Heavy duty electric trucks (a.k.a. semis) cost so much less to operate per mile than diesel-powered trucks at today's prices that they would pay for themselves in just three years, according to a new report by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, UCLA, and UC-Berkeley.
Electrifying heavy-duty trucks would substantially improve air quality.
Semis account for just 11% of vehicles on the road, but more than half of carbon pollution and 71% of deadly particulate pollution.
At today's costs, electric semis could cost 13% less per mile than a comparable diesel-powered truck, and could cost just half as much per mile by 2030 with the right mix of policy.
For a deeper dive:
When it comes to finding new shoes to fill your closet, finding something stylish and comfortable is likely the main goal. But shouldn't their impact on the earth matter just as much? Here is a roundup of the best eco-friendly and environmentally-conscious shoes.
Our picks for top eco-friendly shoes
- Best Recycled Plastic Shoe - SUAVS
- Best Zero-Waste Shoe - On Running
- Best Sustainable Materials - Cariuma
- Best Carbon Neutral Shoe - Allbirds
- Best Clean-Energy Production - Womsh
- Best Vegan Shoe - Beyond Skin
While flipping over a pair of shoes as you shop can tell you about the size of their literal footprint, discovering their carbon footprint isn't always as easy. That's because transparency, for many brands, remains less of a priority.
As a result, shoppers don't always have the clearest vision of how some shoe companies operate—including how and where they source their materials, and who actually puts them together. It's important to understand that the very practices that led to the mass production of so many classic brands are less than stellar for the environment and the people that actually make them.
How we chose the best eco-friendly shoes
To create our list of the best eco-friendly shoes, we compared brands on a number of factors. These included:
- Sustainable materials - Does the brand use recycled or sustainable materials to make their shoes? We looked for brands that utilize post-consumer recycled materials, like fibers from plastic water bottles or recycled paper, in their shoes and packaging. We also considered their sourcing of naturally-derived materials, like sugar cane, castor beans, cork, and wool.
- Transparency - How much does the brand tell you about its manufacturing process and materials? We checked out each brand's website to confirm their commitment to the environment and to make sure they weren't just green-washing their products.
- Ethical standards - Where does the brand manufacture their shoes and do they ensure fair labor practices? In addition to the environmental impact of a brand's shoes, we also looked at how they treat their people. We specifically looked for brand transparency and commitments around creating healthy and safe working conditions in factories, and that employees earn fair wages, as well as B-Corp certification.
- Giving back - We wanted to prioritize brands that do more than just make money. We looked for eco-friendly shoe brands that partnered with non-profits to give back, including projects like Soles4Souls, LifeWorks, and reforestation initiatives.
Discover five of our favorite eco-friendly shoe brands that you simply can't go wrong with. Whether you're in need of new sneakers, boots, flats, or heels, they've got you covered.
SUAVS makes comfortable, breathable, and sustainable shoes with uppers made of post-consumer recycled water bottles. They put the environment first and use only the safest materials that are better for the earth and you. SUAVS makes a point to give back and donates all extra footwear to organizations such as LifeWorks.
Why buy: Planning a vacation? Look no further. SUAVS shoes are known for being lightweight and flexible, allowing for easy packing and all-day wear. Their shoes have been featured in Buzzfeed, Conde Nast, Business Insider, PRNewsWire, and more for being a travel-friendly shoe.
Switzerland-based shoe brand On Running is beloved for its performance-based shoes that offer optimal performance without harming the earth in the process. The brand prides itself on sustainability, ethical sourcing, and transparency. They've even partnered with the ScienceBasedTargets initiative to ensure they lower their emissions to a level that will support the limiting of average global temperature raising to 1.5°C (34.7°F) above pre-industrial levels.Why buy: The Cyclon is a revolutionary zero-waste shoe. The sleek shoe is made with sustainable production efforts from castor beans and it's fully recyclable. The caveat? You can't own them. Instead, they're available via subscription to ensure that you recycle them back to the brand. By creating this production process, the brand is able to capitalize on circularity, effectively keeping materials out of landfills.
If you're a sucker for smooth-as-butter leather sneakers, Cariuma is the choice for you. Namely, the brand's OCA High Off-White Premium Leather high-top sneakers. Of course, the Rio de Janeiro-based shoe brand offers more than just leather, they sell canvas and suede silhouettes, too. The company is also committed to sustainability, planting two trees in the Brazilian rainforest for every pair of shoes sold.
Why buy: All of the materials used in Cariuma's shoe-making process are sourced sustainably and responsibly, from the leather and suede uppers and recycled plastic used in the brand's shoelaces, labels, and laces to the Bluesign-certified dye chemicals (which are non-harmful) and recyclable packaging. As a result of their rigorous eco-conscious efforts, the brand has earned seven sustainability certifications.
Known as Silicon Valley's most-beloved shoe, Allbirds are renowned for their versatile wool runners that are minimalist, sustainably-sourced, and cozy as can be. The brand is entirely carbon neutral. This means that they measure their carbon emissions each year, reduce their impact by using recycled materials, and offset whatever's left over by taxing themselves and putting that money toward projects that neutralize their footprint.
Why buy: These Tree Runners are made from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees, a castor bean insole, and a carbon-negative sugarcane midsole. While Allbirds shoes end up being carbon neutral, the company does provide their initial carbon footprint score. These running shoes come in at 9.0 kg CO2e.
Sustainability meets trendy fashion with Italian shoe brand Womsh (short for Word of Mouth Shoes). The celebrity-favorite sneakers are known for their chunky silhouettes overlaid with bold designs and text. Beyond their truly picture-worthy style, the shoes are created with sustainability at the helm.
Why buy: In addition to creating a fully vegan collection, as well as shoes that are fully recyclable, and producing their shoes in factories that use 90 percent clean energy, Womsh has teamed up with LifeGate to offset its carbon emissions. They do so by planting trees in areas that have been deforested. Since 2014, they've planted and protected over 118,403 square feet of forest per year. Talk about impact.
Sneakers aren't the only option when it comes to eco-friendly shoes. Since its inception in 2001, Beyond Skin has been committed to providing the world with luxury vegan footwear in the form of vintage-inspired sandals, mules, loafers, heels, boots, and more. All of the silhouettes are designed in England and brought to life in Spain using luxury Italian fabrics. By creating their products locally—as opposed to sourcing all over the world—they're able to reduce their carbon footprint. What's more, they use recycled materials in many of their designs, which makes them even more eco-friendly.
Why buy: In addition to paying mind to the materials used, Beyond Skin works very closely with their factories in Spain to ensure their workers are never exploited in the process of production. It is their mission to stand far apart from fast fashion, offering silhouettes that can withstand the test of time—both in terms of wear and classic styles—and practices that benefit the earth and its people.
Why choose eco-friendly shoes and products?
Eco-conscious and eco-friendly are used to describe products made with the earth in mind. In order to create eco-conscious products, a company must commit to sustainable manufacturing practices, the use of sustainable materials, and how much energy is used to create each product. This includes a commitment to use less water and fewer (or, better yet, zero) chemicals in production, along with paying mind to the amount of carbon emissions created as a result of production, the types of fibers that are used, and the quality of life offered to the workers creating the items. In other words, creating eco-friendly items—shoes, included—is a more involved process than is used for most mass-produced goods.
As a result, many earth-friendly brands are marked at a higher price due to the higher level of care dedicated to bringing them to life. The beauty is, however, when more care is devoted to the production process, the higher the quality ends up being. So, while a higher price tag may make you wince, knowing that the items will last much longer and will make less of an impact on the environment is definitely worth it.
Rebecca R. Norris is a writer in the DC metro area. She covers a number of topics in the sustainable beauty, wellness, and style industries. A graduate of George Mason University, the Virginia native is a lover of lists, Stevie Nicks, dark chocolate Sprinkles cupcakes, and the Oxford comma.
Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
By Oscar Schwartz
Microsoft drew widespread praise in January this year after Brad Smith, the company's president, announced their climate "moonshot."
While other corporate giants, such as Amazon and Walmart, were pledging to go carbon neutral, Microsoft vowed to go carbon negative by 2030, meaning they would be removing more carbon from the atmosphere than they produced.
By 2050, Smith added, the company was aiming to remove all of the carbon they had ever emitted since being founded in 1975.
Much of its plans lean on nascent technology. Critics, meanwhile, see the move as a gamble aimed at justifying Microsoft's ongoing deals with fossil fuel firms.
Microsoft releases less carbon a year than Amazon and Apple, but more than Google. The company has 150,000 employees across offices in more than 100 countries, and is still focused on developing the software and consumer electronics that made them a household name – Windows, PCs, Xbox. But after a temporary slump following their heyday in the 1990s, they have also once again become innovators, developing world-leading artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing products.
The company hopes to bring that innovative approach to its climate policies, in part by widening how it calculates its carbon footprint, beyond most corporate responsibility plans. Historically, Microsoft has only counted those emissions that fall within the scope of their own business operations – employee travel, company vehicles, heat and electricity in company buildings, and so on.
From now on, it plans to take responsibility for the emissions produced by its entire supply chain, including the full lifespan of the products it makes and the electricity that customers may consume when using its products.
Meanwhile, increasing the scrutiny on Microsoft's plan are its dealings with fossil fuel companies, which have been highlighted by some as evidence of hypocrisy as it makes climate pledges. In 2019 alone, the technology company had entered into long-term partnerships with three major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, that will be using Microsoft's technology to expand oil production by as much as 50,000 barrels a day over the coming years. The staggering amount of carbon this would release into the atmosphere would not be included on Microsoft's expanded carbon ledger.
For Microsoft, however, partnering with oil companies is not considered hypocritical. The company is hedging its climate bets on carbon capture and removal technologies that they believe will be able to offset some of the environmental harm caused by fossil fuels during the transition to a more sustainable future, despite such technologies being still in their nascent stages and not yet proven to work at scale.
Those who devised the plan at Microsoft argue that they are responding directly to a new reality: cutting emissions is not enough and all routes to non-catastrophic temperature increase will also require removing carbon from the atmosphere. So, as well as shifting to a 100% supply of renewable energy for all of their data centers, buildings and campuses by 2025, Microsoft outlines a number of carbon reduction methods it is backing to try and hit its bold targets.
To begin, Microsoft will focus on protecting forests and planting trees to capture carbon. This strategy has long been used to offset emissions, but Microsoft is hoping to improve their outcomes by using remote-sensing technology to accurately estimate the carbon storage potential of forests to ensure no major deforestation is occurring in their allotments. To achieve these goals, Microsoft will be partnering with Pachama, a Silicon Valley startup that will survey 60,000 hectares of rainforest in the Amazon, plus an additional 20,000 hectares across north-eastern states of the US for the company.
According to Kesley Perlman, a climate campaigner at the forest conservation NGO Fern, Microsoft's commitment to hi-tech reforestation is encouraging, but she stressed that conservation is a complex, multifaceted process that goes beyond technical issues. "It's not only about how much carbon a forest can hold but also who traditionally uses the forest, how they might be kept out, and how biodiversity will be prioritized," she said.
Biomass energy carbon capture storage
Microsoft will initially focus on nature-based solutions to reduce their carbon footprint over the next five or so years. But in order to start drawing more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit by 2030, it will need to shift to technology-based solutions that can scale up and accelerate carbon removal.
To this end, Microsoft is betting on biomass energy carbon capture storage, otherwise known as BECCS, to transform how energy is generated. Instead of burning coal, a BECCS power plant burns biomass, like wood chips. The carbon produced when burning the biomass is captured before it is released into the atmosphere and then injected at a very high pressure into rock formations deep underground. Not only does this remove carbon from the natural cycle, the biomass absorbs CO2 as it grows.
A world powered by biofuel, however, raises two looming questions. First, scientists are not yet certain if biomass energy will be carbon neutral.
The second concern is that the transition from coal to biofuel would require setting aside vast tracts of arable land – some estimates say one to two times the size of India. According to climate campaigner Perlman this would mean that the energy industry would probably have to compete with food production in a world where 10 billion people will need to be fed, while vastly enlarging industrialized plantations and reducing biodiversity. "We would likely see massive land use change and massive private purchases of land, the knock on impacts of which could be quite dangerous," she said.
Direct air capture
Perhaps the most futuristic of the technologies outlined in Microsoft's carbon negative plan is direct air capture (DAC). This involves machines that essentially function like highly efficient artificial trees, drawing existing carbon out of the air and transforming it into non-harmful carbon-based solids or gasses.
While the image of air-conditioner-like machines sucking carbon out of the air is captivating, capturing CO2 directly from the atmosphere requires a lot of energy and is very expensive. In 2011, extracting carbon from the air cost $600 a ton of CO2. In 2018, estimates brought this down to anywhere between $94 to $232 a ton. But given that Microsoft expects to emit 16m metric tons of carbon this year, if they were to reach carbon zero using only DAC, their bill might cost as much as $3.5bn.
According to Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft, a large part of the reason why carbon removal remains so expensive is because the markets around these technologies are still immature. The company's strategy over the coming decades is maturing these markets through intensive and directed investment. "We're making a bet on certain technologies that don't exist at the scale or price point we need them to," he said. "But if we want to get them, we need to start investing."
The company, he said, already has a model for raising funds internally to support climate innovation. In July 2012, Microsoft became one of the first companies to institute an internal carbon price, charging different divisions in the business $15 a metric ton of carbon emitted. The funds raised were then used to pay for sustainability improvements, which helped the company achieve their goal of going carbon neutral.
Previously, this carbon price only extended over emissions Microsoft was directly responsible for. According to their new plan, in July this year Microsoft will extend this internal carbon price over emissions produced across direct and indirect emissions. The increased revenue raised from the expanded internal carbon tax, along with a $1bn climate innovation fund, will be used to invest in capture and removal technology. "What we're going to do is put this money in the market in a way that is highly additional," Joppa said. "This is how we're going to get nature-based solutions and tech solutions at a price point and scale we need."
Microsoft's plan for intensive investment in this industry is exciting for those working in the field. Klaus Lackner, a theoretical physicist working on DAC, has been arguing since the 1990s that carbon removal is the only feasible way to stop significant temperature rises. "We've shown that this method is technologically feasible, but nobody has wanted them," he said. "Microsoft have said 'we get it.' It will cost them money, but it will allow the technologies to come online and for the next company to follow their footsteps."
While the technologies that Microsoft are betting on are still in their nascent stages, in the past few years there has been some encouraging progress in the negative emissions industry. Lackner and Arizona State University recently signed a deal with Silicon Kingdom, an Irish-based company, to manufacture his carbon-suck machines. The plan is to install them on wind and solar farms, and then sell the captured carbon to beverage companies to make carbonated drinks. In the UK, Drax power plant, which was once among Europe's most polluting, transitioned from coal to biofuel this year.
But many attempts at scaling carbon negative projects have also failed. The Kemper Project in Mississippi, which was billed as America's flagship carbon capture project, was abandoned in 2017 – it was $5bn over budget, three years late and still not operational.
Given the not insignificant risk of failure, some propose that relying on nascent or future technology as a solution to the climate crisis represents a moral hazard – the promise of carbon removal functions as an incentive for governments and major polluters to not change their behavior now.
According to Chris Adams, a tech worker who organizes an online community of technology professionals agitating for climate action from within the industry, the fact that Microsoft is still partnering with big oil companies demonstrates the moral hazard in action. "They are protecting the fossil fuel industry from changing while the rest of the world will pay most from this gamble if it fails in the long term," he said.
