically critical statement. “This is not how we strive to do business in Pennsylvania, and it will not be tolerated.”

Energy Transfer Partners spokesman Lisa Dillinger responded with a statement to the Daily Local newspaper that the company is “committed to bringing this project into full compliance with all environmental permits and applicable regulations.”

“This action does not affect the operation of any of our in-service pipelines or any areas of construction where permits have already been issued,” she added.

The Pennsylvania state government says that a major oil and gas pipeline company, currently building a network of pipelines in the state to transport frack...

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Researchers call for more sustainable materials in protective clothing

The study reveals the harm behind fluorochemicals

Researchers from the University of Leeds are calling for dangerous fluorochemicals to be phased out of consumers’ waterproof and protective clothing.

According to the researchers, more eco-friendly options are available, especially for waterproofing purposes. However, clothing worn by emergency personnel and paramedics needs to be protected by more than just water.

“Environmentally-friendly and biodegradable solutions are available, but are being resisted by some manufacturers and retailers,” said Dr. Richard Blackburn, head of the Sustainable Materials Research Group at the University of Leeds’ School of Design.

“Non-fluorinated alternatives are a viable option in all cases where stain repellency is not an essential function. These alternatives provide excellent rain protection, and there are long-term ecological benefits from phasing out the highly fluorinated chemicals.”

Finding what works

While the researchers’ work showed that the majority of consumers are only looking for their clothes to be waterproof -- and not stain resistant -- making it possible to switch to more eco-friendly choices, medical professionals and military personnel rely on the fluorochemical repellents to stay free of stains, infections, and chemicals.

In an effort to be more innovative with sustainable alternatives, researcher Philippa Hill created a new testing method that allowed her to test various waterproof finishes and their effectiveness in protecting wearers against various liquids and stains.

“Currently, only non-fluorinated chemicals can provide the high levels of protection needed from other types of liquids, such as oils, chemicals, and bodily fluids, so there is a major opportunity for future innovation in that area,” Hill said.

The researchers tested regular household items -- like orange juice, water, olive oil, and red wine -- and then moved on to more field-specific items, like cough medicine, synthetic gastric fluid, and blood.

The experiment showed that non-fluorinated repellents didn’t work for gastric fluids or any oil-based stains, but they showed some promise with the cough medicine and blood and were very successful with the red wine and orange juice.

The researchers want the clothing and textile industry to understand how harmful fluorochemicals are to the environment, as they are major contributors to pollution, and strive to utilize sustainable materials in the future.

“We want to help textile producers and retailers to develop better garments that also have minimal environmental impact,” said researcher Ian Cousins. “It is important to look into the necessary functionality and durability, otherwise people won’t buy the greener alternatives.”

Money could be at stake

While many corporations have decided to go green with various sustainable initiatives, a recent study found that not going green could affect some companies’ bottom lines down the road.

Researchers found that if companies -- particularly those that produce the highest levels of carbon emissions -- don’t try to reduce their carbon footprint, the stock market could start to dip in less than 10 years.

“It is of the best interest of the companies in the financial, insurance, and pension industries to price this carbon risk correctly in their asset allocations,” said researcher Tony Wirjanto. “Companies have to take climate change into consideration to build an optimal and sustainable portfolio in the long run under the climate change risk.”

Researchers from the University of Leeds are calling for dangerous fluorochemicals to be phased out of consumers’ waterproof and protective clothing.Ac...

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Proposed bill would curb use of paper receipts in California

The measure would enforce the use of electronic receipts

New legislation proposed on Tuesday would make California the first state to require businesses to offer electronic receipts unless customers specifically request paper copies.

The push to begin phasing out printed receipts in the Golden State has already begun, according to Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, who introduced the bill. However, the proposed measure (Assembly Bill 161) would ensure that consumers are fully aware of the health and environmental impact of paper receipts.

For example, most paper receipts aren’t recyclable, are coated with chemicals that aren’t allowed in baby bottles, and can contaminate other recycled paper because of the chemicals known as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Bisphenol-S (BPS), Ting said.

Transitioning to e-receipts

Under the bill, businesses would be required to provide proof of purchase receipts electronically starting in 2022 unless a customer asks for a printed copy.

