4 Ways to Make Your July 4 Celebration More Eco-Friendly
If you're celebrating U.S. Independence Day this Wednesday, one of the best things you can do to honor this country is to also celebrate its air, waters, landscape and wildlife.
So this week, whether you're heating up the grill, stocking up on sparklers or heading out to the park, here are a few tips to make sure your observance of "America the Beautiful" leaves it that way once the echoes from the last fireworks have faded into the night.
1. Vegan Barbecue. For so many of us, a Fourth of July celebration would not be complete without barbecue. But unfortunately many cookout staples like cheeseburgers and hot dogs have a pretty large ecological footprint. In fact, a recent study looked at the environmental impact of different agricultural products and found that meat and dairy production caused the most harm to the planet. Luckily, there are tons of vegan options that taste delicious on a grill, from cauliflower steaks to portobello mushroom burgers. The Vegan Society has assembled eight of the best vegan barbecue recipes to get you inspired.
2. Plastic-Free Picnic. When eating outdoors, the convenience of plastic cutlery, plates and cups is undeniable. But of the 33.6 million tons of plastic disposed of in the U.S. in 2014, only 9.5 percent was actually recycled, according to Columbia University's Earth Institute. Another 15 percent was burned for energy and most of the rest ended up in landfills, where it can leach out chemicals that contaminate soil and water. 8.8 million tons of plastic also enters the oceans every year, where it impacts 43 percent of marine mammals and 86 percent of sea turtle species, according to The Hill. So it's worth it to take some time washing up reusable table settings, just as you would if you ate indoors. Greenpeace also recommends avoiding plastic wrap by covering food in pieces of old clothes.
3. Sun Safe, Earth Safe. If you're spending the day outside, it's important to lather yourself in sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer. But make sure the products you use to keep yourself safe are also safe for the planet. Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which were recently banned by the Hawaiian state legislature because of the role they play in coral bleaching. Choose "non nano" zinc oxide or titanium dioxide sunscreens instead. This is especially important if you are heading to a beach to celebrate. Women's Health lists specific reef-safe sunscreens you can purchase.
4. Eco-Friendly Fireworks? Maybe someday, but these beautiful, bright explosions have never been great for the environment, unfortunately. A 2015 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study found that average particulate matter air pollution in the U.S. more than doubled on the evening of July 4, according to Slate. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the emotional importance of fireworks displays on certain days and allows states not to count fireworks pollution spikes in evaluating their overall air quality. It recommends anyone particularly sensitive to air pollution watch the festivities from a distance and downwind, according to Slate.
The best way to mitigate air pollution on July 4 would be to avoid your own backyard display and plan to observe your community or city show instead. But if you do want to light your own fireworks, the Earth Day Network provides tips for doing so as safely as possible. Light the fireworks from a single spot to make cleanup easier and dispose of any residue as soon as the show is over. Otherwise, the leftover ash will have more time to drift into the surrounding air. Finally, make sure not to start any wildfires. Douse used fireworks in water and leave them in a metal trash can away from any buildings or flammable materials.
Here's to an Independence Day that is safe for you and the planet!
113 Million Americans Under Heat Warnings Ahead of July 4 https://t.co/xGoeU0Y5X6 @weatherchannel @UCSUSA… https://t.co/V8aNzccuay— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1530541530.0
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By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
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