Adams added that many of the encouraging ideas around carbon reduction in Microsoft's plan have come from internal organizing from concerned employees, but that this mostly goes unacknowledged in Microsoft's official vision. Emphasizing future technology while overlooking activism in the present, Adams said, represents a certain way of approaching problems that is typical of technology companies. "If you have spent the last 10 years amassing influence by approaching most problems with technology it's understandable you see all problems through this lens, particularly if you don't have to have conversations about power," he said.
When asked about this concern by the Guardian, Microsoft's Joppa responded that in the short term, the energy demands of a growing global population will probably still need a mix of renewable and traditional energy sources. By remaining in discourse with these industries, he said, Microsoft hopes to help them change and transition to a better model in the future. "It's extremely hard to lead if there's no one there to follow," he added.
As to whether the technology outlined in their plan will scale, he said there is inherent risk, but this is why they call it a "moonshot." "When it comes to our plan it's not like we've got it all figured out," he said. "We're just trying to do what the science says the whole world needs to do. There's really no other choice."
This story originally appeared in The Guardian and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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By Gero Rueter
Proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today, according to a report published Tuesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The report predicts that renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will shape the way we power the world in 2050.
Adopting such solutions would set world leaders on track to meet their target of keeping the planet from heating by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels this century, according to the World Energy Transitions Outlook report. The UN had warned in November that pledges to meet this goal were so far "woefully inadequate."
"The window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5 C Paris Agreement goal is closing fast," said Francesco La Camera, the director-general of IRENA. "The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing, but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction."
Instead, IRENA — an intergovernmental organization based in Abu Dhabi made up of 162 countries and the European Union — calls for a change in direction and a dramatic acceleration of the energy transition as countries walk the "narrow tightrope" toward the 1.5 C target.
Global Turnaround Through Green Power
That would make it the main energy source in the world, powering more than 80% of all vehicles. Heating would mainly be provided by heat pumps, whose number is set to rise 20-fold by 2050 to around 400 million.
To stay in line with climate targets, coal-fired power plants would have to be shut down and no new ones built. Ninety percent of electricity would have to come from renewable sources, mainly sun and wind, with a global installed capacity of photovoltaics almost 30 times greater than in 2018. There would have to be 14 times the wind power, and hydropower would have to double.
Fossil gas and nuclear energy, meanwhile, would make up 4% and 6% of electricity generated, respectively.
But, even with such an expansion of renewables and a drop in fossil fuels, the report relies on removing CO2 from the atmosphere to meet climate goals. This includes reforesting areas in which trees have been hacked down or burned, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere by growing plants, and capturing it from industrial sites and injecting it underground. The technology to capture carbon and store it is expensive, and exists only at a small scale.
Major Challenge, But Possible
To meet climate goals, the report assumed a globally available budget of 500 billion tons of CO2 for the current scenario. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if no more than this amount is released into the atmosphere, the world has a half-chance of warming 1.5 C and missing the target.
But, for a two-thirds chance of avoiding that level of warming, even more CO2 would have to be kept out of the atmosphere. According to the IPCC, total emissions would have to be limited to about 285 billion tons. Around 42 billion tons of CO2 are emitted by the energy and agricultural sectors every single year.
"A scenario like the one presented by IRENA is conceivable," said Christian Breyer, a professor of solar economics at LUT University in Finland, who was not involved in the study. Breyer criticized the report for its high CO2 budget and reliance on technologies to remove emissions rather than stop them in the first place.
In addition, he said, the benefits "of extremely low-cost solar electricity have not yet been fully incorporated into the scenario, but very expensive system solutions such as nuclear power and biomass with CO2 capture."
Economic Stimulus to Bring Jobs
That turnaround has already begun.
Global oil consumption will continue to fall in the coming years, and fossil gas is set to join it in 2025. "Financial markets are already reflecting this change by shifting capital away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable assets like renewables," La Camera said.
Echoing warnings from the UN last year, IRENA said that stimulus packages in the wake of the pandemic must be used strategically to meet the 1.5 C target. Doing so would also help employment. The report projects that investing in the energy transition will create close to three times more jobs than fossil fuels for every million dollars spent.
"While the pathway is daunting, several favorable elements can make it achievable," La Camera said. "Major economies accounting for over half of global CO2 emissions are turning carbon-neutral. Global capital is moving, too."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Mark McCord
- An academic paper suggests key tipping points can significantly reduce carbon emissions, which would help to slow global warming.
- Government policies are making coal uneconomical.
- Electric vehicle pricing structures have helped reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the world's roads.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.
Governments and institutions could help halt carbon emissions with just a few carefully selected policy measures, according to a new paper, which looked at the experience of the energy industry and changing trends in road vehicle purchases.
If chosen properly and applied internationally, such "tipping points" could set off a series of other changes that snowball into a movement with enough critical mass to slow global warming and reduce natural disasters.
The paper, published in the journal Climate Policy, argues that actions taken within each industry created a cascade of further developments that helped reduce their carbon footprints.
"In complex systems – including human societies – tipping points can occur, in which a small perturbation transforms a system," wrote the paper's authors, Professor Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute (GSI) at the University of Exeter and Simon Sharpe, a deputy director in the UK Cabinet Office 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 26) unit.
"Crucially, activating one tipping point can increase the likelihood of triggering another at a larger scale, and so on."
Towards the Paris Agreement Targets
Such tipping points are hoped to help the world meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which 196 heads of state agreed to reduce global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees. Were they achieved, experts say the positive impacts would be felt within two decades.
The accord strives for a climate-neutral world by the middle of this century. It's expected to be built upon at the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, which is due to take place in November. The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative strives also to offer globally linked solutions.
The report in Climate Policy explains how a combination of factors led to the tipping point that prompted the UK to decarbonize its power industry. They included the creation of a carbon tax, an EU scheme that made gas cheaper than coal and an investment strategy for renewable energy that made coal less economical.
"The power sector needs to decarbonize four times faster than its current rate, and the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles needs to double," Lenton said.
"Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems."
Wind and solar accounted for a third of the UK's energy generation in 2020. Statista
Positive Tipping Points
Besides the UK, the authors of the paper cited Norway as an example of the nations that have acted to reduce greenhouse gases pumped out by motor vehicles.
Through government incentives, new electric vehicles (EV) in Norway are priced similarly to petrol and diesel cars. This has boosted sales of EVs to more than 50% of new car purchases, compared with 2%-3% worldwide.
China, the European Union (EU) and California are responsible for half of global car sales. Professor Lenton suggests that if they formed an international effort to redirect investment from conventional cars to EVs they could reduce costs, boost production and create a broader tipping point that would accelerate the reduction of fossil fuel use.
Lenton argues that if government action can lower the cost of financing renewables to below that of excavating coal, industries linked to transport, heating and power could all rapidly decarbonize.
That's good news because a new, more urgent, approach is needed to reduce the rate at which the global climate is warming, according to scientists.
2020 and 2016 Hottest Years on Record
Earlier this month, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2020 had equaled 2016 as the hottest year on record.
A study published in Climate Dynamics said the planet could breach the threshold for global warming between 2027 and 2042, a decade earlier than previously thought.
"If either of these efforts – in power or road transport – succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change," Lenton said.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.
The process of mining the cryptocurrency is enormously energy intensive, so much so that it consumes more electricity in a year than Argentina or the Ukraine, according to the latest data from the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index. Its energy hunger even led to a warning from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week, as CNBC reported.
"It's an extremely inefficient way of conducting transactions," Yellen said, "and the amount of energy that's consumed in processing those transactions is staggering."
Bitcoin's value rose past $50,000 two weeks ago, CNN Business reported at the time. It was in part buoyed by the success of Elon Musk, whose electric car company Tesla made more than $900 million after buying $1.5 billion of the currency, BBC News reported. Its value has subsided somewhat since then, The Guardian reported. But Musk's endorsement raised a concern: How did his support of the currency meld with Tesla's goal of moving the world towards a "zero-emission future?"