“There’s a negative impact on the environment with these receipts and the inability to recycle them,” Ting said. He also cited studies by the Environmental Working Group and the CDC showing that retail workers have higher concentrations of BPA or BPS than those who do not have regular contact with receipts.

If passed, the measure would be similar to another recently enacted piece of legislation in California -- one which requires restaurants to provide straws only at customers’ request. Similar to the straw bill, infractions would be subject to two written warnings followed by a fine of $25 a day for subsequent violations, with an annual $300 cap.

Privacy concerns

While phasing out paper receipts would undoubtedly have environmental benefits, some say the use of electronic receipts raises privacy concerns. Businesses would “have your email, then they'll be marketing to you or selling your information or it can get into privacy issues," noted Republican Assemblyman Brian Dahle.

But Ting countered by saying that consumers can still ask for paper receipts if they’re worried about giving out their email addresses. An additional benefit of the proposed bill would be its potential to save businesses money.

But at its core, the bill is intended to cut down on the environmental burden of paper receipts. The advocacy group Green America estimates that millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used annually to make paper receipts in the United States.

New legislation proposed on Tuesday would make California the first state to require businesses to offer electronic receipts unless customers specifically...

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Cutting back on beef is necessary for human health and the planet, study says

The world’s growing demand for beef is unhealthy and unsustainable, the World Economic Forum says

Fungus, peas, and a plate of beans. It’s what's for dinner. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but replacing beef with those plant-based alternatives could extend the average person’s lifespan by as much as 7 percent, according to a new study by European thinktank the World Economic Forum (WEF).  

The fungus Mycoprotein is the healthiest and most sustainable dietary beef alternative, according to the WEF study, though most people likely haven’t heard of it. Mycoprotein is found in soil and used by some fake-meat frozen food brands.

Luckily, there are plenty of other options that might sound a little less depressing to people who aren’t keen on imitation meat.

Replacing beef with nuts, pork, chiken, tofu, or jackfruit would also be superior to current trends, which show that beef consumption is growing at an unhealthy pace.

“It would be impossible for a global population of 10 billion people to eat the amount of meat typical of diets in North America and Europe” without breaking sustainability goals, the WEF report says. “It would require too much land and water, and lead to unacceptable greenhouse‑gas and other pollutant emissions.”

Demand for meat continues to grow

Despite climate concerns, a meat-intensive diet is where much of the world is heading. The Texas Cattle Feeders Association visited Mongolia last August and reported back that even threats of tariffs or a trade war weren’t tampering Chinese demands for American beef.

“The poorest countries, their primary protein sources are plant-based,” the group’s chairman Levi Barry told a local newspaper shortly after his visit. “As they increase their fortune, they typically move into some sort of meat in their diet. We see that in a lot of the developing markets.”

Demand for American beef “continues to climb in nearly every region of the world,” according to the US Meat Export Federation, which says that the value of exported American beef reached record levels in 2018.

But that good news for the cattle export industry may be coming at the expense of the planet. Researchers and environmentalists, not to mention vegan groups, are quick to point out that meat and dairy are especially intensive to produce, requiring huge amounts of land and water. The environmental and health concerns have led to growing interest in alternative sources of proteins.

Ranking the best alternatives

Teaming with researchers from Oxford University, the WEF set out to compare the planetary and human health benefits of different beef alternatives and analyze which alternative is best for human diets and the planet.

Though investors and start-ups are touting lab-grown meat made from tissues as a promising choice, the WEF says that old-fashioned plant-based food is better. Lab-grown meat may not be environmentally sustainable to produce, and “its health benefits compared with traditional beef are marginal,” the WEF says.

Overall, cultured beef ranked at the bottom of WEF’s suggested beef alternatives.

Microproteins, peas, and beans ranked at the top. They were followed respectively by wheat, jackfruit, insects, nuts, alga, chicken and pork.

The report is careful to say that people don’t need to cut beef out of their diet entirely, and it notes that millions of people around the world make their living raising cattle. Many people may not have access to meat alternatives, and following the WEF’s guidelines would require a massive change not just in consumer behavior, but in how food is subsidized and produced.  

