Connect with us
[the_ad id="4069195"]

Environment

How Green Are Our ‘Environmentally Responsible’ Products?

Published

on

Do ‘environmentally responsible’ products help the planet?

by for EcoDaily

NEW JERSEY (Ecodaily.org) — Abbey Dufoe, a 28-year-old web producer in New Jersey, cares about the environment. On the weekends, she and her partner go on beach hikes and pick up trash. She buys in bulk to reduce packaging waste and tries to recycle as much as she can.

She is also a fan of “green” products like metal straws, tote bags and reusable water bottles, and buys her clothes and shoes from companies that claim to make environmentally and socially conscious products. And, as much as she can, Dufoe tries not to use disposable items in order to reduce her contribution to our planet’s burgeoning plastic waste problem.

“It’s basically just about lowering my footprint,” Dufoe says, “because I know I have to buy this stuff anyway.”

Or does she? One of the big criticisms facing the practice of conscious consumerism — purchasing environmentally and socially responsible products — is whether, in the name of sustainability, we sometimes end up buying even more stuff. Take Dufoe’s reusable straw. She says it’s easy to keep clean and to remember to carry with her. However, she admits, she also has a couple of other reusable straws at home.

“We are putting more materials out into the world,” says Emma Rose Cohen, CEO and founder of Final Straw, a company that sells the colorful, foldable metal straw Dufoe carries with her. “There is the irony of buying something to reduce consumption.” Plus, she adds, thanks to the proliferation of cheap knockoffs of her product, “inadvertently, we actually created a tonne of additional waste because of these knock-offs. It wasn’t our direct waste, but still.”

Indeed, the idea of being more environmentally friendly by producing more stuff feels counterintuitive to some. “The notion of shopping for salvation turns my stomach,” Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute, wrote in an email. “We cannot exorcise the climate demon by buying more stuff.”

Cohen, however, sees the role of the consumer as an important one. “There needs to be shared responsibility,” she says. “As consumers we do have way more power than we think.”

Dufoe is familiar with the dilemma. It can be hard to draw the line between simply taking the purchases she would have made anyway and choosing sustainable options and using sustainability as an excuse to purchase more things. As an ambassador for several ethical clothing brands, she gets discount codes in exchange for posting social media photos of herself wearing their products or participating in activities such as trash cleanups.

“The temptation is there to buy something,” she admits. “The good news is, I already have everything from these brands.”

Disposable vs. renewable

In addition to reusable straws, another popular choice when it comes to green products is the reusable tote bag, used in lieu of piling one’s groceries into yet another flimsy plastic or paper shopping bag. I have a drawer full of them, some that I bought, and some that I got for free from conferences, magazines and events. They feel like a guilt-free purchase. Sure, I tell myself, you’re buying a new bag, but you’re going to use it in the place of who knows how many disposable plastic bags that would have ended up in a landfill or the ocean.

However, a study from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency looked at the environmental impacts of different types of shopping bags and found that it takes a lot more resources to make a tote bag than a polyethylene one.

One cotton tote bag, for example, would need to be used more than 7,000 times just to meet the environmental performance of a disposable plastic bag. However, this calculation does not include the environmental impact of the bags’ disposal — meaning that all those plastic bags that are potentially kept out of the oceans because of using a reusable tote aren’t factored in.

“The decisions are just really complicated,” says Matthew Wilkins, a biologist at Vanderbilt University who wrote an article for Scientific American on plastic pollution and has been on podcasts like 99 per cent Invisible to discuss the problem of plastics and recycling. “Because maybe one thing uses less plastic, but it’s more water intensive.”

The notion of shopping for salvation turns my stomach. We cannot exorcise the climate demon by buying more stuff. – Richard Heede, director, Climate Accountability Institute

Good for the environment?

So are green products a good thing for the environment? It’s hard to say. There’s an argument to be made that at the very least, they raise awareness and give people who want to make a difference a good place to begin.

“If you can start with something really easy and start somewhere where behavior changes are not very difficult, then you can convince people that larger challenges can be as easily tackled,” Cohen says.

Nik Sawe, a neuroscientist specialising in environmental decision-making at Stanford University, says that purchasing products that claim to be environmentally friendly allows people to participate in environmentalism without causing themselves too much discomfort.

Considering how to act ethically in an environmental context requires people to confront the gravity and scale of the problem — which can feel overwhelming and, according to Sawe, actually cause them not to act. A more positive experience, on the other hand, is more likely to spur action.

“If you have guilt, you’ll get self-conscious,” Sawe says. “But if you feel like a third party is doing these things that are damaging the environment, it’s a lot easier to mobilise and get pissed about it.”

In this case, the third party is the restaurant giving you a plastic straw or the supermarket double-bagging your gallon of milk. By buying a reusable straw or carrying a tote bag, consumers can feel like they’re making a difference.

However, recent research from the University of Arizona says that it might be more complicated than that. According to the study, buying less actually makes people happier, whereas buying green products did not make consumers feel better.