The question is larger than Musk, of course. Bitcoin mining is energy intensive by design. There are only 21 million bitcoins that can be mined, a process that involves solving complex math problems on a computer to release new coins. When bitcoin first started in 2009, it was possible to mine for bitcoin on a normal computer. However, the currency is designed so that the fewer bitcoins left to be released, the more complicated the problems become. Now that 18.5 million bitcoins have been mined, an average computer cannot handle the calculations.
As the price rises, more people are motivated to get in on the action.
"They want to get that revenue," University of Chicago economics professor Gina Pieters told BBC News, "and that's what's going to encourage them to introduce more and more powerful machines in order to guess this random number, and therefore you will see an increase in energy consumption."
Pieters is part of the University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), which runs the bitcoin electricity use index. CCAF calculates that bitcoin now uses 129.22 terawatt hours of electricity a year, according to its most recent update.
This doesn't necessarily mean that mining bitcoin is increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Bitcoin proponents say that the mining can be powered using renewable energy sources, according to The Guardian. However, the mining process does motivate miners to seek out cheap energy sources.
"The more machines a miner operates, the more likely he is to find the solution to the puzzle," the CCAF explained. "However, more machines also means that more electricity is needed to run and cool the equipment, which in turn results in higher costs for the miner in question. Miners are thus always searching for abundant electricity sources at the lowest possible price."
Seeking the cheapest electricity source may mean coal in many places, The Guardian pointed out. More bitcoin is mined in China than in any other country, and about two-thirds of its electricity still comes from coal.
The CCAF said it does not yet have the data to determine the cryptocurrency's carbon footprint, since this would require accurate assessments of the energy mix behind mining. However, it pointed out that even if all bitcoin mining was powered by coal, an unlikely scenario, it would still only account for 0.17 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. That doesn't mean bitcoin's growth isn't a concern for the attempts to combat the climate crisis, however.
"There are valid concerns that Bitcoin's growing electricity consumption may pose a threat to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the future," the index wrote.
That threat increases the more bitcoin gains in popularity. Bitcoin expert and Digiconomist founder Alex de Vries told BBC News what would happen if bitcoin were adapted as a global reserve currency.
"[T]he Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [US] Federal budget to spend on electricity. We'd have to double our global energy production," he said. "For Bitcoin."
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The move is part of the automaker's plan to become carbon neutral by 2040 and to join the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5⁰C, in which companies promise to go carbon neutral in time to limit global warming to only 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world," GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole."
To make this happen, GM has promised to invest $27 billion in autonomous and electric vehicles in the next five years. The company said that by 2025 it would offer 30 global electric models and that 40 percent of its U.S. models would be electric. It plans to offer the new vehicles across a range of price points.
GM's pledge also includes a promise to power all of its U.S. sites with renewable energy by 2030 and all of its global locations by 2035. Any carbon emissions GM cannot cut from its business model it plans to offset.
The news comes as the political winds for climate action in the U.S. have shifted. In the past two weeks, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order reversing the Trump administration's decision to relax tailpipe emissions standards, and another mandating that all federal vehicles be electric.
The news also marks a departure for GM. Barra previously met with former President Donald Trump about relaxing Obama-era emissions standards, which Biden is now moving to reinstate, The New York Times reported. Because of this history, some environmental organizations are skeptical of the new announcement.
"GM's announcement is important to see from a Big Three automaker. GM must back it up with strong action," the Sierra Club wrote in a Facebook post. "We won't soon forget that GM sided with Trump against cleaner vehicles and clean air and has been hostile to protecting the planet and their own workforce for decades. We will continue to track their efforts, and hold them accountable."
However, GM worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to craft its goal.
"EDF and GM have had some important differences in the past, but this is a new day in America — one where serious collaboration to achieve transportation electrification, science-based climate progress and equitably shared economic opportunity can move our nation forward," EDF president Fred Krupp said in the press release.
Analysts say that GM and other automakers that are shifting to electric reflects both technological improvements that are cutting electric vehicle prices, as well as political developments, Inside Climate News reported. Biden has set a 2035 deadline for many of his administration's climate goals, which is also the target date California Gov. Gavin Newsom has established for banning new gas and diesel car sales in the state.
Not least, Barra's decision may also be financially driven. Auto industry analyst Ferdinand Dudenhöffer told The New York Times that European carmakers generally agreed that electric cars would rule the market in 10 to 15 years.
"Mary Barra is a good C.E.O.," Dudenhöffer told The New York Times. "She has the right strategy."
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By David Reichmuth
Over the last month, I've seen a number of opinion articles attacking electric vehicles (EVs). Sadly, this comes as no surprise: now that the Biden administration is introducing federal policies to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles, we were bound to see a reaction from those that oppose reducing climate changing emissions and petroleum use.
Some of the opposition will come from auto companies that want to delay the transition to electric vehicles, but others will be from fossil fuel interests or climate deniers. But it really doesn't matter why they're trying to mislead the public about electric vehicles.The important thing is that you know that this is familiar and worn-out disinformation, designed to sow doubt and confusion. Here are some of the truths about EVs, so that you can spot misleading attacks.
1. EVs aren't the perfect solution for the future of transportation – they're just much, much better than gasoline vehicles.
EVs offer us a way to have personal mobility with much fewer global warming emissions than gasoline vehicles. It's clear that the emissions from driving on electricity are lower than those from using a gasoline vehicle, even when accounting for electricity generation. Our most recent analysis shows that, across the country, driving electric is cleaner than even the most efficient gasoline car. As our electric grid continues to get cleaner (with lower coal use and more renewable energy sources), the climate benefit from electric vehicles is increasing. And, of course, because they avoid burning gasoline, electric vehicles can reduce tailpipe emissions that lead to harmful air pollution across the country and put us on the path to reducing the pollution and environmental degradation that is associated with extracting and refining petroleum.
Of course, there are emissions from building every vehicle. Because of battery manufacturing, climate emissions from building electric vehicles are slightly higher those from manufacturing a gasoline vehicle. However, those increased emissions are quickly (within 6 to 16 months depending on location) made up from the savings from using electricity in place of gasoline. As we increase the production of EVs, it will be important to work to minimize manufacturing emissions by reducing energy use in the extraction and preparation of battery materials and by the recycling and reuse of used batteries.
It will also be important to hold all companies to environmental and human rights standards for their manufacturing and supply chains. Auto companies and battery suppliers need to source products and raw materials in a sustainable and ethical way. Greater transparency from manufacturers would be helpful in this area. Some have started to disclose details on their supply chain and make commitments to improve their practices. We also need to remember this goes beyond electric cars; we should be asking the same sorts of questions about our consumer-electronics companies and yes even the companies that produce and extract petroleum products and other fossil fuels.
2. EV sales are a small fraction of U.S. autos now, but that's going to change.
A common line used to argue against EVs is that they have historically made up a small fraction of the sales in the U.S. and therefore they can't possibly make a difference in our emissions. Others try to use the fact that fewer EVs were sold than gasoline cars to mean that EV's just aren't very popular.
These backwards-looking approaches could be used to dismiss any new technology, not just EVs. For example, in 2000 only 2.5% of households had broadband internet access. Of course that didn't mean that home internet wasn't going to be a transformative technology. We can't look in the rear view mirror to see the road ahead for EVs.
It's obvious if we look back 10 years ago that the number and the capability of EVs was not at the level needed to replace gasoline vehicles. The good news is that in 2021, the EV landscape is vastly changed from even 5 years ago. New car buyers now have multiple options for long range EVs and can choose compelling options from more automakers than ever before. Currently, plug in cars make up about 2 percent of all sales in the U.S., but the number is higher in areas that have sought to accelerate the market via regulation and incentives. For example, in California, EV sales were over 8% of all new car sales in the state, showing the potential for higher sales elsewhere in the country with the use regulations, incentives, and customer awareness efforts.
