By John R. Platt
It's a dirty world out there — but it doesn't have to be.
That message rings out from a slate of important new books covering the fight against various pollutants around the world. They examine everything from pesticides to air pollution and from mining waste to the trash that accumulates all around us. Along the way these books shine a light on some bigger stories — like our food system and human effects on complex ecosystems. They also dive deep into the racism, indifference, greed and ignorance that allow these toxic compounds to flourish in our world and in our bodies.
One group of pollutants didn't make it onto this list: greenhouse gases. We'll look at them in September's column, covering timely new books on climate change.
But for now, here are 13 new dirty books about filth for your perusal, along with their cover descriptions. Each title links to its publisher's site, but you should also be able to order these from any local or online bookseller or your favorite library.
The World We Need: Stories and Lessons From America's Unsung Environmental Movement edited by Audrea Lim
"…a vivid introduction to America's largely unsung grassroots environmental groups — often led by activists of color and the poor — valiantly fighting back in America's so-called sacrifice zones against industries poisoning our skies and waterways and heating our planet. Through original reporting, profiles, artwork and interviews, we learn how these activist groups, almost always working on shoestring budgets, are devising creative new tactics, building sustainable projects to transform local economies and organizing people long overlooked by the environmental movement — changing its face along the way."
"Lee Johnson was a man with simple dreams. All he wanted was a steady job and a nice home for his wife and children, something better than the hard life he knew growing up. He never imagined that he would become the face of a David-and-Goliath showdown against one of the world's most powerful corporate giants. But a workplace accident left Lee doused in a toxic chemical and facing a deadly cancer that turned his life upside down. In 2018, the world watched as Lee was thrust to the forefront of one the most dramatic legal battles in recent history."
Breathless: Why Air Pollution Matters — and How It Affects You by Chris Woodford
"Take a deep breath. You'll do it 20,000 times a day. You assume all this air is clean; it's the very breath of life. But in Delhi, the toxic smog is as bad for you as smoking 50 cigarettes a day. Even a few days in Paris, London or Rome is equivalent to two or three cigarettes. Air pollution is implicated in six of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia. Breathless gives us clear facts about air pollution in our everyday lives, showing how it affects our bodies, how much of it occurs in unexpected places (indoors, inside your car), and how you can minimize the risks."
Pollution Is Colonialism by Max Liboiron
"Liboiron draws on their work in the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) — an anticolonial science laboratory in Newfoundland, Canada — to illuminate how pollution is not a symptom of capitalism but a violent enactment of colonial land relations that claim access to Indigenous land. Liboiron's creative, lively and passionate text refuses theories of pollution that make Indigenous land available for settler and colonial goals. In this way, their methodology demonstrates that anticolonial science is not only possible but is currently being practiced in ways that enact more ethical modes of being in the world."
Playing With Fire: The Strange Case of Marine Shale Processors by John W. Sutherlin and Daniel Elliot Gonzalez
"This book examines the tale of Marine Shale Processors, the world's largest hazardous waste company, and the women who fought to protect their community and their children. The lesson here is that a dedicated group of people fighting for what is right can win and it serves as an example for any community that wants to determine what their own environmental future."
Herbicides: Chemistry, Efficacy, Toxicology and Environmental Impacts edited by Robin Mesnage and Johann G. Zaller
"A comprehensive overview of this complex topic, presented by internationally recognized experts. Information presented will inform discussions on the use of herbicides in modern agricultural and other systems, and their potential non-target effects on human populations and various ecosystems. The book covers these matters in concise language appropriate to engage both specialists in the research community and informed persons responsible for legislative, funding and public health matters in the community at large."
Earth Detox: How and Why We Must Clean Up Our Planet by Julian Cribb
"Every person on our home planet is affected by a worldwide deluge of man-made chemicals and pollutants — most of which have never been tested for safety. Our chemical emissions are six times larger than our total greenhouse gas emissions. They are in our food, our water, the air we breathe, our homes and workplaces, the things we use each day. This universal poisoning affects our minds, our bodies, our genes, our grandkids and all life on Earth. Julian Cribb describes the full scale of the chemical catastrophe we have unleashed. He proposes a new Human Right — not to be poisoned."
The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country From Corporate Greed by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh
"The David and Goliath story of ordinary people in El Salvador who rallied together with international allies to prevent a global mining corporation from poisoning the country's main water source."
Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything — and Endangered the World by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
"Over the past few decades, palm oil has seeped into every corner of our lives. But the palm oil revolution has been built on stolen land and slave labor; it's swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that iconic animals now teeter on the brink of extinction. This groundbreaking work of first-rate journalism compels us to examine the connections between the choices we make at the grocery store and a planet under siege."
Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound by David B. Williams
"In conversations with archaeologists, biologists and tribal authorities, Williams traces how generations of humans have interacted with such species as geoducks, salmon, orcas, rockfish and herring. He sheds light on how warfare shaped development and how people have moved across this maritime highway, in canoes, the mosquito fleet and today's ferry system. The book also takes an unflinching look at how the Sound's ecosystems have suffered from human behavior, including pollution, habitat destruction and the effects of climate change."
Plastic: An Autobiography by Allison Cobb
"Cobb's obsession with a large plastic car part leads her to explore the violence of our consume-and-dispose culture, including her own life as a child of Los Alamos, where the first atomic bombs were made. The journey exposes the interconnections among plastic waste, climate change, nuclear technologies and racism. Using a series of interwoven narratives ― from ancient Phoenicia to Alabama ― the book bears witness to our deepest entanglements and asks how humans continue on this planet."
Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet by Chelsea Wald
"While we see radical technological change in almost every other aspect of our lives, we remain stuck in a sanitation status quo — in part because the topic of toilets is taboo. Fortunately, there's hope — and Pipe Dreams daringly profiles the growing army of sewage-savvy scientists, engineers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and activists worldwide who are overcoming their aversions and focusing their formidable skills on making toilets accessible and healthier for all."
"All of Mumbai's possessions and memories come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains. Towering at the outskirts of the city, the mountains are covered in a faint smog from trash fires. Over time, as wealth brought Bollywood knock offs, fast food and plastics to Mumbaikars, a small, forgotten community of migrants and rag-pickers came to live at the mountains' edge, making a living by re-using, recycling and re-selling. Among them is Farzana Ali Shaikh, a tall, adventurous girl who soon becomes one of the best pickers in her community. Like so many in her community, Farzana, made increasingly sick by the trash mountains, is caught up in the thrill of discovery — because among the broken glass, crushed cans or even the occasional dead baby, there's a lingering chance that she will find a treasure to lift her family's fortunes." (Available in September.)
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
Scientists have grown increasingly alarmed about the decline in insect populations worldwide. While some causes — like pesticide use, habitat loss and the climate crisis — are clear, other potential factors, like artificial light at night (ALAN), are more nebulous.
Now, researchers writing in Science Advances Wednesday told BBC News they have found the strongest evidence yet that nighttime lights really are leading to the decline of local insect populations. In some of the areas they studied, the presence of light decreased moth caterpillar populations by nearly 50 percent.
"We were really quite taken aback by just how stark it was," lead study author Douglas Boyes from UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology told AFP.
Previous studies have shown that ALAN can have numerous negative impacts on insects, including increasing their risk of being eaten by predators and disrupting their reproduction and pollination, the study authors noted.
"Yet," they continued, "it remains unclear whether the effects of ALAN are predominately disruptive impacts on the behavior of individuals or whether ALAN is actively diminishing the populations of pollinators and insect populations more broadly."
To answer this question the researchers looked at moth caterpillars near roadsides in southern England. They compared the populations of caterpillars at hedgerows and grass margins at 26 sites along lit and unlit roads, BBC News explained. What they found is that there were 47 percent fewer caterpillars in the lit hedgerows and 33 percent fewer caterpillars in the lit grass margins.
In a separate experiment, they also set up lights on fields and found that there were fewer caterpillars under LED lights, suggesting the lights were disrupting feeding.
"In a local setting we can now be quite confident that light pollution is important, but what's less clear is if we're looking at a whole landscape," Boyes told BBC News.
One important aspect of the study is that the caterpillars were more impacted by LED lights than high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps or older low-pressure sodium (LPS) lamps that create a yellow-orange light, AFP reported. This is troubling because LED lights have grown more popular in recent years because they are more energy efficient.
However, Boyes told AFP that "there are really quite accessible solutions" to the problem.
These include putting filters on the lights to change their color to one less like sunlight, or adding shields around the lights so they illuminate the road and not surrounding insect habitat.
"If insects are in trouble — as we believe they are, and have evidence to support that — perhaps we should be doing all we can to reduce these negative influences," he told BBC News.
- Fireflies Face Extinction From Habitat Loss, Light Pollution and ... ›
- Scientists Sound Alarm About Insect Apocalypse - EcoWatch ›
- Germany's New Wildflower Meadows Offer Urban Safe Havens to ... ›
- Light Pollution: The Dangers of Bright Skies at Night - EcoWatch ›
The sprawling size and sunny days of Texas make it one of the top states for solar energy. If you live in the Lone Star State and are interested in switching to a solar energy system, you may be wondering: What's the average solar panel cost in Texas?
In this article, we'll discuss the cost of solar panels in Texas, what factors affect pricing, Texas' solar incentives and more. Of course, the only way to know for sure how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof is to receive a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company near you. You can get started by filling out the quick form below.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in Texas?
Thanks to the growing investment in renewable energy technology statewide, homeowners now enjoy a below-average cost of solar in Texas. Based on market research and data from top brands, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Texas to be $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is especially valuable when you take into account the unpredictable Texas energy rates.
Here's how that average calculates into the cost of the most common sizes of home solar panel systems:
|Size of Solar Panel System||Texas Solar Panel Cost||Cost After Federal Tax Credit|
Though this data reflects the statewide averages, you'll need to contact a solar installer near you to get an accurate quote for your home. Savvy customers will get free quotes from multiple companies and compare them to the state averages to make sure they receive the best value possible. Bear in mind that the biggest providers of solar won't always have the best prices.
What Determines the Cost of Solar Panels in Texas?
The main factor determining the cost of solar panel installations in Texas is the homeowner's energy needs. No two homes are the same, and installation costs will look far different for a home needing a basic 5kW system and a home needing 10kW with backup power capabilities. The solar financing and installation company a homeowner chooses will also affect a customer's overall solar costs in Texas. Here's how each factor comes into play:
Similar to phones, cars and other technology, solar products and system costs vary greatly based on their quality, scale and included features. Some customers may be satisfied with a modest array of affordable solar panels and inverters, while others may opt for a system with premium panels, full-home backup power and cutting-edge energy monitoring technology.
The overall cost of solar depends significantly on how a customer chooses to finance their system. The three most common solar financing options include paying in cash, taking out a solar loan and solar leasing.
- The most economical way to purchase solar, an upfront cash purchase provides the best long-term return on investment and the lowest overall cost.
- Customers can choose to take out a solar loan to purchase the system outright and make monthly payments to repay the loan. The typical payback period for a solar loan averages around 10 years. Systems purchased with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Signing a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) allows a solar customer to rent solar panels from a company or third party. Though requiring the least amount of money upfront, solar leases provide the least amount of overall value. Also, solar leases aren't eligible for the federal tax credit, as the homeowner doesn't actually own the system.