“For many people living in the poorest countries, there are no alternatives to meat and restricting access would be detrimental to their health,” the report notes.

Fungus, peas, and a plate of beans. It’s what for dinner. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but replacing beef with those plant-based alternatives...

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Energy efficient homes can result in big savings, study finds

Consumers and builders have shied away from zero energy homes over concerns that they are more expensive upfront

Americans buying new solar panels may now be paying millions more on their initial purchase thanks to new tariffs, but that’s no reason to shy away from energy-efficient home technology.

New homeowners and builders are avoiding energy efficient homes over the mistaken belief that they are prohibitively expensive, according to a new report by an environmental think tank.

The Rocky Mountain Institute analyzed the cost and savings linked to two types of energy efficient homes -- zero energy homes and zero energy-ready homes. The former produces more renewable energy than it uses, and it is only attainable for homes that capture enough sunlight, while the latter can be be built anywhere.

Zero energy-ready homes, according to the Department of Energy, are certified as such if they have airtight construction, non-toxic construction materials, good air quality, energy-efficient appliances, and higher levels of insulation and window performance.

These homes are also built in such a way to allow for solar panels to be installed at a future date, if the homeowner cannot afford to install the panels initially. When that happens, the homes would then have the potential to be zero energy.

Sales of homes that are under construction or have yet to be built represent a major market for developers, but only a small fraction of those homes are slated to be energy efficient.  

Most home builders believe that green homes will be a tough sell and that they will add more than 5 percent to total costs. Consumers have also avoided buying green homes over cost concerns.

“These perceptions are preventing or disincentivizing stakeholders from acting in their own long-term interests,” the Rocky Mountain Institute says.

Saving money over time

According to the non-profit’s research, building a zero energy-ready home actually only adds somewhere between .9 to 2.5 percent to total housing costs. A zero energy home costs more, an average of 6.7 to 8.1 percent higher than a regular home.  

But living green will eventually save homeowners thousands of dollars over a home’s lifecycle, the institute says, pointing to research that the typical consumer keeps their home for 12 years before selling it.

The benefits vary from region to region, but they are most obvious to homeowners in the midwest. In Detroit, for example, a zero energy-ready house without solar panels costs $1,574 more than a typical house, and the energy savings would be reaped in less than two years.

InsideClimate news recently toured energy efficient homes under construction in Michigan. The builder said that such homes are also more comfortable because they have better temperature control.

Houses currently account for 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States.

Americans buying new solar panels may now be paying millions more on their initial purchase thanks to new tariffs, but that’s no reason to shy away from en...

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Public health is already worsening due to climate change, new report says

Heat stroke and other related conditions are already on the rise. Researchers say the time to act is now

At the heart of the U.S. government's two-year National Climate Assessment report, a group of researchers are now warning that climate change is already harming public health.

A total of 150 experts from 27 different universities and institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO), published their findings in the journal The Lancet on Wednesday.

Heat strokes, dengue fever, and lack of access to clean drinking water, clean air, and food supplies are likely to become growing problems if no action is taken on climate change, the report says.

“These are not things happening in 2050 but are things we are already seeing today. We think of these as the canary in, ironically, the coalmine,” Nick Watt, the Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change project, told the Guardian.

Raising awareness, but action still needed

The only silver lining comes in the form of awareness. The researchers say that reporting on the human health effects of climate change may make people more inclined to act.

“Individual engagement and action contributes to a growing wave of change,” an introductory paper to the report says. “This does not negate the need for engagement at international policy level and for governments to better use their powers, but this can be accelerated and complemented by harnessing the collective voice of individuals.”

But action at the policy level still appears to be a hard-fought battle. The United Nations says that governments must triple their current efforts at tackling climate change to prevent catastrophic warming in the near future.

The researchers at The Lancet note that hospitals may not be prepared to take on a growing amount of heat stroke patients. The team interviewed officials from 500 global cities and found that much of their public health infrastructure, such as hospitals, were vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Some lawmakers in the United States are currently drafting a Green New Deal proposal that they hope will aggressively address the problem.

At the heart of the U.S. government's two-year National Climate Assessment report, a group of researchers are now warning that climate change is already ha...

