By Ajit Niranjan
Shortly before he shot dead 22 mostly Hispanic people in El Paso, Texas, a little over a year ago, a white supremacist wrote in his online manifesto: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He was inspired by a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, who five months earlier had killed 51 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two mosques and identified as an "eco-fascist."
Neither the fears nor the actions of the two men are grounded in science.
Fertility is falling, people are aging, and by the end of the century humans will be shrinking in number on almost every country on Earth, according to a recent study published in the journal Lancet. Far from an overpopulation crisis, demographers are asking where the next generations of young people will come from.
The study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projects the number of people on the planet will peak just four decades from now, at 9.7 billion, before falling to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.
In 80 years, countries like Spain and Japan would halve in size. China would shrink by almost as much, leaving India and Nigeria as the world's biggest countries. Only in 12 countries, including Somalia and South Sudan, would there be enough babies to keep populations stable. The rest would be aging.
And if the world meets targets for universal education and contraception — the positive driving force behind falling fertility — there would be 1.5 billion people fewer in 2100 than there are today.
That demographic shift would transform societies. Who would pay for elderly health care? Would countries fight over young migrants? When, if at all, would people get to retire?
It also raises a question that has dogged the environmental movement for decades and is being increasingly weaponized by the far-right: Shouldn't fewer people be good news for the planet?
Overpopulation is a convenient idea. To some, it means their consumption isn't what's damaging the planet, but rather the sheer mass of people — so there's little point in changing their behavior.
The IHME study says fewer people on the planet would mean lower carbon emissions, less stress on global food systems and less chance of "transgressing planetary boundaries."
But the problem, scientists say, is that people do not emit equally.
"It's this extremely superficial analysis," said Arvind Ravikumar, assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.
Population growth has increased greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IPCC, the UN panel of climate science experts, but it is dwarfed by the rise in emissions per person, which is tied to income. People in the richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest — and it is in these low-income, low-emitting countries where human numbers are growing fastest.
"Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let rich countries off the hook," said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, "whereas in reality, it's our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have."
A world with lots of people running on clean energy could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. Big, fast-growing countries like China and India are building cheap solar panels and wind turbines that could bring their total emissions down even as incomes and populations rise.
But developers across Africa and other parts of Asia are struggling to secure loans for green infrastructure. Rich countries have so far failed to deliver on a $100 billion-a-year promise they made under the Paris Agreement to help poorer countries fight climate change.
"We cannot tell [these] countries that, okay, we already have a lot of greenhouse gases, you should stop using energy," said Leiwen Jiang, a senior associate at the Population Council in New York and former IPCC lead author. "But we can help them improve their technology."
While lower-than-expected fertility rates may do little to cut emissions in poor countries, they could help them cope with climate change in a different way. If women had only as many children as they wanted, they would be able to take on more paid work, said Jiang. That economic boost could help cash-strapped communities respond to the increasingly severe heat waves, floods and storms that climate change has brought.
The concept of overpopulation has a dark past.
Even if you accept the premise that more people mean more emissions, "what's your solution?" said Ravikumar. "Is your solution to reduce population, forcefully, and if so, whose population should be reduced?"
Like the terrorists in El Paso and Christchurch, governments throughout history have trampled over the rights of marginalized groups to control their populations.
Countries like the United States and Canada forcibly sterilized Indigenous women in the second half of the 20th century, while Australia did the same for people with disabilities. India sterilized 6.2 million mostly poor men in 1976, encouraged by foreign donors who made aid packages contingent on population control. More than 2,000 men are thought to have died in botched operations.
From the late 1970s, China restricted population growth through fines, sterilization and forced abortions under a draconian one-child policy that lasted decades. It continues such practices against ethnic Uighur women today, according to an investigation published last month by The Associated Press.
Diverging Population Models
Women are having fewer children globally because more girls go to school and more people have access to contraception. Both are human rights goals even before considering the environment.
But demographers disagree on how far — and how fast — fertility will continue to fall.
While the IHME projects the world's population will start shrinking by 2064, the United Nations expects it to continue growing throughout the century. The difference in population between the two models is about 2 billion people by 2100 — and the uncertainties are so great that both research groups accept the possibility of the opposite trend.
One reason for the discrepancy is that the UN, unlike the IHME, projects that fertility rates will rebound as countries grow richer.
Surveys show that women across Europe and North America have fewer children than they would like because of barriers like expensive child care, job pressures and men not taking on a fair share of housework. By removing some of these obstacles, countries like Germany have seen an uptick in fertility.
"The UN projections embody an optimism that the long arc of human progress will continue," said Sara Hertog, a demographer at the UN, adding that changing fertility rates are, in themselves, neither good news nor bad news. "I hope the level of fertility reflects the number of children people want to have."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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More than 100 people are dead and about 1,300 still missing in the wake of extreme rain and flooding western Europe. The torrential rainfall — as much as two months' worth in two days, amounts not seen in the summer for at least a century — unleashed flooding that stacked cars like children's toys and drowned residents in their cellars.
Electricity was also cut off for 165,000 in western Germany. Extreme precipitation is one of the clearest and most widespread impacts of climate change. Warmer air holds more water, and thus dumps more water when it rains — just as a bigger bucket can hold and dump more water.
"Entire villages are flooded," Malu Dreyer, the premier of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate state, said in a speech to the local parliament. "Houses float away just like that." The flooding is one in a recent series of events — including heatwaves in the Arctic and Western U.S. — shocking climate scientists who say the climate impacts they have long predicted are coming sooner, and across a greater area than they expected.
"I am surprised by how far [the rainfall] is above the previous record," Dieter Gerten, who grew up in a village in the affected area and is now professor of global change climatology and hydrology at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told The Guardian. "We seem to be not just above normal but in domains we didn't expect in terms of spatial extent and the speed it developed."
For a deeper dive:
Flooding: The Guardian, AP, The Washington Post, The New York Times, France24, AFP, NBC, Wall Street Journal, NPR; Rain intensity: Axios; Power outages: Bloomberg; Climate scientists: The Guardian, CNN; Photos: Politico EU; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation
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The majority of all Texas residents live in a deregulated energy market. This means every day, people have the freedom to switch to a different provider in their service area to save money. Competition helps keep prices down, and Texas energy rates are below the national average.
- The average Texas residential electricity bill is 13% lower than the national average.
- The average Texas commercial electricity bill is 4% lower than the national average.
- Texas leads the nation in wind and ranks fifth in the nation for solar electricity generation.
- Texas legislators, however, are actively campaigning against renewable energy solutions.
- Consumers in Texas can use their power of choice to demand smarter energy solutions.
- In this article we'll talk about energy options in your service area and discuss the pros and cons of energy deregulation.
But as we have discussed at EcoWatch, deregulation and a race to the bottom of prices also creates risk. Infrastructure falls into disrepair and when the grid fails, customers and legislators point fingers.
This article is designed to talk about the best energy companies in Texas, show how rates vary across the state, and give you some clarity on how Texas energy works. If you searched for other websites for info about "Texas energy" you probably encountered plenty of properties whose sole aim is to sell your information to an energy company. This is not one of those pages. This is meat to be informative. Our goal is to paint a picture of the landscape and talk in-depth about the green energy plans available in Texas.
Why Trust EcoWatch to Talk About Energy
An energy plan is something you have to have. Lights aren't optional for most people. For more than a decade we have written about the importance of renewables. Lately, through both legislation and media attacks, renewables have come under fire. We want to bring energy choice to the forefront, and center the conversation around renewables.
- Independent journalists. Our team of journalists covers renewable energy, solar power, and electricity rates to help consumers understand the energy landscape.
- Local perspective. We regularly source customer opinions, installation experts for quotes, and state-by-state data to better understand the energy landscape.
- Simple education process. Like all our product-focused content, our mission is to help people buy things they were already going to buy in a way that helps the planet.
What is "energy deregulation" in Texas?
In most states, consumers get their electricity from a local utility company. The Texas energy market is different. In Texas the market is deregulated, meaning people and businesses have the power to shop a marketplace of electricity providers.
Renewable and "green" electricity in Texas
Texas leads the nation in wind energy generation. It's also a top five states for solar power. This means, despite being closely associated with oil, Texas consumers can pick from green energy plans. The hard part is finding specifics on what makes a plan "green."
