America's largest retailer Walmart has been attempting to gild its image as a climate-friendly company. But environmental leaders charged today that its claims are nothing but greenwashing and that the company is a major contributor to climate change. A new study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Walmart's Dirty Energy Secret: How The Company's Slick Greenwashing Hides Its Massive Coal Consumption, says that the company's dependence on coal make it one of the largest users of coal-fired electricity in the U.S.
The report calculates that Walmart's coal use is responsible for spewing nearly 8 million tons of climate change-driving carbon pollution into the air annually. ILSR calculated the total electricity use, coal-fired power consumption and resulting greenhouse gas emissions of every Walmart store and distribution center in the country, figuring that Walmart’s U.S. operations use nearly six times the amount of electricity as the entire U.S. auto industry. Coal accounts for nearly 75 percent of the company’s total emissions from U.S. electricity use.
“Walmart has made remarkably little progress in moving to renewable energy, while other national retailers and many small businesses are now generating a sizable share of their power from clean sources,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at ILSR and co-author of the new report. “Despite making a public commitment to sustainability nine years ago, Walmart still favors dirty coal-generated electricity over solar and wind, because the company insists on using the cheapest power it can find.”
Last year, ILSR found that since Walmart launched its environmental campaign in 2005, the company’s greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 14 percent.
“Rather than fulfill the climate commitments it’s been making for years, Walmart is continuing to hurt the health and prosperity of our communities and families while endangering our planet.” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “Walmart can start living up to its purported values by ending the company’s heavy reliance on dirty coal and respecting their workers.”
The report points out that other retailers, such as Kohl’s and Ikea, have made giant strides in moving toward clean, renewable energy. Ikea, for instance, has installed rooftop solar panels on 90 percent of its U.S. stores. Walmart’s clean energy projects provide just 3 percent of its total U.S. electricity use.
“It’s unconscionable that the country’s largest employer and the world’s largest company is choosing to hurt our planet and hurt working families with its dirty operations and poverty pay,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder and president of 350.org. “Walmart and the Waltons can help our communities truly live better by switching to clean energy and paying workers a fair wage.”
“Walmart could single-handedly strengthen the middle class and help create a vibrant clean energy economy that promotes good jobs," said Jeremy Hays, executive director of Green For All, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy to lift people out of poverty. “After years of empty promises, Walmart should use be using its power and wealth to build stronger and more sustainable communities, not disrespecting workers and endangering the future of our planet.”
In the 10 states where Walmart uses the most coal-fired electricity, it consumes more than 2 million short tons of coal each year, equivalent to nearly 4 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In Missouri and Illinois, with their many coal-fired plants, Walmart produces more than 900,000 metric tons of carbon pollution.
“In Missouri, residents are calling for cleaner energy sources, rather than continued reliance on our aging and dirty coal plants that poison the air and water," said Jeff Ordower, executive director of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. “Rather than stand with Missouri in its efforts to go green, Walmart’s St. Louis supercenter uses more coal than any of its other U.S. stores. The one Walmart store pumps out more than 4,100 metric tons of climate pollution every year.”
Not surprisingly, the company donates millions of dollars to candidates who support fossil fuel industries and oppose climate action. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, more than half of the Congressional candidates supported by Walmart and the Walton family, the company's majority owners, received a 100 percent Dirty Energy Money score from Oil Change International. An ILSR study last month found that the Walton family is funding nearly two dozen organizations working to roll back clean energy policies and impede the growth of rooftop solar.
"Walmart has made some big promises to environmentalists and the public, but sadly, many of the promises continue to go unfulfilled,” said The Green Life's acting executive director Drew Hudson. “The truth is that Walmart’s current business model is unsustainable. From the way Walmart ships material to the fact that it has a 96 percent failure at their own goals for renewable energy. Americans need to know—there is a high climate-cost of low 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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