Solar Installation Company
Texas has seen some of the strongest solar energy market growth over the last few years, and the SEIA reports that there are now nearly 600 solar companies based in Texas, and each is looking to expand its market share.
Price ranges can differ significantly based on the installer. Larger solar providers like Sunrun offer the advantage of solar leases and quick installations. Local providers, on the other hand, provide more personalization and competitive prices to undercut the biggest national companies.
Because of this, it's wise to get quotes from a few local and national installers and compare rates — because of the stiff competition between companies, you could end up saving several thousand dollars.
Texas Solar Incentives
For the most part, Texas taxes are administered by local governments. As a result, the state doesn't offer a large number of statewide solar-related policies, and incentives will depend more on the locality in which you live.
However, all homeowners in the state remain eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and there are some statewide local property tax exemptions for both photovoltaic solar and wind-powered renewable energy systems. Let's walk through how to find what incentives are available to you.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
All Texans can claim the federal solar investment tax credit, or ITC, for PV solar panels and energy storage systems. By claiming the ITC on your tax returns, the policy allows you to deduct 26% of the total cost of the solar system from the taxes you owe the federal government.
The tax credit is available to both residential and commercial system owners who have installed solar panels at any point since 2006. The credit is worth 26% through the end of 2022 and will drop to 22% in 2023. It is set to expire at the end of 2023 unless congress extends it.
Net Metering Policies in Texas
Net metering programs allow customers to sell unused solar energy back to their local utility company in exchange for credits that can be cashed in when panels aren't producing energy. Due to the energy bill savings, this incentive can greatly reduce the solar investment payback period.
As is true with most of Texas' solar rebates and incentives, there is not one net metering program that is offered throughout the entire state. Rather, your eligibility will depend on the policy of your local utility company or municipality. Most utilities in the state have a net metering policy, including American Electric Power (AEP), CPS Energy, Green Mountain Energy, El Paso Electric, TXU Energy in Dallas and more.
The rate at which your local utility will compensate for this excess energy will depend on your local policy, so we encourage you to look into the policy offered by your utility company.
Local Solar Rebates in Texas
In addition to identifying your local net metering program, look into any local rebates available to you. Homeowners who live in the top cities for solar in Texas, like Austin, San Marcos or Sunset Valley might have more luck than customers in other areas. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency has a full list of local rebates, solar loan programs and more.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cost Texas
Is it worth going solar in Texas?
Long, sunny days and below-average solar installation costs make Texas one of the best states in the U.S. for generating energy with solar panels. The ample sunshine provides more than enough energy for most families, serving up huge benefits to homes in Texas equipped with solar panels.
How much does it cost to install solar panels in Texas?
As of 2021, the average cost of solar panels in Texas is $2.69 per watt. This means a 5-kW system would cost around $9,953 after the federal solar tax credit. This is slightly below the national average due to the resource availability in Texas, current energy costs and the state's available sunlight. The best way to assess how much solar would cost you is to consult local providers near you for a free estimate.
Do solar panels increase home value in Texas?
Solar panels increase home value everywhere, but mostly in areas with generous net metering policies and solar rebates. As such, the proportion at which solar panels increase home value in Texas corresponds with the areas with the most solar-friendly policies.
How much do solar panels cost for a 2,500 sq foot house?
Though knowing the size of a house is helpful in determining how many solar panels could fit on its roof, the energy use of the house is the more important factor in determining solar panel cost in Texas. The higher your energy use, the greater your solar needs will be.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
A new study published in a special issue of the American Water Works Association Water Science journal Tuesday found that there were nearly 42,000 potential sources of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution that could contaminate surface water or drinking water in the U.S.
"It is critical that the EPA start regulating PFAS – now," lead study author and Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. said in a press release announcing the research. "Every community in the U.S. is likely affected by PFAS contamination, but those living near or downstream from industrial facilities may be more at risk."
PFAS are a class of chemicals often used in stain or water repellents, non-stick products and firefighting foam, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down over time and tend to persist and accumulate in the environment and the human body. They are also constantly turning up in more and more locations, from rain, to cosmetics to the air we breathe.
The new study, which was conducted by EWG scientists, looked at potential sources of PFAS contamination based on public data from the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online database. It found that the most common potential pollution sources were solid waste landfills, wastewater treatment plants, oil refineries and electroplaters and metal finishers.
The new research also looked at case studies from Michigan and California, in which testing revealed a wide range of PFAS sources.
"The results from states like Michigan show there is a wide variety of sources of PFAS in surface water," Andrews said in the EWG release. "Many landfills and industrial sites release PFAS at detectable concentrations that may exceed state limits or health guidelines for PFAS in water."
There is currently no national limit for PFAS contamination in water, according to the study authors, though the EPA says it is currently working on setting one. In the meantime, six states have set their own limits. However, research is continually showing health impacts from PFAS at lower and lower levels.
"For example, state guidelines for exposure to PFOA have decreased approximately three orders of magnitude from 7000 ng/L [nanograms per liter], set by Minnesota in 2002, to 8 ng/L, set by Michigan in 2020," the study authors wrote.
Still, the latest research puts the safe concentration even lower, at 1 ng/L. Drinking PFAS-contaminated water at even low levels has been linked with health risks including immune suppression, cancer and reproductive or developmental problems, according to the EWG release.
In response to the study results, EWG called for greater industry and government action on PFAS.
"We need to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution from these industrial discharges, which affects more and more Americans every day. That's the first step," Scott Faber, EWG's senior vice president for government affairs, said in the press release. "The second step is for the EPA to set a national PFAS drinking water standard. And the third is to clean up legacy pollution."