3. EVs are much more than the Tesla Model S.
Tesla gets the lion's share of attention in the EV market, and for good reason. Tesla has led in plug-in car sales and the introduction of the Tesla Model S in 2012 changed many people's impression of what an electric car is. While some may have thought EVs were "golf carts", unstylish, or boring before, it would be hard to apply those labels to Tesla's Model S. However, Tesla's success (and press coverage) has now meant that the Tesla brand or the Model S is used synonymously with "EV."
Tesla has been a game changer in the EV market, but there are many more plug-in options now than the Tesla Model S. We're seeing many more affordable EVs on the market, though they often get much less press coverage. As more automakers introduce EV models and production volumes of plug-in vehicles increase, we are seeing even long-range battery electric cars being offered for lower than the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) of the average new car in the U.S. (estimated to be over $40,000 in 2019). The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a base model MSRP under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000. Those who are critical of EVs would like to portray all plug-ins as high-priced luxury vehicles, but that simply isn't the case in 2021. Both here and abroad, automakers are increasing electric vehicle production, pushing down prices and making more options available to buyers.
Despite the proliferation of anti-EV arguments in the press, these arguments are old and long-debunked — dubious even when they were introduced, but downright silly after a decade of advancement in the EV market.
The majority of EVs sold in 2020 were models with a starting price (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) under $40,000 and only a fifth of models had a starting price over $60,000.
Now is the time to accelerate the switch to EVs.
With the impacts of climate change becoming more evident every year and the clear science on the health harms of air pollution, it's imperative that we switch from gasoline to electric vehicles as soon as possible. To make this happen, we need to use all of the policy tools available.
Federal and state incentives are vital in the short term to make buying EVs easier for more people. Battery prices (and therefore EV prices) are dropping as the scale of production ramps up, but incentives are vital now to offset the extra initial cost of EVs.
We also need to use existing greenhouse gas emissions and air quality regulations to make sure the aspirations of automakers to go electric become reality. This means setting both strong federal standards for emissions and using California's authority under the Clean Air Act to require zero emission vehicles. Because the Clean Air Act also allows other states to adopt the California standards, there are now 11 states representing 30% of the U.S. population now moving forward with zero emission clean car standards to reduce their residents' exposure to tailpipe pollution and put their states on a path to lower carbon emissions and more states are poised to enact these standards.
Some have argued that we shouldn't rush this transition or wait until electricity and EVs are perfectly clean to start rolling out electric vehicles. There might be value in those propositions if there was not such urgency in the need to reduce emissions and clear costs for delay. Every gasoline vehicle we put on the road today means 10 to 20 years of pollution over its lifetime, and the climate-warming tailpipe pollutants accumulate in the atmosphere accumulate over time. If we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we can't afford to keep putting tailpipes on the road.
David Reichmuth is a senior engineer in the Clean Transportation Program with the Union of Concerned Scientists, focusing on oil savings and vehicle electrification.
Reposted with permission from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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By Jake Johnson
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus made clear Wednesday that while President Joe Biden's roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal is a welcome start, they believe the final package must be far more ambitious if it is to truly transform America's fossil fuel-dominated energy system and bring the country into line with crucial climate targets.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in an appearance on MSNBC late Wednesday that ideally the top-line number would be around $10 trillion in spending on core infrastructure, renewable energy, healthcare improvements, and other key priorities over the next decade, a level of investment the New York Democrat presented as necessary to match the scale of the crises facing the country.
"That may be an eye-popping figure for some people," said Ocasio-Cortez, a leading Green New Deal advocate. "But we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment, millions of people in the United States are unemployed, we have a truly crippled healthcare system, and a planetary crisis on our hands — and we're the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. So, we can do $10 trillion."
The chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), issued a similar message in a statement released just ahead of Biden's speech in Pittsburgh, where he sketched the broad outlines of his plan and promised "transformational progress in our effort to tackle climate change with American jobs and American ingenuity."
"We believe this package can and should be substantially larger in size and scope," said Jayapal. "During his campaign, President Biden committed to a '$2 trillion accelerated investment' over four years on climate-focused infrastructure alone... Today's proposal, which includes many other priorities such as care jobs, will invest half that amount — roughly $2 trillion over eight years — or 1% of GDP. It makes little sense to narrow his previous ambition on infrastructure or compromise with the physical realities of climate change."
The Washington Democrat went on to voice her caucus' preference for a single, sweeping package encompassing infrastructure spending and health insurance expansions, child care and long-term care, and other measures, rather than two separate pieces of legislation. Biden is expected to unveil the healthcare-focused portion of his package — titled the American Families Plan — some time this month.
"We believe that our country is ready for an even bolder, more comprehensive, and integrated plan that demonstrates the size, scope, and speed required to aggressively slash carbon pollution and avoid climate catastrophe; create millions of good, family-sustaining, union jobs; improve Americans' health and safety; reduce racial and gender disparities; and curb income inequality by making the wealthy and large corporations finally pay their fair share in taxes," said Jayapal.
Now is the time to go BIG. https://t.co/1qmtnhXPFy— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal)1617226200.0
In his remarks late Wednesday afternoon, Biden stressed the urgency of "bold" action on climate and characterized his proposal as "a once-in-a generation investment in America," but environmentalists and progressive lawmakers said major improvements are needed to align the actual package with the president's lofty rhetoric.
As Common Dreams reported, climate groups are expressing concern that the package in its current form falls well short of what's needed to meet Biden's commitments to slash U.S. carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, end fossil fuel subsidies, transition to 100% clean electricity by 2035, and ensure clean water for all.
"It's not enough," Evan Weber, political director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said of the current package. "Set ambitious national targets. Rally the nation. Treat it like it's an emergency. And most importantly: tell the truth about the severity of the crisis... It's the only way to close the gap between the politics of now and what's needed."
Given Democrats' narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, progressive lawmakers have significant leverage over the size and scope of the final package, which will likely be pushed through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process amid Republican opposition. Whether the CPC is willing to use its power to force dramatic changes to the legislation remains to be seen.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the CPC whip, said in a statement Wednesday that "in addition to the proposals the president laid out, we must use this moment to dramatically lower drug prices, expand Medicare to millions of people, make college more affordable, strengthen the care economy, provide a roadmap to citizenship for our immigrant communities, address the housing crisis, and make much bolder investments in green jobs."
"Now is not the time to remain beholden to a bankrupt, unpopular ideology that allows the richest people in the world to continue paying next to nothing in taxes, while millions starve in our streets," Omar added. "Now is the time to be bold, to tackle the once-in-a-millennium challenge of the climate crisis, and to ensure that we as a country at long last live up to our promise of justice for all."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Whether you've been gulping down your daily vitamins since childhood or you've decided it's time to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients of a multivitamin, more and more adults are relying on subscription services to deliver their daily nutrition.
From personalized vitamins to adaptogenic mushroom powders, there's probably a vitamin subscription company that meets your needs. With most you can even fill out a questionnaire to make sure you're getting the right supplements for your needs.
But are all of these brands, with their sleek matte pill bottles and transparent capsules, created equally?
Let's break down the differences between some of the leading vitamin subscription companies so you can choose the best brand for you and the environment.
What to Look for in a Vitamin Subscription Service
These days, there are more and more daily vitamin packs available. Dietary supplements are just another industry that has jumped onto the subscription train. As a consumer, it can be hard to cut through the noise around vitamins, supplements, superfood powders, prenatal, and other "good for you" dietary additions.
How can you be sure that a vitamin subscription service is right for you and reach your health goals? There are a few things to look out for.
First, where does the company source its ingredients? Just like with food, where your vitamins come from matters. And because there aren't strict governmental regulations on supplements, it's even more important to investigate how transparent your vitamin brand is.
Look for a brand that promises to include no fillers, additives, or preservatives in their products. Gluten-free and corn-free vitamins is also a good sign, as corn and wheat are often used as fillers to bulk up pills without any nutritional benefit.
Many of the brands below offer full transparency about where their products come from and even the specific suppliers they work with. You should check each ingredient of each vitamin in your subscription box.
