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.
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Last week, on World Oceans Day, the U.S. Senate took two major legislative steps to support our oceans for the future: banning the commercial shark fin trade in the U.S. and addressing forced labor and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S. 1106) — a bill that targets the U.S. trade in shark fins — passed as part of a broader legislative package known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260). Similar legislation passed in the House of Representatives in the last legislative session and has been introduced in the House this session (H.R. 2811). It currently has more than 130 bipartisan cosponsors, Scuba Diver Life reported.
The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act makes it illegal to possess, buy, sell or transport shark fins or any product containing shark fins, except for certain dogfish fins. There is an exception for shark fins lawfully taken with a license or permit under certain circumstances. Violators will be penalized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, with a maximum civil penalty of the greater of $100,000 for each violation or the fair market value of the shark fins involved.
The legislative move comes after studies about shark and ray populations highlighted a decline of more than 70 percent over the last 50 years. According to Oceana, over 73 million sharks are killed and traded annually. Demand for shark fin soup, especially in Asia, incentivizes overfishing and shark-finning — the act of removing a shark's fins at sea and throwing its body back overboard to drown, starve, bleed to death or get eaten. A Nature article, published earlier this year, listed overfishing as the primary cause and noted that three-quarters of species in this "functionally important assemblage" are now threatened with extinction. The researchers in the Nature study encouraged strict prohibitions and precautionary science-based catch limits to avoid population collapse and ensuing disruption of the ecological functions they serve.
The new bill aims to "close a loophole" that many advocates blame for the death of millions of sharks annually. According to Oceana, even though shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, fins can still be bought, sold, and transported throughout the United States. Shark Stewards, a shark advocacy group, said "the USA contributes to the global decline of sharks" because "tons of shark fins from Latin America to Africa routinely pass through U.S. ports for report to Hong Kong, China and SE Asia." The group cited a National Resources Defense Council report from 2020 that estimated that fins from roughly 900,000 sharks passed through U.S. ports between 2010 to 2017.
Oceana reported that fins are often imported from countries that have inadequate protections in place for sharks and/or that violate international treaties to protect endangered species. Because of this, many shark advocates have been lobbying for years to close the trade loophole and to get the U.S. out of the business of shark fins completely.
Because they top the food chain, when sharks are removed, a cascade of biological changes occurs. Alex Rose / Unsplash
Stefanie Brendl, executive director of shark advocacy group Shark Allies, told EcoWatch, "This bill is necessary and represents definite progress. We wholeheartedly support its passage and ask everyone in the conservation community to do the same." Brendl, a long-time advocate for shark conservation, noted positively that the legislation will "largely takes the US out of the fin trade" and that a series of global fin bans could collectively be the "best pathway to make an impact."
But, not everyone agrees. According to Seafood Source, the fishing industries in the U.S. have traditionally opposed bans, citing the country's successful management of shark fisheries.
"The United States has some of the best-managed shark fisheries in the world. Our laws and regulations prevent overfishing while maximizing commercial fishing opportunities and the economic value of our shark fisheries," Former National Marine Fisheries Service assistant administrator Chris Oliver said in a 2020 statement, the seafood industry report cited. "Part of our science-based management is allowing fishermen to sell both the meat and fins of sustainably harvested sharks."
Oliver argued that U.S. fin sales bans would not benefit management in U.S. waters and would have little impact on global trade.
Shark researcher and fisheries management expert David Shiffman has similarly advocated against blanket nationwide bans on the sale of shark fins. In 2017, Shiffman wrote in the journal Marine Policy about a prior, similar bill. He said, "While the proposed federal, nationwide ban's stated goal of conserving threatened shark populations is laudable and necessary, such a policy is misguided because it would A) undermine decades of progress made towards ensuring sustainable shark fisheries in the United States and around the world, B) likely have a negligible direct effect on global shark mortality, and C) contribute to the misconception that demand for shark fin soup is the only threat facing shark populations worldwide."
The scientist instead emphasized prioritizing policies that focus on sustainable shark fisheries management to achieve shark conservation.
Still, Brendl, of Shark Allies, said the trade ban was still "a really important development." She told EcoWatch, "Most legislation is not perfect, and compromises are often necessary to move the needle... No single piece of legislation will be the end-all solution... "
"Anything that slows down the fin trade will potentially help save millions of sharks. A key element will be if and how this will be enforced," she added.
Her non-profit advocacy group focuses on shark and ray conservation specifically by calling for an end to shark finning, the global trade of shark fins and products, including COVID-19 vaccines, that are made using sharks.
The second ocean-minded move the Senate undertook was to amend part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act to better address forced labor and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. They cited concerns over whether seafood imported into the U.S. was legally caught and responsibly sourced, Scuba Diver Life reported.
Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-AL), who reintroduced the trade ban, applauded the actions in a statement. He said, "The strong, bipartisan support for this legislation sends a clear message that we have to pay more attention to protecting the Earth's oceans and the life within those oceans... Ultimately, all life on Earth depends on the health of the oceans."
Sharks are apex predators in the ocean that keep the marine ecosystem healthy. David Clode / Unsplash
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The COVID-19 Delta variant has left businesses and schools across the country backpedaling from their goals for more integrated, in-person participation.
In many areas, virtual learning and remote work are becoming the norm once again, and often, this comes with a significant increase in residential energy consumption. For those concerned about increased electric bills and a greater carbon footprint, however, researchers say solar energy could prove effective in offsetting the costs of working and learning from home.
Turning Back to Virtual Learning
Although most school districts across the country opened back up with the intention of holding 100% in-person classes, spreading of the Delta variant has already forced many classrooms into stints of remote learning.
As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, "a cluster of three or more potentially linked cases at one school over 14 days could represent an outbreak and could lead to having a group of students or even a class quarantine at home."
As of August 24, at least 80 school districts have been forced to halt in-person instruction in some capacity due to viral outbreaks.
At the end of the last academic year, an elementary school teacher in Marin County, California, who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 infected at least 12 students while experiencing mild symptoms, according to a recent CDC report. The majority of her class was ineligible for vaccination, due to their age.
Cases like this illuminate the obstacles that schools are facing in their efforts to protect students. Eight states have passed laws banning mask mandates in public schools, and because students younger than 12 years of age are ineligible for vaccination, classrooms can quickly become hotspots. This forces students to quarantine and learn remotely, which raises energy consumption within homes.
A Bright Future for Remote Work
Some of the most successful companies in the world have maintained and refined opportunities for remote work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these corporations are moving toward permanent implantation of remote and hybrid working models, especially in industries like software, finance and media.
Studies suggest that these models could prove wildly successful, even in a post-pandemic era, not only because they expose employees to fewer health risks, but also because they promote higher productivity and greater mental wellness.
According to LinkedIn's 2020 Workforce Confidence Index, about half of the country's working professionals believe that their industry can operate successfully in a remote setting.
Minimizing Energy Costs and Environmental Impacts of Virtual Meetings
Increased use of home appliances, electronics, heating and air conditioning all contribute to higher electric bills and a greater carbon footprint for those working and learning from home.
At the onset of the pandemic, residential energy consumption increased by up to 10% and energy bills for remote workers increased by up to $50 per month, according to a study by Dr. Steve Cicala, a research fellow for the National Bureau of Economic Research and associate professor at Tufts University.
"The relative energy intensity of heating and cooling the entire homes of employees rather than a single office suggests that the future of working from home is not as green as one might think based on reduced commuting alone," Cicala writes in the study.
Drawing from solar panels could actually be the cleanest, most energy-efficient and cost-effective strategy to offset the energy costs of working from home. But is it worth installing solar panels on your home to offset increased energy costs due to COVID-19 quarantining?
"If people think they might be working from home and using more electricity long term, this would be a good time to think about prospective efficiency improvements," Cicala says in an interview with Tufts, "LEDs instead of old bulbs and plasma TVs, rooftop or community solar to spin the meter back a bit, or perhaps updating some old power-hungry appliances around the house."
Although market barriers and soft costs limit the expansion of the solar industry, the average cost of solar panels has dropped by more than 70% in the last decade. Federal solar tax credits can further reduce the cost of installation by 26%, and some states also offer their own incentives.
Beyond slashing costs, powering homes with solar energy can support the electric grid through net metering. This credits residences that produce more energy than they consume and allows them to export excess energy to the grid, providing surrounding consumers with clean energy.