The study authors thought that it would be possible to reduce PFAS in the U.S. water supply by rigorously testing drinking and surface water, as well as the emissions from potential sources of PFAS pollution.
- This Strategy Protects Public Health From PFAS 'Forever Chemicals ... ›
- Are Forever Chemicals Harming Ocean Life? - EcoWatch ›
- Harmful PFAS Compounds Pollute Water in Every State - EcoWatch ›
- Forever Chemicals Are in the Air, Too - EcoWatch ›
Smoke from wildfires can make people more susceptible to catching COVID – and dying from it.
Over 700 more people died and nearly 20,000 more were infected with the virus than would have been expected if they had not been exposed to air polluted with particulate matter from fires that burned during last summer's record-breaking fire season, a new study from Harvard and published in the journal Scientific Advances on Friday found.
Health experts have suspected since the early days of the pandemic that a link existed between air pollution and the likelihood of catching the disease and experiencing a more severe infection, because small particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in smoke can impair the ability of white blood cells in the lungs to combat respiratory infections. Historically, this has led to higher rates of health problems such as asthma for people – more likely people of color and low income – who live near polluting facilities.
"We were not terribly surprised by the results as scientists," co-author Kevin Josey told Gizmodo, "but as humans we are dismayed about the impacts."
As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:
While a correlation between wildfire smoke and COVID-19 doesn't prove causation, the study's authors say the tie is no coincidence. Plenty of research since the start of the pandemic has suggested that exposure to smoke's primary unhealthy component PM 2.5, which refers to particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in size or smaller, compromises people's immunity and increases susceptibility to COVID-19. Scientists also hypothesize that the virus may be spread by the particles.
The new findings come as the delta variant fuels yet another surge of coronavirus infections across the country while fire season is again in high gear in the West. Parts of California are already blanketed in smoke, with bad air recently reported as far away as New York and North Carolina.
"It's a horrible combination," said Francesca Dominici, one of the authors of the study and a biostatistician at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Together, the wildfires and COVID-19 make us even sicker."
For a deeper dive:
- Smoke From Western Wildfires to Spread as Far as New York ... ›
- Google to Add Air Quality Data to Nest Hub Displays - EcoWatch ›
- What's in Wildfire Smoke, and How Bad Is It for Your Lungs ... ›
- A new campaign draws attention to the fact that Starbucks cups are not truly recyclable due to a coating of polyethylene plastic on the inside of the cup.
- Starbucks has made several pledges to produce recyclable cups dating back to 2008 — but its cups are still unable to be recycled economically.
- Solutions already exist for fully recyclable cups, including a coating for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic.
When you order your Venti-sized espresso macchiato at Starbucks, it will arrive in what looks and feels like a cardboard cup topped with a plastic lid. After you finish your drink, you might think about dumping your cup into a paper recycling bin. But you shouldn't. Starbucks cups are actually lined with polyethylene plastic coating that makes it nearly impossible to recycle, experts say.
"Paper recycling is designed for recycling paper — not plastic," Will Lorenzi, president of packaging engineering company Smart Planet Technologies, told Mongabay in an interview. "There's a whole variety of products that have plastic coatings on it … and when those products hit the pulper [in a recycling plant] they block it up. It's almost like a storm drain. If there's a few leaves, a branch maybe, the storm drain is going to be fine. But if you get too many leaves and too many branches, all of a sudden the whole drain clogs up."
It's estimated that 1.6 million trees are logged each year to produce Starbucks cups, and that 4 million of these cups end up in landfills, according to Stand.Earth, a group that started
in 2016. Starbucks itself actually pledged to create a fully recyclable paper cup back in 2008, but nothing resulted from this commitment.
"So many people have confessed to us that they feel at least a little bit guilty about ordering a single-use coffee in a paper cup that came from critical forests," Jim Ace, a senior campaigner and actions manager at Stand.Earth, told Mongabay in an email. "Many feel even worse when they learn it's lined with polyethylene plastic, whether they are concerned for their own health or the health of the planet. Most consumers don't realize Starbucks cups have been uneconomical to recycle, in part because they are lined with plastic, so they've ended up in landfills."
According to a recent survey conducted in the U.S. by the SEAL Awards, which recognizes companies for their sustainability and environmental leadership, 83% of Starbucks customers actually believe that Starbucks cups can be recycled.
"At heart, the cup problem is a moral and leadership issue," Matt Harney, founder of SEAL, said in a statement. "Like the 83% of consumers we surveyed, I recently thought that paper cups were, in fact, recyclable."
Stand.Earth ended its campaign in 2019 when Starbucks partnered with other industry giants to support the NextGen Cup Challenge, which called on innovators to create a recyclable and compostable cup. Twelve winners were chosen, but two years later, the problem has still not been solved.
"Starbucks committed itself to solving its cup problem and have taken steps to develop solutions, but the majority of its customers still leave the store with single-use, disposable paper cups that are lined with plastic, which end up in the landfill," Ace said. "Until that is solved, Starbucks still has a responsibility to address the problem."
A commercially viable solution is already here, Lorenzi said. In 2016, his company, Smart Planet Technologies, developed EarthCoating, a film for paperboard barrier packaging that uses 40-51% less plastic than conventional plastic coating barriers.
"We came up with something that would basically be recyclable, and at the same time, work just as well as the current packaging we have," Lorenzi said. The coating uses a special mix of minerals and resin so that the coating can easily be separated from the cardboard during the recycling process, and sink to the bottom of the pulper along with dirt and other residue, he added.
