Plastic Free July lands smack in the middle of vacation season, and this year, my summer plans included leaving North Carolina and driving through four cities in Florida to spend some time in the humidity sun. The challenge was: Could I really carry out a plastic-free road trip?
With a lot of planning and even more improvising, I was able to significantly cut down my waste and successfully avoid single-use plastic throughout the entire journey. Here, I'll share the best tips I learned and a few items to pack if you're embarking on your own plastic-free road trip.
Disclaimer: If you want to take it a step further and have a zero-waste road trip, you may need to adjust some of the following tips.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Plastic-Free Road Trip Food and Drinks
Road trips usually mean a lot of eating en route. Here are a few ways to have plastic-free food and drinks while traveling by car:
Snacks are an essential part of any road trip, but there are few gas-station finds that aren't wrapped in single-use plastic. One of the best ways to avoid this waste is to stock up before you hit the road. Fill up reusable containers with fruits, veggies and dry goods. If you run low, see if the cities you're driving to (or through) have zero-waste shops, farmers markets or stores with bulk bins to refill your containers.
In my experience, you can usually bring your own cup inside a gas station or inside quick-service restaurants for sodas and water. Just tell the cashier how many ounces your cup holds (or offer to pay for the largest-size cup they carry). You can also fill up your reusable water bottle at rest-stop water fountains.
If you need something to help you stay alert on a long drive, many gas stations and convenience stores sell caffeinated sodas, energy drinks and coffees in cans. Don't forget you can bring your own cup to Starbucks as well. If you're striving for even less waste, you can make and bottle your own coffee or cold brew ahead of time and pack it in your cooler.
For meals, dine in at a quick-service restaurant that uses real tableware, like Panera. (Or, to get back on the road right away, order your food for dine-in and carry it out in your own reusable to-go container). You could also opt for a place like Chipotle, which packages many items in foil and other plastic-free containers. Just remember to bring your own silverware and cup or water bottle.
In a pinch, many fast-food chains wrap items like burgers and tacos in biodegradable paper. Subway wrappers, for example, even say "please compost" on them. If you go this route, just ask for no sauce packets/cups, silverware and other small sources of plastic.
If you're packing a cooler, you'll need to keep it cold without buying plastic bags of ice. If you're staying at a hotel, use the ice machine to replenish your supply. If you're staying somewhere else that has a freezer, bring re-freezable ice packs or pack ice trays and freeze them overnight. If you're camping or don't have freezer access, freeze a tub of water and pack strategically, keeping your most perishable items nearest to the tub. A large block of ice will melt much slower than individual cubes.
Avoiding Plastic While Lodging
If you aren't driving through the night, you'll likely be staying at a hotel, campsite or rental home. Use these tips to avoid plastic in each scenario:
One of the biggest culprits of waste in hotels is in-room amenities. From ice bin liners to mini toiletries to coffee bar items, there are a lot of single-use plastics that can be easily avoided. If you leave these items untouched, it's likely the housekeeping staff will keep them out for the next guest. When checking out, make sure to return your key card so it can be passed on as well.
If your hotel has a continental breakfast or other type of buffet, you may be able to find some plastic-free fare. However, the utensils and plates may be disposable. Be sure to bring your own tableware and a cup for coffee or juice.
Food and drinks are often the biggest sources of plastic waste while camping. Sure, a dehydrated backpacking meal is convenient and quick, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn't come in plastic packaging.
Here are a few alternatives:
- Cook your own meals at home and dehydrate them before the trip, then rehydrate them at camp.
- Cook your own meals at home and freeze them, allowing them to thaw a bit in your cooler before you heat them at camp.
- Plan, pack ingredients and prepare plastic-free meals at camp.
- Stop for a meal before heading to camp for the night.
Staying at an Airbnb or other rental home is the easiest way to cook your own food, as many have kitchen setups and all of the cooking and dining dishes you may need. Some homes may have single-use plastic items like coffee pods or mini toiletries, so make sure you avoid these.
Plastic-Free Packing: Toiletries
From shampoo bars to cardboard-cased deodorant, more and more sustainable toiletry items are becoming widely available. (In fact, I found both of these plastic-free items at Target.) However, toiletries can still be a big source of waste while traveling. Here are a few ideas to avoid the unnecessary plastic:
When packing for a road trip, you'll have at least a trunk's worth of space. While it can be tempting to throw everything from your shower into the car, it's often a better idea to just bring what you need.
For liquids like cleansers, shampoo and conditioner, I used Cadence's leakproof capsules, and they worked like a charm. If you're using other containers and are worried about spillage, instead of using a Ziploc, pop them into a reusable storage pouch like a Stasher bag.
Dental Hygiene Products
If you're like me and refuse the plastic-filled goody bag of travel toothpastes, toothbrushes and flosses at the dentist, you may not have any totable dental hygiene products lying around. This is where bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste tablets and refillable floss containers come into play.
Feminine Hygiene Products
Traveling on your period? There's no better time to make the switch to plastic-free menstrual products. A menstrual cup is one way to go, as it can be worn for up to 12 hours. However, they do require regular washing, which can be difficult in a public restroom. Another option is to pack a few pairs of leakproof period underwear from a company like Proof. These can be washed by hand (which, again, can be difficult in a public bathroom) and hung to dry overnight.
Must-Have Items That Made My Plastic-Free Road Trip Easier
Planning is the key to a successful plastic-free road trip. As you make your packing list, here are a few things I recommend bringing along. Many of these items turned out to be useful in more ways than one, and having each of them in tow, I was more easily able to avoid single-use plastics.
|Item||Why Pack It on Your Plastic-Free Road Trip?||Product I Used|
|Reusable bags||Having a stash of reusable grocery bags can come in handy for everything from restocking your food supply to organizing your vehicle.||BAGGU Reusable Shopping Bag|
|Reusable water bottle||Rather than buying dozens of plastic water bottles, bring your own eco-friendly water bottle and fill it up wherever there is a soda fountain or water fountain.||Hydro Flask Water Bottle|
|Reusable cup||Plastic cups for soft drinks and Styrofoam coffee cups can easily be avoided if you BYOC.||YETI Rambler 20-Ounce Tumbler|
|Reusable cutlery||Whether you prefer metal or bamboo utensils, bringing a fork, knife and spoon (or all-in-one tool) will let you skip single-use plastic cutlery.||Light My Fire Titanium Spork|
|Reusable plates||From food prep to serving, you'll get plenty of use out of the plates you pack.||MSR Alpine Plate|
|Reusable straws||Straws can make it much easier to drink out of a cup while driving. Pack your own reusable straws so you can avoid single-use plastic ones.||Klean Kanteen Steel Straws|
|Reusable containers||Along with using them for packing, bring a few empty reusable plastic or glass containers for storing leftovers or miscellaneous items in your car,||Ball Mason Jars with Lids|
|Car trash bin||It doesn't have to be fancy, but making sure you have a dedicated trash receptacle in your vehicle will help keep your car fresh. Bonus points if you have separate recycling and compost bins as well.||HOTOR Car Trash Can|
|Heavy-duty cooler||When you aren't buying as many items on the go, you'll need to pack more perishables. A well-insulated cooler that can keep ice frozen for days is a saving grace.||RTIC Hard Cooler|
Final Thoughts: Plastic-Free Road Trip
Although a plastic-free road trip is no small feat, it can be done with a little effort. When traveling by car, you're already creating a large amount of pollution through vehicle emissions. Cutting out single-use plastics is a good way to make your vacation a little more eco-friendly.