While the barriers for entry are higher in certain states, solar panels are becoming more universally accessible. As remote work and schooling become the "new normal" once again, solar energy could be vital in preventing further financial and environmental crises related to the pandemic.
Researchers bought raw samples of popular seafood from a market in Australia, including 10 oysters, 10 farmed tiger prawns, 10 wild squid, five wild blue crab and 10 wild sardines, reported Daily Mail. At least trace levels of plastic contamination were found in each, with the highest content found in sardines, according to the research.
The scientists used a new technique to identify and measure five different types of plastics contained within the tissues of each sample of seafood simultaneously, reported Intrafish. They did so in order to better understand the potential harm microplastics in seafood could have on human health, lead author Francisca Ribeiro said in a University of Queensland press release.
The study, published by the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland in Environmental Science & Technology, found greatly varying amounts of plastic in each of the different types of seafood tested as well as in the individual species, said a University of Exeter press release.
"From the edible marine species tested, sardines had the highest plastic content, which was a surprising result," Riberio told the University of Queensland. "Another interesting aspect was the diversity of microplastic types found among species, with polyethylene predominant in fish and polyvinyl chloride the only plastic detected in oysters."
Riberio compared the exposure levels to microplastics in the University of Exeter release: "Considering an average serving, a seafood eater could be exposed to approximately 0.7mg of plastic when ingesting an average serving of oysters or squid, and up to 30mg of plastic when eating sardines, respectively …. For comparison, 30mg is the average weight of a grain of rice."
The new method is a "major step forward" towards plastic quantification techniques in seafood because it allows results to be reported in a mass unit, something wasn't possible before, noted the University of Queensland release.
"We can now define what microplastic levels can be considered harmful to human health," Ribeiro said in the release.
The plastics found by the scientists are commonly used in plastic packaging and synthetic textiles, including polystyrene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene and poly (methyl methacrylate), reported Intrafish. Polyvinyl chloride was found in all samples, while the plastic found in highest concentrations was polyethylene, the world's most popular plastic, reported Daily Mail.
These plastics frequently end up in waterways and oceans, where they continue to break down into microplastics, very small pieces of plastics that are often eaten by marine creatures of all sizes and types. Microplastics are absorbed by plankton, bioaccumulate as they are carried up the food chain and eventually end up on our plates, reported Energy Live News.
Humans are exposed to microplastics not only in the seafood we eat, but also through bottled water, sea salt, beer, honey, and even dust that settles on our meals, the University of Exeter release said.
"We do not fully understand the risks to human health of ingesting plastic, but this new method will make it easier for us to find out," co-author Tamara Galloway said in the release.
The next phase of the research will seek to identify the sources of the plastic contamination found in the seafood tested, noted the University of Queensland release.
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By Reynard Loki
There is one main U.S. law that governs the management of marine fisheries in federal waters: The Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Originally intended to address the concern over foreign fisheries operating near U.S. waters, the MSA, which was passed in 1976, extended the nation's exclusive fisheries zone from 12 to 200 nautical miles from the coastline. The law was amended in 1996 and 2007 to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, establish annual catch limits, put accountability measures in place, strengthen the use of science through peer review, and ensure the overall sustainability of the fishing industry.
Since it was passed, and through past bipartisan reauthorizations, the MSA has notched up many successes, including the rebuilding of at least 40 fisheries stocks — some of which were on the verge of collapse — in the last two decades. "Under the MSA, we are ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks, which strengthens the value of fisheries to our economy and marine ecosystems," according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce that is responsible for the stewardship of U.S. ocean resources and their marine habitats.
But a new report has found that the nation's fishery managers are failing in their duty to protect designated "essential fish habitat" (EFH) as required by the MSA. Released in April by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit environmental advocacy group headquartered in New York, the report is based on a detailed review of how each of the eight federal regional management councils has administered the MSA's requirement to minimize the negative impact of fishing on EFH.
"We found that councils have generally not used the law's habitat protection requirements to significantly reduce commercial fishing's ongoing adverse effects on fish habitat and marine ecosystems," write the report's principal authors, Brad Sewell, the senior director in the Oceans Division of NRDC's Nature Program, and Molly Masterton, a staff attorney in the Oceans Division of NRDC's Nature Program. They point out that these ocean ecosystems provide habitat for up to "80 percent of life on Earth," including fisheries that "feed and provide jobs to millions of people."
But destructive fishing practices destroy marine habitats, kill countless unintended species in their massive, indiscriminate hauls ("bycatch"), and pull so many individual animals from the seas that nature cannot replenish their numbers fast enough ("overfishing"). Global bycatch may amount to as much as 40 percent of the world's catch, and includes a myriad of species — many of them endangered — that fishing fleets are accidentally catching and inadvertently killing. Fishing nets kill hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and water birds every year.
"In some cases, councils have simply protected very little habitat, including particularly important or vulnerable habitat, from bottom trawls, the fishing gear most widely recognized as causing harm," write Sewell and Masterton. "In other cases, councils have primarily closed very large, generally deep-sea, areas to potential future bottom trawling, protection that provides important but limited benefits. We also found that the councils have protected virtually no habitat from all commercial fishing gear or all fishing impacts using the EFH requirement, the strongest level of EFH protection."
Unsustainable and destructive commercial fishing is just one of the many threats that the world's oceans and their inhabitants must face. A range of human activities — and the byproducts of those activities—are an ever-present and increasing danger to marine species and ecosystems, including oil and gas drilling and exploration, coastal development, the wildlife trade, ship noise, tourism, plastic pollution, global warming, loss of sea ice and ocean acidification.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a free "Seafood Watch" guide to help consumers make more responsible seafood decisions. But an even better idea is to simply leave seafood off of our plates. "A shrimp cocktail is not worth the life of a sea turtle," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit based in Tucson, Arizona, that supports the implementation of lifesaving "turtle excluder devices" in shrimp trawl fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. "We have to do more to protect these extraordinary creatures before it's too late. Devices to exclude sea turtles from shrimp nets just make sense."
As these threats continue, Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization based in Washington, D.C., has sounded an alarm bell to call attention to ongoing challenges to the MSA. "Unfortunately, there have been attempts [to] weaken the very law that has improved fisheries in the U.S. A number of bills have been introduced that would extend deadlines for rebuilding stocks, relax [annual catch limits], loosen [accountability measures], and hinder the ability of the scientific advisors to provide sound scientific recommendations," the group wrote in 2018. "These changes, if implemented, would undermine significant progress in fisheries management over the last 42 years. … Since 2009, Congressional attacks on the MSA have steadily increased, with a chorus of opponents calling for changes."
In 2018, for example, the House of Representatives passed the Modern Fish Act (H.R. 2023), to include the priorities of recreational fishers in the MSA's reauthorization, a move that marine conservationists opposed. "H.R. 2023 would undo many of the conservation gains made over the past 10+ years in ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks by removing or loosening the requirement of setting scientifically-based catch limits," argued the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a nonprofit group based in Arlington, Virginia, dedicated to sustaining fish populations. "The Modern Fish Act inserts too much uncertainty into the fisheries management process by adversely changing catch limits and how they are applied, muddies the waters between state and federal management, and allows political and economic considerations to override science in management decisions."
In December, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, and fellow subcommittee member Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) released the draft bill to reauthorize and update the MSA. In addition to addressing the current needs of sustainable fisheries and coastal communities that depend on healthy marine environments, the bill also tackles a threat multiplier for oceanic ecosystems and something that the Biden administration has made a main priority: climate change.
"This draft includes important and timely updates to the MSA as well as provisions to strengthen communities and support those whose lives and livelihoods depend on healthy oceans and fisheries," said Reps. Huffman and Case. "With the growing impacts of climate change, difficulties due to the ongoing pandemic, and rapidly evolving needs in fisheries management and science, amending and reauthorizing the MSA remains a top priority. We're looking forward to the next phase of this process and receiving constructive commentary to inform and shape the bill's introduction [in 2021]."
Oceana has launched a public petition urging Americans to tell Congress to support the MSA, in which they warn, "Our oceans are under attack. Past attempts by members of Congress to weaken the [MSA] … have threatened to undermine years of successful work to rebuild and protect the health of America's fisheries. … Rollbacks that take aim at cornerstone conservation safeguards and statutes such as the MSA put our oceans at risk."
Putting the oceans at risk is illogical, unethical and ultimately self-defeating. Marine biologist Sylvia Earle, who in 1990 became NOAA's first female chief scientist, finds a direct connection between the health of the Earth's marine ecosystems and humanity's survival: "We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do."
Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy's Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, AlterNet, Counterpunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Buying “green" can be confusing! Many products claim to be “natural," “eco-friendly" and “biodegradable." But what in the world does that mean? Unfortunately, because there's no standardized definition for any of these words, they're actually meaningless. In fact, many companies intentionally use vague words like these to market their products as if they're better for you and the environment than they actually are.
Here are 13 of the most reliable eco-labels in the market. What makes them so good? They've been defined by independent institutions or nonprofit organizations that have set meaningful criteria that companies must prove they've met in order to use the eco-label in question. When you shop for anything from produce to mattresses, look for these “third party" certifications to back up the claims a company makes regarding the environmental and human health benefits of their products.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborated with scientists, consumer groups, environmentalists and the agriculture industry to set standards for the meaning of the word "organic." Products labeled "100 percent organic" must contain only organically produced ingredients. Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Products meeting either set of requirements may display the USDA Organic seal on their packaging. Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients may use the phrase "made with organic ingredients," but may not use the organic seal. Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients may not use the term organic other than to identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced in the ingredients statement. Overall, when it comes to food, the organic label, while not perfect, is the best indicator that no or minimal pesticides, hormones and antibiotics were used for growing and processing.
For more than 25 years, this nonprofit, science-based organization has developed certification standards to minimize the environmental and health impacts related to cleaning products, coffee, paint, windows, even sticky notes. To earn the Green Seal, a product must meet rigorous evaluation and testing objectives, as must the facility where it is manufactured.
SCS certifies environmental claims related to recycled content, certified organic ingredients, water efficiency and sustainable forestry. SCS certifications meet international environmental labeling standards as well as guidelines issued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for responsible environmental marketing.
FSC sets standards to ensure that forests are being managed in an environmentally responsible way, and that products like timber, paper and furniture are made sustainably.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) label represents a green building rating system for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. A program of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
This label, overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indicates homes and buildings, plus appliances, computers, lightbulbs, copiers, printers, furnaces and many other products that meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines that help save energy and money and protect the environment.
Developed by SCS (see above), this label is awarded to flower growers who do not use "extremely hazardous" or "highly hazardous" agrochemicals. The Veriflora label also indicates that growers are converting to organic and sustainable crop production practices. The standard contains extensive water and ecosystem protection measures to ensure that farmers are not damaging surrounding wildlife or habitats. In addition, it requires growers to provide a fair, equitable and safe workplace for their farmers.
This label demonstrates that the farmers and workers behind Fair Trade goods were paid fair wages and have opportunities for better health care, housing and education. The Fair Trade label is attached to coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, fruit, rice, sugar, spices and a variety of clothing and crafts produced in developing countries.
This label provides independent verification that the care and handling of livestock and poultry on farms enrolled in the program meet high-quality, humane animal care standards. These include access to clean and sufficient food and water; sufficient protection from inclement weather; and enough space to move about naturally.
Leaping Bunny is the certification program of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. The mark certifies that companies have not tested their products on animals during any stage of development. The company's ingredient suppliers make the same pledge. Look for the Leaping Bunny label on cosmetics and personal care, household and cleaning products.
11. Marine Stewardship Council
The Council's eco-label indicates seafood that comes from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Look for it on fish and shellfish.
This label represents the Demeter Farm Standard, which indicates that a farm is organically farmed, GMO-free and also operated to promote soil fertility, animal welfare, conserve water, protect biodiversity and managed to follow the cycles of nature. Look for it on wine, tea, juice, pasta, sauces and many other foods.
13. NON-GMO Project Verified
This label indicates that products bearing it have been produced according to the best available practices for avoiding genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). It does not promise that a product is "GMO free" because there is always some risk that seeds, crops, ingredients and products have been exposed to GMOs somewhere along their growing or production cycle. It does, however, create a powerful incentive to seed breeders, farmers, processors and manufacturers to adopt practices that reduce use of GMOs while giving consumers a way to limit their exposure.
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By Elizabeth Claire AlbertsThe Mexican government will no longer protect the habitat of the critically endangered vaquita in the Upper Gulf of California, but has opened the area up to fishing, according to a news report.
It's estimated that there are only about nine vaquitas left in the world.The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a bathtub-sized porpoise endemic to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico's Upper Gulf of California, has experienced a sharp population decline in the two past two decades, mainly due to illegal gillnet fishing for the critically endangered totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi).
In 2017, the Mexican government established a "no tolerance" zone to protect the vaquita from illegal fishing, and even expanded the area last September. But now the government has given fishers open access to the refuge, the only enforcement being a "sliding scale of sanctions if more than 60 boats are repeatedly seen in the area," according to Mexico News Daily.
"I fear this might be the death knell for the vaquita, as the plan that has been proposed by Mexico will convert what should be a straightforward 'no go' zone into a complex enforcement area with varying levels of monitoring and deterrence depending on the amount of illegal fishing taking place in the area," Kate O'Connell, marine consultant at the Washington, DC-based Animal Welfare Institute, told Mongabay. "The vaquita are being mismanaged to death."
Two vaquitas in the Sea of Cortez. Sea Shepherd
O'Connell said gillnet fishing is technically still banned in the Upper Gulf of California, but will likely take place in the former "no tolerance" zone without proper monitoring and enforcement.
"Mexico's fisheries authorities are indicating that they are either unable or unwilling to do all that is necessary to save the vaquita and are willing to accept a certain level of gillnet fishing activity," she said. "One hundred percent monitoring and enforcement of the fishing ban only kicks in once more than 50 illegal vessels are seen, or more than 200 meters [660 feet] of illegal gillnets are found in the area."
Andrea Crosta, executive director of Earth League International (ELI), an NGO that has been actively investigating totoaba trafficking in the region, said this move will likely seal the fate of the critically endangered species.
"It means the extinction of the vaquita and in general an increase of illegal gillnets that will have a significant impact on the marine life in the Sea of Cortez," Crosta told Mongabay. "It's like saying to illegal fishermen and totoaba traffickers, do what you want from now on."
Crosta said he thinks that abolishment of the "no tolerance" zone is a political move on behalf of the current Mexican government.
"I think that the current populist administration in Mexico is concerned only about voters, certainly not about environmental protection and endangered species, if this gets in the way of political gain," he said. "And if the vaquita will go extinct I am sure the current administration in Mexico will blame the administration before."
A vaquita swims near a fishing boat using gillnets. CONANP / Museo de la Ballena / SEA SHEPHERD
While this move could be advantageous to local fishers, Crosta said it will be the international totoaba traders, most of whom are Chinese nationals, who will reap the most benefits. "[They] will make a ton of money with even less risks than before," he said.
There have been multiple efforts and hundreds of thousands dollars spent to save the vaquita over the years, ranging from seafood sanctions to gillnet removal programs to illegal fishing patrols. In 2017, there was even an attempt to take the remaining vaquitas into captivity until illegal fishing ceased in the Upper Gulf of California. However, the plan was abandoned when the first captured vaquita died from the stress of capture.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international NGO that has been patrolling the Sea of Cortez since 2015, told Mongabay that it "remains committed to preventing the extinction of the vaquita" and that there are plans to return to the Upper Gulf of California as soon as possible to resume its gillnet retrieval efforts.
O'Connell said that AWI, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Investigation Agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have made urgent pleas to the international community to "both provide logistical and financial support to Mexico and to put pressure on the government by means of trade sanctions and other actions to ensure that the vaquita is saved."
"Despite their low numbers, there is still a slight glimmer of hope for the vaquita, if an actual complete shutdown of gillnet activity in the area can be achieved," O'Connell said. "The few remaining vaquita appear healthy and a number of calves have been spotted in recent years by researchers."
But Crosta said that unless the Mexican government works to dispel the totoaba cartels, he doesn't see "any hope for the vaquita."
"This is what happens when you focus only on anti-poaching and local communities, and not also on the trafficking networks and organized crime that run the whole show," he said. "This is what happens when there is a lot of indifference and incompetence."
Reposted with permission from Mongabay.
By Isabela Martel
When British environmental geochemist Jon Hawkings arrived in Greenland for the first time in 2012, he was impressed.
"It's mind-blowing: You look onto the horizon and it's just ice and it goes on for 150, 200 kilometers at least."