The other important question to consider from a sustainability perspective is packaging. If you're having vitamins delivered to your home every 30 days, tiny plastic bottles, lids, cardboard, and bubble wrap can add up quickly.
Several companies listed below offer refillable packaging and use only materials that can be reused, recycled, and often composted. Choose from a brand that wants to deliver a daily dose in as little plastic as possible.
10 Best Vitamin Subscription Brands 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Beekeeper's Naturals offers a subscription option designed to boost immunity, restore your body, and power your brain.
Each subscription box comes with two throat sprays, B.Powered Superfood Honey, and the B.LXR Brain Fuel dietary supplement.
B.LXR features royal jelly, ginkgo biloba, and bacopa monnieri—all to help you focus and stay alert during a busy day.
Why buy: All-natural, gluten-free, and caffeine-free; contains no artificial preservatives, colors, refined sugar, gluten, wheat, yeast, corn, soya, dairy, or egg.
Price: $85 per month
CocoaVia supplements are designed to improve brain health and help with memory. This includes word recall, spatial memory, and long-term memory.
Each CocoaVia serving (3 capsules) contains 750 mg of cocoa flavanols. This is a plant-based nutrient proven to boost memory when consumed daily at high levels
Why buy: CocoaVia partners with family farmers in Indonesia and carefully extracts the cocoa flavanols from the plant to maintain the true essence of the natural crop.
Price: $45 per month
GEM is unlike any other supplement subscription on the market. Instead of sending powders or pills, your monthly GEM delivery contains chewable nutrition gummies made with whole-food ingredients like spirulina, chia seeds, quinoa and dates.
Their ingredients are carefully selected from trusted sources for maximum nutritional benefits. They're also minimally processed. In fact, each bite looks like something you could mix up in a food processor at home.
What's more, your first month is delivered in a refillable tin and every subsequent month's bites come in a compostable pouch for waste-free packaging.
Why buy: chewable, real food supplements made with plant-based ingredients; zero-waste, refillable packaging
Price: $39 per month
We like that Nurish by Nature Made's subscription line of personalized vitamins come backed by 50 years of experience in the vitamin and supplement space. You have probably seen Nature Made's magnesium, calcium, or vitamin B12 at your local drug store.
Every pill is made in small batches and each order is individually inspected for quality and accuracy. Nature Made is also closely partnered with the US Pharmacopeia, a non-profit that sets purity and potency standards for supplements.
Their personalized supplement offerings include products for men's health, prenatal and post-natal vitamins, brain health, and diabetes health.
Why buy: Small batch, all ingredients vetted by nutritional scientists
Price: $20+ per month
Seed has carefully and thoroughly applied sustainability measures to every step of its manufacturing, packaging, and customer experience.
New customers receive a welcome kit made of compostable foam and algae paper containing a glass jar of probiotics and a portable vial for travel.
When you run out, a refill comes in a compostable pouch insulated by non-GMO corn foam. Wondering how to dispose of that foam? Run it under water and watch it disappear!
Seed's zero-waste approach to packaging and shipping is setting the standard for every industry when it comes to sustainability. This is gut health with ocean health in mind.
Why buy: recyclable and biodegradable packaging; vitamin refill program; plant-based; preservative-, gluten- and corn-free
Price: $50 per month
Care/of has made a loud and public commitment to increasing the sustainability of their single-serving, daily dose personalized vitamins. The brand recently switched to fully compostable, plant-based packaging, the first step on their way towards a more sustainable business.
Care/of offers both western-style letter vitamins and traditional ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha and reishi for those looking for alternative solutions.
The brand is also transparent about its sourcing from around the world, and it maintains close relationships with the producers who supply their products.
Why buy: plant-based, compostable vitamin packs; all products tested a minimum of three times
Price: $5+ per month
Persona is probably the most clinically-viable brand on this list. New customers take an in-depth personalized nutritional assessment designed by an in-house Medical Advisory Board of doctors and health experts. Board members include Michael Roizen Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, and Robin West, Team Doctor for the Washington Nationals. This team of experts, along with Persona's nutritionists, relies on cutting-edge research to ensure the brand's recommendations are up to date and each customer gets the exact right vitamin regime for her needs.
Why buy: all ingredients carefully sourced from trusted resources; all products meet FDA regulations and meet Good Manufacturing Practices standardsPrice: $0.12 per day
We like that Ritual makes all of its sources and suppliers fully traceable and available to consumers. Its website details the backstory of each carefully-sourced ingredient and the human supplier. This level of transparency is hard to find in the supplement world, and really sets Ritual apart.
This women-founded and led business takes female health seriously and provides nuanced and targeted supplements to uniquely meet women's' nutritional needs.
Why buy: vegan; gluten-free; allergy-free; non-GMO, free of synthetic fillers
Price: $30+ per month
Vivo Life is a leader in the supplement space when it comes to environmental consciousness. In addition to making only 100% plant-based supplements that cover everything from plant-based protein powders to omega-3 vitamins to adaptogenic mushroom lattes, Vivo Life also plants a tree for every order made through their website.
The brand also goes a step further to ensure that all of its packaging, including shipping materials, are recyclable and made with 100% recycled materials. And the cherry on top comes from being certified carbon neutral, meaning Vivo offsets all of its carbon emissions to partners who reinvest the emissions into renewable energy projects.
Why buy: Certified carbon neutral; 100% plant-based products; 1 tree planted for every website order; carbon-neutral delivery
Price: $14+ per month
Form's B-Corp Certification speaks for itself: this brand is committed to doing right by the environment. All of their packaging is plastic-free.
Protein powders come in compostable bags and vitamins are shipped in reusable, recyclable glass bottles. Form also has a customer recycling program to return empty pill bottles for cleaning and reuse.
In addition to fully traceable ingredients and a plant-based commitment, Form offers some of the highest-quality and most sustainable vitamins on the market.
Why buy: fully plant-based; every purchase supports the Form Feeding Fund; Certified B-Corp
Price: $29+ per month
When selecting a vitamin subscription service to commit to, it's important to consider everything from the ingredients to the packaging materials. Some subscriptions use a simple questionnaire and an algorithm to pick your vitamin regimen. Others may ask you to submit to a blood test or DNA test. How personalized you want your program to be is up to you.
We recommend consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietician if you're making any major decisions about your health. Also take into considerations any potential allergens or the availability to supporting health products at your local drugstore to build out your routine.
We think these are the year's 8 best vitamin subscription services to balance your diet and keep you and the planet thriving.
Lizzy Briskin is the founder of Earthen Food Co. She is a chef, food writer, and recipe developer who helps people eat more mindfully for themselves and the environment, without overthinking it.
By Tara Lohan
The internal combustion engine had a good run. It helped get us to where we need to go for more than a century, but its days as the centerpiece of the automotive industry are waning.
As countries work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, electrification is stealing the limelight.
While there's still a long road ahead — electric vehicles only accounted for 3% of global car sales in 2020 — EV growth is finally climbing. From 2010 to 2019 the number of EVs on the road rose from 17,000 to 7.2 million. And that number could jump to 250 million by 2030, according to an estimate from the International Energy Agency.
The growing demand for electric vehicles is good news for limiting climate emissions from the transportation sector, but EVs still come with environmental costs. Of particular concern is the materials needed to make the ever-important batteries, some of which are already projected to be in short supply.
"Climate change is our greatest and most pressing challenge, but there are some perilous pathways to be aware of as we build out the infrastructure that gets us to a new low-carbon paradigm," says Douglas McCauley, a professor and director of the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California Santa Barbara.
One of those perilous pathways, he says, is mining the seafloor to extract minerals like cobalt and nickel that are widely used for EV batteries. Extraction of these materials has thus far been limited to land, but international regulations for mining the deep seabed far offshore are in development.
"There's alignment on the need to go as fast as we can with low-carbon infrastructure to beat climate change and electrification will play a big part in that," he says. "But the idea that we need to mine the oceans in order to do that is, I think, a very false dichotomy."
