By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
One year into President Trump's term, EWG detailed how the Trump administration has stacked the Environmental Protection Agency with industry lawyers and lobbyists, undermined worker safety and cooked the books on chemical safety assessments. Midway through his second year, we reported how the EPA reversed a ban on a brain-damaging pesticide, delayed chemical bans and killed a rule to protect kids from toxic PCBs in schools. Last year, we reported that the EPA had rescinded safety rules at chemical plants, rubber-stamped untested new chemicals and silenced researchers.
As Trump's first term nears its end, things are even worse. Here are 10 more ways the Trump administration has continued to make life more toxic for Americans.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’
The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate more than 2,200 sites across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "forever chemicals." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals since at least 1998, they remain virtually unregulated.
In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.
When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump threatened a veto. Trump's EPA also weakened a rule designed to regulate PFAS in consumer products.
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water
Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm childhood brain development.
Almost a decade ago, the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a court-approved consent decree, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.
The EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. A year later, the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight
In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.
Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often without any health and safety information. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to regrettable substitution – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.
The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that lacks transparency and contravenes the 2016 law. The EPA has also ignored known health concerns, limited its consideration of worker risks and denied requests for public files in the new chemicals program.
The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. A recent investigation found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, used in ski wax, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.
Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than 3,000 new chemicals submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have sued the EPA over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals.
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical
Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for more than 60 deaths since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed a ban on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."
After significant pressure from families who lost loved ones due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the EPA narrowed the rule so that it would apply only to consumer uses of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a Center for Public Integrity investigation found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.
A separate EPA evaluation of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging the rule and the recent evaluation.
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical
Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "A Civil Action." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina.
As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing and vapor degreasing. In December 2017, the Trump EPA shelved these proposed bans, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.
However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the draft risk evaluation released in February. As EWG warned in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key 2003 study finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An independent review of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.
The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An investigation by Reveal News compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde
The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a frequent target of chemical industry attacks because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.
In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to defund the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, a Government Accountability Office report disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.
One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and known human carcinogen. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and ready for release. However, answering questions for the record following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."
Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should conduct its own assessment of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections
Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the Clean Water Rule, which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans.
The EPA's own science advisors have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration repealed it in 2019, proposed its own rule in January and finalized it in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.
Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources strain municipal water utilities tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more contaminants that aren't regulated under the act.
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos
Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma. An estimated 40,000 Americans die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.
After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the first 10 chemicals reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.
Instead, when the EPA released its draft risk evaluation in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.
Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA published a rule requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, leaked documents show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution
In July 2019, the Trump EPA proposed to reverse a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to reclassify themselves, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."
That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than 3,900 large facilities that emit pollutants like mercury and benzene could take advantage of this loophole. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year.
This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science
In 2018, the EPA proposed a disastrous rule significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most human health studies, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to clean air regulations.
The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda.
But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a supplemental proposal that is actually worse than the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.
As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.
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By Jake Johnson
Thousands of people from across the nation traveled to northern Minnesota this past weekend to join Indigenous leaders in what organizers described as the "largest resistance yet" to Line 3, an Enbridge-owned tar sands pipeline whose construction has accelerated in recent days as opponents warn the project poses a threat to waterways and the climate.
The Treaty People Gathering kicked off Saturday, the first of several expected days of action against Enbridge's multi-billion-dollar project, which aims to replace and expand the Canadian company's existing pipeline along a route that crosses more than 200 bodies of water and 800 wetlands.
If completed, the pipeline would have the capacity to carry more than 750,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin.
Indigenous leaders have decried the pipeline expansion as a brazen violation of treaty rights that endangers sacred land. Attempts to block the pipeline in court have yet to succeed, leading Line 3 opponents to turn their focus to large-scale protests and civil disobedience.
"We need to protect all that we have left of the sacred gifts and land," said Dawn Goodwin of the Indigenous-led RISE Coalition. "I said that I would do all that I could. And I have done all that I could in the legal system, thus far following that process. Now, they have failed us through regulatory capture and corporate financing. So now we need you."
We’ve got over 1000 people headed up to northern Minnesota to #StopLine3, but we want you up here too! Let Winona… https://t.co/DWAuzPHUGt— Honor the Earth (@Honor the Earth)1622933268.0
The latest major demonstrations against Line 3 are expected to begin on Monday, with prominent environmentalists such as Jane Fonda and Bill McKibben slated to join Winona LaDuke, Tara Houska, and other Indigenous activists in protesting the spill-prone pipeline.
"Our Mother needs us to be brave, to give voice to the sacred and future generations," Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective, said in a statement. "We've elevated the national profile of Line 3 through people power. [President Joe] Biden hears our voices, but the wetlands and wild rice need action."
"We cannot mitigate the climate crisis and we cannot stand idly by as DAPL and Line 5 fossil fuels flow illegally, as young people chain themselves to the Mountain Valley pipeline and Line 3," Houska continued. "Stand up for what is right, stand up for those not yet born."