He went to the Arctic with a group of international scientists. Their goal was to investigate the relationship between nutrients entering coastal ecosystems from glacial meltwater. But the group's research took an unexpected turn.
The scientists analyzed samples from meltwater rivers and fjords and found concentrations of dissolved mercury among the highest ever recorded.
Like Contaminated Rivers in China
Despite it being a pristine and remote environment, with no industrial activity or apparent source of pollution, runoff water coming from three different glaciers in southwest Greenland contains as much mercury as water in far more industrialized areas.
"Mercury concentrations this high would usually only be seen in quite contaminated systems. We compare it to contaminated rivers in China, because that's where similar kinds of concentrations have been found before," Hawkings, who is the lead author of the study published in Nature Geoscience, told DW.
Normal amounts of dissolved mercury in rivers are around 1 to 10 nanograms per liter (ng L-1 ). According to Hawkings, that is comparable to "a grain of sand in an Olympic size swimming pool." But in the water samples from southwest Greenland, the researchers found values of 150 ng L-1, far higher than average.
Unlike what is seen in China, the evidence indicates that the mercury in Greenland originates from natural geological sources in the ice sheet bed.
The findings were a surprise. Back in 2012, the scientists casually took water samples to test for mercury. Their intention was "to get an idea of what mercury concentrations were in the meltwaters, just because we could measure it," Hawkings recalled. That was when they came across high concentrations for the first time. At that point, however, the data was limited, as it was a pilot study.
When the group went back to Greenland in 2015 they decided to investigate a little more in detail, and again obtained similar results. Three years later, in 2018, they returned to the same region once more. The results confirmed what was first observed in 2012 and 2015.
"I just didn't quite believe it! Because the numbers were so high, it was so unexpected," Hawkings said. "As a scientist, there was an element of excitement, of finding something new that nobody else had looked at before. But also concern."
The group of researchers camped in front of the Leverett Glacier, where they collected some of the samples.
Why Is Mercury an Issue?
Mercury (chemical symbol: Hg) is a toxic heavy metal that occurs naturally in air, water, and soil ― through volcanic eruptions, for example. Its presence, however, is amplified through pollution caused by human activity. Coal power plants and gold mining, for instance, are responsible for much of the mercury released into the environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury as one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern. Exposure to it, even in small quantities, can lead to numerous health problems including toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as in organs such as lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
Consumption of seafood is one of the main reasons for overexposure to mercury. The element accumulates in organisms and enters the aquatic food chain as methylmercury, which is its most toxic and concerning form.
The concerns about mercury's consequences for the environment and its effects on humans are so significant that in 2013, governments agreed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The global treaty entered into force in 2017. It requires countries to take action by addressing anthropogenic (human-caused) mercury emissions and phase out a variety of mercury-containing products, such as batteries, fluorescent lamps and thermometers.But, as Hawkings points out, the Minamata Convention "doesn't take into account these climatically sensitive natural sources that are much more difficult to manage than, say, closing a coal-burning power plant."
The study's results imply that the international community should start focusing on this issue.
Dangers May Increase With Global Warming
Despite naturally originating from the ice sheet bed, the mercury found in Greenland raises concerns. One of them has to do with global warming. Around 10% of the world's land area is covered by glaciers. As glacial systems increasingly melt, Hawkings affirms that should the results found in southwest Greenland be true to other parts of the island as well, a concerning trend could take place.
"Glaciers melting may mean more mercury in rivers and potentially in coastal systems," he said.
Linked to that is another point of alarm: The mercury could potentially endanger the health of Greenland's Indigenous people. Fishing is a primary food source and economic activity for these populations. The island is, in fact, a major exporter of shrimp, halibut and cod.
The degree to which mercury has made its way into the food web is uncertain, as the study only measured its concentration in water, so it remains difficult to assess the risks. "It's unclear yet just how dangerous the situation is for Indigenous populations of Greenland at the moment," said Hawkings.
Hawkings thinks it's urgent to learn more, as the Arctic systems are still understudied. How wide the effect is in Greenland, whether the mercury is going into coastal ecosystems and how local populations could be affected constitute some of the most important study topics to be explored.
"If the ice sheet is a source of mercury and it could exacerbate some of those effects, then people need to know about it and how to manage it," said Hawkings.
Reposted with permission from DW.
- New Study Changes Understanding of How Greenland's Ice Melts ... ›
- Greenland's Ice Sheet Has Reached 'Point of No Return' - EcoWatch ›
By Andrea Germanos
Food safety campaigners on Thursday welcomed a federal court's finding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violated U.S. law in its approval of genetically engineered salmon.
"This decision underscores what scientists have been telling FDA for years — that creating genetically engineered salmon poses an unacceptable risk if the fish escape and interact with our wild salmon and that FDA must understand that risk to prevent harm," said Steve Mashuda, managing attorney at Earthjustice, one of the organizations representing plaintiffs in the case.
"Our efforts should be focused on saving the wild salmon populations we already have," said Mashuda, "not manufacturing new species that pose yet another threat to their survival."
Federal Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District for the Northern District of California found that the FDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), writing, in part:
[T]he FDA did not adequately explain in its environmental assessment why the potential impacts of the production and growth of engineered salmon will be insignificant. The central problem is that the document failed to conduct the very inquiry it stated was necessary. In the section describing the "approach to assessment," the environmental assessment stated that an analysis of environmental risk would need to consider two probabilities: the probability of "exposure," or a bad event, and the probability of harm that could occur given exposure. The document thoroughly analyzed the probability of exposure, concluding that it was low. But it failed to assess and explain the potential consequences of that low probability being realized.
The NEPA evaluation addressed the potential impacts of engineered salmon on wild salmon; the ESA analysis was also concerned with wild salmon, albeit more specifically the endangered Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon. Because the FDA did not sufficiently examine whether the engineered salmon would significantly impact wild salmon under NEPA, it follows that the agency cannot defend its conclusion that the engineered salmon would have no effect at all on Gulf of Maine salmon. Indeed, the fact that the FDA apparently reached a conclusive determination that the AquaBounty salmon would have "no effect" on the Gulf of Maine Salmon in 2010, while the environmental assessment was still under active consideration and five years before the NEPA process was completed, suggests that the agency may have failed to grasp the practical relationship between the two statutes' requirements in this case.
Chhabria sent the assessment back to the FDA, ordering the agency to "reconsider its 'no effect' determination under the ESA together with its revised NEPA evaluation."
Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, one of the plaintiffs in case, framed the ruling as a clear win for fish and those whose livelihoods depend upon them given the possible ecological consequences of the genetically engineered salmon.
"It's a terrible idea to design genetically engineered 'frankenfish' which, when they escape into the wild (as they inevitably will), could destroy our irreplaceable salmon runs," said Conroy. "Once engineered genes are introduced into the wild salmon gene pool," he added, "it cannot be undone."
Conroy further hailed the ruling as "a major victory for wild salmon, salmon fishing families and dependent communities, and salmon conservation efforts everywhere."
According to Center for Food Safety legal director George Kimbrell, who was counsel in the case, Thursday's decision marks "a vital victory for endangered salmon and our oceans."
"Genetically engineered animals create novel risks and regulators must rigorously analyze them using sound science, not stick their head in the sand as officials did here," he said.
"The absolute last thing our planet needs right now," added Kimbrell, "is another human-created crisis like escaped genetically engineered fish running amok."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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- FDA Puts U.S. Consumers at 'Serious Risk' by Allowing GE Salmon ... ›
- Judge to FDA: Agency Must Pull Aside Curtain on GE Salmon ... ›
- 'Salmon People: The Risks of Genetically Engineered Fish for the ... ›
That's the conclusion of a new report released Tuesday from the UN Environment Program and ocean justice non-profit Azul, titled Neglected: Environmental Justice Impacts of Plastic Pollution.
"Plastic pollution is a social justice issue," report coauthor and Azul founder and executive director Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš said in a press release. "Current efforts, limited to managing and decreasing plastic pollution, are inadequate to address the whole scope of problems plastic creates, especially the disparate impacts on communities affected by the harmful effects of plastic at every point from production to waste."
The report provides several examples of how plastics harm vulnerable communities, according to UN News.
Production: Plastics come from oil, and oil extraction can be a highly damaging and polluting process. Indigenous communities are displaced for oil drilling, fracking pollutes drinking water and oil refineries pose a health risk to the African American communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Use: Women are more likely to be exposed to toxins from the use of plastic, which is predominant in domestic and feminine products.