To find the specifics of your Texas electricity plan, you have to look at your Electricity Facts Label. If your local Texas electricity provider is unclear about their renewable energy sources, try looking at the green energy plans from Rhythm, Gexa Energy, Chariot Energy, and Green Mountain Energy.
Finding the right energy plan in a deregulated market is hard. You have to research each electric provider, their energy rates, and then pass a credit check. The most important things to consider are (1) am I lowering my monthly bill, and (2) am I moving my home toward a more renewable source of power.
Types of electric plans in Texas
You pay the same rate every month, regardless of season or changes in the energy market. A fixed-rate electricity plans may require a contract with an annual commitment. An early termination fee can be charged if you leave the contract early. This plan may be right for you if you don't plan to move for a while.
Variable-rate plans change based on the energy market. If demand goes up, so do your prices. We saw the consequences of variable-rate plans in the recent Texas energy crisis. When demand shot up, so did prices for energy customers.
Green energy plans
A green energy plan will rely on wind, solar, and other renewable resources. This is the plan for you if you want to offset 100 percent of your home or office emissions
Your credit score has an impact on how much you pay—as it's supposed to be a predictor of how likely you are to pay your bills. Prepaid energy plans allow people with poor credit to acquire power on a prepaid basis.
Texas electricity rates chart
Texas deregulated its energy market in 2002. Since then, consumers have been able to shop for the best rate in their area. It has also brought about a steady increase in competition since the marketplace opened. This means more choices and more for consumers to learn about the process of switching providers.
Best Green Energy Plans in Texas
Here's a chart outlining some of the 100% renewable energy plans available in Texas. We're currently sourcing customer reviews for each company plan and will update this page regularly with new information.
|Plan||Term (months)||Rate (¢/kWh)|
|Gexa Saver Deluxe 12||12||6.9|
|Gexa Saver Supreme 12||12||7.3|
|Gexa Saver 12||12||7.8|
|Gexa Saver Save Select 12||12||9.0|
|Gexa Saver Value 12||12||12.1|
|Gexa Saver Freedom 12||12||12.2|
|Gexa Saver Freedom 36||36||12.2|
|Gexa Saver Premium 12||12||13.5|
|Gexa Saver Premium 24||24||13.5|
|Gexa Superb Saver 12||12||14.8|
|Green Mountain Pollution Free e-Plus 12||12||11.1|
|Green Mountain Pollution Free e-Plus 24||24||11.3|
|Lone Star Green 12||12||11.9|
|Lone Star Green 24||24||11.6|
|Lone Star Green 36||36||11.2|
|Rhythm Texas Breeze 12||12||11.3|
|Rhythm Texas Breeze 24||24||10.6|
|Rhythm Texas Breeze 36||36||10.2|
Energy shopping checklist
- Download the Electricity Facts Label before signing any contract to be sure you understand the price you're paying for power; the percent of your power coming from renewable sources; and any fees (like early termination fees) attached to moving or changing your plan.
Texas Electric Companies FAQs
What if I own a business in Texas?
Texas commercial energy rates were the third-lowest in the nation in 2020. Texans who own companies can shop the same electricity market for their best electricity plan. Pricing info is available with each provider. Cheap electricity rates are also available for companies who work off-hours, and may include some free nights.
Is there a cheap energy rate in my area?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) tracks average retail electric rates in Texas. The season, your energy usage, and your provider may impact your rate.
When you use the power can also effect your rate. Customers who use power at an off-peak time can get a lower rate.
What is the difference between a Utility and an Energy Provider?
Utilities are in charge of the operation and maintenance of the energy grid. Utilities are focused on the hardware and infrastructure that runs the grid. Texas utilities include Oncor and Centerpoint Energy.
How do I switch energy plans in Texas?
All a consumer has to do is (1) compare Texas electric providers, (2) switch your electric provider using an online service or form, and (3) verify your lower rate and green energy plan details using the Electricity Facts Label before completing the necessary paperwork.
What is Power to Choose Texas?
Power to Choose is the website managed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). It lists energy plans for consumers to compare. It does not list commercial electricity rates.
How do I find the best Texas energy plan?
Most of the searchable energy rates are attached to a zip code, so you'll need to find the best rate for your area. A Texas energy plan can vary dramatically—so the most important thing is, again, the Energy Facts Label.
You have the power, as a Texan, to push your state toward more renewable energy consumption by switching your home to a green energy plan.
How much can I lower my electric bill?
Find the right plan for your home and lifestyle is key to controlling your energy costs. Electricity companies are competing for customers, which is an advantage for the homeowners.
Deregulation also means there are power outages related to mismanagement and lack of oversight. Every time you look to lower your electric bill, think of the quality of electricity company you are partnering with. How will they impact your wallet, your power supply, and the planet?
What is the best energy provider in Texas?
The top providers in Texas are TXU Energy, Reliant Energy, Direct Energy, and TriEagle Energy.
Electricity companies focused on renewable energy sources and green energy plans include Gexa Energy, Chariot Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Rhythm.
Gexa Energy is also one of the cheapest electricity providers in the marketplace. They offer a number of affordable electricity plans that are all 100% green.
Picnics, barbecues, swimming pools and ice cream. Summer is here, and bringing the heat, but this year, a combination of changing weather patterns and a record-breaking drought is raising temperatures to dangerous levels.
Hundreds of people have died in the last week, as a result of more than a hundred-degree temperatures in areas not equipped for the extreme weather.
While the daily heat can be excruciating, and you may not be enjoying your summer break, there are ways to help you and your pets stay safe, even if you don't have air conditioning.
1. Stay Hydrated
On a normal day, men need almost 16 glasses of water and women nearly 12. This increases during heat waves because our bodies are expending water in the form of sweat. This is meant to keep you cool, but in extreme heat, it doesn't work, and our bodies just keep creating more.
A good way to check for dehydration is by noticing the color of your urine. Anything darker than lemonade in color means you need more liquids. Keep in mind that if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Make sure you have plenty of clean, fresh water on hand, in case of a power outage or water shortage.
Keep your pets stocked with water, also. While some of them may not sweat, if they are panting without exercise, they may be dehydrated, and that will lead to them overheating.
2. Stay Out of the Sun
It seems simple but staying out of the sun will help prevent heat-related illness and injury. If you must be outside, wear loose-fitting clothing, a hat with a large brim and bring an umbrella for shade. Keep to areas shaded by trees or other tall structures and try to find breezeways and other places where even a slight wind can run through.
The sun is strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. so if you must be outside, try to schedule it around those hours. Exposure to the sun during times of immense heat can exacerbate heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and lead to sunburn and sun poisoning.
3. Use Hacks to Keep Your Home Cool
Many people do not have central air or even window-unit air conditioners, and windows have enough space around them to equal a 3-foot hole in your wall, if added all together. Check for gaps. Close your blinds and drapes, and consider heavier insulation around the window areas to prevent heat from coming in. This could be old comforters, blankets, anything you have that will absorb the heat.
Fans only work if there is some form of cooler air in the house, so after days of 100 plus temps, your trusty plug-in may not work like you want. You can try putting a tray of ice cubes in front of it, to have it blow the cooler evaporation toward your living space.
Wet washcloths on your neck and wrists can alleviate discomfort, and if you have the option, taking cool or cold showers will help keep your body temperature lower.
Hot air rises, so stay on the lower floors, and if you have a basement or a garage, even better.
Try not to use your oven or stove. These appliances increase the temperature since they are sources of heat themselves.
4. Know the Symptoms of Heat-Induced Distress and Seek Help When Necessary
There are temperatures and humidity levels where human beings can spontaneously die, and those conditions are becoming ever more common.
If someone you know is experiencing heat exhaustion, they may start by heavily sweating, then you'll notice their skin will turn pale, cold and clammy. They may experience muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or even pass out. If this happens, call for medical attention, and while you wait, put loose clothing on them and place cool, wet cloths on their exposed skin.
Heatstroke is an even more serious condition. If someone you know has a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, call for help. They will also experience dizziness, vomiting and may pass out. If you suspect heatstroke, put the person in a cold bath, and do not give them anything to drink at all while you wait for the medics to come.
5. Check in on Your Neighbors and Furry Friends
Often, older people have more trouble self-regulating their body temperatures, so heat affects them at an increased level. Also, more vulnerable populations with underlying conditions will succumb to heat-induced injury first. Check on your friends and neighbors regularly, especially if they live alone, to make sure they are keeping as cool as they can.
