Experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle recognize the need to improve infrastructure in the U.S., and numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced in recent years to advance energy infrastructure in particular.
The current Congress’ first attack on the Antiquities Act comes in the form of a House subcommittee hearing on the creation of marine monuments, where anti-public lands lawmakers will argue to greatly curb the presidents’ ability to protect parks for future generations.
10 Tips to Clear the Clutter
According to Sierra Club’s Dave Tilford, a child born in the US will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil. That’s because Americans consume, on average, significantly more resources than other citizens of planet Earth.
Many Americans are questioning this habit of over-consumption and making efforts to downsize, minimize, and simplify. Here are some tips that will help you clear out the clutter and live lightly on the planet.
* “Respect Your Belongings”. This tip, from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up author Marie Kondo is less an action, and more a perspective. When we buy lots of cheap products, we value them less. Be thoughtful about the things you bring into your life.
* Educate Others on Where “Stuff” Comes From. The Story of Stuff Project has lots of great videos and resource guides that explain why rampant consumerism is hurting people and the planet, and what we can do about it.
* Inventory and Cull. Courtney Carver of bemorewithless recommends putting your belongings in four categories: 1. Items you use and love; 2. Items you want to keep this but don’t know why; 3. Items that don’t fit your life or style; 4. Items that aren’t in good condition. Donate, repair, or recycle categories 2 through 4.
* Digitize. Books, music, videos, and photographs can all can be stored in digital format. For an easy DIY method, try an app like Google’s PhotoScan, or hire someone near you to go through all those shoeboxes and albums for you.
* Step off the Shopping Treadmill. Retail therapy is a powerful drug, but it often leaves us unsatisfied. After minimizing your belongings, don’t buy more unless it’s absolutely necessary. Here’s a creative way one artist resisted the urge to buy.
* Avoid Disposables. From bottled water to razors, coffee pods to take-out containers, we’ve grown accustomed to single-use items. Check out the Center for a New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Guide for smart alternatives to throwaway products.
* Switch to Sharing. New apps make it easy to dispense with ownership altogether. From cars to tools to bikes, we compiled a list of the most common items people are sharing and how to take part.
* Practice Gratitude. Much of our compulsion to shop comes from feeling like we’re missing something in our lives. Keep a gratitude journal to cherish the things you already have.
Getting Companies to Act on Foam Pollution
Is this the beginning of the end for expanded polystyrene, the risky foam packaging used for takeout food, coffee cups and package cushioning?
Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s new report, The New Plastics Economy — Catalyzing Action, released last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and endorsed by 40 global leaders, recommended replacing polystyrene (PS), expanded polystyrene (EPS), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as packaging materials globally. Replacing them would enhance the economics of recycling and reduce the potential negative impact of these materials as “substances of concern.”
The report noted that EPS is often used for takeout food packaging but is rarely recycled and often contaminated with waste food, making it harder to recycle.
Polystyrene has garnered concerns around both occupational safety in its production and its environmental fate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer says styrene, used in the production of polystyrene, is a possible human carcinogen. PS foam is often swept into rivers and oceans, and is one of the top items found in annual beach cleanups. Foam packaging materials break down into small indigestible pellets which are mistaken for food. It has also caused decreased reproduction in laboratory populations of oysters and fish.
The report was endorsed by leaders of 15 big brands including Coca-Cola Co, Danone, L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, Mars, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. Another prominent signatory was Dow Chemical Co., a manufacturer of styrene, polystyrene and the vinyl chloride monomer used to make PVC. Dow’s CEO Andrew Liveris praised the report as “a key step in delivering science-based solutions by providing options that help us close resource loops for plastics…” EPS has estimated annual global sales of $13.2 billion.
This action, along with last year’s MacArthur report, The New Plastics Economy — Rethinking the Future of Plastics, stating there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, should be a giant wake up call to brands using polystyrene.
More than 500 NGOs globally launched a campaign called Break Free From Plastic last September, which appears to be gearing up to press for phase out of wasteful single use plastic applications, which have become commonplace in our convenience-centered society.
The recommendations align strongly with As You Sow’s long-standing efforts to promote sustainable packaging. In 2011, we engaged McDonald’s Corp. and Dunkin’ Brands, which were using EPS foam beverage cups, to phase out their use in the US.
McDonald’s agreed in 2013 and replaced foam with paper cups. Dunkin’ also committed to phase out but has not yet followed through. The only national fast food chain still committed to using foam cups is Chick-fil-A, according to As You Sow original research in our Waste and Opportunity 2015 report. This landmark report is the only recent publicly available research we are aware of that analyzes the packaging materials used and recycling practices of the fast food and beverage sectors from a sustainability perspective.
Due to increasing concerns about the impact of plastic pollution in the ocean, we have returned to McDonald’s this year to ask the company to expand the foam cup phase out globally after we heard reports of its continued use in foreign markets.
We also began dialogues with three major e-commerce brands — Amazon, Target, and Walmart — about their use of EPS foam packaging. If you order a weighty item from one of these retailers, chances are it will arrive framed in a shell of EPS foam that in most communities is sent to the landfill. We know from MacArthur’s report that up to a third of materials escape the landfill and are littered onto streets and swept into storm drains, rivers and oceans.
Dell and Ikea have already taken leadership roles in phasing out foam as a packing material. In announcing its commitment to phase out EPS foam last year, Peter Larsson, Packaging Sustainability Leader at IKEA stated: “Why should we fill the air in our flat packs with something that is more dangerous than the air itself?” Indeed.
Dell has pioneered use of mushroom-based compostable molded cushions as an alternative to foam. The company says 72 percent of its flat-panel monitors and 65 percent of desktops are packaged in foam-free, sustainably sourced materials.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated in a 2013 letter to customers that no EPS foam is used in its frustration-free packaging, but that likely applies to a small amount of packaging relative to total packages shipped by the company. We are awaiting responses from all three companies about the extent of their use of EPS foam.
Learn more about our initiative to fight ocean plastic pollution here.
With today’s close of an official comment period, conservationists, park advocates, local governments and citizens near and far are firm in their opposition to a plan from the St.
Despite opposition from all over the country, the Senate voted to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rule, which sought to give a wider range of voices the opportunity to weigh in on how public lands should be used and developed for decades to come.