Disposal: Improperly disposed of plastic ends up in marine ecosystems, where it threatens the livelihood of those who rely on fishing to survive and threatens the health of those who consume it by mistake in their seafood. In addition, people who make a living waste picking are disproportionately exposed to its toxins.
"The impact of plastics on vulnerable populations goes well beyond inefficient and sometimes non-existing waste management systems," report lead author and senior research fellow at the Center for the Blue Economy Juliano Calil said in the press release. "It starts with issues related to oil extraction, through toxic environments and greenhouse gas emissions, and it even impacts water distribution policies."
The report authors noted that plastic use had only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and was becoming part of a "triple emergency" along with the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, UN News said.
To address these problems, the report favored several solutions. These included more studies into the health impacts of plastic; better monitoring of plastic waste; bans on single-use plastics; and more investment in waste management, recycling and reuse.
In a press call announcing the report, authors also spoke in favor of an international treaty to bring plastic pollution and production to an end, as Gizmodo reported. David Azoulay, the director of the Center for International Environmental Law's health program who did not help write the report, said its emphasis on human rights could help provide a framework for such a treaty.
"Considering rights-based approaches," he told Gizmodo, "is a very important step to developing a treaty that actually develops solutions."
By David Shiffman
As we enter what's hopefully the home stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's time to take stock of how it affected every aspect of our world, to consider what happened, what could be done different to avoid those problems in the future, and what's next.
That might mean confronting some of our earlier conclusions. For example, at the start of the pandemic we were bombarded with often false stories about suddenly quiet cities and waterways experiencing animals reclaiming what was once their habitat. "Nature is healing" stories like this seem to have created an overly rosy picture of the pandemic's impact on the natural world.
The reality is much more complicated, and I'm not just talking about things like the well-publicized millions of inappropriately discarded plastic bags and protective masks ending up in the ocean. Many other changes to the world's waters, including some potentially harmful ones, are taking place beneath the surface.
"Protected and conserved areas and the people who depend on them are facing mounting challenges due to the pandemic," says Rachel Golden Kroner, an environmental governance fellow at Conservation International. Indeed, for the past two decades a sizable chunk of global biodiversity conservation has been funded by ecotourism, a funding source that dries up when international travel slows down, as it did this past year.
While any global complex event has many impacts including some that we almost certainly can't predict at this point, many of the medium and long-term effects are likely to be bad.
And You Thought Your Virtual Meetings Were Bad
It's not just your workplace that's been meeting online this past year. It's every meeting, including international wildlife conservation and management meetings.
Some of these important events have been postponed, stalling critical political momentum that scientists and activists have been building for years. Others have met virtually, with notably less effectiveness.
The highest profile example of this was the December 2020 failure of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. The IATTC is an international gathering that governs a multi-billion-dollar series of global tuna fisheries, and meetings include representatives from all over the world who hammer out fishing quotas and other rules. The 2020 meeting closed without reaching an agreement on 2021 quotas. If allowed to stand, this would have meant that starting on January 1 of this year, a multi-billion-dollar global industry would have had absolutely no rules governing it. Imagine if your city council failed to agree on a policing budget, and this meant that "The Purge" was suddenly real — that's what nearly happened in the world of tuna management this past winter.
The pandemic didn't create the problem of tuna management politics, but experts believe that the virtual meeting, which precluded "schmoozing" in the hallway during coffee breaks and added an element of multiple time zone chaos, contributed to this year's unprecedented breakdown in negotiations.
"These meetings are often difficult to get through, but usually they keep working until they get it done, until there's at least a decent solution," says Grantly Galland, a global tuna conservation expert with Pew Environment. That's hard enough in person, but this year "the meeting started at 6 p.m. for me in D.C., which was midnight in Europe, and early morning in Japan. People were often frustrated. As discussions dragged into the night the incentive to keep going disappeared, and the meeting ended without rules."
Fortunately, after receiving intense pushback from environmental groups and the concerned public, the commission met for an emergency meeting a few weeks later and fixed this problem by just carrying over the 2020 rules to 2021 — hardly an ideal solution given existing problems with the 2020 rules, but a lot better than open ocean anarchy.
Still, this near-disaster shows how dependent our system of environmental management is on face-to-face meetings.
Whenever there's any economic crisis, industry will ask for a temporary (or even permanent) rollback of environmental protection regulations that they find economically burdensome. Marine and coastal protected areas, long a priority for science-based conservation and long opposed by elements of the fishing industry, have been no exception.
For example, a fisheries management council asked then-President Trump to allow fishing in currently protected areas, and the Trump administration did roll back fishing protections in the Atlantic around that time.
NOAA OKEANOS Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition
Marine protected areas also face other threats stemming from the pandemic. Rachel Golden Kroner, who also authored a recent paper on the impacts of the pandemic on protected areas, says: "Key challenges for marine protected areas include budget cuts, declines in tourism revenue, disruption of seafood supply chains and challenges in implementing management activities."
Golden Kroner shared examples of the near-collapse of the tourism-associated hospitality industry in Kenya, the Galapagos, Indonesia and Australia, noting that some of these industries employed former members of the fishing industry who had been persuaded to work in tourism instead.
While some coastal communities and protected areas face these serious issues, the good news is that this problem is far from universal.
"While the shutdowns, restrictions, and closures of coastal areas disrupted access and temporarily interrupted stewardship and harvest activities across Hawai'i, the connections between humans and nature forged over generations ensured that marine management actions never lost momentum," says Ulu Ching, the program manager for community-based conservation for Conservation International's Hawaii office. "Well-established community networks in collaboration with government resource management agencies continued to advance the work of mālama i ke kai (caring for the ocean) through the development and establishment of community-driven marine managed areas across the islands during the pandemic."
A young monk seal underwater in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. NOAA/PIFSC/HMSRP
Additionally, Golden Kroner points out that while some momentum for creating protected areas has stalled and some industry groups have called for rollbacks, there is good news in the form of expanded protected areas in a handful of places around the world. But it's clear that despite some positive signs, momentum in creating new marine protected areas has stalled in many places, tourism that funded their operations has slowed to a crawl, and some industries have been successful in rolling back protections.
Threats Continue, But Monitoring Has Stalled
One of the primary tools in the conservationist's toolbox for making sure that the commercial fishing industry follows the rules is observer coverage: independent people on board fishing vessels who monitor and record the catch. Due to COVID-19 safety regulations, observer coverage in much of the world has been reduced or eliminated — but fishing continues.
"For countries with fewer management resources, I can imagine that less observer coverage could lead to more rules being bent," says Simon Gulak, a fisheries consultant with Sea Leucas LLC who used to coordinate fisheries observers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Fisheries observers provide fisheries management with accurate information on all discards/bycatch at sea, not just the cuddly protected species," he says. "They're a bit like a fisher's auditor and are liked about as much."
The problem with a lack of observers means that we generally have no way of knowing if bad things are happening on the water, but there are certainly cases of fishing vessels who only follow the rules because they'll get fined if they don't.
Gulak notes that in fisheries subject to electronic monitoring — including GPS trackers and cameras that document all catch and bycatch — observers may be less important because all relevant data is recorded automatically and it's harder to get away with breaking the rules.
Galland, the tuna conservation expert, also stressed the importance of ramping up electronic fisheries monitoring efforts. If the pandemic leads to an increase in e-monitoring, that may be a long-term good. In the meantime, we just don't know what's going on in many fisheries that were previously monitored by human observers.
It's not just fisheries observing that's stalled due to workplace safety concerns, but also fish market surveys, an important scientific tool for monitoring catch from boats too numerous and small to have observers or electronic monitoring equipment. In large parts of the world, fish market surveys are the only data we have on local catch composition. Without them, we wouldn't know how many endangered species are caught, or if formerly common species started to disappear.
Monitoring of things like sea turtle nests has similarly slowed down. These nest surveys are a critical way for scientists and managers to keep track of population trends of iconic endangered species, and to protect the nests themselves by marking them so beach drivers of off-road vehicles know to not crush the hidden nests.
A recently emerged sea turtle hatchling. Becky Skiba/USFWS
So what does the pandemic mean for ocean conservation? Experts caution that it's probably too early to tell. However, it's not all stories of dolphins frolicking in suddenly quiet rivers. Environmental planning meetings, funding schemes for protected areas, and monitoring of fisheries and endangered species populations were all disrupted, giving us good reasons to fear that the story is far more complicated, and far less happy, than many of us have been led to believe.