Keep your pets in dark rooms with exposed flooring — like tile, linoleum, or hardwood — they can lay down on these surfaces and help cool their bodies.
Make sure they have plenty of cold water to drink. And never leave them in a parked car, even for a minute, even with the window down, in high temperatures. Cars can heat to well over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in just minutes.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
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Are you thirsty? So is the rest of the United States. Nearly 80 percent of working adults self-report that they don't drink enough water, according to a survey conducted by Quench, which is a filtered water system provider.
The body is almost 60 percent water, which is necessary for nearly every bodily function. People can lose their water quickly, particularly if they are sick, exercising a lot or if it is really hot outside.
How much you should drink depends on the individual, but health experts recommend eight glasses a day as a general guideline, up to 15 glasses for men, and 11 for women.
And, according to research, if you're thirsty, you are already dehydrated. But there are many other ways to tell if you need more fluids in your life.
1. Your skin is rough and flaking.
One of the main ways we lose water is through our epidermis. We lose water when we sweat, and we also lose water when it's cold because the air is drier and sucks the moisture out of us. If your skin is rough, cracking or flaking, you could use more water. Other signs include redness or tightening. If your skin is constantly cold and clammy, you could be dehydrated as a symptom of diabetes, so make sure to check with your doctor.
If you want to check your skin for dehydration, pinch a small area of your cheek. If it wrinkles, you need to drink more fluids.
2. Your urine is a dark yellow, or even darker.
A common way to check for dehydration is to watch for the color of your urine. It should run close to clear, so if you are looking more like a saturated gym floor color, it might be time to add several glasses of water to your daily routine.
3. You're constipated.
We need water to digest food and move it along our digestive tracks. When we don't have enough of it, we could have fewer bowel movements, or small, lumpy ones. When our bodies are dehydrated, and converting the food to waste, the cells in the intestines extract water from the food we are eating. This takes it from the waste leftovers, leaving them hard and dry.
4. Your blood pressure is irregular.
Fifty-five percent of your blood is liquid, which means if you are dehydrated, your blood volume could decrease. Why does that matter? Your blood pressure. In fact, the American Heart Association lists a cause of low blood pressure as dehydration. This could lead to dizziness and even fainting.
But it's not just low blood pressure that can occur. Dehydration could also lead to the opposite: hypertension, which is caused by high blood pressure. When cells need water, the brain can step in and send a message to constrict the blood vessels. This is what leads to the high blood pressure.
5. You're exhausted.
Getting a good night's sleep? If you are dehydrated, it might not be enough. Research shows lack of water can make you feel fatigued, lethargic and tired even when well rested otherwise. In addition, low blood pressure can lead to excessive tiredness.
People who have chronic fatigue syndrome could see improvement if they drink more fluids. When blood volume drops, the heart has to work harder to get oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs. It also redirects the blood from the skin to other more pressing organs. This raises the body's internal heat which can result in muscle cramps and fatigue as the body fights to regulate itself.
6. You have headaches.
Even mild dehydration can give you a headache, according to a study of 25 young women, which recorded that even a 1.3 percent drop in hydration triggered pain. As with tiredness, this symptom can also be linked to low blood pressure.
7. Your mood is off.
How much of your brain is water? A whopping 70 percent. If you are dehydrated, the brain is affected. You may be less alert and unable to concentrate, especially when driving, according to studies. People who are dehydrated may also be more prone to depression, as water deficiency in brain cells cuts the energy supply. Studies show anxiety, tension and low mood swings result from dehydration, in addition to confusion, irritability, and lowered executive function.
8. Your pain threshold is lower.
The brain is also responsible for nervous reactions to pain, and research has found that dehydration causes the brain to be more sensitive to it. Arthritic pain also increases when you are lacking water because fluids lubricate the joints, providing a cushion between the bones. This cushion absorbs shock and provides joint nutrition, as well. Nearly 80 percent of joint cartilage is made of water.
Thankfully, there is a really easily solution to dehydration: drink some water! In fact, it doesn't even have to be water. Foods like fruits and juicy vegetables can provide hydration, and liquids that aren't caffeinated or alcoholic can also help.
While drinking more water will help in most situations, make sure you get medical help if your symptoms become severe or include stomach cramping, fainting, seizures, heatstroke or hallucinations.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
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Today is World Bee Day, and actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie has teamed up with National Geographic for a striking celebration.
"Pollinators of course are extremely vital to our life and our environment. And so we have to understand scientifically what happens if we lose them," Jolie said in an interview about the shoot with National Geographic's Indira Lakshmanan. "This is something we can work to solve."
World Bee Day is a holiday designated by the UN to honor bees and other pollinators while raising awareness about the threats they face and the ways they can contribute to sustainable development. Pollinators are essential to propagating nearly 90 percent of wild flowering plants and more than 75 percent of food crops. However, they are at risk from industrial agriculture, pesticides, land-use change and the climate crisis. Almost 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, including bees, are now at risk from extinction.
"Sometimes a lot of these issues feel so overwhelming," Jolie told Lakshmanan. "But then there are these simple truths and we just stick to them. When we're losing species, animal or plant, it is destroying something. It is breaking apart the fabric of all the things that we depend on. We're all smart enough to know that these pieces are very, very interconnected and very crucial."
However, Jolie isn't only drawing attention to problems, but also solutions. She has recently been named the "godmother" for Women For Bees, a joint project from UNESCO and French-cosmetics house Guerlain that seeks to train women in the art of beekeeping. Beginning in June, ten women from five biosphere reserves will receive a 30-day accelerated training course. This will continue for five years, until 50 women are trained. By 2025, the women will have built 2,500 native beehives and protected 125 million bees, National Geographic explained.
"With so much we are worried about around the world and so many people feeling overwhelmed with bad news," Jolie told National Geographic, "this is one [problem] that we can manage."
To call attention to this vital work, Jolie wanted to be photographed covered in bees. Realizing this vision fell to photographer Dan Winters, himself an amateur beekeeper, who chose to copy the technique used by Richard Avedon in a famous 1981 photograph of a bald and bare-chested beekeeper covered in bees.
Winters used the same pheromone as Avedon to attract the bees to Jolie, he explained in an Instagram post. The set was kept quiet and dark to calm the insects, and everyone else wore protective gear.
"Angelina stood perfectly still, covered in bees for 18 minutes without a sting," Winters said. "Being around bees is always an experience that leaves me in awe. I think this shoot was also an awe-inspiring event for all who were present — and our offering for World Bee Day has its own roots in photographic history."
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Last week, an amazing and unusual fish washed up on the beach in Southern California.
Black, 18-inches long and football-shaped, it sported a long stalk coming out of its head with bioluminescent tips. This is used to lure prey towards its large mouth with transparent teeth "like pointed shards of glass," a Facebook post by Crystal Cove State Park described. Its large mouth can then suck up and swallow prey the size of its own body, the park noted.
The fish was found by beach visitor Ben Estes in a Marine Protected Area at the popular park and is a species of deep-sea anglerfish. There are more than 200 species of anglerfish worldwide, the post shared, and experts believed this to be a very well-preserved, intact Pacific Footballfish (Himantolophus sagamius).
"To see an actual angler fish intact is very rare and it is unknown how or why the fish ended up on the shore," Crystal Cove posted.
Though not rare in the deep sea, where they usually live 2,000-3,300 feet below the surface in complete darkness, anglerfish do not usually wash up on the shore. According to the California Academy of Sciences, the only other specimen of the Pacific Footballfish from California that scientists have was caught in 1985 by fishermen in Monterey Bay, who hauled it up in their nets. It now is housed at the San Francisco museum.
The museum describes the environment that the Pacific Footballfish lives in as so dark that "sunlight doesn't penetrate." Food is scarce, so the footballfish has evolved to feed on "whatever fits in its mouth — including other fish, squid, and crustaceans," Cal Academy noted. The lure dangles in front of its mouth until the prey comes within striking distance. By then, it's too late for the food: it gets sucked into the footballfish's large mouth, and its sharp teeth, which are pointed inward, "ensure that what goes in doesn't come out," the museum said.