Several big companies, including United Airlines and Taco Bell in Australia, already use recyclable products with EarthCoating, Lorenzi said. Yet Starbucks has not adopted this technology, despite Smart Planet Technologies reaching out to Starbucks on several occasions.
Coffe cups lined with EarthCoding. Smart Planet Technologies
"They pretend we don't exist," Lorenzi said. "They pretend it's not happening. They continue to do their own thing."
On Starbucks' website, the company pledges to "double the recycled content, recyclability and compostability, and reusability" of its cups and packaging by 2022.
Yet Lorenzi said he is not convinced this is a definitive goal. "It's about the fifth date they set," he said. "They started in 2008 — they were going to do it by 2012. And in 2010, they said they'd do it by 2015. In 2015, they said they'd do it by 2020. They're now with the next one, which is 2022."
Starbucks did not respond to Mongabay's request for comment.
This month, the SEAL Awards Impact Team launched a campaign called #UpTheCup to call on Starbucks to truly adopt a recyclable cup. An accompanying petition has already garnered more than 60,000 signatures.
"In reality, as a society, we entrust leaders to make decisions — like the type of cup used — in a truly responsible way, even if that issue has gone undetected by the general public," Harney said. "To quote C.S. Lewis, 'Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.'"
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
- Starbucks Pilots Reusable Cups in Seattle, But Does the New ... ›
- Starbucks Is Testing Fully Compostable Cups in Five Cities ... ›
Human-created noise pollution is altering seagrass beds on a cellular level and causing them to uproot themselves. This could have dire effects on marine ecosystem health, water quality, shoreline stabilization and the climate crisis.
Seagrasses are the only flowering plants that grow in marine environments. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, seagrasses have dotted our ocean for at least 70 million years. Today, there are about 60 species of fully marine seagrasses, and they are found in undersea meadows along the shores of every continent except Antarctica, reported The Blue Carbon Initiative.
The above-ground grassy plant provides critical habitats and food for fisheries, sea turtles, manatees and other marine animals. They also filter sediment and runoff from land, thereby improving water quality.
A crocodile living in seagrass beds in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba. Fabrice Dudenhofer / Ocean Image Bank
Below the ocean floor, seagrasses have deep root systems which trap sediment and sequester carbon into the marine soil, sometimes up to four meters deep, The Blue Carbon Initiative found. Because of this ecosystem function, seagrasses sequester approximately 10 percent of carbon buried in ocean sediment annually (around 27.4Tg of carbon each year). They do so despite accounting for less than 0.2 percent of oceans around the world. The report estimated that seagrasses around the world may hold as much as 19.9 billion metric tons of organic carbon, making them a critical blue carbon sink.
A healthy seagrass bed serves a variety of ecosystem functions. Benjamin L. Jones / Unsplash
On the human front, seagrasses work with mangroves and coral reefs to build up and secure sand and sediment, which prevents shoreline erosion. These ecosystems also create a natural coastal barrier against storms and flooding and protect shoreline properties and developments.
Despite all these functions, seagrasses "do not get the respect they deserve" as the "ocean's unsung hero," the Ocean Conservancy reported. In fact, they are among the world's most threatened ecosystems and we've lost almost 30% of Earth's seagrass ecosystems to date. Major threats include degradation due to poor water quality from runoff due to poor land-use including deforestation and dredging, boat propeller scarring and the climate crisis. Unfortunately, annual losses are also accelerating, The Blue Carbon Initiative reported.
Now, a new study has found that human-created noise is also to blame.
Noise is a nuisance that can sometimes be unbearable. This is true even in the ocean, where an unrelated study from 2021 found that human-created noise pollution is harming marine animals by damaging their hearing, changing their behaviors and even harming their chances of survival. The newest study, published in Communications Biology, linked noise pollution to another crippling effect — this time in seagrasses. Unwanted noisiness is altering the marine plants on a cellular level and causing them to uproot themselves.
Humans have ruined the ocean's natural soundscape through shipping, oil and gas extractions and renewable energy development, Inside Science reported. All of these act as a noise pollutant underwater, with far-reaching consequences.
Authored by Michel André from the Technical University of Catalonia in Spain, the study initially focused on creatures with hearing organs, such as dolphins and fish, the news report said. Then, they studied noise impacts on animals that lack traditional hearing structures, like octopuses and squids. They found that noise damages the organs these animals use to orient themselves.
"And this was truly something that changed our perspective of how noise pollution could affect [the] marine environment," André told Inside Science.
His curiosity led him to wonder if a similar organ in plants that helps them detect gravity and push their roots down into the seafloor might also be affected by artificial, subaquatic noise, Hakai Magazine reported. He and his team focused on a species of seagrass, P. oceanica, prevalent near their laboratory in Barcelona, Spain. Playing sounds with changing frequency representative of human activities, the scientists measured the effects of such sound drowning on 84 seagrass plants in experimental tanks.
The noise level was roughly 157 dB underwater, which is "somewhere between a bass drum and a subway train," Inside Science reported. As it turns out, just two hours of noise exposure damaged the plant organ responsible for detecting gravity, which could affect the plant's ability to stay rooted in the soil, the report continued.
The scientists involved in the study believe it to be the first-ever to inquire into the impact of noise on plant structure. André believes that plants could be harmed more than other organisms because they cannot get up and leave, should a location become unbearably and excessively noisy, Inside Science reported.
The team also found that the number of starch grains inside the organ decreased, and a symbiotic fungus inside the organs likely involved in nutrient uptake also suffered, Hakai Magazine reported. This type of damage could affect seagrass's ability to store energy and continue to grow.