By Chiara Cecchini
- There's a growing interest in climate-friendly foods, but consumers find it hard to know if the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable;
- From ready-made snacks to algae, cacti and grains, options for climate beneficial foods are increasing;
- With better supply chain structures, food producers can have greater access to these ingredients too.
With the food system responsible for a third of overall global CO2 emissions, attention on climate beneficial foods has been slowly but steadily increasing. According to IFIC's 2020 Food and Health Survey, 6 in 10 consumers in the US say it is important that the food products they purchase or consume are produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
That's great, right? Not so fast: the same report also points out that, despite this increased interest, consumers find the buzzing and sometimes obscure world of climate beneficial food puzzling. From complex labels to opaque sourcing and unclear carbon impact, 6 in 10 consumers say it is hard to know if the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable; of those, 63% say it would have a greater influence on their choices if it were easier. There are even examples of people sharing their frustration.
From food and beverage companies to universities and non-profits, the sustainable food development and communication industry is experiencing a real boost but has a long way to go before making the transition to a more sustainable diet seamless for consumers. Here's some inspiration for consumers looking to make the change:
Ready to Eat and Drink
If you want to introduce more climate-beneficial food into your diet but don't have time to go to the farmer's market every week or to cook your own food on a daily basis, a first positive step could be turning to sustainable snacks that are ready to eat or drink and can perfectly fit into your busy everyday schedule.
Some brands' ingredients come from a fully traceable network involving verified regenerative agriculture farmers who have built soil health into their cultivation methods. Look for snack providers who are investing in recyclable packaging, carbon offsetting and a shortened supply chain, so as to reduce the impact of transportation while keeping ingredients fresh and preserving their flavour, to explore all the climate benefits of these products.
Climate-beneficial foods can also give food waste products a new lease of life. Avocado seeds, for example, have been used to brew a drink rich in antioxidants and low in calories unlocking access to a nutrition source that has so far remained unexplored.
If you feel a bit bolder and want to give a sustainable shift to your cooking, why not add some unusual ingredients to your diet? This category includes both new and innovative options that have started making their way to the global market only recently; and options that have been part of our culinary tradition for ages but partially forgotten due to the cannibalization of their market share by more popular ingredients.
- Algae: combining their carbon-negative profile with sustainable sourcing, algae have the potential to change the food system for the better while being good for your health, thanks to their essential fatty acids and high vitamin and antioxidants content. Although may not appeal to the most squeamish consumers, algae actually possess a meat-like, umami flavour that makes them an ideal replacement for meat. They can also be dried and minced to obtain healthy salt-like condiments and dressings.
- Cacti: many varieties of cacti are edible and contain high amounts of vitamins C and E, carotenoids, fibre and amino acids. Cacti stems have long been part of the Mexican culinary tradition and are now starting to enter the international market through new, delicious concepts.
- Uncommon grains: if you don't feel like revolutionizing your diet with unusual ingredients, you can opt for a more gradual change by diversifying your sources of carbohydrates. Despite the existence of 21 different families of grains, at the moment rice, wheat and maize make up more than 50% of global cereal consumption. Opting for diverse grain varieties (like amaranth, fonio or buckwheat) will not only provide you with more nutritional value, but also help improve soil health and preserve biodiversity.
As a general reference, you can find lots of inspiring ingredients and ideas in the Future 50 Foods report.
It may be hard to believe, but processed foods can be just as climate-beneficial as unprocessed ones. Feeling sceptical? What began as an internal initiative of beer giant ABInbev to reduce its waste is now a fully independent company turning beer-production by-products into nutritious and versatile flours. Can you imagine making delicious pasta, cookies or bread with something that, until yesterday, was destined for the bin?
Elsewhere, climate-beneficial foods are reducing food waste by making use of products that would otherwise not make it to the market because of their appearance or size. This is how green banana powder is produced, for example. It combines the textural properties of starch and the nutritional benefits of bananas. It's tasteless and can be used as a substitute for traditional flour for healthier and gluten-free solutions or as a clean-label binding agent in place of chemicals. It's also great for adding texture and prebiotic fibre to a recipe.
There are plenty of climate-beneficial food options already on the market with more and more are expected in the near future. The next steps to make the most of such an endless potential lie in initiatives aimed at increasing education on the topic among final consumers, as well as in building more structured supply chains so as to make it easier for producers to get access to the above-mentioned ingredients.
Although it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount or lack of information, it's important not to let yourself be discouraged: a better future for humans and the planet is just a forkful away.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
- Climate-friendly Food Is Easier Than We Think | World Resources ... ›
- Eating Locally and in Season: Is It Really Better for the Environment ... ›
Making the switch to solar energy can help you lower or even eliminate your monthly electric bills while reducing your carbon footprint. However, before installing a clean energy system in your home, you must first answer an important question: "How many solar panels do I need?"
To accurately calculate the ideal number of solar panels for your home, you'll need a professional assessment. However, you can estimate the size and cost of the system based on your electricity bills, energy needs and available roof space. This article will tell you how.
If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Factors That Influence How Many Solar Panels You Need
To determine how many solar panels are needed to power a house, several factors must be considered. For example, if there are two identical homes powered by solar energy in California and New York, with exactly the same energy usage, the California home will need fewer solar panels because the state gets more sunshine.
The following are some of the most important factors to consider when figuring out many solar panels you need:
Size of Your Home and Available Roof Space
Larger homes tend to consume more electricity, and they generally need more solar panels. However, they also have the extra roof space necessary for larger solar panel installations. There may be exceptions to this rule — for example, a 2,000-square-foot home with new Energy Star appliances may consume less power than a 1,200-square-foot home with older, less-efficient devices.
When it comes to installation, solar panels can be placed on many types of surfaces. However, your roof conditions may limit the number of solar panels your home can handle.
For example, if you have a chimney, rooftop air conditioning unit or skylight, you'll have to place panels around these fixtures. Similarly, roof areas that are covered by shadows are not suitable for panels. Also, most top solar companies will not work on asbestos roofs due to the potential health risks for installers.
Amount of Direct Sunlight in Your Area
Where there is more sunlight available, there is more energy that can be converted into electricity. The yearly output of each solar panel is higher in states like Arizona or New Mexico, which get a larger amount of sunlight than less sunny regions like New England.
The World Bank has created solar radiation maps for over 200 countries and regions, including the U.S. The map below can give you an idea of the sunshine available in your location. Keep in mind that homes in sunnier regions will generally need fewer solar panels.
© 2020 The World Bank, Source: Global Solar Atlas 2.0, Solar resource data: Solargis.
Number of Residents and Amount of Energy You Use
Households with more members normally use a higher amount of electricity, and this also means they need more solar panels to increase energy production.
Electricity usage is a very important factor, as it determines how much power must be generated by your solar panel system. If your home uses 12,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year and you want to go 100% solar, your system must be capable of generating that amount of power.
Type of Solar Panel and Efficiency Rating
High-efficiency panels can deliver more watts per square foot, which means you need to purchase fewer of them to reach your electricity generation target. There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. In general, monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar panels, followed closely by polycrystalline panels. Thin-film panels are the least efficient.