Both the 1985 specimen and the most recent find from Laguna Beach were female footballfish, experts noted, because only females have the long stalk coming out of their heads. Bioluminescent bacteria flow into this appendage through small pores and live within the lure, multiplying due to the protection and nutrition that a host footballfish provides, Cal Academy explained. These bacteria are what actually emit the concentrated light from within the anglerfish lures.
Aside from lacking the bright lure, male footballfish are also much smaller than females. While the latter can reach lengths of 24 inches, males only grow to be about an inch long. Their sole purpose is to find a female and help her reproduce, Crystal Cove noted.
"Males latch onto the female with their teeth and become 'sexual parasites,' eventually coalescing with the female until nothing is left of their form but their testes for reproduction. Wild!" the state park posted.
"Using well-developed olfactory organs, they find and fuse themselves to females, eventually losing their eyes, internal organs, and everything else but the testes. The male becomes a permanent appendage that draws nutrition from its female host and serves as an easily accessible source of sperm," Cal Academy explained further.
Of the most recent find, Crystal Cove concluded, "Seeing this strange and fascinating fish is a testament to the diversity of marine life lurking below the water's surface in California's MPAs and as scientists continue to learn more about these deep-sea creatures it's important to reflect on how much is still to be learned from our wonderful ocean."
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During summer, there's really nothing better than diving into a cool, refreshing pool, but once fall and winter roll around, you may be looking for something to keep water temperatures a little higher. Investing in one of the best solar pool heater systems is an energy-efficient way to keep your pool warm year-round.
As you shop, keep in mind that not all solar pool heaters are created equal. What's the best solar pool heater for your home? Consider a few of the top options available in 2021.
5 Best Solar Pool Heaters
As you seek the best solar water heater for your pool, there are a number of factors to consider, including system size, durability, heating strength and overall value. We've reviewed a number of the best solar pool heaters according to these and other criteria. Here are our picks for the best of the best:
Best Solar Pool Heater
SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater
Fafco Pool Papa Bear Economy Heating System
Best for Above-Ground Pools
SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater
Best Installation Process
SmartPool S601 Pool Solar Heater
Best for In-Ground Pools
Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover
Best Solar Pool Cover
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Best Overall: SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater
We consider SunQuest's solar swimming pool heater to be top-of-the-line. It's notable for its superior technology, dependable performance and incredible heating efficiency. SunQuest uses professional-grade solar panels to keep your pool nice and warm, circulating water through the panels to ensure a consistent temperature. The SunQuest solar panel kit works with your existing water pump and is available in packages that include connectors, diverters and roof mounting hardware so you have all of the materials you need for easy installation. In fact, customer reviews show this is one of the simplest solar pool heaters to set up, even if you're a solar panel installation novice.
- Professional-grade solar panels ensure optimal water heating
- Well-reviewed for its reliability and consistency
- Easy to install
- Great value
- Works for both in-ground and above-ground swimming pools
- You may need to invest in multiple panels, especially for larger pools
Why Buy: SunQuest sets a high bar for technology, heating efficiency, ease of use and overall value. It should be on anyone's list of top solar pool heater panels.
Best for Above-Ground Pools: Fafco Pool Papa Bear Economy Heating System
Looking for the best solar pool heater for an above-ground pool? Check out this model from Fafco. (Just to be clear, it does not work with in-ground pools.) You can mount the 24-foot Papa Bear, or the shorter 20-foot Fafco Solar Bear, on your roof, on a nearby rack or even on the ground. Fafco's units collect solar heat and use it to warm water that's pumped through a flexible panel. This water flow allows you to keep the temperature of your pool consistent using only solar power.
- A great option for anyone with an above-ground pool
- Lots of installation options so you can get maximum exposure to the sun's rays
- Easy to install
- Not viable for in-ground pools
- If you install it on the ground or on a rack, you'll need adequate surface area to fit the whole system
Why Buy: If you're looking for the best solar pool heater that's tailor-made for above-ground use, this is your best option by far. If you need an in-ground pool heater, you'll want to keep searching.
Best Installation Process: SunHeater S120U Universal Solar Pool Heater
It's understandable to feel daunted by the prospect of installing your own solar pool heater. The SunHeater solar heating system makes the process as easy as can be. Whether you're installing it beside an in-ground pool, above-ground pool, on your roof or on a rack, this is a very straightforward DIY solar panel system. It also makes use of your existing pool pump, which helps keep the price point relatively low.
- Very basic DIY installation
- Works for any kind of pool
- Very efficient in its heating ability, even for large pools
- May not be quite as durable or as long-lasting as others on this list
Why Buy: If you find the prospect of solar installation to be a little bit intimidating, this is a good, basic solar pool heating system to consider.
Best for In-Ground Pools: SmartPool S601 Pool Solar Heater
For a reliable in-ground solar pool heater, SmartPool's S601 is the one to beat. (But note that it doesn't work for above-ground pools.) What impresses most is the system capacity; you'll get 80 square feet of solar paneling, providing direct heat to your pool water. You can raise your water temperature by up to 10 degrees with this unit, which is often all the difference you need.
- Powerful system with ample heating capacity
- A great option for in-ground swimming pools
- You'll need to buy the installation kit separately
- Doesn't work for above-ground pools
Why Buy: If you're looking for direct heat for your in-ground swimming pool, SmartPool has you covered. Just be aware that the installation kit needs to be purchased on its own.
Best Solar Pool Cover: Sun2Solar Blue Solar Cover
Here's something a little different: Instead of a solar panel heating system, the Sun2Solar pool cover is more like a solar blanket. It attracts and retains solar energy, heating your pool and helping combat water evaporation. It's a cost-effective way to make your swimming pool a bit more comfortable, and it works with above-ground and in-ground pools alike. One nice part about the design is that it can be trimmed to the exact size of your pool, so it fits nearly all pool types.
- Affordable alternative to a full solar pool heater
- Retains heat and also minimizes evaporation
- Can fit to any pool size
- Stylish appearance
- Won't offer the same amount of heat as one of the best solar panel pool heaters
Why Buy: If you're not yet ready to install a full solar pool heater system, this heat-retaining cover is a good place to start.
How Do Solar Pool Heater Panels Work?
As you consider installing one of the best solar pool heater systems, it's important to understand that they work a bit differently than your typical home solar system. Generally speaking, when you buy solar panels for your home, they harness the sun's energy and use an inverter to convert the energy into useful electrical current, which is distributed to your home energy panel.
A solar pool heater uses panels to collect the sun's energy as well, but instead of having that current flow to a mechanism in your pool, the pool water is circulated through the solar collection area, ensuring a consistent warming effect. That water is then pumped back into the pool through a hose and a flow control valve. Your panels' sun exposure will determine how warm your pool water can get.
Types of Solar Pool Heaters
One thing to keep in mind is that, like there are multiple types of solar panels, there are multiple types of solar pool heaters. These include flat plate collectors, evacuated tube collectors and batch collectors. Here's an overview:
- Flat plate collectors have copper tubes connected to flat plate absorbers. They are usually made to fit about 40 gallons of water at a time.
- Evacuated tube collectors use glass or metal heating tubes, which essentially function like a thermos would.
- Batch collectors heat and store water in dark tanks or tubes. Water is distributed on demand.
Generally speaking, evacuated tube collectors are the most efficient option. They are also better suited for colder climates. Flat plate collectors are a bit more prone to ambient heat loss, while batch collectors are not compatible with closed-circuit systems.
How Much Does a Solar Pool Heater Cost?
As you shop for the best solar pool heater, it's only natural to wonder about costs. The price point for solar pool heaters can vary considerably, according to a number of different factors, including size, performance, efficiency, materials and more.
When browsing the different options, you'll notice a wide spectrum: You can get a simple heat-retaining cover for as low as $200, whereas a full, professionally installed system may cost $4,000 or more.
Choosing the Best Solar Pool Heater for Your Home
When considering the best solar pool heater for your home, there are a number of factors to keep in mind.
- Design and size: Do the panels have to go on the roof, or can they be assembled on a rack or on the ground? Is a cover included to help retain heat? Make sure you think about how much space the system will require as well, and look for special features like a temperature sensor, which can help you get the most out of your system.
- Installation process: Can you install the system on your own, or will you need to hire a pro? Is a full installation kit included, or will you need to buy parts that are sold separately?