"If the sound is affecting the starch, then carbon metabolism within the plant is going to change, for sure. And this might have effects on the role the plants have on carbon sequestration at the bigger scale," said Aurora Ricart, a marine ecologist at Maine's Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences who was not involved in the research, Hakai Magazine reported.
Should that happen, the other ecosystem functions that seagrasses currently serve — as habitats, food sources, shoreline stabilizers and blue carbon sinks — would also degrade.
André clarified that his intention was not to prevent humans from operating at sea, Inside Science reported. Instead, the scientist concluded with a hope that his data would inspire humans how to best live with nature, "which is the only way we can have a chance to survive on our planet."
A healthy seagrass bed in Lakshadweep Islands. Umeed Mistry / Ocean Image Bank
- Human Noise Pollution Is Harming Ocean Creatures - EcoWatch ›
- Seagrass: Another Vital Carbon-Sequestering Ecosystem ... ›
- Seagrass Could Play a Major Role in Slowing Climate Change ... ›
New York City's air quality was the worst in the world on Tuesday, posing a danger to everyone, not just groups considered more vulnerable than the general population. Even thinned by its 2,500 mile journey across the continent, smoke was so thick George Pope, a professor of earth and environmental studies at Montclair State University, couldn't see Manhattan from his New Jersey office.
"You can pretty much always see the skyline, at least a silhouette, if it's a hazy day," he told The Guardian. "This is, like, this is unprecedented." Nearly 80 large wildfires have burned more than 1.3 million acres across 13 states so far this year.
As reported by The Associated Press:
"These fires are going to be burning all summer," said University of Washington wildfire smoke expert Dan Jaffe. "In terms of bad air quality, everywhere in the country is to going to be worse than average this year."
Growing scientific research points to potential long-term health damage from breathing in microscopic particles of smoke. Authorities have scrambled to better protect people from the harmful effects but face challenges in communicating risk to vulnerable communities and people who live very far away from burning forests.
For a deeper dive:
Air quality: The Guardian, AP, Axios, Today Show, The Hill; Fires: Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Hill; Health risks: AP explainer; Photos: Buzzfeed; Climate Signals background: 2021 Western wildfire season
- What's in Wildfire Smoke, and How Bad Is It for Your Lungs ... ›
- Smoke From Western Wildfires to Spread as Far as New York ... ›
Beginning Thursday, an Air Quality Index (AQI) badge will be added to the clock and weather widget for select U.S. markets.
"Between wildfire season and recent increased efforts to reduce air pollution, it's more important than ever to know about the air quality in your area," the company said.
The new information will appear in Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max in the Photo Frame/"Ambient screen," 9to5Google explained. It will show up in the bottom-left corner time widget if you are using the Google Photos or Art gallery clock face.
The update should appear on your screen within the next few weeks, and you can opt out by adjusting the display settings, the company said.
The addition also comes with two special features:
- The ability to ask, "What's the air quality near me?" as a voice command.
- Alerts when air quality reaches "unhealthy" or "unhealthy for sensitive groups."
When the air quality is unhealthy, the badge turns red and an alert pops up in the top right, 9to5Google said.
Google's air quality information will be based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), which establishes a scale for how polluted the air has become.
"Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500," the website explained. "The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality."
The index is color coded as follows:
- Green: Good (0 to 50)
- Yellow: Moderate (51 to 100)
- Orange: Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (101-150)
- Red: Unhealthy (151-200)
- Purple: Very Unhealthy (201-300)
- Maroon: Hazardous (301 and up)
Once air quality reaches unhealthy levels, some members of the general public may experience health impacts, which are likely to be even worse for people in sensitive groups.
The index measures ground-level ozone, particulate matter pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Poor air quality has made headlines in recent years partly because of more extreme and frequent wildfires fueled by the climate crisis. Last September, for example, wildfire smoke got so thick that Portland, Oregon's air quality went off the charts to more than 500 on the AQI.
Air pollution exposure is associated with a wide variety of health risks and was responsible for 6.67 million deaths worldwide in 2020. Exposure to air pollution has also now been linked to an increased risk of dying from the new coronavirus, as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explained.
- The Best Smart Home Systems (Save On Energy) - EcoWatch ›
- Wildfire Smoke Linked to Increased COVID Risks ›
Coca-Cola is once again the brand name most likely to show up on trash collected from UK beaches, the latest installment in a yearly analysis has shown.
The analysis was the result of a yearly brand audit conducted by ocean conservation group Surfers Against Sewage as part of a beach clean event. The group found that Coke was one of 12 parent companies responsible for more than 65 percent of all branded pollution.
"Our annual Brand Audit has once again revealed the shocking volume of plastic and packaging pollution coming directly from big companies and some of their best known brands," Surfers Against Sewage Chief Executive Hugo Tagholm said in a press release. "Serial offenders including Coca-Cola – which tops the leader board year on year as the worst offender – are still not taking responsibility."
The audit was based on the group's Million Mile Clean, in which more than 50,000 volunteers cleaned a total of 350,000 miles and collected 26,983 items of packaging pollution from May 11 to 23. This effort revealed the "Dirty Dozen" companies whose various product names were most often found on bags and bottles: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Bush InBev, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Heineken, Tesco, Carlsberg Group, Suntory, Haribo, Mars and Aldi.
Further, the analysis revealed the top 12 most polluting brands: Coca-Cola, Walkers, McDonalds, Cadbury, Tesco, Lucozade, Costa Coffee, Budweiser, Mars- Wrigley, Stella Artois, Haribo and Aldi. (Walkers is a UK chip company owned by Pepsi).
There were many repeat offenders on the lists, including Coke, which has taken the top spot for every year since 2019. However, the coronavirus pandemic does seem to have influenced the lists somewhat.
"Brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser have moved up into the top 12 polluting brands with Anheauser-Bush InBev moving from eight to third in the Dirty Dozen companies ranking," the report authors wrote. "This is likely to be due to the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants increasing personal alcohol consumption in public recreational settings during lockdowns."
The audit also looked at non-branded litter, which accounted for 63 percent of the items collected. Cigarette butts were responsible for 25 percent of these items. In this case, further, the pandemic appears to have made less of a change. Personal Protective Equipment only was responsible for 2.5 percent of all the waste found.
"Whilst clearly an emerging threat, it is important that this should not distract from the significant amount of pollution caused by brands and their parent companies," the report authors wrote.
In response to the findings, Surfers Against Sewage is calling for something called an "all-in" Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). This is when a customer is charged an extra fee for buying a drink in a single-use container, The Guardian explained. When the customer returns the empty container for recycling, they can then redeem the fee.
The analysis found that nearly 30 percent of all the litter it looked at would have been eliminated through a DRS. In addition, such a scheme would have handled 52 percent of the Dirty Dozen litter and more than 80 percent of the Coke litter. In Germany, where such a scheme is in effect, 97 percent of cans, glass and plastic are recycled, The Independent reported. However, the UK government has said that such a scheme will not be introduced until 2024, a delay it blames on the pandemic, according to The Guardian.
"Legislation such as an 'all-in' deposit scheme needs to be introduced urgently and governments need to hold these companies to account and turn off the tap of plastic and packaging pollution flooding the ocean," Tagholm said in the release.
- What If Nestlé and Coke Had to Clean up Their Own Plastic Pollution? ›
- Coca-Cola Says It Won't Break Free From Plastic Bottles - EcoWatch ›
- Coca-Cola Introduces New 100% Recycled Bottle in U.S., But Is It ... ›
- Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé Are Worst Plastic Polluters of 2020 ... ›
By Jenna McGuire
While celebrated as a climate victory by the Biden administration, the large infrastructure bill passed in the U.S. Senate this week includes billions of dollars of funding toward "blue hydrogen," which new research published Thursday finds is more polluting than coal.
The $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package passed Tuesday includes $8 billion to develop "clean hydrogen" via the creation of four regional hubs.
The White House claims that the bill is in step with President JoeBiden's climate goals and advocates of hydrogen energy champion it as a low-emissions alternative for various uses such as fuel shipping, trucking, aviation, and heating.
But new research published in the journal Energy Science & Engineering finds that the carbon footprint to create blue hydrogen is more than 20% greater than using either natural gas or coal directly for heat, or about 60% greater than using diesel oil for heat.
The fossil fuel industry has enthusiastically pushed for blue hydrogen as a clean energy source, but the scientists warn that this product is not the same as the "gray hydrogen"—derived from methane production—or the "green hydrogen" commonly viewed as an important fuel for future energy transition.
According to a statement from the researchers:
An ecologically friendly "green" hydrogen does exist, but it remains a small sector and it has not been commercially realized. Green hydrogen is achieved when water goes through electrolysis (with electricity supplied by solar, wind, or hydroelectric power) and the water is separated into hydrogen and oxygen.
Robert Howarth, the scientist at Cornell University who co-authored the paper "How Green is Blue Hydrogen?," alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher, said: "The best hydrogen, the green hydrogen derived from electrolysis—if used wisely and efficiently—can be that path to a sustainable future. Blue hydrogen is totally different."
The process of producing blue hydrogen starts with converting methane to hydrogen and carbon dioxide by using heat, steam, and pressure, or gray hydrogen, but goes further to capture some of the carbon dioxide. Once the byproduct carbon dioxide and the other impurities are sequestered, it becomes blue hydrogen, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
"It's pretty striking, I was surprised at the results," said Howarth. "Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push but it's far from carbon-free. I don't think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions."
Climate advocates and progressives have slammed the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill as woefully insufficient and the Congressional Progressive Caucus has asserted they won't support a bipartisan bill without a bold reconciliation bill that includes far stronger climate measures.
"Blue hydrogen has large climatic consequences," states the report. "We see no way that blue hydrogen can be considered 'green.'"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Pound-for-pound, Sea Threads is making a difference for our ocean ー literally. The new clothing venture is the first to make clothing from 100% Certified Ocean Plastic, with each performance shirt made from one pound of plastics pulled out of our ocean.
Globally, we produce around 335 million metric tons of plastic each year, the Smithsonian Ocean reported. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic waste pollution is a "major environmental problem of global concern" that has reached "epidemic proportions." The global body estimated that 100 million tons of plastic are now in the oceans, 80-90 percent of which comes from land-based sources.
This is happening because our linear economies aren't designed to prioritize recapture and reuse, and most recycling systems aren't equipped to handle the volume of plastics being used. Thus, only 9 percent of plastics are properly recycled, the Smithsonian estimated.
Mountains of colored and green bailed plastic bottles recovered from the sea await processing. Sea Threads
So where does it go? A lot goes to landfill, some gets incinerated and the remainder probably ends up in our ocean ー through direct dumping, by flowing down rivers and streams and coming out of storm drains and sewers.
Once in the ocean, plastic begins affecting all life around it. It directly kills marine animals by choking them, entangling them so they drown or filling their stomachs so they starve. What's left in the water column can degrade into microplastics, which end up in our seafood and ultimately our bodies. A 2020 study also found that plastic pollution increases ocean acidification.
For Sea Threads CEO Dylan Cross, the ocean plastic crisis is "definitely at the top'' of the list of problems he sees. He added, "There's lots of environmental issues that go hand in hand: global warming, ocean acidification and ocean plastic. I put those all in one group because they all relate to each other, and all are interconnected. Not to mention that the ocean is the center for all life, so anything that potentially threatens it is a really big deal."
