Earth Week 2021

It’s Earth Week, so let’s make a difference for our Planet and ALL species with permanent, sustainable eco-swaps. Your daily routines offer opportunities for meaningful changes that can have a huge impact on the environment. The types of materials that you use and consume is vital. Vote with your dollars. Be the change!

 

Food

Food is complicated. Beyond sustenance – whether in abundance or a scarcity – its emotional pull is strong. Food locality, farming methods, livestock or veggie, required resources, transport, and the criminal amount of organic waste in the US! –  are ALL factors in food’s environmental footprint.

The local food movement began gaining traction in earnest around 20 years ago. The general idea of being a “locavore” was to seek out agriculture grown within 100 miles radius in support of local farmers having a difficult time competing with government subsidized big agriculture. Communities benefit with a higher quality product from smaller independent farms offering seasonal, environmentally sensitive farmed meats and produce – with a reduced carbon footprint due to locality.

The pandemic has further illuminated the weaknesses in our food systems. Drought, storms, and interrupted transport create pockets across the country with disrupted delivery creating scarcity and premium prices.

By seeking out and purchasing local food products, the carbon footprint of your menu choices is greatly reduced. Farm stands, green markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and hydroponic farms are generally local. Keep in mind, local doesn’t always mean organic.

While an organic diet is the goal for both your health and the Earth, Organic certification is more important for some foods over others. EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a  Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 list. If some of your favorites aren’t included on the two lists, it means that they fall between the highest pesticidal produce and the lowest. Use your discretion as whether to purchase the conventionally grown product. The best idea is to shop with smaller, local producers for these “in between” fruits and vegetables. Some of the local farms may not have an ‘organic’ certification (for some farms, it is cost prohibitive) but nonetheless are applying organic standards in their farming practices.

We must become food advocates insuring that ALL people have access to healthy food and clean water, not just those who are most informed or can afford it. What can you do?  Be a strong advocate for promoting clear and strong labeling and growing standards with your Representatives. Champion food scrap collection and compost solutions in your community to insure that food waste is incorporated back into the earth rather than rotting in the waste stream and contributing to global warming.

Plastic 

By Will McCallum

18 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean each year and a depressing 8.7% of all plastic is actually recycled.

Opt for buying products in glass, cartons, cardboard, or cans whenever you have an option and avoid buying single serving anything. Do your best to avoid soft pouch packaging. They are everywhere and a real problem because they are not recyclable.

 

The best materials to recycle in the US are:

Aluminum

Paper

Cardboard

Glass

#1 & #2 Plastic

Plastics #3-#7  usually get shipped overseas, and since most of those markets have dried up, they will ultimately be the plastics most likely to pollute.

If you are part of a community, school, office, apartment building, or church Terracycle may offer a solution for some of the packaging that your group uses regularly – yes, even used writing utensils! Late July snacks, Lundren foods, and Ocean Spray product packaging are just a few product manufacturers that upcycle packaging with Terracycle. Check them out! Just sign up to create an account attached to your organization. Terracycle buys your upcycled materials and funds are deposited directly to your organization’s account.

We don’t connect plastic pollution with global warming, but a recent study highlighted by the Center for International Environmental Law shows that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic life cycle will be roughly equivalent to the emissions released by more than 295 new 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants.

We cannot recycle our way out of our waste situation. Recycling uses resources like electricity and water. Yes, reduce, reuse, recycle – but remember the fourth R: REFUSE!

Consider your daily routines and go plastic-free! Have you tried detergent pods and sheets for your laundry and dishwasher? Would you consider a shampoo bar or solid shaving cream? How about toothpaste in a jar and mouthwash tablets? Waxed food wraps, refillable ‘forever’ bottles, and solid dish soaps are all easy plastic-free options for everyday needs.

“The only way to stop global plastic pollution is to stop it at the source. We must push for stronger regulation of plastics production and demand that companies are held accountable for the products they produce, to spur innovation in how products are packaged and delivered.”

The Story of Stuff

Transportation

I recently got into a twitter back and forth with person advocating for bikes and upgraded biking infrastructure rather than electric vehicle charging stations. While I understand the desire to turn every major US city into Amsterdam, it’s just not realistic. And for cities without reliable mass transit, it’s impossible.