- Budget: Naturally, the cost of solar panels is going to be a big factor when seeking the best solar pool heater for your home.
- Durability and warranty: Always look for a system that is made with high-quality materials, ensuring its longevity. And make note of any warranties that are included, which can increase your peace of mind.
By Jenny Shalant
If you're new to hometown activism, now is the time to get a few pointers. To start, recognize that no matter how small they seem, local actions matter. Remember the famous words of Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Find Local Allies.
To make real change in your community, you can't go it alone. Does your town have a conservation committee, a sustainability circle, or a friends group that supports the local park? How about a chapter of YIMBY ("Yes in my backyard") or Indivisible? Reach out. Get on the listserv, attend the meetings, learn about the priorities of your fellow concerned citizens, and see where you can lend a hand. These groups can lay the groundwork for big changes in your community and often have a line of communication with elected officials to help advance their mission beyond the neighborhood.
Make Your City a "Climate Sanctuary."
By fighting back against the expansion of fossil fuels at home, you'll help build momentum for a broader national movement. Now that you've joined forces with a local green group (see above), here are some goals to pursue.
- Tackle the food waste stream: According to the U.S. Composting Council, we sent 35 million tons of food waste to landfills in 2018—where it sat around, off-gassing methane. If we composted all that waste, the council says, the impact to our emissions levels would be the same as removing 7.8 million cars from the road. With that big picture in mind, take the first steps by composting at home—it's way easier than you think. Then work with your local green group to conduct workshops for residents. Once the practice starts to gather traction, you can work toward setting up a community composting program. Some cities, like Seattle and Toronto, today run comprehensive, mandatory compost pickup programs that started small but now boast huge waste-diversion stats.
- Switch off dirty energy: Lobby local officials to change your community's default electricity provider to one that uses renewable power resources, like solar, wind, low-impact hydroelectric, or geothermal. It's likely that green energy can save your town money, too. Officials in Charlotte, North Carolina expect to save $2 million in electricity costs with the development of a new large-scale solar project. You can help your town cut energy consumption on Main Street as well. Advocate for LED-powered streetlights (New York State provides a handy how-to guide), a "curfew" for commercial lighting through a dark-sky ordinance (as several Colorado cities have done), and energy-efficient appliances in municipal buildings.
- Conserve water: Climate change is expected to shrink freshwater supplies and bring water shortages to one-third of all counties in the continental United States. But there's plenty you can do to keep your city from contributing to the billions of gallons of water our country wastes daily as a result of leaky pipes, inefficient fixtures, and thirsty landscaping. By making a few changes, such as installing efficient toilets and sink faucets, you can save 11,000 gallons of water per year in your own home. Imagine what the impact would be if your entire neighborhood did the same. For inspiration, consider the city of Los Angeles, a leader in sustainable water management. Thanks to its comprehensive efficiency measures (as well as its water treatment and stormwater capture systems), it has kept its water usage on par with the levels Angelenos consumed in the 1970s. That's a pretty big deal considering that the city's population has grown by more than a million since that time.
Protect Your Local Ecosystems.
In addition to pushing the federal government to strengthen the laws that protect the air you breathe, water you drink, and ecosystems we all rely on, you can organize efforts at home to protect the local environment. Convene a cleanup of a nearby waterway or a vine lop effort to beat back invasive plants taking over your town woods—a threat that has increased with climate change. Advocate for town ordinances that prevent pesticide use in parks or on lawns, or organize a tree-planting project. Over the course of eight years, 50,000 citizens contributed to planting and caring for one million trees in New York City as part of a project that has become a greening model for metropolises around the globe.
Get to Know Your Elected Officials.
Your members of Congress are supposed to give your community a voice in the national agenda. Set a calendar reminder to call their offices regularly to continue pressing on the issues of most concern to you. Follow them on social media, and engage with their posts. Organize a postcard-writing campaign with your neighbors. The louder you are, the more likely they will be to hear you.
Reposted with permission from NRDC.
Some food scraps are too tasty to end up in the compost bin; most fruit and vegetable peels, stalks, and greens can be baked, boiled, roasted, and blended for a zero-waste meal.
About 30-40% of our national food supply is wasted each year, which accounts for 11% of US greenhouse gas emissions. Most food scraps sent to landfills and compost piles, however, are perfectly edible, inspiring cooking communities to dedicate themselves to waste-free cooking: chefs like Max La Manna and Alison Mountford (the brain behind Ends+Stems) teach their followers how to repurpose food waste in their cooking, and use a fruit or vegetable in its entirety.
Here are a few food-waste-friendly recipes to get scraps out of the trash and onto the plate.
1. Sautéed Beet Greens
Instead of tossing the greens on a bunch of beets – which are rich in iron, vitamin C, calcium, and beta-carotene – try sautéing them for a side.
Blanch the leaves by boiling them in salted water for about two minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. After squeezing out the excess water, coarsely chop the greens and cook in a skillet over medium heat with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pair the greens with a soup, rice, or pasta dish.
2. Carrot- and Radish-Top Pesto
Spice up your summer pesto recipe with some carrot or radish tops. If you don't have basil on hand – or want to avoid the plastic packaging of many grocery-store herbs – these greens can act as a substitute in your favorite pesto pasta or pesto spread.
Radish greens taste very similar to spinach, although some varieties have a fuzzy texture that can be easily removed by cooking or blanching before blitzing for pesto. Carrot tops are reminiscent of parsley and, after making sure to wash all the dirt out, can be prepared similarly to radish greens.
If pesto isn't your thing, add the greens to a salad instead.
3. Fruit Scrap Vinegar
Pretty much any fruit – the more battered and bruised, the better for the fermentation process – can be used to make fruit vinegar.
Accumulate fruit scraps over time in the freezer if you don't have a large amount all at once. Chop the scraps (and herbs, if desired), and add them to a non-metallic vessel along with cold water and some kind of sweetener (about one tablespoon per cup of water). Stir and cover with a cloth to allow oxygen flow, taking care to keep it out of direct sunlight. After about one week – stirring every day – the mixture will begin to bubble as the fermentation process progresses, at which point you can strain the liquid, compost the scraps, and allow the vinegar to continue fermenting for about two to four weeks. Use the finished product to toss a salad, spice up a cocktail, or add to soups and other recipes.
Apple vinegar is an especially popular, simple recipe made with only water, sugar, and apple peels and cores – so, if you've just made a batch of apple sauce or an apple pie, keep those scraps handy.
4. Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Give your homemade pickles a twist this summer by swapping out cucumbers for watermelon rinds.
While you can flavor them however you wish – even with garlic and dill, like traditional pickles – this old-fashioned recipe calls for cloves, lemon, maraschino cherries, and sugar for a perfect sweet addition to salads, wraps, or a picnic spread. Trim the dark green and pink parts from the watermelon, cut into one-inch cubes, and soak in water and pickling salt overnight. Drain and rinse the rinds, then simmer on the stove with water for about 10 minutes. In a separate pan, simmer vinegar, sugar, water, and the cloves and cinnamon. Drain the pot with the rinds and add it to the spice mixture along with some lemon slices and maraschino cherries. Cook on low heat for about 30 minutes until the rind is translucent, then fill jars with the mixture, process in boiling water, and let cool on a rack.
5. Pantry Pasta Sauce
Pantry pasta is the perfect "recipe" for those last few days before a grocery store trip. Following a few basics, cook up whatever is in the back of the fridge or pantry and add it to the pot. Now, apply the same concept to your food scraps.
Most veggie stems and stalks are perfectly edible. Cook up broccoli, asparagus, or kale scraps to toss with some pasta and oil, or, blend cooked stalks and stems for a scrap-sauce, adding some form of fat for consistency and herb scraps for flavor; parsley, cilantro, and other non-woody herb stems can be blitzed in too.
6. Fruit-Top-Infused Water
After slicing up strawberries for a summer snack, toss the tops into a pitcher of ice water along with some basil for an infused beverage. Pretty much any fruit scraps you have – the ends of lemons and limes, cucumber and orange peels, or the squished blueberries from the bottom of the container – will be a delicious addition to the pitcher, especially when paired with some basil, thyme, or other fresh herbs.
7. Homemade Potato, Sweet Potato, and Garlic Skin Chips
When preparing mashed potatoes or a garlicky dish, that mound of leftover peels need not go to waste.