David Shiffman is a marine biologist specializing in the ecology and conservation of sharks. He received his Ph.D. in environmental science and policy from the University of Miami. Follow him on Twitter, where he's always happy to answer any questions anyone has about sharks.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
Protein powders aren't just for bodybuilders—the human body needs protein to build muscle and perform basic metabolic functions, and many adults don't consume enough. If you eat a vegan diet, you may be searching for the best plant-based protein powder available.
Plant protein supplements are dried, powdered forms of protein that come from a variety of sources. They are often made from soy, rice, hemp, and peas, where other protein powders are derived from eggs or milk protein, such as whey or casein. Choosing the best plant-based protein powder for you depends on your lifestyle, dietary preferences, and taste buds. Here are our favorite vegan protein powder options.
Why Choose a Plant-Based Protein Powder?
There are several reasons to add a plant-based protein powder to your daily diet. They help support a healthy body composition as well as overall wellness, especially when paired with supplements to boost your immune system. If you're looking to lose weight or gain muscle, a vegan protein powder can help. Depending on the brand and source you choose, these products can range from 10 grams of protein to upwards of 30 or 40 grams per serving.
When it comes to weight loss, a high-protein diet can help you feel fuller longer. This means you're less likely to make unhealthy food choices or reach for snacks throughout the day. One scientific review study on overweight and obese patients suggests that supplementing with protein improved patients' overall body composition and reduced risks associated with cardiovascular disease. Taking probiotic supplements or digestive enzymes can also help you get more nutrients from the foods you eat and lose weight.
On the muscle growth side of things, a second review study demonstrates a link between protein intake and increased muscle mass in weightlifters.
Yet gaining strength isn't the only reason to enjoy a protein shake post-workout. Your fatigued muscles need protein to recover and rebuild after strenuous exercise. By feeding your body protein shortly after a workout, you may speed muscle recovery, reduce soreness, and increase the overall effectiveness of your workout.
On top of their nutritional benefits, plant-based protein powders, and plant-based diets in general, are better for the environment. Plant-based products typically take less energy and produce fewer emissions than animal-derived products and foods.
Our Favorite Vegan Plant-Based Protein Powder
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall — Care/of Plant Protein
- Best for Digestion — Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Organic
- Best Metabolism Booster — Your Super Organic Superfood Protein Mix
- Best for Muscle Growth — Onnit Plant-Based Protein
- Best Tasting — Aloha Vanilla Protein Powder
- Best for Keto Diets — NOW Sports Organic Pea Protein
There are several common types of protein powder on the market. These are the sources you're most likely to encounter, including two that are dairy-based while the rest are plant-based protein powder.
- Hemp: Hemp is a complete plant protein source, which means it includes all nine amino acids that your body needs, but cannot make on its own. Hemp protein is also soy-free, so it's a great choice for anyone with a soy allergy.
- Soy: Soy is a go-to protein source for anyone avoiding dairy. Like hemp, soy is also a complete protein.
- Pea: Pea protein is usually included in a blend with other plant-based protein sources. That's because peas offer plenty of one important amino acid, arginine, but not enough of the remaining eight essential amino acids.
- Whey: Whey protein concentrate is probably the most common protein source on the market. Whey is a complete protein derived from milk that is readily absorbed by the body. Like most dairy products, all whey protein is not created equally. When shopping for a whey powder, look for one made with milk from grass-fed cows.
- Casein: Another dairy-based option, casein protein powder is more slowly digested than whey. It also contains a high concentration of glutamine, an amino acid linked to speedier muscle recovery. Casein is a good option for nighttime exercisers to enjoy after a workout.
In this article, we're looking only at the best plant-based protein powder varieties.
How We Choose the Best Plant Protein
With a plethora of available plant proteins, it can be overwhelming to choose a plant protein that's right for you. We made a list of the factors that we used to evaluate each plant-based protein brand.
Type of Protein — What kind of plant is the protein derived from? How much protein per serving does it have?
Ingredients — Does the protein powder contain artificial flavors or sweeteners?
Lab-testing — We choose brands that have their products third-party tested to guarantee the purity of the ingredients.
Value — How much does the powder cost? How many servings are in each container?
6 Best Vegan Plant-Based Protein Powders
Best Overall: Care/of Plant Protein
- Protein type - Organic pea, pumpkin seed, and hemp proteins
- Protein amount - 18 g per serving
Best for Digestion: Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Organic
- Protein type - Pea, organic hemp seed, and organic Goji berry proteins
- Protein amount - 24 g per serving
Why buy: Sunwarrior's plant-based protein comes in five different flavors, so there's a great-tasting option for everyone. The blend offers a complete amino acid profile and is made to be more bio-available making it easy to digest, plus keto and paleo-friendly, with fewer allergens than whey. We also love that it's completely vegan and comes in a recyclable container.
Best Metabolism Booster: Your Super Organic Superfood Protein Mix
- Protein type - Organic rice and pea protein
- Protein amount - 9 g per serving
Why buy: Your Super makes a gluten, soy and dairy-free, non-GMO, and certified USDA organic plant protein that is a great option for those who want a metabolism booster. The simple, yet effective blend only uses five ingredients, including pea protein, rice protein, banana, maca, and lucuma. We love that Your Super also makes sure to source its ingredients sustainably.
Best for Muscle Growth: Onnit Plant-Based Protein
- Protein type - Pea, pumpkin, sunflower and watermelon seed proteins
- Protein amount - 20 g per serving
Best Tasting: ALOHA Organic Vanilla Protein Powder
- Protein type - Pea protein, brown rice, hemp seed, and pumpkin seed proteins
- Protein amount - 18 g per serving
Why buy: We like that ALOHA plant-based protein powder features top-notch ingredients and is USDA organic, non-GMO, and certified vegan. It's also gluten, dairy, and soy-free with no added sweeteners like Stevia. This product includes pea protein, brown rice protein, pumpkin seed protein, and hemp seed protein sources. Plus, ALOHA is a certified B-Corp.
Best for Keto Diets: NOW Sports Organic Pea Protein
- Protein type - Pea protein
- Protein amount - 15 g per serving
Why buy: Pea protein is a good post-workout choice, and NOW Sports Organic Pea Protein powder offers 15 grams of vegetable protein isolate that is easy to digest. There are no artificial sweeteners, and it's dairy, egg, soy and gluten-free. We like that this blend is certified USDA organic, keto-friendly, and GMP certified with testing results available online for every batch of protein.
How to Choose a High-Quality Plant-Based Protein Powder
When shopping for the best plant protein powder, there are some important things to take into consideration.
Start with your diet and taste preferences. There are plenty of vegan, gluten-free and soy-free protein products out there. If you have allergies, food sensitivities or a strong preference, start by narrowing your search there.
Secondly, consider the amount of protein you want, or need, to add to your diet. To find your personal Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36. For example, that's 54 grams of protein per day for the average 180-pound male and 50 grams for the average 140-pound female.
That being said, athletes will have higher protein needs. If your diet is already rich in protein from meat, seafood, or plant-based foods, then a lower-strength protein powder might be sufficient for you.
On the other hand, if you're highly active and don't consume a high-protein diet, a powder that supplies 20 or 25 grams of protein can help you meet your RDA.
Finally, take a close look at the particulars of the powder itself. Many protein powders contain added sugars, fillers, and other unnecessary ingredients. Check the ingredient list. A short list that includes the main protein source at the top is a good sign.
What to Look For
Below are a few key attributes to look for when choosing a plant-based protein.
Many of these factors are personal preferences, but it's important to consider what plant-based protein powder will most benefit your needs and wants.
The specific protein used is an important part of the ingredient list but it's important to consider what else is included in the formula. Make sure there are no extraneous fillers or artificial flavors or ingredients. Some protein powders also add in extra sugar, healthier proteins don't use extra sugar or artificial sweeteners.
Amount of Protein
Some proteins will list the amount of protein per container, while others list the amount per serving. The amount of protein you consume on a daily basis depends on your activity, size, and gender.
Type of Protein
There are many types of plant-based proteins out there. Some brands make their proteins from just one plant-based protein, while others use a blend of many different proteins.
How to Read Labels
It's important to read the label on everything we consume — including plant-based protein powders. Specifically, look into these elements:
- Certified Vegan: Make sure to check the label and nutritional information to see if it is 100% vegan. Most brands will include a symbol on the label to tell you.