How to Estimate the Number of Solar Panels You Need
So, based on these factors, how many solar panels power a home? To roughly determine how many solar panels you need without a professional assessment, you'll need to figure out two basic things: how much energy you use and how much energy your panels will produce.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average American home uses 10,649 kWh of energy per year. However, this varies depending on the state. For example:
- Louisiana homes have the highest average consumption, at 14,787 kWh per year.
- Hawaii homes have the lowest average consumption, at 6,298 kWh per year.
To more closely estimate how much energy you use annually, add up the kWh reported on your last 12 power bills. These numbers will fluctuate based on factors like the size of your home, the number of residents, your electricity consumption habits and the energy efficiency rating of your home devices.
Solar Panel Specific Yield
After you determine how many kWh of electricity your home uses annually, you'll want to figure out how many kWh are produced by each of your solar panels during a year. This will depend on the specific type of solar panel, roof conditions and local peak sunlight hours.
In the solar power industry, a common metric used to estimate system capacity is "specific yield" or "specific production." This can be defined as the annual kWh of energy produced for each kilowatt of solar capacity installed. Specific yield has much to do with the amount of sunlight available in your location.
You can get a better idea of the specific yield that can be achieved in your location by checking reliable sources like the World Bank solar maps or the solar radiation database from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
To estimate how many kW are needed to run a house, you can divide your annual kWh consumption by the specific yield per kilowatt of solar capacity. For example, if your home needs 15,000 kWh of energy per year, and solar panels have a specific yield of 1,500 kW/kW in your location, you will need a system size of around 10 kilowatts.
Paradise Energy Solutions has also come up with a general formula to roughly ballpark the solar panel system size you need. You can simply divide your annual kWh by 1,200 and you will get the kilowatts of solar capacity needed. So, if the energy consumption reported on your last 12 power bills adds up to 24,000 kWh, you'll need a 20 kW system (24,000 / 1,200 = 20).
So, How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Once you know the system size you need, you can check your panel wattage to figure how many panels to purchase for your solar array. Multiply your system size by 1,000 to obtain watts, then divide this by the individual wattage of each solar panel.
Most of the best solar panels on the market have an output of around 330W to 360W each. The output of less efficient panels can be as low as 250W.
So, if you need a 10-kW solar installation and you're buying solar panels that have an output of 340W, you'll need 30 panels. Your formula will look like this: 10,000W / 340W = 29.4 panels.
If you use lower-efficiency 250-watt solar panels, you'll need 40 of them (10,000W / 250W = 40) panels.
Keep in mind that, although the cost of solar panels is lower if you choose a lower-efficiency model over a pricier high-efficiency one, the total amount you pay for your solar energy system may come out to be the same or higher because you'll have to buy more panels.
How Much Roof Space Do You Need for a Home Solar System?
After you estimate how many solar panels power a house, the next step is calculating the roof area needed for their installation. The exact dimensions may change slightly depending on the manufacturer, but a typical solar panel for residential use measures 65 inches by 39 inches, or 17.6 square feet. You will need 528 square feet of roof space to install 30 panels, and 704 square feet to install 40.
In addition to having the required space for solar panels, you'll also need a roof structure that supports their weight. A home solar panel weighs around 20 kilograms (44 pounds), which means that 30 of them will add around 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds) to your roof.
You will notice that some solar panels are described as residential, while others are described as commercial. Residential panels have 60 individual solar cells, while commercial panels have 72 cells, but both types will work in any building. Here are a few key differences:
- Commercial solar panels produce around 20% more energy, thanks to their extra cells.
- Commercial panels are also more expensive, as well as 20% larger and heavier.
- Residential 60-cell solar panels are easier to handle in home installations, which saves on labor, and their smaller size helps when roof dimensions are limited.
Some of the latest solar panel designs have half-cells with a higher efficiency, which means they have 120 cells instead of 60 (or 144 instead of 72). However, this doesn't change the dimensions of the panels.
Conclusion: Are Solar Panels Worth it for Your Home?
Solar panels produce no carbon emissions while operating. However, the EIA estimates fossil fuels still produce around 60% of the electricity delivered by U.S. power grids.
Although the initial investment in solar panels is steep, renewable energy systems make sense financially for many homeowners. According to the Department of Energy, they have a typical payback period of about 10 years, while their rated service life is up to 30 years. After recovering your initial investment, you will have a source of clean and free electricity for about two decades.
Plus, even if you have a large home or find you need more solar panels than you initially thought you would, keep in mind that there are both federal and local tax credits, rebates and other incentives to help you save on your solar power system.
To get a free, no-obligation quote and see how much a solar panel system would cost for your home, fill out the 30-second form below.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Begins to Address Consequences of a Warming Planet: 3 Essential Reads
By Bryan Keogh and Stacy Morford
Congress appears close to a trillion-dollar infrastructure deal that recognizes the risks of climate change and the need to make America's coasts more resilient.
On July 28, a bipartisan group of senators who have been working on the package for weeks announced an agreement on "major issues" of the plan. The Senate later that evening voted 67 to 32 to move it forward in a procedural vote; it still faces major hurdles.
While many of the details have yet to be disclosed – or finalized – a few have emerged. The deal provides US$550 billion in new spending on roads, transit, electricity and other physical infrastructure, including about $47 billion for flooding and coastal resiliency and funds to help adapt ports and waterways to a changing climate.
The Conversation has been exploring how climate change is affecting U.S. infrastructure and ways Congress could make it more resilient as sea levels rise, storms become more destructive and temperatures become more extreme.
These three articles from our archive describe some innovations in resilient infrastructure.
1. Adaptive Design Lessons From the Dutch
The Dutch have been dealing with flood risks for generations in the Netherlands, where a large part of the country is below sea level. They've learned that one key to living with rising water levels is adaptive design – building infrastructure that can be expanded in the future.
In the U.S., adaptive design might mean building levees wider than usual so they can be easily raised in 20 years. Or it could mean leaving room for future water pumps in areas that will become more flood-prone, or installing floodgates that can be raised or lowered as needed.
"By starting with an adaptive design, the U.S. can save billions of dollars compared with having to build new systems decades down the road," writes Jeremy Bricker, a hydraulic and coastal engineer at the University of Michigan.
He points to the cost of renovating California's Folsom Dam, built in 1955. Adding a new spillway now to improve water control is costing about $900 million, close to the price of the original dam with inflation.
2. Incorporating Nature: Corals and Mangroves
In several coastal cities, the Army Corps of Engineers is developing plans for giant flood walls to provide protection against storm surges. The instinct is to build big now to handle the worst-case scenario in the future.
But in Miami, that plan reveals two problems: While a large wall might lessen the damage of a hurricane storm surge, it would block the downtown area's million-dollar water views. And a 6-mile wall would only protect the downtown Miami area, and only from the surge. Water would still come in, and everyone outside the wall would be vulnerable.
There are other ways to protect the coastline that are less obtrusive and draw on natural coastal storm control, write University of Miami engineer Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos and ocean scientist Brian Haus.
Rhode-Barbarigos and Haus have been involved in developing "green-gray" infrastructure that pairs the strength of specially designed concrete structures with the natural protection of corals and mangroves for effective, more natural-looking hybrid coastal protection.