That background is a lot of what motivated Sea Threads' CEO Dylan Cross to start his company ー to find a way to use business and consumer demand to combat the ocean plastic crisis.
Performance wear clothing has traditionally been made using virgin plastic materials. This material is often moisture wicking, UV protective and breathable, making it ideal for use during exercise. Unfortunately, it also requires the new production of 60 million tons of virgin polyester each year for the sake of textiles, Cross said.
More recently, post-consumer plastics have been used to create "eco-friendly" fashions. These, Cross explained to EcoWatch, are plastics that have already made their way into professional waste management systems and which have been recycled into various products, including textiles.
Cleaned and processed plastics are turned into ocean-positive materials ideal for performance wear. Sea Threads
Cross takes this process one step further, by sourcing raw plastics for textile production from the ocean. He challenged himself to use plastics taken out of the ocean and immediate coastlines instead of virgin or post-consumer materials to produce quality performance wear.
"My motto is: there's already so much plastic out there, why are we making more? There's so much we can be pulling from. It's already a resource; we just have to get it."
Thus, Sea Threads sources their plastics for polyester production directly from the ocean and immediate coastlines where they were already actively and negatively affecting the ecosystem. This difference matters, especially when it comes to providing consumers with a way to make a difference through their purchases.
Sea Threads partners with local and governmental organizations in Southeast Asia to clean up the shorelines and seas, using the plastics found to create their product. Sea Threads
"A lot of companies out there are using post-consumer plastic but marketing it with images of a seagull wrapped in plastic. Then, the fine print says it's a post-consumer product. That's false marketing in my view," Cross said. "Companies are selling millions of dollars of bracelets or boardshorts, and a little research shows that it isn't actually ocean-plastic. It's plastic that was already plastic headed in the right direction because it was already recycled."
Cross is quick to add, "Don't get me wrong: recycling is great and post-consumer waste is great. It's what you put into the recycling bin, but it's not what you see on the beach."
The latter is what he wants to help remove. Cross sees his biggest job as distinguishing that difference.
"Even though the material is all the same, down to the chemical makeup, where it comes from makes a big difference," he said.
Sea Threads' plastics are collected by government organizations, micro-entrepreneurial groups and local communities working on Indonesia's coastlines in areas that lack proper waste management. This region is where 60 percent of ocean plastic pollution originates from, Cross said. The ocean plastic is cleaned, broken down, extruded into fibers for yarn, woven with textiles and shipped to the U.S. Then, the fabric is cut, sewn and printed into finished garments.
Ocean plastics are removed from the shoreline and sea, cleaned and extruded into yarn that can be woven into shirts and other materials. Sea Threads
Sea Threads' materials and fair labor practices are certified by some of the world's leading authorities, including the National Science Foundation, Underwriters Lab, and Global Recycling Standard. They also utilize third-party auditors and document their chain of custody to ensure material quality and authenticity.
"We need to push on all social and environmental fronts," Cross said. "If you look at textile production and the fashion industry in general, you'll find that pollutants are dumped directly into waterways and human rights abuses are rampant. I wanted to ensure we were different."
The company's Kickstarter campaign hit their goal of 10,000 within 2 hours and eventually doubled their goal. This allowed them to remove over 500 pounds of plastic from the ocean.
"The response has been really incredible," Cross said. "It shows me that this is definitely something people want to happen. It's not just me."
Sea Threads plans to unveil at least two more clothing lines before the end of 2022 and to offer customizable gear. They hope to expand from performance gear into more "beachwear" categories such as towels, boardshorts, hats and rashguards. Their ultimate goal is to replace all virgin and post-consumer plastics being used to make clothing with marine plastic.
- Ocean Plastic: What You Need to Know - EcoWatch ›
- UN Hopes to Reduce Ocean Plastic Waste Within Five Years ... ›
- 44% of Ocean Plastics Are Linked to Takeout Food - EcoWatch ›
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday it is kicking off a new rulemaking process to pass stricter requirements for how coal power plants dispose of wastewater, undoing a major rollback implemented in the last year of the Trump administration.
Wastewater pollution from coal plants is poured into nearby rivers and streams and often contains toxic metals including arsenic, lead and mercury, which seriously harm marine life and have been linked to cancer, heart disease and other health problems.
Despite the change, the Biden administration said it does not plan to immediately reinstate the stricter requirements that were in effect before the rollback, and instead will allow the current system to stay in place while working to strengthen those rules.
The administration said it feared asking a court to revert back to the pre-Trump standard, put in place by former President Obama in 2015, because it could result in reverting to a previous, even more lax 1982 standard. However, by not enforcing stricter rules now, toxic wastewater can continue flowing into waterways for several more years.
"If their timeline is 2024, that's four years of damage," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Washington post. "The industry is getting the better end of the deal out of this."
As reported by Courthouse News:
Under the new proposed EPA rule, coal power plants that use steam to generate electricity will be expected to install equipment that can better treat heavy metals, but the agency's notice is otherwise short on details. It does, however, say the rule will bring the agency in line with an executive order President Joe Biden signed in January.
Less than a day into his first term, Biden directed all federal agencies to review rules issued in the last four years under former President Donald Trump. Specifically, he asked agencies to assess whether those rules are consistent with the new administration's policy to "listen to science, improve public health and protect the environment, [ensure] access to clean air and water, [limit] exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides, [hold] polluters accountable" and reduce greenhouse gases while bolstering climate change resilience.
For a deeper dive:
- Biden Has Pledged to Advance Environmental Justice – Here's How ... ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- 12 Trump Attacks on the Environment Since the Election - EcoWatch ›