- Ingredient List: Avoid supplements that include ingredients that are common allergens. It's also important to look at how and where the protein is sourced. Look to see if the plant-based protein includes any additives, including sugar or artificial flavors.
- Amino Acid Profile: Plant-based protein powders that combine multiple sources of protein often offer a complete amino acid profile, meaning they contain all of the different types of proteins your body needs in one supplement.
- Amount: Reference the label to see how much protein is in each serving, as well as any additional nutritional information.
- Suggested Use: Some plant proteins are better before or after workouts. Many brands point out the suggested use of their product.
How to Use Plant Protein
Plant-based protein powders have a wide variety of uses: from people who are looking to supplement their diet to those who need it because of their high exercise regimen. People often use protein powders to increase muscle mass or for healthy weight gain. Plant-based protein powders are an especially great option for vegans or vegetarians to help them get their daily protein.
Most plant powders can be scooped into a glass of water or milk. Some people choose to add their protein powder to smoothies, or they bake with it. Protein powders are versatile and it's up to you on how you want to consume them.
Safety and Side Effects
Researchers say that the average person should have 0.73 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
You should not exceed 2.3 grams of protein per pound per day because it can cause side effects such as:
- Ammonia in the blood
Plant-based protein powders are a great alternative to animal protein for those who are vegan, vegetarian or are just looking to reduce the number of animal products they consume.
They come in a variety of flavors, and can easily be added to smoothies, milk, water, or even be implemented in more creative ways such as stirring it into oatmeal or baking with the protein.
From super active people to people who just need more protein in their diets, plant-based protein powders are a great option.
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.
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What Is Biodiversity?
Polar bears, honeybees, mango trees and coral reefs are all examples of the countless animal and insect species, plant life and ecosystems that comprise the planet's vast biodiversity. Every living organism has a role to play in an intricate web of connectedness, no matter the size, and without them, there would be no life on Earth. Removing just one from the chain can send significant ripple effects throughout the system, even if those effects aren't immediately felt. More crucially, every species lost increases the extinction risk to another connected species.
While biodiversity exists wherever there is life, there are some places on Earth that are considered biodiversity hotspots — specific areas that are teeming with native species that can't be found anywhere else in the world, from koalas in Australia to giant pandas in China. There are currently 36 areas that qualify as hotspots, but consider this: While that number comprises only 2.4 percent of the planet, those regions contain almost 43 percent of endemic species. But these hotspots are increasingly threatened by human activity and climate change.
Not only that, but a United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Report warned that about a million species currently face extinction, and for some it's just a matter of decades. As it stands, a 2018 World Wildlife Fund report shared that the world's vertebrate populations declined an average 60 percent in each category (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians) since 1970.
Why Is Biodiversity Important to Ecosystems?
Mangrove roots in Mochima, Venezuela. Humberto Ramirez / Moment / Getty Images
Think of biodiversity as acting behind the scenes of day-to-day life. It's nature's way of providing clean air and water, food, resources (medicine, wood) and even climate protection. Yet consider that only 20 percent of Earth's species — at most — have been identified by science. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus began the daunting task in the 1700s, and since that time scientists have estimated that about 8.7 million unknown species exist, although only about 1.2 million species have been identified. Of that number, who knows how many critical ecosystem players have already gone extinct, or are critically endangered, before their role is even clear?
How Do Insects and Animals Impact Us?
It's impossible to discuss this without covering the sixth mass extinction. As the name indicates, there have already been five mass extinction events throughout history, with the last one wiping out the dinosaurs 67 million years ago following an asteroid strike. After each of the prior mass extinctions, which were mainly caused by environmental factors that eliminated as much as 95 percent of existing species, scientists estimated that it took millions more years before biodiversity regained pre-mass extinction numbers.
The difference today is that the current ongoing extinction threat could have been avoided since it's a human-led catastrophe. A recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that more than 237,000 populations of 515 species have likely gone extinct since 1900, with many more not far behind; or, 100 times faster in the past 100 years compared to the more normal range of up to 10,000 years for some species. So what does that really mean?
Without the proper number of species performing their daily tasks, the everyday aspects of life that we take for granted, including oxygen and a plentiful food supply, will worsen. For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed seven honeybee species as critically endangered. If all of the world's bees were to disappear, there would be few insects left to pollinate certain plants, ultimately affecting global food supply chains and the economy. A recent study found that bees and other insect pollinators contributed 34 billion to the U.S economy in 2012 alone.
While the worst-case scenario has yet to happen regarding bees, the world is still dealing with the very likely connection between biodiversity loss and infectious diseases. Though still unproven, scientists are getting closer to linking habitat loss and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Less land increases the likelihood of diseases spreading from animal species, such as bats, to humans. Until habitat loss is properly addressed, experts warn that pandemics will only increase in severity and frequency.
Then there are the financial costs, which are twofold. A UN report found that governments around the world allocated between $78-91 billion a year on biodiversity goals, when in fact hundreds of billions of dollars a year are needed, the report estimated. Without spending more to tackle the issues, biodiversity loss will wind up costing the world up to $140 trillion a year.
Which Species Are Most At Risk?
A Toucan feeds on fruit offered on Aug. 24 2020 at an inn at km 110 of the Transpantaneira highway whose fire consumed everything around along with the wildfires that has already burned more than 16.500 sq. km of the Brazilian Pantanal. Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto / Getty Images
The IUCN Red List identifies which species are most at risk for extinction, including their numbers, direct threats and conservation efforts. The Red List estimates that more than 37,000 known species currently face extinction, including, but not limited to, 41 percent of amphibians, 36 percent of sharks, 33 percent of coral reefs, 26 percent of mammals and 14 percent of birds. The IUCN has categorized species into Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild and Extinct. Among the most critically endangered are Amur leopards, vaquita porpoises, Sumatran rhinos and Cross River gorillas. In some cases, such as the vaquita porpoise, researchers believe less than a dozen exist in the wild.
Many other species, including those in the food chain such as Chilean sea bass and Atlantic bluefin tuna, are being pushed toward extinction thanks to popular consumer demand, which leads to overfishing.
Then there are the species that the world has permanently lost in the last 100 years, from the Tasmanian tiger, which was hunted to extinction (mainly for museum display purposes) to the Pinta giant tortoise, a Galápagos native that was hunted to extinction by the fishing industry. The last known survivor, Lonesome George, passed away in captivity in 2012. In more recent years, the media has been following the world's last two remaining northern white rhinos. Both female, their kind is headed toward extinction, but scientists are attempting IVF using white rhino surrogates in the wild.
Yet the question remains, why are so many species going extinct or are threatened with extinction compared to previous centuries? As with most complex issues, there's no one explanation. Rather, a combination of population growth/overconsumption, the wildlife trade, pesticides, pollution, hunting, deforestation, wildfires, invasive species, big ag and climate change are among the larger culprits.
This category poses the largest threat to global biodiversity as rainforests to plains are cleared to make way for agriculture, housing and everything else that comes with modern-day living. Rainforests around the world especially suffered in 2020, having lost 12 percent of tree cover due in part to wildfires. Many of these wildfires in turn are caused by deforestation, with Brazil leading the way under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to raze this resource for more profitable industries involving cattle and soy. As a result, Brazil's deforestation loss hit a 12-year high in 2020 according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This biodiverse hotspot is now at risk of losing endangered species such as the Amazonian jaguar, hyacinth macaw, pink dolphins and spider monkeys. Other major habitat loss threats throughout the Amazon come from gold mining and logging. Unfortunately, this scale of destruction isn't limited to the Amazon, with habitat loss taking a toll on species everywhere from Nepal and Borneo to China and Africa.
Ironically, the industry responsible for providing the world's food supply is also a major contributor. Industrial agriculture is a main culprit behind habitat loss as increasing amounts of land are converted to feed growing populations. Compounding this is an overreliance on a small number of crops and animals to meet global food supply needs, placing some of these species at risk for extinction.
About 600 million people populated the planet in 1700 compared to 7.7 billion in 2019. Future projections put that number even higher, reaching 10.9 billion by 2021. This massive population boom has taxed Earth's finite resources. While a Population Action International study has concluded that this boom is an indirect cause of biodiversity loss, it's nonetheless a habitat loss driver as more land is needed every year for food and other resources, along with urban and industrial development.