“Reduced consumption has effects on increased well-being and decreased psychological distress,” said lead author Sabrina Helm in a release about the study, “but we don’t see that with green consumption.”

It’s also possible that by doing something small, you’ll feel as though you’ve done something for the environment and not pursue further action.

“Everybody has a limited bandwidth for fighting the status quo,” says Wilkins. “If this is how they’re using it, then it’s misplaced.”

Not only that, but a recent study by University of California, San Diego, neuroeconomist Uma Karmarkar and New York University associate professor of marketing Bryan Bollinger looking at consumption habits among people who brought reusable bags for grocery shopping found that making a moral or “good” decision in one domain appeared to give people license to make more indulgent decisions in another — for example, purchasing more than they otherwise might have.

However, Karmarkar and Bollinger also found that because a reusable bag constantly signals to a shopper that they are doing something environmentally friendly, it might lead them to buy organic produce or cage-free eggs to solidify their good standing.

Sawe also cautioned that a product that might be environmentally friendly in one way — for example, by saving energy — can convey the impression that it is environmentally friendly in other ways as well, for example by being biodegradable or recyclable. But this is not necessarily the case.

Furthermore, some think this entire discussion is moot, claiming that the impact of individual purchases pale in the face of the massive environmental challenges we face, and argue that larger and systemic changes are needed. In Heede’s words, “screw the straws, and do something serious.”

Dufoe sees the answer somewhere in between. “We can do all these things personally, but there are definitely bigger things we can tackle.” Still, she says, deciding how to make a difference remains a struggle. “It’s hard to not fell guilty.”

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Environment

Changes Brought On by Coronavirus May Help Tackle Climate Change

Published

on

By

Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST

by Glen Peters for The Conversation

Stock markets around the world had some of their worst performance in decades this past week, well surpassing that of the global financial crisis in 2008. Restrictions in the free movement of people is disrupting economic activity across the world as measures to control the coronavirus roll out.

There is a strong link between economic activity and global carbon dioxide emissions, due to the dominance of fossil fuel sources of energy. This coupling suggests we might be in for an unexpected surprise due to the coronavirus pandemic: a slowdown of carbon dioxide emissions due to reduced energy consumption.

Based on new projections for economic growth in 2020, we suggest the impact of the coronavirus might significantly curb global emissions.

The effect is likely to be less pronounced than during the global financial crisis (GFC). And emissions declines in response to past economic crises suggest a rapid recovery of emissions when the pandemic is over.

But prudent spending of economic stimulus measures, and a permanent adoption of new work behaviours, could influence how emissions evolve in future.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (vertical axis) have grown together with economic activity (horizontal axis) over extended periods of time. Glen Peters/CICERO

The world in crisis

In just a few short months, millions of people have been put into quarantine and regions locked down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Around the world events are being cancelled and travel plans dropped. A growing number of universities, schools and workplaces have closed and some workers are choosing to work from home if they can.

Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cancelled a critically important meeting and will instead hold it virtually.

The International Energy Agency had already predicted oil use would drop in 2020, and this was before an oil price war emerged between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The unprecedented coronavirus lockdown in China led to an estimated 25% reduction in energy use and emissions over a two-week period compared to previous years (mostly due to a drop in electricity use, industrial production and transport). This is enough to shave one percentage point growth off China’s emissions in 2020. Reductions are also being observed in Italy, and are likely to spread across Europe as lockdowns become more widespread.

The emission-intensive airline industry, covering 2.6% of global carbon dioxide emissions (both national and international), is in freefall. It may take months, if not years, for people to return to air travel given that coronavirus may linger for several seasons.

Given these economic upheavals, it is becoming increasingly likely that global carbon dioxide emissions will drop in 2020.

Global air travel is down significantly as a result of the pandemic. Andy Rain/EPA

Coronavirus is not the GFC

Leading authorities have revised down economic forecasts as a result of the pandemic, but so far forecasts still indicate the global economy will grow in 2020. For example, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) downgraded estimates of global growth in 2020 from 3% (made in November 2019) to 2.4% (made in March 2020). The International Monetary Fund has indicated similar declines, with an update due next month.

Assuming the carbon efficiency of the global economy improves in line with the 10-year average of 2.5% per year, the OECD’s post-coronavirus growth projection implies carbon dioxide emissions may decline 0.3% in 2020 (including a leap year adjustment).

But the GFC experience indicates that the carbon efficiency of the global economy may improve much more slowly during a crisis. If this happens in 2020 because of the coronavirus, carbon dioxide emissions still could grow.

A decomposition of CO2 emissions growth into economic growth (orange) and carbon efficiency improvements (green) to estimate future emissions based on OECD economic growth projections. Glen Peters/CICERO

Under the worst-case OECD forecast the global economy in 2020 could grow as little as 1.5%. All else equal, we calculate this would lead to a 1.2% decline in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.