"Living with water today doesn't look the same as it did 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago," they write. "Parts of Miami now regularly see 'sunny day' flooding during high tides. Salt water infiltrates basements and high-rise parking garages, and tidal flooding is forecast to occur more frequently as sea level rises. When storms come through, the storm surge adds to that already high water."
They add: "We don't want to see Miami become Venice or a city walled off from the water. We think Miami can thrive by making use of the local ecosystem with novel green engineering solutions and an architecture that adapts."
3. Climate-Friendly Concrete
Concrete is also evolving for the changing climate. Scientists are developing ways to minimize corrosion when concrete structures are subjected to sea water, and they're making concrete itself more climate-friendly.
Cement, which binds concrete, is responsible for about 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions – greenhouse gases that are warming the environment and causing the oceans to rise. Some 26 billion tons are produced nationwide each year, and production is growing.
"Given the scale of the industry and its greenhouse gas emissions, technologies that can reinvent concrete could have profound impacts on climate change," write University of Michigan engineers Lucca Henrion, Duo Zhang, Victor Li and Volker Sick.
Scientists are developing new types of concrete that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released, including infusing it with carbon dioxide so future bridges and buildings lock away greenhouse gases that might otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The Michigan team has developed carbon dioxide-infused concrete that requires less steel, is stronger and more durable – and it's bendable.
Editor's note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation's archives.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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If you're looking to keep cool this summer, you may be looking for a new air conditioning unit. Whether you're looking for a standalone AC unit or a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, choosing one of the best solar-powered AC units can help you reduce your carbon footprint and save money on utility bills.
In this article, we'll go over the basics of solar energy AC units, including installation tips, the benefits of solar HVAC, information on the best solar-powered air conditioners on the market and frequently asked questions.
Why Switch to a Solar AC Unit or Solar HVAC Unit?
Air conditioners and HVAC systems remove heat from the air inside your home through cooling and recirculation, allowing hot air and moisture to be released outside. Solar AC units work similarly — without driving up your electricity bills in the summer.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, AC costs represent 12% of home energy costs in the U.S., ranging from 5% in very cold climates to 27% in hot-humid climates.
A residential cooling system can be used to lower the temperature of one or a few rooms in one's house, or the whole house. Central air conditioning is used to cool the whole house, while a standalone AC unit is typically used for smaller spaces. According to the EIA, in 2015, about 60% of U.S. households relied on central air conditioning, while 23% used an AC unit; about 5% of households relied on both central HVAC and a supplementary AC unit.
Conventional air conditioner systems cost over $29 billion annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. What's more, the DOE says AC units and systems release about 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. This means that, despite their convenience, conventional AC units cause a good amount of air pollution, especially in hotter regions.
The good news is that you can cut both home energy costs and your carbon footprint by choosing a solar power system.
A solar AC unit is a good option for homeowners who don't need a full solar panel installation, such as people with small roofs, who live in condos or who want solar-powered RV cooling. However, it may be more cost-effective for homeowners to install a whole-home solar AC system to get the best energy savings and a more substantial return on investment.
Types of Solar-Powered AC Units
If you're ready to make the switch to clean energy, you're probably wondering how to narrow down the best solar-powered AC unit for your home. Before you look at specific products, it helps to understand the different types of solar technology on the market.
The three main types of solar-powered air conditioners are direct current (DC) solar air conditioners, alternating current (AC) solar air conditioners, and hybrid solar air conditioners.
Direct and alternating current refers to the way energy flows: DC only flows in one direction, while AC changes direction often. These currents are often used in different applications. Home energy grids use alternating current, while batteries use direct current.
Here's how these types of currents work in solar-powered AC units:
- DC solar air conditioners: Direct current solar air conditioners use the DC power that is produced by photovoltaic panels. Because these systems don't require an inverter to change the power to alternating current, they're optimal for off-grid applications.
- AC solar air conditioners: Alternating current solar air conditioners are designed to work with your home's existing power grid. This means that the DC current collected from the solar panels is converted into AC power for use with the solar air conditioner, which can be used on the electrical grid.
- Hybrid solar air conditioners: Hybrid solar air conditioners use a combination of electricity from the grid and solar power to reduce the overall cooling costs of your space or whole home. More specifically, an AC/DC hybrid system uses grid electricity to run the unit's fans, but solar energy to run the compressor.
Pros and Cons: Find the Best Solar-Powered AC Unit for Your House
Now that you know how these solar panels work to cool your home, let's take a look at the pros and cons of each option:
Type of Solar
|DC solar air conditioner||
- Can be used off-grid
- Do not require an inverter if used as a standalone system
- Cannot be connected to home energy system without an inverter
- Requires a battery bank to store energy for cooling at night or in low-light settings
|AC solar air conditioner||- Works seamlesslywith existing power grid||- Always requires an inverter|
|Hybrid solar air conditioner||
- Can lead to higher cost savings without installing a whole home energy system
- Does not require a solar battery, as it can be supplemented with your grid power supply
- Can limit the number of appliances you run at one time
- Can be more expensive than other types of solar panel systems
5 Best Solar-Powered AC Units
Currently, the following HVAC manufacturers and top solar companies make the best solar-powered air conditioner units and systems on the market:
Whether you want to go entirely off-grid or invest in a smaller solar air unit, SolAir World has some of the best solar-powered AC solutions available. The company offers hybrid solar air conditioners as well as 100% off-grid systems. In addition to solar air conditioners, SolAir World also sells solar panels, solar refrigerators, ceiling fans and batteries.
GREE makes a variety of conventional air conditioning solutions, including a Solar Hybrid Hi Wall Inverter Air Conditioner. This heat pump is easy to set up and use, but you'll need to buy solar panels separately from the AC unit, as GREE only manufactures the air conditioners. This means you can choose the best solar panels for your budget and energy needs. And, because it's a hybrid unit, it will pull grid power at night or on cloudy days, no battery bank required.
LEZETi Hybrid Solar AC
The LEZETi Hybrid Solar AC is manufactured by Thomas Edison Solar. Although it's a hybrid air conditioner, it runs directly on DC power from a solar panel. This means you don't need an inverter or charge controller, and the unit has a high efficiency because the power doesn't have to be converted to alternating current. You also don't need a backup battery, as the unit is hooked up to your main electricity source for low-light use.
Lennox, a leading air conditioner and HVAC manufacturer, also offers high-quality solar-ready AC units. The air conditioner and heat pump models in the Dave Lennox Signature® Collection are all equipped for solar hook-up. These are some of the most energy-efficient models the company makes, and by pairing them with one of the most efficient solar panels, Lennox says you can decrease your overall utility bills by up to 50%.
HotSpot Energy sells a variety of clean energy solutions, such as solar AC units, chillers, solar pool heaters, solar batteries and solar water heaters. In terms of home heating and cooling, the company has a few hybrid models for on-grid use and DC-only models for off-grid applications. Additionally, you can purchase a hybrid inverter from HotSpot that can turn any AC unit (or other alternating current appliance) into a solar-powered unit.
Solar HVAC Unit FAQs
Here are a few commonly asked questions about the best solar-powered AC systems:
How does solar-powered air conditioning work?
