Top Environmental News Stories, Lifestyle Tips & Suggested Reading | July EcoBuzz

ECO TIP – Reduce your impact by eating locally-grown food

Eating all locally-grown food for 1 year could save the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of driving 1,000 fewer miles, or -906.1 lbs of CO2e. Learn more.

 

THE BUZZ…

July’s Top Environmental News Stories…

The EPA’s Worst Head Is Gone, His Replacement Will Be No Better…

When Scott Pruitt resigned, many of us were thankful to see him go. His disturbing conflicts of interest and pandering to polluters with power gave us no shortage of heartache. But Andrew Wheeler, who is acting as interim chief, might just be worse. His resume includes lobbyist for the coal industry, Vice President of the Washington Coal Club, and chief of staff for climate change denier Sen. James Inhofe. We’ll just let that sink in.

Climate Change Could Kill the Internet…

While it’s not a “series of tubes,” it is largely run on a vast network of fibre optic cables, buried under our major population centers. A new study says that rising seas could threaten this network, as soon as within the next 15 years. Cities like New York, Miami, and Seattle all fall within the danger zone, and unless something is done soon, this infrastructure of over 4,000 miles of buried cable could be underwater by 2033.

Young Activists Are Suing the Government…

A group of 21 kids and young adults, ranging in age from 11 to 22, have a case against the US government, set for a trial before the federal court in Eugene Oregon this October. This month, the Trump administration’s move to dismiss the suit was rejected by the federal appeals court in San Francisco, so it seems these youngsters will get their day in court after all. The suit accuses federal officials and oil industry execs of knowing the threats posed by carbon pollution, but doing nothing about it.

 

July Renewable Energy News…

China Is Proving that Renewable Is Doable…

This is one for those sceptics who don’t think renewable energy will work on a large scale. Concerns over the stability of a renewable-energy-only grid were put to rest in June. For a full week in June, the Qinghai province in northwest China switched its population of 6 million people over to hydro, wind, and solar power only. The test was a success, and power companies in the province felt no ill effects. China has a goal to produce 20% of its energy this way by the year 2030.

Palau Has a Plan…

This small island nation in the Pacific is on track to win the race for the fastest shift to renewable power. They currently rely heavily on diesel, but have a plan to be 100% solar powered by the end of 2019. This plan will cost nothing to the government, and is intended to serve as a blueprint for other island nations hoping to make the switch.

Britain Is Ditching Coal…

As of July 13th, the UK has run for over 1,000 hours coal-free. For comparison’s sake, in all of 2017 they had only managed 624 coal-free hours. The nation has always been heavily reliant on coal power, with 40% of its electricity connected to coal as recently as 2012. So far this year, that number has fallen to just 6%. And with two of the country’s remaining coal plants closing their doors this September, the number is likely to drop even more.  

Closer to Home, Solar Power Creates Jobs and Saves Money…

During the last election cycle, we heard a great deal about the coal mining jobs that would be lost if we stopped using coal as a power source. But a report from the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative has the answer. Solar energy firms are now employing nearly four times as many people as coal-fired generation. Since clean jobs in solar energy don’t have the added side-effects of working with coal, such as black lung and other respiratory diseases, it seems like a win/win to us!

Further, the state of Colorado’s energy assistance programs are using solar panels to help low-income households save on their power bills. They’re providing free rooftop solar panel installations and creating community solar arrays through several state programs. The initiative is being hailed as a national model for expanding renewable energy to low-income households.

 

July Zero Waste & Plastic-Free News…

India Will Ban Single-Use Plastics…

Indian environment minister, Harsh Vardhan, announced that the country would ban all single-use plastics by 2022. The celebrated announcement came as part of a World Environment Day summit hosted by prime minister Narendra Modi, and is just one part of the PM’s vision to move toward the “India of our dreams.” Since India is currently producing about 25,000 metric tons of plastic daily, this move is being hailed by environmental groups the whole world over. Additionally, Modi has committed to cleaning up 100 national monuments, making for a litter-free experience at such beloved destinations as the Taj Mahal. When paired with India’s move to switch to solar power, this spells beautiful and green things ahead for the nation, who is looking to become a leader in the renewable energy space.

Many Countries Are Also Working to Ban Single-Use Plastics…

Back in May the European Commission proposed a ban on single-use plastic products like plastic drinking straws. The proposal also aims to make producers of this plastic waste help cover the costs of clean-up efforts. The commission hopes to have this ban passed before their May 2019 elections.

Meanwhile, the UK is aiming to ban all sales of single-use plastics as early as next year. The ban was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May as a part of the country’s 25 Year Environmental Plan. The UK has already imposed a tax on single-use plastic bags, leading to a drop in use of roughly 90%, or 9 billion fewer bags, and a ban on plastic microbeads used in cosmetic products.

Australia is joining the global movement against plastic bags. Large retailers are now charging customers for reusable bags in an effort to get people to bring their own shopping bags. While the ban hasn’t gone completely smoothly, progress is being made. They’re just one in a list of over 50 nations taking action against plastic pollution.

Seattle is the first US city to outlaw plastic straws and utensils. The ban only applies to businesses who sell food and drinks, so for now consumers can still purchase these disposables for home use. Instead, bars, restaurants, and coffee shops will now have to  use reusable or compostable utensils, straws, and cocktail picks. While compostable plastic is an option, the city is hoping businesses will stop using straws entirely, or switch to paper options.

And governments aren’t the only ones getting rid of single use plastics. Starbucks has announced an end to plastic drinking straws in all of its locations by 2020 (See our thoughts on whether Starbucks’ move is laudable or laughable). McDonald’s is removing plastic straws from its UK and Ireland locations, and test alternatives several other markets including the US. In fact, there are at least 120 restaurants ditching the plastic straws in the US.

 

Suggested Environmental Reading…

Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. According to the editor, ‘this narrative by Nathaniel Rich is a work of history, addressing the 10-year period from 1979 to 1989: the decisive decade when humankind first came to a broad understanding of the causes and dangers of climate change. Complementing the text is a series of aerial photographs and videos, all shot over the past year by George Steinmetz. With support from the Pulitzer Center, this two-part article is based on 18 months of reporting and well over a hundred interviews. It tracks the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians to raise the alarm and stave off catastrophe. It will come as a revelation to many readers — an agonizing revelation — to understand how thoroughly they grasped the problem and how close they came to solving it.’

According to The Economist, a plant-based diet is good for the Earth as well as your waistline.

The Guardian calls for a carbon tax and dividend system.

Newsweek puts a $14 trillion annual price tag on the rising seas.

Global Citizen tallies up the number of plants and animals we’ve destroyed.

 

EYE ON Alaskan Brewing Company…

Alaskan Brewing Company is a brewery on a mission. Back in the 80’s, Marcy and Geoff Larson decided to start a different sort of beer company. Independent breweries were beginning to gain steam, and the city of Juneau hadn’t had a local brewery since prohibition closed them all down. Starting with recipes from the turn of the century (that’s 1900, not 2000), they created a lineup of fine brews that are now available in 20 states across the country. Now, they run their brewery on what they call ‘Beer Powered Beer.’ Their CO2 recovery system captures and cleans the carbon dioxide created in the fermentation process. Then they use that CO2 in the packaging process. Their Mash Filter Press reduces the amount of water, hops, and malt used in the brewing process without reducing quality. And a Spent Grain Steam Boiler is their way of revolutionizing fuel systems used in craft brewing by recycling the spent grains normally shipped off to farms.

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