On a tray lined with parchment paper, bake potato or sweet potato peels tossed in oil, salt, pepper, and any other desired seasonings at 425ºF for 15-20 minutes until crispy. Even onion and garlic skins can be made into a salty, waste-free treat. Bake the skins at 400ºF for 10 minutes (they will burn much quicker than potato peels) tossed with oil, salt, pepper, and a few extra whole garlic cloves, if desired. Enjoy as a snack, garnish, or part of this crispy garlic skin salad.
Most vegetable peels can be repurposed for a similar snack, so get creative with whatever veggie skins you have.
8. Leek Tops
Leek tops are completely edible, and can act as a flavorful onion replacement – especially in a stir fry, soup, sautéed vegetable medley, or omelet.
If you're making potato leek soup, utilize the entire vegetable to give it a stronger flavor and brighter color.
The greens can also be cooked on their own to enjoy as a side dish; they have a slightly tougher texture than the white part of the plant, but will become just as tender when cooked over low heat for 30-40 minutes.
9. Ginger-Peel Broth
After peeling ginger for a recipe, add about a quarter cup of the leftover ginger peels per quart of water (or more, if you prefer a stronger taste). Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Once the broth is completely cooled, strain out the ginger peels and store the finished product in the refrigerator. Use the broth in a cocktail, mix with hot water and honey for ginger tea, pour into soup, or use in place of water when steaming vegetables (or, if you don't have time to brew a broth, a pinch of ginger peels into the pot of vegetables will suffice).
10. Beet, Radish, and Turnip-Top Salads
Like leeks, all beet, radish, and turnip tops can be eaten along with the bulb. Beet-green salads – like this one with feta, apples, and pecans – are particularly popular, but use any of the three in place of traditional greens in your favorite summer salad, or sauté to eat as a side. Radish greens also make a delicious pine nut pesto.
11. Grilled Favas With Pea and Bean Shells
Even without the inner beans or peas, grilled favas from leftover shells are a delicious, waste-free appetizer.
Gather pea and bean shells left over from other dishes, and follow your favorite grilled favas recipe. For simple, spicy favas, toss the shells with olive oil, and grill on high heat for 5 minutes until charred, turning occasionally. When finished, toss with crushed red pepper, salt, scallions, and lemon.
12. Parmesan Rind Broth
To add some extra flavor to a soup or pasta sauce, toss in a leftover parmesan rind (and remove it before serving). If you don't have an immediate need for the rind, prepare a parmesan broth that can be stored and used later for risotto, pasta sauce, stuffing, etc. In a large saucepan, cook a quartered onion with garlic, peppercorn, and other desired herbs until brown, then add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add parmesan rinds and water, bringing the broth to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering for about two hours, stirring to keep the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Strain the broth, then store for up to four days before using.
13. Mushroom Stem Gravy
When a recipe calls for cremini and portobello mushrooms, their soft stems can often be chopped up and used like the rest of the mushroom. For hardier varieties and older, firmer stems, using them in a batch of gravy still ensures they don't go to waste.
For this simple, vegan mushroom gravy, cook half an onion and four ounces of finely chopped mushroom stems (or a combination of stems and tops) for about 8-10 minutes over medium heat. Add flour, and after 3-5 minutes, or once golden brown, add vegetable stock slowly, simmering until thickened. Strain out the mushroom pieces if you wish, or serve as is. Season with salt, pepper, and soy sauce.
14. Candied Citrus Peels
After enjoying an orange, lemon, lime, or other citrus fruit, keep the peels for a sugary snack.
Cook peels in boiling water until tender (about 10 minutes), then transfer to a wire rack to dry. Bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil – one cup of each should be enough for the peels of about ten fruits – stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar, then add the peels. Continue boiling for 8-10 more minutes, or until the sauce is thick and the peel turns translucent. Spread the peels on a rack to cool for one hour, then toss in sugar until fully coated.
Use candied peels in muffins or scones, in citrus-based cocktails, to garnish a dessert, or as a snack on its own.
And, when all else fails…
15. Vegetable Skins for Veggie Stock …
Add vegetable skins (or any other vegetable scraps) – making sure they're completely clean – to a container in the freezer over time, accumulating enough to make your own veggie stock. Boil the scraps in a large pot of water for 30-40 minutes, adding salt to taste. Strain out the scraps, and store your homemade stock in the fridge or freezer.
Use your waste-free vegetable stock in soups, risotto, and your other favorite recipes.
16. … and the Stalks for Soup
Freeze heartier vegetable trimmings – like mushroom stems or cauliflower, broccoli, and kale stalks – for later recipes that call for the vegetable, or prepare a veggie soup with all of them.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC. Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.
- How to Compost in Your Apartment - EcoWatch ›
- 12 Creative Ways to Cut Down on Food Waste in Your Kitchen ... ›
Charcuterie boards have taken over our TikTok and Instagram feeds, but the trend has largely left behind our vegan friends, as true charcuterie boards are mostly made using meats and cheeses. But there's plenty of delicious vegan ingredients to add to a plant-based board.
If you're vegan or vegetarian, dairy-intolerant, or just conscious of the climate crisis, a vegan 'charcuterie' board is an excellent eco-friendly option to try for your next social gathering. Whether it's an outdoor party, having just a few friends over, or a picnic, a vegan 'charcuterie' board can be enjoyed by everyone.
Now that people are able to gather again, putting together a platter can be a fun activity to do with your friends and family.
The charcuterie board trend picked up speed during the pandemic. Maddie Coticchia and Ellen Coticchia, two sisters from Cleveland, Ohio, started Sweet Brie Co. – a charcuterie board business – just last year right before the pandemic hit the U.S.
"With people staying home more, I believe they've had more opportunities to explore their interests and express themselves in creative ways," Maddie Coticchia said to EcoWatch. "Arranging food in a beautiful way can also be very therapeutic and a form of mindfulness."
Although not a vegan company, Sweet Brie Co. has been conscious of its environmental impact since the start. They compost, source flowers from a local regenerative flower farmer (sometimes from Maddie's backyard garden), and source more board ingredients from local farmers' markets and local cheesemakers.
What's a Vegan 'Charcuterie' Board?
In the traditional French meaning, charcuterie is quite literally a cured meat, usually ham, sausage, and bacon. However, though derived from a French food tradition, the word "charcuterie" has blossomed into a broader definition and buzzword in the United States.
Vegan charcuterie boards are also referred to as vegan snack boards, Antipasto platters, mezze platter, grazing boards, or smorgasbords.
What About the Board Itself?
For those who view charcuterie boards as a creative process, the board you use can elevate the look and feel of your edible masterpiece. It is an integral element of crafting your artistic platter and should be given attention.
Boards come in many shapes and sizes, so it's important to know what scenario your charcuterie board is being presented at, and how many people you plan to serve.
If you plan on making charcuterie boards regularly, it may be beneficial to invest in a quality, eco-friendly, and sustainably sourced board. Here are some sustainable options for your boards and plates:
Whenever possible, it is best to reuse the serving platters, boards, and plates in your kitchen.
"All the platters that we send out are reusable wooden platters so our clients actually keep them,'' said Jesse McRogers, owner of The Living Platter, a plant-based platter business based in the Toronto area. "We get lots of photos of them making their platters on their own, even after we've made the platter for them they keep using the board, which is really fun to see and a great way to know that it doesn't go to waste."
In addition to boards, you may want to consider the utensils used in tandem with the board. But if you're at home, pick your favorite utensils you already own and make those part of the board! Purchasing utensils from estate sales in your community is a fun and sustainable idea if you want more unique pieces for your vegan boards.
"We do little serving knives with all of our platters that are completely bamboo as opposed to like a plastic knife," McRogers said.
Sweet Brie Co. is also environmentally conscious when it comes to sourcing utensils. "We stay away from plastic as much as possible. It's easy to find wooden knives, honey dippers, and bamboo tongs these days," Coticchia said in an email to EcoWatch.
What About the Ingredients for the Vegan 'Charcuterie' Board?
From fresh local veggies to rich fair-trade chocolate, vegan board options are beautiful, vibrant and delicious.
Here are some delicious ingredients you can include in your next vegan creation:
- Fresh local vegetables: Veggies bring color and freshness to your board. Vegetables like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and celery are all good palate cleansers, but are also tasty dipped in hummus or other dips you choose to incorporate into your board.