Solar-powered air conditioning works a lot like conventional air conditioning — it sucks heat out of the air in your home, releasing it outside, to cool your indoor space — but runs off renewable energy. A solar-powered AC relies on sunlight to power the system. Using photovoltaic panels, also known as solar cells, solar AC systems convert the sun's light energy into electricity that is used to power the air conditioner.
How many panels will I need to run a solar AC unit?
The number of solar panels you use to power your AC unit will determine its ability to cool your home. In reality, the number of solar panels you will need to use depends on your exact solar-powered air conditioner and how much power (typically measured in watts) that it uses. According to The Phoenix Sun, you will need one to five panels for a 100-watt solar AC system. Most AC systems rely on about 1,200 watts, which would require about five panels, according to Easy Solar Guide. A central solar-powered AC would require much more – 3,000 to 5,000 watts.
In short, the number of solar panels you need depends on your cooling needs. A larger AC system will require more solar panels, while a smaller AC unit will require fewer panels. Make sure to assess your cooling needs to make sure your solar-powered AC system will have the proper power source.
How much does a solar HVAC unit cost?
Compared to regular air conditioning systems, solar-powered HVAC systems are a lot more costly – about $2,000 before installation fees. Adding in the installation fee, the price rises to about $5,000.
While a solar HVAC can be a large investment, the payoff in terms of utility bill savings and reduced carbon footprint can make it worth it in the long run. You can also check to see whether your locality or state offers incentives for installing solar-powered AC.
Do I need a battery for my solar AC unit?
A solar battery system will ensure your solar-powered AC will still work at night, on cloudy days, or any time the sun isn't directly hitting your panels. This is helpful because, in the event of a nighttime or low-light power outage, your solar-powered AC unit will still be able to operate off reserve battery power.
Is a hybrid solar air conditioner different from a standard heat pump?
Yes, as a hybrid solar air conditioner can work both as a direct DC system (which can be used as a standalone unit for off-grid application) and as a hybrid DC unit (which pulls power from the grid when there is no sunlight).
Final Thoughts: Is Solar Air Conditioning Worth It?
Whether investing in one of the best solar-powered AC systems is worth it for your home depends on many factors, including your energy needs, local climate, budget and whether your home is optimized for a solar system.
Solar air conditioning is best suited for places that get very hot and humid, and therefore require a lot of AC. If you have a home that is optimal for a full solar energy system, it may be better to do a house-wide installation (you can get a free quote for your home below). However, if you don't, a solar AC unit could still be a good option for clean energy in your home.
The move comes as the company currently faces around 30,000 legal claims from customers who believe use of these products — including the flagship Roundup — caused them to develop cancer, as AgWeb reported.
"Bayer's decision to end U.S. residential sale of Roundup is a historic victory for public health and the environment," Center for Food Safety executive director Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement. "As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."
Glyphosate is a controversial ingredient because it has been linked to the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as Cure noted. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that it was "probably carcinogenic to humans," in 2015. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President Donald Trump ruled that the chemical did not pose any risk to human health, the Biden Administration later admitted that the review was flawed and needed to be redone, as Common Dreams reported. Still, it refused to take it off the market in the meantime.
Bayer's decision comes in response to the many lawsuits related to glyphosate that it inherited when it acquired Monsanto in 2018. Juries sided with the plaintiffs in three highly-watched trials before Bayer settled around 95,000 cases in 2020 to the tune of $10 billion. That settlement, which was one of the largest in U.S. history, allowed Bayer to continue to sell Roundup without any warnings. However, the company still faces further litigation, and said it decided to pull the product from residential use in order to prevent more. More than 90 percent of recent claims come from the residential home and garden market, AgWeb reported.
"This move is being made exclusively to manage litigation risk and not because of any safety concerns," the company said when it announced its decision.
The products will be replaced with different active ingredients beginning in 2023, following reviews by the EPA and state regulatory bodies. January 2023 was the earliest the change could reasonably be implemented, Bayer Crop Science Division president Liam Condon told AgWeb.
"This is from a regulatory and logistical point of view (of what's) possible," Condon said during a conference call with investors, as AgWeb reported.
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Do we really need to put ocean ecosystems at risk in order to transition to a renewable-energy economy? Proponents of deep-sea mining claim that the as-yet-untested practice is the best means of supplying minerals like cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper, vanadium and indium used in electric vehicles, storage batteries and other green technologies.
But a new article published in Frontiers in Marine Science on Thursday challenges this view. The team of experts from the University of Exeter, Greenpeace Research Laboratories and Globelaw instead says that human societies can both preserve marine biodiversity and eschew fossil fuels by making different choices about how new technologies are designed and used.
"If businesses, researchers and members of the public work collaboratively we have the means to achieve a future in which technology can be designed and manufactured to be sustainable and not involve extracting additional non-renewable resources," study lead author Kathryn Miller told EcoWatch in an email. "It will require changes in behaviour but it is possible."
Thursday's paper builds on two previous studies from the same research team considering the risks of mining minerals from the sea bed. The first, published in 2018, focused on the environmental risks posed by disturbing ecosystems where many species are still unknown to science. The second, also from 2018, looked at how the deep sea bed should be governed and regulated for the benefit of all people, not just the profit of wealthy corporations in the global North. The new paper also addresses these issues, but emphasizes how the green transition might proceed without seabed minerals.
Specifically, the researchers considered the case of electric vehicle batteries.
"[T]he point we make in the paper is that estimates of future demand for minerals... always depend on a set of assumptions about how we will live and which technologies will be available," study co-author David Santillo told EcoWatch in an email, "and we have to remember that neither of those things are fixed."
For one thing, those projections assume the use of the current lithium-ion battery that incorporates cobalt or nickel. However, there are already alternatives either in use or in development, such as Svolt's cobalt-free lithium-ion car battery or Tesla's lithium-ion phosphate batteries.
For another, mineral needs depend on the sustainability of both transportation systems and technological design. A move away from a one-person-one-car model and towards improved metal recycling could significantly reduce the demand for novel mineral resources.
"I challenge the assumption that we need to continue producing and consuming technological products at the rate at which we have become accustomed over the past decade or more," Miller said. "For example, I think that the premise that it will be necessary to replace every 'conventional' petrol or diesel car with an electric car is not forward thinking or sustainable – it will not solve the problems we are beginning to see in terms of resource availability, energy use and congestion in towns and cities."
The reason that the necessity of deep-sea mining is such an important question is because of what is at stake if the practice goes ahead.
"Any commercial deep-sea mining activity at any scale will cause irreversible damage to deep-sea ecosystems," Miller said. "Recovery of species in deep-sea habitats is extremely slow – centuries or millennia in many cases."
If mining occurs, species could be harmed by noise and light pollution, habitat fragmentation and sediment plumes that could spread for hundreds of kilometers.
In addition, scientists don't yet know all of the species that exist in deep-sea ecosystems, or how deep-sea animals like cold water corals, crabs and shrimps would be impacted. They also don't know how closely deep water ecosystems are connected to the rest of the ocean.
Furthermore, the practice could threaten many of the ecosystem services that the ocean provides to human communities. There are fish species that spawn in seamount ecosystems, and cultures that consider ocean life to be sacred. While deep-sea mining may be justified based on the need to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels, it could actually harm the ocean's ability to help us fight climate change by threatening its ability to sequester carbon, though again more research is needed to understand exactly what the consequences of mining would be on the carbon cycle.
