Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday.
Madison and Abita Springs are the first cities in Wisconsin and Louisiana to make this commitment. They join 23 other cities across the United States—from large ones like San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah to smaller ones like Georgetown, Texas and Greensburg, Kansas—that have declared similar goals.
Madison is the biggest city in the Midwest to establish 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The Madison Common Council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 that includes target dates for reaching these goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts.
Madison Common Council Alder Zach Wood said that his city is determined to "lead the way in moving beyond fossil fuels that threaten our health and environment."
After a unanimous vote, Abita Springs is aiming to derive 100 percent of the town's electricity from renewable energy sources by December 31, 2030.
Here's why a 100% clean energy economy is much closer than you think: https://t.co/Fk4iEfilVe #ReadyFor100 https://t.co/toeAOKlura— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1465736407.0
The Sierra Club noted that Tuesday's votes from the politically polar municipalities reflect the growing bipartisan support for alternative energy development. To illustrate, during the November election, more than 70 percent of Madison voters supported Hillary Clinton versus the 75 percent of voters in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, who supported Donald Trump.But as Abita Springs' Republican mayor Greg Lemons said, "Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is a practical decision we're making for our environment, our economy and for what our constituents want in Abita Springs."
"Politics has nothing to do with it for me. Clean energy just makes good economic sense," Lemons added.
LeAnn Pinniger Magee, chair of Abita Committee for Energy Sustainability, had similar remarks.
"In a state dominated by oil interests, Abita Springs is a unique community that can be a leader on the path to renewable energy," she said. "Our town already boasts the solar-powered Abita Brewery and we can see first-hand how clean energy benefits our businesses and our entire community. By transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, we will save money on our utility bills and protect our legendary water and clean air in the process."
Last year's Gallup poll indicated for the first time that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer an alternative energy strategy. Fifty-one percent of Republicans favor alternative energy, up from the previous high of 46 percent in 2011.
"Whether you're Republican or a Democrat, from a liberal college city or a rural Louisiana town, clean energy is putting America back to work and benefiting communities across the country," Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign, said. "That's why Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana, today join the ranks of 23 other cities and towns across the United States that are going all-in on clean, renewable energy."
Van Horn noted that local leaders and governments will be increasingly tasked to curb President Trump's pro-fossil fuel policies and gutting of environmental regulations.
"As the Trump Administration turns its back on clean air and clean water, cities and local leaders will continue to step up to lead the transition towards healthy communities and a more vibrant economy powered by renewable energy," she said.
This city just banned fossil fuel extraction in light of Trump presidency. https://t.co/7XfXctadAr— EDF (@EDF)1479759906.0
The Solutions Project, which aims to make clean energy accessible and affordable for all, is advocating for towns, cities, states and even the whole country to convert its energy infrastructure to renewables.
The Solutions Project team published a study and roadmap that illustrates how each U.S. state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into the renewable resources they have available, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, as well as small amounts of tidal and wave power.
The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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