Supply and Demand
Tesla may have made owning an EV cool, but a slew of other companies now hope to make it commonplace.
Chevy Bolt charging beside a Nissan Leaf. Steve Rainwater / CC BY-SA 2.0
The latest is Volvo, which announced at the beginning of March that it will make only electric cars by 2030. This follows news that Jaguar will be all-electric in 2025 and Volkswagen after 2026. General Motors says it's aiming to make its cars and light trucks electric by 2035, while Ford is doubling its investments in EVs and plans to sell only electric cars in Europe by 2030.
There are a number of factors that will determine how quickly people adopt the technology — charging infrastructure, battery range, affordability — but top of mind for some is manufacturers' ability to keep production pace, particularly when it comes to the lithium-ion batteries that are used in not just EVs but other technologies like cell phones and laptops, as well as energy storage for solar and wind.
A 2019 study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney found that demand for lithium could exceed supply by next year, which would drive up prices and interest in more lithium mining. Demand for cobalt and nickel, also key battery components, will exceed production in less than a decade.
"Cobalt is the metal of most concern for supply risks as it has highly concentrated production and reserves, and batteries for EVs are expected to be the main end-use of cobalt in only a few years," the report's authors found.
Vying for control of these crucial materials has geopolitical implications. Right now, many of the materials are concentrated in a few nations' hands.
Most of the cobalt used in batteries today is claimed by China from mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where extraction has come with human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Most of the global lithium supply is found in Australia, Chile and Argentina.
Supply-chain issues have also caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who issued an executive order in February directing the secretary of Energy to identify "risks in the supply chain for high-capacity batteries, including electric-vehicle batteries, and policy recommendations to address these risks."
As pressure mounts to claim terrestrial minerals, commercial interest is growing to extract resources from the deep seabed, where there's an abundance of metals like copper, cobalt, nickel, manganese, lead and lithium. Investors already expect profits: One deep-sea mining company recently announced a plan to go public after merging with an investment group, creating a corporation with an expected $2.9 billion market value.
But along with that focus comes increased warnings about the damage such extraction could do to ocean health, and whether the sacrifice is even necessary.
The Deep Unknown
The high seas are "areas beyond national jurisdiction," and mining their depths will be managed by an intergovernmental body called the International Seabed Authority.
The group has already approved 28 mining contracts covering more than a million square kilometers (360,000 square miles). It's still drafting the standards and regulations for operations, but when companies get the go-ahead they'll be after three different mineral-rich targets: potato-sized polymetallic nodules, seafloor massive sulphides and cobalt-rich crusts.
But there's also concern that we still don't adequately understand the risks of operating giant underwater tractors along the seafloor.
"There are a lot of conversations about the real risks and unanswered questions about ocean mining," says McCauley. "There's now more than 90 NGOs that have come out and said that we need a moratorium on ocean mining and we shouldn't be sprinting to do this until we are able to answer some of the serious questions about the impact of mining on ocean health."
The deep sea is one of the least-explored places on the planet, but we know that these dark depths are teeming with life and are interconnected with other parts of the ocean ecosystem, despite often being 10,000 feet deep or more.
"These spaces out in the high seas, which include undersea mountain ranges, are really quite biodiverse and they're full of very unique species," says McCauley.
The deep seabed is also home to countless species we don't even know exist yet and a large diversity of carbon-absorbing microbes that build the base of the ocean's food chain.
Extracting minerals from the deep sea could put thousands of these species at risk from the direct impacts of the mining operations, as well as the associated light and noise. Plumes of sediment from discarded mining waste pose another danger.
"Those plumes could be quite large and persistent and could have a smothering effect on ocean life," says McCauley.
That could even be bad for those of us onshore.
A report by the Worldwide Fund for Nature found that "the loss of primary production, for example, could affect global fisheries, threatening the main protein source of around 1 billion people and the livelihoods of around 200 million people, many in poor coastal communities."
There's also the potential that mining the deep seabed could affect our ability to cope with a changing climate. Currently the deep sea is what McCauley calls "a big bank of safely stored carbon." He says "there's a lot of unanswered questions about what would happen if you actually started redistributing that carbon back into circulation in the oceans. This isn't the time that we want to be doing grand new experiments in an ecosystem like the ocean, which is our biggest ally in storing carbon."
Another big concern is the ability of the deep ocean ecosystem to recover from disturbance.
"It's such a special place biologically and physically," he says. "It's essentially a slice of the planet where life just moves slower and in a way that we don't see anywhere else."
Species at these depths tend to live a long time, take a while to reproduce and have low fertility rates. "And that means that life recovers more slowly than the other parts of the planet," he adds.
A small-scale simulated mining experiment done in 1989 proved just that. "Scientists have returned to the site four times, most recently in 2015," an article in Nature explained. "The site has never recovered. In the ploughed areas, which remain as visible today as they were 30 years ago, there's been little return of characteristic animals such as sponges, soft corals and sea anemones."
In order to keep heavy machinery off the ocean floor, McCauley says we can look to promising developments in battery technologies that are helping to reduce the amount of supply chain-constrained material, like cobalt.
Most of the people designing new battery technologies probably don't have deep-sea biodiversity at the top of their minds, he says. "They're designing it because these batteries are cheaper, more stable and have similar performance capabilities."
Still, the end result could help make the case for holding off on plundering the ocean's riches.
Cobalt has long been considered a key stabilizing component in lithium-ion batteries, but new chemistries have begun to whittle down the amount of cobalt needed. EV batteries containing the previous mix of equal parts nickel, manganese and cobalt in the cathode — or negatively charged electrode — can now be replaced with 80% nickel, 10% manganese and 10% cobalt. These batteries, known as NMC 811, are already being used in electric vehicles in China.
"So we've reduced the amount of cobalt from 33% down to 10%, but if you look at the projections of electric vehicles by 2030, it's going to be hard to have even 10% cobalt in the cathode because of the limited cobalt reserves that are available," says Matthew Keyser, a mechanical engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
That means that new developments are now trying to move away from cobalt entirely. But that may end up shifting demand to another metal — nickel, which is fast becoming the most valued mineral for EV batteries and could still put the ocean on the target list.
Batteries made with lithium manganese oxide or lithium iron phosphate are new alternatives that don't require nickel, but Keyser says they're still not ideal.
"They have lower energy densities and they don't work as well in vehicles," he says. "The ultimate thing that we're all trying to [achieve] is a battery with lithium sulfur, because sulfur is widely available."
Working out the kinks in that technology is still five or 10 years away, he estimates.
Beyond changing the chemical composition of batteries, we can also help reduce demand pressure on scarce minerals in other ways.
"Instead of mining the oceans we can do a better job of mining the wrecking yards where EVs will be, which is to say doing a better job with recycling batteries," says McCauley.
Currently only about 5% to 10% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled. In part that's because the process is still more expensive than acquiring most of the raw materials. It's also complex because the different variations of lithium-ion batteries on the market today each require a different recycling process.
But earnest efforts are underway to sort that out. One is Redwood Materials, started by Tesla co-founder J.B. Straubel, which says it's the largest battery recycler in North America and can recover 95-98% of elements in batteries like nickel, cobalt, lithium and copper.
There's concern that recycling can't meet short-term demand because there aren't enough batteries ready for recycling yet, but researchers believe it will be useful as a long-term solution for reducing scarcity.
"Recycling is going to be key," says Keyser. "It's going to be very important in the future and we need to do better than what we're doing right now."
Research also suggests that demand for EV cars with higher driving ranges increases the size of the batteries needed and influences the materials chosen to make them. But we can shift our technology, personal expectations and driving behavior.
Fast charge stations for electric cars in Canada. Duncan Rawlinson / CC BY-NC 2.0
"The introduction of shared-mobility services and establishing thorough charging networks can … significantly reduce material demand from the transport sector," the WWF report recommends. "Other technological developments that can reduce material demand are advances in widespread charging infrastructure to increase the range of small-sized battery EVs as well as improved battery management systems and software to increase battery efficiency."