"There is certainly the potential for the disturbance of deep-sea sediments by mining to disrupt their role in storing and locking away carbon over long time-scales, thereby putting more carbon into open cycles in ecosystems (including into seawater and the atmosphere) and harming the processes by which those sediments normally act as carbon sinks," Santillo said.
The paper comes at an urgent moment in the debate over whether or not deep-sea mining should proceed. At the end of June, the island nation of Nauru announced plans to start mining, as The Guardian reported at the time. This triggered something called the "two-year rule," which gives the UN's International Seabed Authority two years to finalize regulations for the practice.
Nauru is acting on behalf of Canadian mining company DeepGreen, which hopes to mine nodules containing manganese, nickel and cobalt for electric vehicles. On the other side stand more than 530 marine science and policy experts, business leaders and conservation groups like WWF who are calling for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining until its impacts can be more fully researched and understood.
Such a global pause would make it impossible for anyone to be granted a license to mine, mirroring the global moratorium on whaling or mining in Antarctica. WWF's senior global ocean governance and policy expert Jessica Battle told EcoWatch that Nauru's ultimatum made such a moratorium "even more imperative."
"It has happened before and it can happen again," Battle said.
While so far no nation has stood up in the proper forum and called for a global pause, Battle has hope that this will happen before the two-year clock stops ticking, in part because there are so many new studies coming out warning about mining's potential impacts on the ocean. While many polluting industries are well into the process of eradicating species and altering Earth systems, deep-sea mining is still only an idea.
"This one we can actually be smart as a society to prevent from the beginning," Battle said, "so why the rush?"
Miller and Santillo said they also supported a moratorium on the practice, but ultimately their paper argued for changing how decisions about Earth's resources are made. This means recognizing "Rights of Nature," considering the ocean itself as an entity with rights rather than a resource to be used.
"A true transition from ownership to guardianship of the natural world could include a Rights of Nature approach to the ocean, rather than only considering the benefits that it may deliver to a small percentage of the global population," the study authors wrote.
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- Race to Mine Deep Seabeds, With Unknown Ecological Impacts ... ›
- David Attenborough Calls For Ban on Deep-Sea Mining - EcoWatch ›
Will we find corals' white knights in spiny armor? The question is one that Florida scientists and ocean advocates are eager to answer ー and using lobsters to do so.
The coral reefs in Florida are in trouble. With the climate crisis, warming and acidifying ocean waters, poor water quality and a rampant, mystery coral disease, the reefs in the Southern United States have been in sharp decline. They're in such an unhealthy state that even grazing by sea snails, which occurs naturally, are adding undue stress to corals and becoming a serious issue.
The snail, Coralliophila galea, is an "inconspicuous" predator that hides on the underside of coral structures during the day and emerges at night to feed on sessile coral prey that are unable to evade them, said Casey B. Butler, Research Associate with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), which is a part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The corallivorous snail, Coralliophila galea. These snails were partially eaten by lobsters. FWC / FWRI
"Our coral reefs in Florida and throughout the Caribbean have been hit with an onslaught of stressors, such as poor water quality, rampant coral disease outbreaks, coral bleaching, and damage from direct human impacts," Butler told EcoWatch. "Though often overlooked because it is a natural stressor, predation of corals by animals like snails and other organisms is nonetheless important and one of the greatest contributors to the death of small coral outplants."
Outplants are nursery-raised, transplanted corals being used to restore degraded parts of Florida's reefs, said Michelle Ashton, a representative of Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF). They're grown and planted with the hope that they will persist and reproduce naturally to help restore the reefs. With the survival of coral reefs in question, restoration efforts are critical to fight for their future.
Controlling the snails is particularly important around outplants, Ashton added. Butler explained why: newly-outplanted corals are particularly vulnerable to predation by snails and other animals because they are typically small and planted in areas lacking coral abundance. The gastropods can consume young corals before they even have a chance to grow or reproduce to restore the reefs.
"Even though these snails are small in size, they can demolish the small coral outplants," Butler said. If outplants die, it can frustrate coral restoration efforts.
To combat this, FWFF funded a study with FWC to determine if transplanting spotted spiny lobsters at coral restoration sites is an effective way to control the snails. The lobsters are found naturally on Florida's reefs and are known to eat sea snails. One full-grown lobster can consume several snails a day.
A spotted lobster. FWC / FWRI
"Restoration practitioners often try to remove as many of these snails at restoration sites when they can, but the aim of this current project to harness the marine food web by employing lobsters that will eat those corallivorous snails and keep the snail populations, and thus the mortality of the coral outplants, at bay," Butler said.
FWC scientists will collect and study wild spotted spiny lobsters to determine "who's eating who, Butler explained. They will look to see how many snails lobsters are eating, if they're eating anything else (such as "good" animals that keep algal growth down) and the resulting health of the reefs. If high levels of coral predators in the lobsters' guts results in healthy reefs, the lobsters could be deployed during the next phase of the study at reef outplantings to help protect young corals. If spotted lobsters are eating more good grazers than predatory snails, they could be removed from coral restoration sites, instead.
Butler noted that FWC does not intend to grow spotted lobsters for transplanting, instead moving them from other non-reef areas to bolster populations at restoration sites for the study.
This is a novel form of "biological control" that hopes to "harness the trophic cascade" that naturally exists on reefs between corals, predatory snails and lobsters. Restoration practitioners could potentially employ these techniques to keep coral predation down and to facilitate outplant survivorship not only on Florida's reefs but across the Caribbean where spiny lobsters are naturally found, Ashton said.
With the future of coral reefs in question, further scientific efforts like these will be critical to bolster coral restoration efforts and outcomes.
Elkhorn corals are amongst those being outplanted in Florida to restore the reef. David Gross / Ocean Image Bank
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Ice sheets in Greenland are melting so rapidly due to high temperatures in the Arctic that the amount of ice melt from Tuesday was enough to cover all of Florida in two inches of water, according to the researchers at Polar Portal.
A massive ice melting event is taking place in #Greenland, according to @PolarPortal It would be enough to cover F… https://t.co/kZdBLFjDQ6— World Meteorological Organization (@World Meteorological Organization)1627548056.0
Greenland has lost 18.4 billion tons of surface mass since last Sunday. While not as bad as 2019, this is the third instance of extreme melting in the past decade and the scientists say the area of land melting is larger this time.
"In the past decade, we've already seen that surface melting in Greenland has become both more severe and more erratic," Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds told CNN. "As the atmosphere continues to warm over Greenland, events such as yesterday's extreme melting will become more frequent."
As reported by CNN:
In 2019, Greenland shed roughly 532 billion tons of ice into the sea. During that year, an unexpectedly hot spring and a July heat wave caused almost the entire ice sheet's surface to begin melting. Global sea level rose permanently by 1.5 millimeters as a result.
As Greenland's surface continues to thaw, Slater said coastal cities around the world are vulnerable to storm-surge flooding, especially when extreme weather coincides with high tides. Melting from Greenland is expected to raise global sea level between 2 and 10 centimeters by the end of the century, he added.
"While such events are concerning, the science is clear," Slater said. "Meaningful climate targets and action can still limit how much the global sea level will rise this century, reducing the damage done by severe flooding to people and infrastructure around the world."