With increased land clearing and development comes increased pollution on a range of levels. This takes a toll on ecosystems in a myriad of ways: For example, chemical-laden water causes toxic algae blooms; rapidly changing climates make it difficult for many species to adapt; rising ocean temperatures bleach and kill coral reefs; oil spills kill fish, birds and other wildlife; and plastic pollution strangles or slowly kills wildlife that ingest it. Throw in noise pollution, light pollution, acid rain and pesticides, and it's no wonder that many species are experiencing population declines due to decreased breeding and numbers.
Speaking of pesticides, these chemicals are most notably destroying bee populations. While they're not the only reason, pesticides are a direct link. The Center for Food Safety found that some beekeepers have been reporting a complete loss of their colonies in recent years; at the same time, studies are showing a link between declining bee populations and pesticides: neonicotinoids in particular. Not only are these the most common insecticide, but neonicotinoids saturate an entire plant, not just the surface, proving especially toxic to bees. To put this in greater perspective, the United Nations Environment Programme has determined that 71 out of 100 crops are pollinated by bees, and these 100 crop varieties supply 90 percent of the global food supply.
This category is another contributor to bee loss, but invasive species are increasingly threatening all manner of plant and animal life. Invasive species are non-native plants or animals that have been introduced, either intentionally or by accident, and inflict ecological damage to their new environments as they compete for resources and disrupt an established ecosystem. In fact, invasive species rank just behind habitat loss when it comes to biodiversity threats. A 2019 study revealed that out of 953 extinctions since 1500, more than 400 were attributed to invasive species. For example, simply introducing cats to New Zealand in 1769 led to the downfall of the Stephens Island wren by 1900. In more recent times, Florida has banned 16 invasive species, including popular pet iguanas, as a way to reduce ecological and economic damages.
While some invasive species have been inadvertently introduced throughout the centuries, the billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade is another driver — both for introducing invasive species and biodiversity loss. A 2019 study predicted that the wildlife trade threatens almost 9,000 land species with extinction; this trade is the largest illegal market after drugs and weapons, with pangolin scales and elephant tusks among the market's most popular commodities.
Though not as large of a market, many plant-loving consumers are likely unaware that their latest acquisition could have been sourced via the illegal plant trade.
Poaching (illegal hunting) fuels the wildlife trade, but legal hunting is also detrimental to species' survival. During the Trump administration, many hunting regulations were scaled back, such as allowing hunters to shoot and kill bears and wolves in a wildlife refuge, along with their offspring, in their dens. Yet hunting easements aren't limited to administrations. Idaho recently passed a bill giving hunters the greenlight to kill 90 percent of the state's gray wolf population, which would reduce the overall number from around 1,500 to just 150. The endangered threshold is 100.
Overfishing falls into this category as well. Illegal fishing is a common practice, marine sanctuaries have opened up to commercial fishing and large numbers of marine life are getting caught up in fishing nets as unintended bycatch. Consumer demand has caused species such as beluga sturgeon, Atlantic halibut and bluefin tuna to land on the endangered list.
Certainly not least, this vast area encompasses enough issues for a separate discussion. In a nutshell, ever-increasing greenhouse gases are exacerbating the gamut of climate-induced events: rising seas, droughts, floods, wildfires, etc., all of which threaten plant and animal species just as much as they threaten human life.
What's Being Done About It?
M/V Farley Mowat crew member Tomas, pilots a boat at the port of San Felipe, in the Gulf of California, northwestern Mexico, in 2018, as part of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's operation "Milagro IV" to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. GUILLERMO ARIAS / AFP / Getty Images
Despite the many extinction threats facing species, global and local entities are working to address the problem.
The Convention on Biological Diversity formed in 1993 to protect biodiversity, and includes 196 participating nations. In 2010, the group set 20 biodiversity goals to meet by 2020. Unfortunately none of those goals have been met, although six targets were partially achieved, such as conserving protected areas and preventing invasive species. A recent UN report determined that it's not too late for global leaders to take action, but that countries need to focus on sustainability in general, from food systems and oceans to land and infrastructure. The next opportunity for countries to address biodiversity issues will occur in October 2021 in China, when the UN Biodiversity Conference convenes to troubleshoot biodiversity loss.
U.S. President Joe Biden formally announced a conservation plan in 2021 to protect 30 percent of the country's land and water by 2030. Additionally, under Biden the U.S. has rejoined the Paris Agreement, ended permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline and halted oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Other recent biodiversity wins include Biden's plan to restore migratory bird protections, however, protecting gray wolves and monarch butterflies is still under review.
There are numerous wildlife groups devoted to conserving biodiversity; some of the major players include the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, The Sierra Club, National Audubon Society and the Jane Goodall Institute. Meanwhile, conservation tourism remains a growing area, despite experiencing COVID-19 pandemic setbacks. For example, the African Wildlife Foundation has partnered with the Rwandan government to protect endangered mountain gorillas, resulting in a booming tourism industry. Elsewhere in Africa, wildlife safaris and game drives remain a critical way to bolster local economies while protecting species that are favored by poachers, such as rhinos and elephants. By no means limited to Africa, conservation tourism is helping to boost and/or protect the numbers of giant pandas in China, Bengal tigers in India, polar bears in Canada and giant tortoises in the Galapagos.
Zoos and animal facilities around the world have been participating in captive breeding programs since the 1960s, which are meant to increase populations of endangered species. While some programs breed animals that will remain in captivity, particularly zoos, others breed with the intention of introducing endangered species back into the wild. Not all attempts have been successful, but there are positive stories. Take the black-footed ferret, a North American species that was declared extinct in 1979. A captivity breeding program launched after 18 were found a couple years later; today, it's estimated that 301 survive in captivity and another 340 live in the wild. The ferrets are also notable for the fact that they're the first endangered species in the U.S. to be cloned, raising new hope for not just the ferrets, but other endangered species as well — even those that are extinct, such as the passenger pigeon.
While there's overlap with general wildlife conservation groups, an equal number of conservation organizations are dedicated to protecting marine life: Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and The Cousteau Society are among those making a difference by addressing pressing issues that involve, but aren't limited to, overfishing, coral reef bleaching, plastic pollution, commercial whaling and ocean acidification.
What Can We Do?
Greenpeace activists create a burnt smoldering rain-forest with a lifelike animatronic orangutan at the headquarters of Oreo cookies, in protest over their use of palm oil on November 19, 2018 in Uxbridge, England. Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images
Luckily, there are ways to make an impact on a smaller scale, and the more people that partake in these efforts, the greater the overall effect will be.
Support Sustainable Products and Food
Where possible, choose sustainably made goods, whether that's organic coffee from producers who eschew pesticides or furniture made from FSC-certified wood. (This designation certifies that the wood was sourced from well-managed forests.) Supporting local, organic farmers is another way to make a difference, along with understanding which types of seafood are more sustainable and being aware of eco-certification labels and what they really mean.
Avoid Palm Oil Products
Palm oil plantations have devastated large swaths of land across Asia, Latin America and Africa, although the majority of this popular vegetable oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Mass production comes at the expense of endangered species facing habitat loss: the Sumatran elephant, orangutan, rhino and tiger are now among the critically endangered as plantation land expansion continues unchecked. Consumers can fight back by avoiding products made with palm oil; however, this can prove difficult since the ingredient is prevalent in everything from makeup products and laundry detergent to chocolate and soap. Read labels closely, since many items disguise palm oil under other names, or use other names for palm oil derivatives. Vegetable oil, palmate and sodium lauryl sulfate are all clues that a product contains palm oil.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Another way to avoid palm oil is by switching to a plant-based diet. But this diet has much larger environmental benefits for biodiversity as it requires far less land usage and reduces reliance on a small number of animal species as a global food source. The world is currently using 80 percent of its agricultural land to raise livestock; consider how much biodiversity could be saved and preserved otherwise.
Become a Citizen Scientist
It's not uncommon for environmental organizations to seek help from average citizens to participate in all manner of projects. Whether it's keeping track of cicadas, searching for penguin eggs or identifying coral reef damage, there are programs around the world that welcome assistance. Even better, it's entirely possible to find projects that can be performed in your own backyard.
The world has reached a critical make-or-break point for preserving a million species at risk for extinction, some within the next few decades. The issue may seem overwhelming, much like climate change, but it's not hopeless. As with anything related to the environment, getting involved at a local level, learning about the current issues and becoming a conscious consumer are good starting points for fighting back against biodiversity loss.
Meredith Rosenberg is a senior editor at EcoWatch. She holds a Master's from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in NYC and a B.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia.
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