This drop is comparable to the GFC, which in 2009 led to a 0.1% drop in global GDP and a 1.2% drop in emissions. So far, neither the OECD or International Monetary Fund have suggested coronavirus will take global GDP into the red.

The emissions rebound

The GFC prompted big, swift stimulus packages from governments around the world, leading to a 5.1% rebound in global emissions in 2010, well above the long-term average.

Previous financial shocks, such as the collapse of the former Soviet Union or the 1970s and 1980s oil crises, also had periods with lower or negative growth, but growth soon returned. At best, a financial crisis delays emissions growth a few years. Structural changes may happen, such as the shift to nuclear energy after the oil crises, but evidence suggests emissions continue to grow.

Global fossil CO2 emissions (in Gigatons or billions of tonnes of CO2) and carbon intensity of world Gross Domestic Product (grams of CO2 per $US, 2000), with the most important financial crises. Global Carbon Project

The economic legacy of the coronavirus might also be very different to the GFC. It looks more like a slow burner, with a drop in productivity over an extended period rather than widespread job losses in the short term.

Looking to the future

The coronavirus pandemic will not turn around the long-term upward trend in global emissions. But governments around the world are announcing economic stimulus measures, and they way they’re spent may affect how emissions evolve in future.

There is an opportunity to invest the stimulus money in structural changes leading to reduced emissions after economic growth returns, such as further development of clean technologies.

Fewer people are expected to use public transport during the coronavirus outbreak. Steven Saphore/AAP

Also, the coronavirus has forced new working-from-home habits that limit commuting, and a broader adoption of online meetings to reduce the need for long-haul business flights. This raises the prospect of long-term emissions reductions should these new work behaviours persist beyond the current global emergency.

The coronavirus is, of course, an international crisis, and a personal tragedy for those who have lost, and will lose, loved ones. But with good planning, 2020 could be the year that global emissions peak (though the same was said after the GFC).

That said, past economic shocks might not be a great analogue for the coronavirus pandemic, which is unprecedented in modern human history and has a long way to go.


Glen Peters is Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.

Continue Reading

Community

WeHo Annual Arbor Day Celebration Plummer Park – Mar 21

Published

on

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood invites community members to join staff and City Councilmembers for a tree planting ceremony in Plummer Park as part of the annual Arbor Day celebration.

Arbor Day is a special day that is set aside throughout the world to raise awareness of trees and the important role that they play in our environment.

People throughout the world take part in tree planting events and other celebrations of trees and the role that they play in our environment.

The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 9 a.m. at the Parkway on N. Vista Street on the West Side of Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard.

For more information, please contact Debbie Gonzalez at (323) 848-3116 or dgonzalez@weho.org.

Continue Reading

Environment

House Passes Schiff’s Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act

Published

on

WASHINGTON D.C. – Rep. Adam Schiff has applauded the bipartisan passage of The Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, which would add more than 191,000 acres of the Rim of the Valley Corridor to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). The bill passed the House on a bipartisan basis with 231 Yeas and 183 Nays

Schiff first introduced this legislation in 2017, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris introduced companion legislation in the Senate. It recently passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan basis.

To view a map of the proposed expansion under the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, click here

“I am thrilled that the House of Representatives has passed the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, legislation I have championed for nearly 20 years,” Congressman Schiff said. “Preservation of the open space in our communities is not only good for our environment, wildlife, and ecosystems, but it is beneficial for the health and well-being of residents of all ages. The Rim of the Valley corridor is an area of striking and breathtaking natural beauty, and we must do whatever we can to preserve that beauty for the benefit of LA residents, the millions each year who visit, and for generations to come.”

“Today’s vote in the House is a win for the Rim of the Valley Corridor and the millions of Los Angeles County residents living in the surrounding communities,” said Senator Feinstein. “Preserving this unspoiled terrain will protect sensitive habitat for California wildlife and open space to benefit local economies. I am glad that Congressman Schiff was able to pass it in the House and look forward to doing the same here in the Senate, where it has already advanced out of committee.”

“The Rim of the Valley corridor is home to some of Southern California’s most beautiful wildlife and landscapes,” said Senator Harris. “That is why we must take immediate steps to protect this area’s habitats and natural resources. I am grateful to Congressman Schiff for his leadership on this issue and I applaud the House of Representatives for prioritizing the preservation of this area so it can be enjoyed by future generations. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line.”

The proposed expansion is based on a six-year study of the region completed by the National Park Service in 2015. This legislation would expand the SMMNRA to include many, but not all, of the land included in the study. The lands included within the expansion will be known as the Rim of the Valley Unit and stretches from the Simi Hills and Santa Susanas to the Verdugos and on to the San Gabriel Mountains. The bill will enable NPS and the local community to better protect natural resources and habitats, and provide members of the community with improved access to nature for recreational and educational purposes.

To view the fact sheet about the legislation, click here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

This Just In…

Trending