For a deeper dive:
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- Greenland and Antarctica Already Melting at 'Worst-Case-Scenario ... ›
As this summer's extreme heat waves and floods have made devastatingly clear, the climate crisis is already deadly. And it is likely to get even deadlier if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Now, a study published in Nature Communications on Thursday has calculated exactly how many excess deaths we can expect per additional metric ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The figure, called the mortality cost of carbon (MCC), estimates that one person will die for every 4,434 metric tons of carbon dioxide in excess of the 2020 emissions rate. To put that in perspective, this is the same amount of emissions generated by 3.5 average U.S. residents over the course of their lives.
"One key takeaway is that there are a significant number of lives that can be saved by reducing emissions," study author and Columbia University Ph.D. candidate R. Daniel Bressler told NPR.
Using his calculations, Bressler estimated what would happen if we reduce emissions to zero by 2050 and what would happen if temperatures are allowed to rise to four degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. The difference between the two, he found, is around 74 million lives.
The study also looked at issues of climate justice between nations. While it only takes 3.5 U.S. residents to emit enough for one death, it would take 25 Brazilians or 146 Nigerians to have the same effect, The Guardian reported. However, Bressler told The Guardian that he was less interested in individual emissions than the policies and infrastructure that surround them.
Specifically, the purpose of the research is to supplement something called the "social cost of carbon," a tool developed by economist William Nordhaus that calculates the financial cost of emitting a metric ton of carbon dioxide, considering factors such as agricultural productivity, energy use, biodiversity loss and human health. The metric is important because it is often used to help make policy decisions, and Bressler found it would be even higher if his MCC is taken into account.
"Nordhaus came up with a fantastic model but he didn't take in the latest literature on climate change's damage upon mortality, there's been an explosion of research on that topic in recent years," Bressler told The Guardian.
Nordhaus' model would put the 2020 social cost of carbon at $37 a metric ton. But Bressler found it increased by more than six times, to $258 a metric ton, when his mortality calculations were factored in. That means Bressler's tool could be a part of deciding whether or not to build a new coal plant, for example, considering that emissions from the average U.S. coal plant will cost 904 lives by the end of the century.
"It could well have a significant impact on climate change policies," New York University School of Law professor Richard Revesz, who was not involved with the research, told The New York Times of Bressler's figure.
There are still many uncertainties involved with the measurement, however. For one thing, Bressler based his calculations only off of excess heat deaths and did not include deaths from other extreme weather events, crop failures, civil unrest or the air pollution associated with greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times and The Guardian. That means the true MCC could be either higher or lower.
"Based on the current literature," he told The New York Times, "this is the best estimate."
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The California condor has been teetering on the brink of extinction for decades. When the species was first assessed in 1994 for the IUCN Red List, the global authority on the conservation statuses of species, it was listed as "critically endangered." Nearly 30 years later, its status has not changed. But this doesn't tell the whole story.
Conservationists have actually been working hard to keep the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) alive with captive breeding and reintroduction efforts. "They would be extinct without conservation by now," Claudia Hermes, a Red List researcher at BirdLife International who has worked on the California condor listing, told Mongabay. "But with conservation, they actually respond fairly well."
Now, a new addition to the IUCN's Red List — the IUCN Green Status of Species — illustrates the condor's positive response to conservation efforts, despite its critically endangered status, and its high recovery potential if these efforts are maintained.
"The Green Status really fills this gap because it tells us that despite the fairly high extinction risk that we still have this hope," Hermes said.
The preliminary green status for the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). IUCN
A new paper published July 28 in Conservation Biology introduces the IUCN Green Status as a new assessment framework that provides information about the ecological functionality of a species within its range, and also how much a species has recovered due to conservation efforts. A team of more than 200 international scientists from 171 institutions presented preliminary Green Status assessments for 181 species, ranging from the pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) to the gray wolf (Canis lupus) to the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
"It's providing a more nuanced picture of what's going on with a species and that's going to provide information that's really important for conservation planning and also measuring and celebrating the impact of past conservation," lead author Molly Grace, a researcher at the University of Oxford who led the development of the IUCN Green Status, told Mongabay. "The Red List is a wonderful tool, but when we try to use it beyond what it was made to do, which is to measure extinction risk, then we sometimes get answers that are a bit misleading or don't tell the full story."
The IUCN Green Status will classify species into nine recovery categories that will use historical population levels to indicate if a species has been largely depleted from its range or if it is nearing recovery. The assessment framework will also measure the impact of past conservation efforts, species' reliance on conservation action, and how much a species could gain in the next 10 years due to conservation action. It also offers a long-term view of species' recovery potential over the next 100 years.
A pink pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) photographed in its native Mauritius. Sergey Yeliseev / Flickr
Sometimes a species' Red List status will align with the Green Status, but other times the two metrics will not match up. Take the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur), a small marsupial, for example. The species' Red List status is "near threatened," which suggests that while the species is in peril there isn't an immediate risk of extinction. But the Green Status shows that the burrowing bettong is actually "critically depleted" from its range and does not have a high recovery potential due to the difficulties in controlling invasive species like cats and foxes that prey upon these animals.
Less than 2% of the surveyed species had a conservation impact metric of zero, which indicates "that conservation has, or will, play a role in improving or maintaining species status for the vast majority of these species," the authors write in the paper.
Co-author Elizabeth Bennett, vice president for species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), says the new framework can help incentivize conservation action.
"There are... donors that are starting to be interested in this because it's more fine-tuned and sensitive to change than the Red List," Bennett told Mongabay. "So within a granting period, you potentially could improve the green status of a species, where the Red List status tends to be much slower to react to change."
Burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur), a near threatened species that is critically depleted from its native range in Australia. Daniele Parra / Flickr
The IUCN Green Status will be officially launched online at the start of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will take place in Marseille, France, from Sept. 3-11, 2021.
"The core thing that excites me is that it's an optimistic view of where we want to go with species conservation," Bennett told Mongabay. "And it gives people a really good clear roadmap about that for each species. So instead of just saying, Oh, we don't want this species to go extinct… we can say, but we want it to be thriving, and we want to be playing its full ecological role. And this is what it could look like. And this is how we can get there."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
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In India, snakes are the primary source of human-wildlife conflict. The country has the highest rate of snakebite mortality, Top 5 reported. According to eLife Sciences, an estimated 1.2 million people died from snakebites in India between 2000 and 2019. Now, new snake apps available for download to mobile phones are helping the public and conservationists work together to save the lives of both humans and snakes.
In developing countries like India, snakebites usually are underreported and inadequately treated, The Guardian reported. Poor literacy and a lack of information on how to deal with snakes and treat bites exacerbates the problem. Victims also often live in areas without easy and quick access to medical care, which can cause bites to become fatal, the BBC reported. This is where the snake apps come in.
Some of the popular mobile phone apps tackling this issue are Sarpa (Snake Awareness, Rescue and Protection app), SnakeHub, Snake Lens, Snakepedia, Serpent and the Big Four Mapping Project. Widely accessible, these apps can help with snake identification, first aid tips and hospital locations. Critically, farmers, villagers and others who often get bitten when working in rodent-laden fields barefoot can now report a bite and request emergency advice from bite experts, right from their phones. Some apps give real-time reports about the locations of rescuers in the fields and can assign one to a victim, The Guardian reported.