While calling for better bike infrastructure nationally, let’s also support charging station proliferation so that commercial vehicles like delivery vans, USPS, FedEX… and everyone in the new car market can make the switch to EVs without range anxiety

The new EVs entering the market have a base 230 mile battery range, and the newer charging stations found at grocery stores, malls, and parking lots are quick chargers, so your battery will be sufficiently charged within a half hour. To give you an idea on EV range differentials, the combined-range figures span from 110 miles for the Mini Cooper Electric to 373 miles for the Tesla Model S Long Range.

If you are ready to get in on the EV game – but have longer range commute or are a single car family – consider a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). A regular hybrid vehicle relies primarily on the gas engine, using the electric battery as a fuel saving device for generating energy when braking and accelerating. A plug-in hybrid runs primarily off of the battery while the gas engine is essentially dormant until it’s needed. The engine comes to life when the battery runs down, allowing the vehicle to continue uninterrupted as a regular gasoline hybrid while also using regenerative braking to save fuel. Examples of a plug-in hybrid vehicle include the BMW 530e, the Toyota Prius Prime and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

The proverbial eco-question when it comes to traveling is – to fly or to drive? And the answer remains – it depends. When comparing the number of emissions per person, it may seem like flying is better than driving. However, when more people share the drive, emissions per person are reduced, giving driving the environmental edge over flying. So length of trip and number of people are the main considerations. But with EVs factored into the mix, the answer is undeniable – electric transportation trumps flying.

My new EV! -jGj

I bought my first all electric vehicle recently – woo hoo! It’s a used 2017 Kia Soul EV. The battery range is 107 miles, which isn’t great, but for the local driving that I require – it’s fine. I bought a certified pre-owned, so when I’m ready and the market catches up, I’ll trade it up to a new EV with a longer battery range. EVs are coming online fast now. We can embrace them or we can dawdle and draw out this slow slog to fossil fuel freedom.

Energy & Divestment

And speaking of fossil fuel freedom, energy sources and divestment from fossil fuels actually go together in respect to an individual’s power to control and influence climate justice. 

Recently a friend told me that she and her husband had to decide  between natural gas or oil, lamenting that they don’t qualify for solar programs – to which I responded, you don’t have to install solar panels or go geo-thermal to take advantage of renewable energy! Simply choose renewable energy with your energy supplier. Will you pay a little more? – probably at certain times of the year. Sometimes you’ll be paying less. And as oil prices continue to rise, eventually renewables will be cheaper. But this is where we must weigh the investment down the line.

As for investments, have you asked yourself where your bank or credit card is investing your money? The website called Mighty Deposits is designed to help make banking more transparent, so customers can more easily find a bank that aligns with their own values. Greening your portfolio and personal/professional banking is a powerful tool for advancing green initiatives. Certified B Corps banks focus on the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. These banks are taking on community development initiatives and sustainable, responsible investing. And if your local credit union is a viable option, give it a look. Credit Unions notoriously keep money in the communities in which they serve and tend to have lower fees and better interest rates on savings accounts and loans.

B Corp Banks

Aspiration

City First Bank

Amalgamated Bank

Beneficial State Bank

Spring Bank

Mascoma Bank

Sunrise Banks

Here is the check list again – feel free to copy & paste : )

 

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. birdtobear@gmail.com' Crystal says:

    The term “range anxiety” made me chuckle in mild arrogance. Then, I saw your 107-mile range and immediately recoiled with an “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” whilst clutching my pearls. But we put maybe 20 miles on our car in a week and have EV charging stations available at our apartment; so why am I afraid? I am simply worried that I might not be able to find another station along route to an imaginary future destination.

    Pretty sure I accidentally proved your point and also discovered I have range anxiety. Once we start doling out EV charging stations like Oprah, it will be an obvious time for everyone to switch. But that will not happen without the EV pioneers such as yourself creating the demand.

    Happy Earth Week and thanks for the marvelous post!

    • Jennifer says:

      Happy Earth Day Crystal! Well, I dipped my toe in the EV world by starting with a used model that I could afford. Certainly isn’t a Tesla – but guess what? I LOVE it! It’s such a pleasure running errands emission-free. I just plug it in overnight. It does everything that I need (except handle snow & ice). My next car will be an all-wheel plug in. Come on in – the water’s fine!

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