- Fresh local fruit: Fresh fruit can add a pop of sweetness among many salty ingredients. Considering fruit that's in season is a great way to make your board more eco-friendly.
- Plant-based 'meats': There are many plant-based 'meat' products out there. From Tuscan vegan deli slices to harmless ham, it's relatively easy to add meatless protein to your board.
- Vegan cheeses: There are a plethora of dairy-free cheese options out there, so it's worth exploring alternatives to traditional cheeses for your board. You can even make your own vegan cheese. McRogers recommends the brands Nuts for Cheese and Sainsbury's 'Gary' vegan cheeses. "Vegan cheeses come in a variety of forms; some can be cut into triangles, squares, or wedges, and some come in spread form," Coticchia added.
- Olives: Marinated green olives and Kalamata olives are great vegan options.
- Crackers and dippers: Delicate, airy, multi-grain crackers can add texture to your creation. Crackers, and other dippers like bread, provide a base for your vegan cheeses and meats. Slices of bread, such as from French baguettes, are a solid addition or alternative to crackers.
- Dips: The options are endless when it comes to incorporating dips into the mix. From hummus to tapenade, there's a dip that will please anyone. Red pepper dip is another option for those who like a little bit of spice.
- Nuts and dried fruit: Adding nuts and dried fruits to your board can add more texture and protein to your board. Try seasonal nuts to make your board more thematized and cohesive. Pumpkin seeds in the fall, for example, or walnuts in the winter can be fun seasonal complements to your array.
- Fair-trade chocolate: For a desert board, or to add a hint of sweetness to any board, try incorporating fair-trade chocolate.
- Decorative elements: There are a variety of decorative elements that can be added to your board to add visual flair and elegance. Edible flowers are colorful, and dainty, making a great garnish to impress friends and family.
These are core elements of a vegan charcuterie board, but feel free to experiment and explore other ingredients that add creativity, flavor, and art to your creation.
"We like to kind of have those classic items but then stepped up in a different way," McRogers said. "Using something like a garlic stuffed olive rather than just a plain olive so there's like that little element of surprise — or instead of just like a plain dark chocolate, getting one for the summer that's pineapple coconut flavored."
McRogers also said The Living Platter recently thought to incorporate vegan pesto on their boards.
Assembling Your Board
Now that you have all of your ingredients compiled, it's time to assemble your board.
If you're making vegan cheese, dip, or something that needs to be prepared from scratch, prepare that first so it's ready to go. Make sure to prep your fresh ingredients by chopping and cutting them, then set them aside.
After taking care of your fruits and veggies, gather your remaining ingredients. Find your board and then gingerly place small bowls filled with your dips or olives onto the platter. It's up to you on how you want to arrange the small bowls, but using an odd amount of bowls is more visually pleasing according to the rule of odds. Now fill your bowls.
Next, take your prepared fruits and veggies and place them on the board according to what flavors go together. For example, if you have sliced bell peppers, place them next to your small bowl of hummus. Some people opt to arrange the fruits and veggies into fan shapes. If you are using grapes, keep them on the stem; it looks natural and will help the grapes stay in place.
Crackers and other dippers should be grouped and placed in various parts of the board so they're easy to access from all angles of the board. You can fan your bread or crackers, line them up, or place them in bunches depending on the aesthetic you are aiming for.
"If I had one piece of advice, it would be to make sure that as you're placing all your items... it's nice to have everything kind of like touching and flowing together," McRogers said. "Just be wary of placing a wet item like an olive or a pickle next to something like a cracker, because it will make it soggy."
Once the core of the assembling is done, fill in the gaps of your board with dried fruit, nuts, or more of any ingredient you feel is lacking. Once everything is in place, add garnish, and edible decoration for visual interest.
For creative inspiration, McRogers said she has no shame "creeping" on other Instagram accounts to get the creative juices flowing.
"There's no shame looking at Pinterest and being like, 'Wow! I really love those colors' or 'I really love that theme that they did,'" she said. "Don't be afraid to find those Pinterest moments… and recreate it… from there you start to build your own style and figure out what really works well and what you like and don't like and how colors really play together on a board."
Making Your Board More Eco-Friendly
Besides the board and utensils you choose to use, there are several ways to make your charcuterie board more earth-kind.
- Use or compost your leftovers: Using excess fruits and veggies on your board can help fight food waste. If the fruit or veggies aren't "platter worthy," as McRogers says, they can be frozen and used in smoothies later on. Composting leftovers is a great way to prevent food waste from ending up in landfills.
- No honey: Honey is a controversial topic within the vegan community, so for a true animal product free board, avoid using it.
- Incorporate plant-based 'meat': Products like Tofurkey, vegan deli slices, and vegan salami can substitute for traditional meats on your vegan platter.
- Organic ingredients: Organic products exclude harmful pesticides and chemicals, and organic farming practices are healthier for the environment.
- Local ingredients: Shopping locally minimizes packaging and shipping, helps support small businesses, and you know where everything you bought comes from.
- Sustainably sourced nuts: Nuts can take a lot of water to grow. Walnuts, in particular, need almost 4.9 gallons of water per walnut. Nuts present a wide variety of sustainability concerns, and here's a great resource to help you choose what kinds to buy.
- Sustainable containers: Using reusable or compostable bowls and utensils can help reduce waste and ensure no plastic or non-biodegradable materials are added to landfills.
If you're looking for specific recipes or more ideas, here are a few great recipes you can find online:
- DIY Vegan Charcuterie Board
- How to Build a Vegan Charcuterie Board – No Sweat Vegan
- Epic Vegan Charcuterie Board – Emilie Eats
If you make a vegan 'charcuterie' board, tag us on our Instagram page. We'd love to see what you come up with and share your creation with fellow EcoWatchers.
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.
California's drought may be the key to uncovering the mystery of a 1965 plane crash.
Two employees from an underwater surveying company, Seafloor Systems, were doing testing at Folsom Lake in the shallowest areas to date. The sonar equipment they were using for testing picked up an abnormal piece of debris that appeared to be a small aircraft.
"We could see the fuselage here, we could see the right-wing. We could see the tail," Josh Tamplin, the company's CEO, said to KRON-4 TV.
The plane discovered in the lake looks similar to the plane that went missing in 1965. It couldn't be confirmed because the Seafloor technicians couldn't record the aircraft number, or look at the interior of the plane because of murky water, according to Gizmodo.
Local news outlets suspect that the plane found is a Piper Comanche 250 plane, which is the model that crashed in 1965, leaving four people dead on New Year's Day.
Since the incident, only the body of the plane's pilot has been found — leaving the whereabouts of the plane and three other passengers still unknown. The victim's loved ones expressed that the unsolved mystery has haunted them for more than five decades, according to ABC News.
"He didn't really know his brother, but him and his mom would go out to the lake periodically when the water was low and look around to see if they could see anything," Katherine Radican said of her deceased husband, whose brother perished in the crash, to ABC News.
Before Frank Wilcox, Radican's husband, passed, he promised his mother he would keep searching for his long-lost brother in the hopes of giving him a proper burial.
"He promised her that he would find him for her," Radican said to ABC News.
An image of the plane, captured by Seafloor Systems' sonar imaging.Seafloor Systems
Seafloor System representatives and the Local Sheriffs' offices plan to collaborate to try to retrieve the plane from the water. Finding the plane may bring closure to families who have been in the dark for decades.
"I think it's amazing that after all this time there's been a lot of research and a lot of effort put into finding this for the family and also to retrieve what no one knew was down there," Seafloor's Tyler Atkinson told KRON-4.
The U.S. Drought Monitor categorized the surrounding area of the lake as being in extreme or exceptional drought — the two driest rankings possible.
Other climate phenomena have led to new discoveries. Just last month, the thawing Italian Alps allowed researchers to find World War I relics, previously hidden under the earth. In 2018, extreme drought and heat led to the discovery of outlines of ancient buildings in the UK.
Although historically compelling, these discoveries are all a result of conditions related to climate change. California's drought can have permanent damages to ecosystems, seawater intrusion, and land subsidence, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Audrey Nakagawa is the content creator intern at EcoWatch. She is a senior at James Madison University studying Media, Art, and Design, with a concentration in journalism. She's a reporter for The Breeze in the culture section and writes features on Harrisonburg artists, album reviews, and topics related to mental health and the environment. She was also a contributor for Virginia Reports where she reported on the impact that COVID-19 had on college students.