"A snakebite victim can survive for five hours but the golden (first) hour is critical. If the victim gets treatment within this time frame, chances of his survival go up significantly," conservationist Vijay Neelakantan told the news report.
The apps are also helping snakes end up with a better fate. The first instinct of most villagers, when they find a snake, is to kill it, Neelakantan told The Guardian. The apps helps educate users that killing snakes is actually illegal. They also help connect villagers to rescuers, who are trained to catch and handle snakes without killing them. According to the news report, use of the Sarpa app alone has led to the rescue of 2,000 snakes, including 800 cobras, in just the first six months of 2021.
Snake identification, also available on the apps, helps teach what the "Big Four" snakes are in India: the Indian cobra, common krait, Russell's viper and saw-scaled viper. These four species cause 95% of all snakebite deaths in the country, herpetologist Sandeep Das told The Guardian. Proper identification can help avoid unnecessary panic and snake deaths when human-wildlife interactions occur with non-venomous species.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), snakebites are also a global health priority and a "neglected public health issue in many tropical and subtropical countries," with 81,000 to 138,000 people dying annually from bites. Three times that number are left with amputations and permanent disabilities. The organization noted that agricultural workers and children are most affected.
"In contrast to many other serious health conditions, a highly effective treatment exists," the WHO wrote. "Most deaths and serious consequences of snake bites are entirely preventable by making safe and effective antivenoms more widely available and accessible. High quality snake antivenoms are the most effective treatment to prevent or reverse most of the venomous effects of snake bites."
Unfortunately, the global body noted, poor data, severe underreporting of bites and fatalities and deficient medical infrastructure have made it difficult for governments and international bodies to determine the extent of need for antivenoms. This has led to underestimation, low production and soaring prices 一 all of which further prevent access with poor and rural victims.
The emergence and popularity of the homegrown apps are trying to tackle these issues by connecting potential and actual victims to the knowledge and care that they need. The technology is being heralded as the "Uber for snake emergencies," said Jose Louies, head of wildlife crime control at the Wildlife Trust of India, a non-profit conservation group. He told The Guardian that the apps provide a speedy response to snake bite incidents through a network of volunteers managed by local wildlife departments.
"This innovative technology helps minimize human-snake conflict and save the lives of both," he added.
The COVID effect didn't last. Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity exceeds its yearly allotment of the planet's biological assets, is nearly back to its record high. What can be done to ease the burden?
By Martin Kuebler
After a temporary reprieve due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Overshoot Day — the day humanity is projected to have used up all the planet's biological resources regenerated in one year — has shifted forward again, this year landing on July 29.
"With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth's biological resources for 2021," said Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, where world leaders will gather later this year for the COP26 climate summit in November. "If we need reminding that we're in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it."
As much of the world was living under coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, last year's Overshoot Day fell on August 22, nearly a month later than the high of July 25 set in 2018. But this year, even though carbon emissions from air travel and road transport are still lagging 2019 highs, a rallying global economy is pushing emissions and consumption back up.
"Rather than recognize this as a reset moment, governments have been eager to get back to business-as-usual. Global emissions are already creeping back up to pre-pandemic levels," said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a US-based environmental group.
In an email to DW, she pointed out that even with last year's shutdowns, greenhouse gases only declined 6.4% in 2020 — a substantial drop representing around twice Japan's yearly emissions, but not enough to turn things around.
"We missed opportunities when bailout funds were given to major climate polluters, like the aviation and meat industries, without any requirements for a green recovery," said Feldstein. "And we continue to miss opportunities every day that officials refuse to recognize the climate and extinction crises as emergencies — just like the pandemic."
Balancing the Books
Earth Overshoot Day, first created in 2006, aims to calculate the number of days per year that correspond to the necessary biocapacity — the ability of an ecosystem to reestablish its biological resources and absorb waste — to account for civilization's ecological footprint.
Global Footprint Network (GFN), the research organization which comes up with the yearly date along with environmental group WWF, compares the calculation to a bank statement tracking income against expenditures. It crunches thousands of UN data points on resources like biologically productive forests, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds and urban areas. That tally is then measured against the demand for those natural resources, among them plant-based foods, timber, livestock, fish and the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.
Today, humanity uses about 74% more than what global ecosystems can regenerate; to continue living the way we do now, we'd need the resources of about 1.7 Earths. And that doesn't look set to change any time soon. CO2 emissions related to energy — particularly fossil fuels like coal — are projected to grow by 4.8% this year over 2020 levels, according to the International Energy Agency.
Boosting the Bioeconomy
Feldstein, however, sees some reasons to be optimistic. "The most hopeful signs are coming from communities around the world that are taking the climate crisis seriously, rethinking consumption and growth, and integrating equity and environmental protection into their policies," she said.
Among them are communities looking to tap into the bioeconomy, which aims to swap a "bio-based, or renewables-based, economy for the fossil fuels-based economy" while addressing societal challenges, as outlined in a December 2019 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
Rocio A. Diaz-Chavez, the deputy center director at SEI Africa in Nairobi, Kenya and the report's author, said making the shift to a bioeconomy can help preserve natural resources for future generations while working to create sustainable industries today. She highlighted regional groups like the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean or BioInnovate Africa in Kenya — organizations which are working to promote bioeconomy and sustainable development in their parts of the world.
Diaz-Chavez told DW that the pandemic recovery could be the opportunity for these regions to explore alternatives to the traditional economy that would "contribute to job creation and improve livelihoods, [while] producing alternatives to fossil fuel products."
One example: reducing the Global South's reliance on fossil-fuel derived pesticides and fertilizers shipped in from abroad, in favor of locally produced biofertilizers. "This would have a series of contributions to human health, and to the environment," she said, adding that this shift could also help develop alternative supply chains for other sustainable products.
She stressed, however, that the development of the bioeconomy hinged on having the necessary infrastructure or improved supply chains in place to support and market such products, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Solutions to #MoveTheDate
Greening our economies isn't the only way to bring us back into balance with the Earth. On its site under the rallying cry #MoveTheDate, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) highlights other ways to bring that date closer to December 31.
Reforesting an area the size of India, for example, would shift the date back by eight days, according to GFN. Retrofitting buildings and industries with existing energy-saving technology, such as mechanical system upgrades, water conservation controls and sensors that accurately control lighting, temperature and air quality, would move the date back by 21 days.
Food is another important area — according to GFN, half of the Earth's biocapacity is used just to keep us fed. But too much of that food is lost due to inefficiencies during the production process, or waste; an estimated 30 to 40% of food in the US ends up in landfills every year.
By eliminating food loss and waste, reducing meat consumption and choosing foods grown with more sustainable agricultural practices less reliant on fossil fuels, another month could be added to the Earth's biocapacity account. Shifting to more plant-based diets, for example, could help reduce food-related emissions as much as 70% by 2050, according to a recent draft report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"While we need to transition away from industrial agriculture as a whole, we can't solve this problem by simply tweaking how food is produced — we must change what is produced," said the CBD's Feldstein, adding that while fossil fuels are responsible for more emissions overall, meat and dairy production are also a major cause of habitat loss. "Governments can accelerate this change by supporting plant-centered diets and agriculture and ending subsidies for cheap meat and dairy."
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.