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Nespresso aiming to use sustainable aluminum in all of its coffee pods

A new partnership may help the company reduce the environmental impact of its coffee capsules

Nespresso is teaming up with mining and metals company Rio Tinto to work toward the goal of using 100 percent “responsibly sourced” aluminum in all of its coffee pods by 2020.

The companies announced on Monday that Rio Tinto will supply aluminum with renewable power and respect for biodiversity to Nespresso as part of a larger effort to reduce the negative environmental impact of the coffee giant’s coffee pods.

“This is an important step towards the use of responsibly sourced aluminium across manufacturing industries, which Rio Tinto is the first to supply,” said Alf Barrios, the company’s chief executive of aluminium, in a statement.

“It’s addressing a preference that consumers and society are clearly articulating … but it’s also good commercial sense,” Barrios added.

Sustainable aluminum

Under the partnership, Nespresso will work with its capsule manufacturers to ensure they use exclusively metal certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative.

“Nespresso is proud to have been a driving force in creating and implementing the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative,” Nespresso chief executive Jean-Marc Duvoisin said. “Together, we have made responsibly sourced aluminium a reality, and the ASI traceability mechanism will enable us to meet our commitment to customers to reduce the impact of their consumption.”

The partnership will help Nespresso, which currently holds almost a third of the coffee pod market, compete with companies that market themselves as sustainable. Last week, rival Halo claimed to have created the world’s first fully compostable coffee capsule and packaging.

Nespresso critics have said the company's coffee pods are a waste of resources since they are not biodegradable. Millions of used coffee pods end up in landfills each year.

The company has tried alternatives to aluminum, but none of them have sufficiently protected the coffee from exposure to the air, nor have they been able to withstand the pressure of the Nespresso machines.

Nespresso says it’s working with its manufacturers to ensure that all capsules are ASI-certified, a process that will take some time The Nestle-owned company is also aiming to make recycling as easy as possible.

Nespresso is teaming up with mining and metals company Rio Tinto to work toward the goal of using 100 percent “responsibly sourced” aluminum in all of its...

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Supreme Court allows kids' climate change lawsuit to proceed

Both the Trump and Obama administrations have sought its dismissal

The Supreme Court has refused to stop a lawsuit filed by a group of young people who claim the climate is changing and the U.S. government isn't doing enough to stop it.

In a motion, the Trump administration asked the high court to block the litigation from moving forward, arguing that it is misguided and represents a “radical invasion” of the separation of powers.

The Supreme Court informed the administration that, in the court's opinion, it had not presented a convincing enough argument to stop the lawsuit. It said the case should proceed and the government could remake its argument before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals at the appropriate time.

The lawsuit was filed in Oregon in 2015, naming 21 children as plaintiffs, claiming U.S. and state government agencies were knowingly doing nothing to stop global warming. The suit says that such inaction is in violation of the constitutional rights of younger generations, specifically “their right to 'life, liberty, and property' as enshrined in the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment."

President Trump asked the court to block the suit, but he wasn't the first chief executive to do so. The Obama administration filed a motion in 2016 asking federal court to dismiss the case, but the judge refused, sending it on to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has refused to stop a lawsuit filed by a group of young people who claim the climate is changing and the U.S. government isn't doing enou...

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Hundreds of organizations pledge to eliminate plastic waste

A new campaign aims to eliminate plastic pollution at its source

This week, 250 major organizations -- including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Colgate, SC Johnson, and H&M -- pledged to eliminate plastic waste from their operations by 2025 as part of a global campaign led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

The pledge is part of a larger goal to curb plastic waste pollution, which has become a dangerous concern. Researchers calculate that if current trends continue, there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by 2050.

The 250 companies, businesses, and governments that signed on to the "New Plastics Economy Global Commitment" pledged to eliminate plastic when it’s problematic or unnecessary, and in some cases, switch to reusable packaging.

Eradicating plastic pollution

All of the organizations plan to make 100 percent of their plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable, or compostable within seven years. Individual targets within the commitment were set, and the collective ambition among signatories will grow with time.