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For those looking for a quick and convenient way to eat delicious, hearty meals with little to no hassle, there are plenty of meal kit delivery services to choose from. But out of all of the brands available, which is the best meal delivery service for the environment? We review the top eco-friendly meal kit services and discuss what makes a meal delivery service sustainable.
We've all seen the overwhelming number of meal kits promoted online, but many consumers are left wondering if these delivery services are really worth the purchase. Despite all the hype, these programs can be beneficial for a number of reasons, including their environmental impact, which you can read more about below our reviews.
Each kit comes with pre-portioned packets of produce, meat, or fish if requested, and all of the spices and seasonings you need to complete a chef-inspired dish at home. We've reviewed several leading meal kit delivery brands like Sunbasket, Freshly, and Purple Carrot, plus the best vegetarian meal delivery services, that promote their eco-friendly approach. Here is our list of the best eco-friendly meal delivery services.
Our Picks for the Top Eco-Friendly Meal Kits
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Sunbasket
- Best Plant-Based - Purple Carrot
- Best Keto & Paleo - Snap Kitchen
- Best "No-Cooking" - Splendid Spoon
- Best for Giving Back - Everytable
- Best for Snacks - Nature Box
- Best for Desserts - Love + Chew
How We Reviewed Each Meal Delivery Service
To create our list, we looked at each meal kit delivery service based on their food options, ingredient sourcing, packaging, and customer reviews to find the services we think are best for the conscious consumer.
- Dietary options - For the actual meals we considered both the quality and variety of the recipes and whether they offered vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options.
- Ingredients - We then examined how they sourced their ingredients, whether they were organic, non-GMO, and locally grown. We looked for important eco-friendly labels from authorities like the USDA, Non-GMO Project, and the Marine Stewardship Council.
- Packaging - An important component of our review was also the packaging for each meal, how much was recyclable or biodegradable, and whether the brand used recycled materials in their packaging.
- Customer reviews - Finally, we looked at customer reviews to see what users liked or didn't like about each service.
The 7 Best Eco-Friendly Meal Kit Services
Prices shown are starting price per serving/meal unless otherwise noted.
Best Overall: Sunbasket
Sunbasket is our favorite organic meal kit brand. Sun Basket delivers a box of 100% organic produce, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat, and farm-fresh eggs. Their approach to sourcing wild seafood was named Best Choice or Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® Program.
Why buy: Sun Basket aims to support farmers who push for sustainable water management and crop rotations, as well as ranchers and fisherman who treat the planet with respect. Read our full Sunbasket review to learn more about the brand's sustainability efforts.
Best Plant-Based: Purple Carrot
Purple Carrot offers all plant-based meal kits in a variety of tasty menu items. There's even a black bean burger if you want to prepare the vegan-skeptic member of your family a familiar plate. They make eating more plant-based meals easy and delicious.
Why buy: Purple Carrot meal kits, in many ways, support the idea that many small, smart choices can add up to a big impact. According to researchers, you could cut the carbon footprint of your diet by 60% by eating plant-based meals for two-thirds of your diet.
Best for Keto & Paleo: Snap Kitchen
Snap Kitchen is all about delivering clean, delicious, and sustainably-sourced meals that are ready to eat at affordable prices. They craft a variety of keto-friendly, paleo, low-carb, and Whole 30 meals that make it easy for people with busy schedules to eat healthier.
Why buy: We like that Snap Kitchen offers so many different dietary options for their prepared meals. Plus, their food is always free from hormones, preservatives, antibiotics, gluten, and artificial sweeteners.
Best "No Cooking": Splendid Spoon
Splendid Spoon offers plant-based smoothies, grain bowls, soups, and noodle bowls that are ready-to-eat and made with real ingredients. Their smoothies are a great option for when you are on the go, and the grain bowls, soups, and noodle dishes can help you add hearty, plant-based meals to your routine.
Why buy: We love that Splendid Spoon offers so many different plant-based meal options, especially for those who don't like to cook. Plus, they have a real commitment to sustainability, and their packaging is 100% recyclable.
Best for Giving Back: Everytable
Everytable is a meal delivery service with a purpose. Their goal is to help make nutritious, delicious, chef-prepared meals available to everyone in order to help build a more just food system. They offer a huge variety of hot plates, salads, wraps, snacks, breakfast foods, and more.
Why buy: We love that Everytable is committed to making good food available to underserved communities at fast food prices. These ready-to-eat meals offer a delicious way to do good in the community. The only drawback is that they are only available in Los Angeles at the moment.
Best for Snacks: NatureBox
NatureBox is all about creating healthier snack options that taste great and are actually good for you. Their snacks are made without high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, and contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. You can order specific snack products or get boxes that contain a variety of delicious snack options.
Why buy: We like NatureBox because they make it easy to enjoy healthier snacks at home or at the office. Choose from foods like popcorn, cookies, dried fruit, chips, crackers, nuts, jerky, and breakfast items like oatmeals. The price shown is for one box.
Best for Desserts: Love + Chew
The superfood cookies from Love + Chew are so much more than a sweet treat. They include 7 grams of protein and are made with clean label ingredients like almonds, real fruit, chia seeds, Fair Trade dark chocolate chips, and sea salt. Enjoy eating a dessert that's good for you with these vegan and gluten-free super cookies.
Why buy: We love that Love + Chew superfood cookies pack so much good stuff into each delicious cookie. You can join the Cookie Club to get regular deliveries of your favorites. The brand is also AAPI/Women-owned and donates a portion of all profits to Oasis for Girls, a San Francisco-based nonprofit for young girls. The price shown is for one box.
Are Meal Kits Really Sustainable?
Whether meal kits are really sustainable depends on how you define sustainability. While they produce more waste, they have lower greenhouse gas emissions and result in less food waste compared to grocery store meals.
Both a 2017 study out of the University of Texas at Austin and a 2019 study published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling found that meal kits are more sustainable than purchasing ingredients from a grocery store for the following reasons:
- On average, meal kits produce 33% lower greenhouse gas emissions than grocery store meals.
- The pre-portioned ingredients in meal kits lead to less food loss and waste.
- Meal kits have lower last-mile transportation emissions than grocery store meals.
- The ice packs used in meal kit packages present an average emissions decrease versus retail refrigeration.
Now, if you plan your meals out each week, use all of the ingredients you intend to, compost what you don't use, and buy locally from a farmers market or other community shop, meal kits will likely be a step backward in terms of your food-related sustainability.
The studies also mentioned that meal kits produce more packaging waste than grocery store meals — UT Austin estimated an average of 3.7 more pounds of packaging material per meal. Because meal kits come in cardboard boxes and ship ingredients in small packages (for example, if you need a tablespoon of pine nuts for your recipe, they'll likely come pre-portioned a small plastic sleeve), there's much more plastic waste produced. One study found that "disposable packaging can represent over 50% of per-meal energy use for meal-kits."
Some of these items can be repurposed, such as the tiny glass jars that spices and condiments come in, which can be used for travel, crafting, or storing small objects. Others can be washed and recycled, depending on your local recycling guidelines. But most of the waste will end up in a landfill.
So, it's up to you whether you think the pros of lower carbon emissions outweigh the cons of more plastic waste.
Getting Started with a Meal Delivery Service
With so much variety, selecting a meal delivery service can turn into a stressful endeavor. Additionally, brands like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Daily Harvest are options that might try to win you over, but they may not have as sustainable methods as some of the options listed above.
Although, the sheer number of meal kit options can also work to your advantage. These companies are competing for customers and often offer sign-up specials and discounts to get you started. When shopping for a subscription service, try multiple options, and take advantage of these deals. With many programs, you have the freedom to change or cancel your subscription, so you can try a few different options to find one that fits your taste and your budget. We also recommend that you compare your per-meal cost to what you might spend on dinners at the grocery store to maximize your savings.
If you give one of these meal kits a try, let us know what you think. We'll update this list regularly as we get feedback from readers and add additional sustainability notes as we dive deeper into new services.
Melena Gurganus is passionate health and wellness and her writing aims to help others find products they can trust. Her work has been featured in publications such as Health, Shape, Huffington Post, Cannabis Business Times, and Bustle.
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