McCauley hopes that a combination of advances will help take the pressure off sensitive ecosystems and that we don't rush into mining the seabed for short-term enrichment when better alternatives are on the horizon.
"One of my greatest fears is that we may start ocean mining because it's profitable for just a handful of years, and then we nail it with the next gen battery or we get good at doing low-cost e-waste recycling," he says. "And then we've done irreversible damage in the oceans for three years of profit."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Dana Nuccitelli
Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have long been allies in the fight to keep unchecked industrial growth from irreversibly ruining Earth's climate and threatening the future of human civilization. In their new YouTube documentary "Planet of the Humans," director Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore argue for splitting the two sides. Their misleading, outdated, and scientifically sophomoric dismissal of renewable energy is perhaps the most dangerous form of climate denial, eroding support for renewable energy as a critical climate solution.
"Planet of the Humans" by the end of April had more than 4.7 million views and fairly high scores at the movie critic review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The documentary has received glowing reviews from numerous climate "deniers" whose names are familiar to those in the climate community, including Steve Milloy, Marc Morano, and James Delingpole. Some environmentalists who have seen the movie are beginning to oppose wind and solar projects that are absolutely necessary to slow climate change.
The film by these two "progressive" filmmakers may succeed where Fox News and right-wing talk radio have failed: to undermine humanity's last best hope for positive change. As energy journalist Ketan Joshi wrote, the film is "selling far-right, climate-denier myths from nearly a decade ago to left-wing environmentalists in the 2020s."
The film follows Gibbs as he visits various green technology sites in the United States and ostensibly learns that each one is just as bad as the fossil fuel infrastructure that it would replace. Unfortunately, the movie is littered with misleading, skewed, and outdated scenes.
"Planet of the Humans"' approach is fundamentally flawed – Gibbs focuses almost exclusively on the imperfections of technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, biomass, and electric cars without considering their ability to reduce carbon and other pollutants. The film suggests that because no source of energy is perfect, all are bad, thus implying that the very existence of human civilization is the problem while offering little in the way of alternative solutions.
A Badly Outdated Portrait of Solar and Wind
In an interview with Reuters, Michael Moore summarized the premise of the film: "I assumed solar panels would last forever. I didn't know what went into the making of them."
It's true. Solar panels and wind turbines don't last forever (though they do last several decades), and like every other industrial product, they require mining and manufacturing of raw materials. Sadly, that's about as deep as the film delves into quantifying the environmental impacts of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. In fact, the misinformation in the film is at times much worse than ignorance.
In one scene, author and film co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, "You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you're getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend."
That's monumentally wrong. A 2017 study in Nature Energy found that when accounting for manufacturing and construction, the lifetime carbon footprints of solar, wind, and nuclear power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas, even when the latter include expensive carbon capture and storage technology. The energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively. There are many life-cycle assessment studies arriving at similar conclusions.
The film's case is akin to arguing that because fruit contains sugar, eating strawberries is no healthier than eating a cheesecake.
It's true that the carbon footprint of renewable energy is not zero. But the film somehow fails to mention that it's far lower than the fossil fuel alternatives, instead falsely suggesting (with zero supporting evidence) that renewables are just as bad. The closest defense of that argument comes when Zehner claims that wind and solar energy cannot displace coal, and instead retired coal power plants are being replaced by even larger natural gas plants.
In reality, coal power generation in the U.S. has declined by about half (over 1 trillion kilowatt-hours) over the past decade, and it's true that natural gas has picked up about two-thirds of that slack (670 kWh). But growth in renewables has accounted for the other one-third (370 kWh). As a result, power sector carbon emissions in the U.S. have fallen by one-third since 2008 and continue to decline steadily. In fact, electricity is the only major sector in the U.S. that's achieving significant emissions reductions.
It's true that natural gas is a fossil fuel. To reach zero emissions, it must be replaced by renewables with storage and smart grids. But thus far the path to grid decarbonization in the U.S. has been a success story that the film somehow portrays as a failure. Moreover, that decarbonization could be accelerated through policies like pricing carbon pollution, but the film does not once put a single second of thought into policy solutions.
In perhaps its most absurd scene, Gibbs and Zehner visit a former solar facility in Daggett, California, built in the mid-1980s and replaced 30 years later. Gazing upon the sand-covered landscape of the former facility, Gibbs declares in an ominous tone, "It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at: a solar dead zone."
Daggett is located in the Mojave Desert. Sand is the natural landscape. Solar farms don't create dead zones; in fact, some plants thrive under the shade provided by solar panels.
It suddenly dawned on me how hard the film was trying to portray clean energy in a negative light.
A Shallow Dismissal of Electric Vehicles
In another science, Gibbs travels to a General Motors facility in Lansing, Michigan, circa 2010, as GM showcased its then-new Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle. Gibbs interviews a representative from the local municipal electric utility provider, who notes that they generate 95% of their supply by burning coal, and that the power to charge the GM facility's EVs will not come from renewables in the near future.
That is the full extent of the discussion of EVs in the film. Viewers are left to assume that because these cars are charged by burning coal, they're just greenwashing. In reality, because of the high efficiency of electric motors, an electric car charged entirely by burning coal still produces less carbon pollution than an internal combustion engine car (though more than a hybrid). The U.S. Department of Energy has a useful tool for comparing carbon emissions between EVs, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, and gasoline-powered cars for each state. In Michigan, on average, EVs are the cleanest option of all, as is the case for the national average power grid. In West Virginia, with over 90% electricity generated from coal, hybrids are the cleanest option, but EVs are still cleaner than gasoline cars.
In short, EVs are an improvement over gasoline-powered cars everywhere, and their carbon footprints will continue to shrink as renewables expand to supply more of the power grid.
A Valid Critique of Wood Biomass
The film devotes a half hour to the practice of burning trees for energy. That's one form of biomass, which also includes burning wood waste, garbage, and biofuels. Last year, 1% of U.S. electricity was generated by burning wood, but it accounted for 30% of the film run time.
In fairness, Europe is a different story, where wood biomass accounts for around 5% of electricity generation, and which imports a lot of wood chips from America. It's incentivized because the European Union considers burning wood to be carbon neutral, and it can thus be used to meet climate targets. That's because new trees can be planted to replace those removed, and the EU assumes the wood being burned would have decayed and released its stored carbon anyway.
There are numerous problems with those assumptions, one of which is unavoidable: time. Burning trees is close to carbon neutral once a replacement tree grows to sufficient maturity to recapture the lost carbon, but that takes many decades. In the meantime, the carbon released into the atmosphere accelerates the climate crisis at a time when slashing emissions is increasingly urgent. That's why climate scientists are increasingly calling on policymakers to stop expanding this practice. So has 350.org founder Bill McKibben since 2016, despite his depiction in the film as a villainous proponent of clearcutting forests to burn for energy.
It's complicated, but the carbon footprint of biomass depends on where the wood comes from. Burning waste (including waste wood) as biomass that would decay anyway is justifiable, but also generally only practical at a relatively small scale. A more detailed investigation of the wood biomass industry could make for a worthwhile documentary. It's still a small-time player, but it does need to stay that way.
The Bottom Line
Gibbs asks, "Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?"
Why not? Industrial civilization has a non-zero climate and environmental footprint, but the impact of green technologies like EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels is much smaller than the alternatives. They represent humanity's best chance to avoid a climate catastrophe.
The filmmakers call for an end to limitless economic growth and consumption. It's difficult to envision that goal being achieved anytime soon, but even if it is, human civilization will continue to exist and require energy. To avert a climate crisis, that energy must be supplied by the clean renewable technologies pilloried in the film. To expand on the earlier analogy, the filmmakers seem to believe we should improve nutrition not by eating healthier foods like strawberries, but rather by eating a bit less cheesecake.
Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It's a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity's last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.