"We will continue to review the ambition level of the commitment and, over time, raise it, and we also call for many more businesses and governments around the world to join this effort so that we also continue to scale up in numbers of companies and governments involved," said Sander Defruyt, who leads the New Plastics Economy Initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Plastic entering the oceans “is one of the most visible and disturbing examples of a plastic pollution crisis,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said in a statement. “The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is the most ambitious set of targets we have seen yet in the fight to beat plastics pollution.”

Ellen MacArthur, the record-breaking British sailor who is behind the campaign, said cleaning up plastics from oceans and beaches is vital, “but this does not stop the tide of plastic entering the oceans each year. We need to move upstream to the source of the flow.”

PepsiCo announced this week that it’s aiming to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic. The company said it’s heading toward the goal of using 25 percent recycled content in its plastic packaging by 2025.

This week, 250 major organizations -- including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Colgate, SC Johnson, and H&M; -- pledged to eliminate plastic waste from their operati...

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Pepsi parent company pledges to increase use of recycled plastic

The goal calls for 25 percent recycled plastic in packaging by 2025

PepsiCo has announced a new goal to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic.

The food and beverage manufacturer said it aims to use 25 percent recycled content in its plastic packaging by 2025. The pledge comes at a time when businesses are under increasing pressure to curb the use of plastic, which often ends up in the world's oceans.

The company said it will collaborate with suppliers and partners and try to increase consumer education about curbing plastic pollution. It also said improved recycling infrastructure and regulatory reform are needed to achieve its goal.

Specifically, PepsiCo has a goal of using 33 percent recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) content in beverage bottles by 2025.

'Where plastics never become waste'

"PepsiCo's sustainable plastics vision is to build a PepsiCo where plastics need never become waste," said Dr. Mehmood Khan, PepsiCo's vice chairman and chief scientific officer. "We intend to achieve that vision by reducing, recycling and reusing, and reinventing our plastic packaging."

But to help reduce plastic pollution, Khan said improvements in global waste collection and investments in recycling infrastructure are needed.

As we reported in May, the recycling industry is going through some tough times. China, which has been a major importer of U.S. recyclables, has significantly reduced its purchases because it says there's always too much trash mixed in with the products to be recycled. Ongoing trade tensions aren’t helping matters either.

With the collapse of the market for recyclable bottles and cans, jurisdictions have begun to charge consumers more to recycle. In some cases, The Wall Street Journal reports these recyclables end-up in a landfill anyway.

“Recycling as we know it isn’t working,” James Warner, chief executive of the Solid Waste Management Authority in Lancaster County, Pa., told The Journal back in May. “There’s always been ups and downs in the market, but this is the biggest disruption that I can recall.”

Banning plastic straws

The latest front in the corporate effort to curb plastic pollution is to not use it at all. Many restaurants have begun to phase out plastic straws in favor of paper ones, although straws make up a small part of plastic pollution. In a fast food restaurant that has banned plastic straws, consumers who order salads will still discard containers, utensils, and other packaging made of plastic.

PepsiCo, meanwhile, says it has already begun to rely more on recycled plastic. Earlier this month, it said it had signed a supply agreement with Loop Industries to incorporate Loop PET plastic, which is 100 percent recycled material, into its product packaging by mid-2020.

PepsiCo has announced a new goal to reduce its use of plastic packaging and increase its use of recycled plastic.The food and beverage manufacturer sai...

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Electric grid could increase pollution without appropriate policies, study suggests

Researchers say the grid will need to be transitioned to clean energy

The electric grid will need to be changed in order to keep self-driving cars from having a negative impact on society’s sustainability goals, a new study suggests.

Researchers Peter Fox-Penner, Will Gorman, and Jennifer Hatch analyzed a large body of academic and industry research on autonomous vehicles and found that they will likely greatly increase overall transportation demand.

“With more options available, more people will take advantage of these autonomous vehicles and ride services,” the researchers noted. The authors say autonomous vehicles could exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions if appropriate policies aren’t put in place before this technology starts taking over.

Transportation shift

By 2050, the net increase in electricity demand from converting the light duty vehicle fleet (which currently accounts for 90 percent of motor vehicle travel in the U.S.) to electric, autonomous vehicles will be between 13 percent and 26 percent more than today's total electricity demand, according to the study’s estimates.

“In the best case, where 95 percent of the electric sector decarbonizes by that ti