Around 250 people have been arrested in demonstrations against Line 3 since construction began last December.
"From April 1 through June 1, work on the pipeline itself ceased due to spring road and environmental restrictions, though Enbridge continued building pumping stations," Minnesota's Star Tribune reported Saturday. "Over the past week, the full workforce—which numbers over 4,000—returned as direct pipeline work resumed."
Hundreds of environmental groups and Indigenous leaders have appealed directly to Biden to intervene against Line 3, just as he pulled the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline shortly after taking office.
In a March letter, a coalition of more than 370 organizations warned Biden that "Line 3 is a threat to water, Indigenous rights, and our global climate, and its rushed construction in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is an extreme danger to Minnesotan communities and energy workers alike."
But Biden has yet to take any action on Line 3, and just last month his administration formally opposed a shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, angering environmentalists who said the move flies in the face of the president's vows to treat the climate crisis as an emergency that requires bold action.
"President Biden did the right thing when he canceled the Keystone XL pipeline early on in his term," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted on Friday. "Now he must do the right thing and cancel Line 3. I renew my calls to end this destructive, unnecessary giveaway to Big Oil."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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- Water Protectors Arrested in Minnesota After Chaining Themselves ... ›
- Court Stops Police From Blockading Line 3 Protester Camp in 'Huge Legal Win' for Anti-Pipeline Activists ›
Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
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: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
When I stepped onto the tarmac in Durango, I was hit with a dry wall of air. The 4 p.m. sun felt like it was dialed up – brighter, hotter, and harsher. I blinked enough dust out of my eyes to scan the parking lot for the red Dodge pickup truck that had come to collect me.
That morning, I'd left my Brooklyn apartment, and a city recovering from 14 months of a pandemic. I'd flown to a two-gate airport in a state I'd never been to, to get picked up by a stranger who would drive me to his rural farm with no cell phone service to live in a trailer and work for free. The significance of the situation – and everything that could go wrong – didn't hit me until that gust of hot, dry air did.
I didn't know it would be one of the most important things I'd do with my life, or that I would begin advising everyone I met who found themselves in the situation I did – unemployed, unsure – to do the same.
~ ~ ~
It's hard to pinpoint when WWOOF first came to my attention; it seems like the kind of thing you always hear about in circles of young, unattached people – an opportunity for college kids looking to fill their summers or gap years, or a backburner activity for a hypothetical future when you have the time. When I, like many Americans, lost my job in early 2020, I started relying on short-term, freelance, and gig work; without a true full-time position, I found myself with rare, exhilarating, and daunting amount of freedom. It (finally) felt like the right time.
WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities (formerly Willing Workers) on Organic Farms – is essentially a network of national organizations that each facilitate homestays on farms. One-hundred and thirty countries have their own, separate branches of WWOOF, all with the goal of supporting sustainable, ecological farming through an educational work exchange.
The arrangement – at least for WWOOF-USA – is rather straightforward: WWOOFers (as participants are informally called) seek unpaid work on one of nearly 1,700 participating farms across the country in exchange for housing and meals. Beyond that, the details vary wildly. Some farms grow vegetables, while others produce herbs, fruit, flowers, mushrooms, or hemp. Some raise cows, chickens, and other livestock for milk, eggs, or meat. Many focus on value-added products like soap, medicinals, wine, maple syrup, and cheese. Some sites are large, established farms; some are community gardens or homesteads. Some seek WWOOFers for a few weeks of work; others for an entire growing season.
Anyone can search the website for host sites, but to see the names of the farms and contact them about a visit, users need to create an account for a $40 yearly fee. Potential volunteers then set up their profile, answering questions about their capabilities, interests, qualifications, etc.; hosts set up a similar profile, detailing all sorts of information about the farm and their expectations for workers.
Visitors are able to filter for hosts by all sorts of qualities: location, languages spoken by the farmers, farming methodologies, types of animals raised, type of housing offered, whether WWOOFers may bring children or pets, diets that can be accommodated, and preferred length of stay. Visitors can filter for only BIPOC or LGBTQ+-owned farms, or the maximum number of workers allowed at the site. During the pandemic, new filters were added, such as whether a host could accommodate folks working or schooling remotely.
Farmers can be contacted through the website, and, if it seems like a good match, the rest of the details – specific dates, transportation, etc. – are decided from there.
On the website's map of hosts, I zoomed in on Colorado. I found a farm that grew vegetables and raised chickens, sent a message showing my interest, and heard back from the farmer within a few days. We set up a time to chat, and he called me while driving home to Mancos from Durango, describing the scenery around him and what they were looking forward to on the farm this season. I packed two bags and took the cheapest flight out of Newark.
~ ~ ~
From my discussions with other folks who have WWOOFed, I've learned that it's futile to compare experiences; no two will share many similarities besides your purpose there being to farm. WWOOF as an organization has very little to do with the ordeal beyond facilitating that initial conversation between WWOOFer and farmer (although they can provide resources for emergent situations). Once you're on the farm, it's your relationship with the host that matters; your experience is entirely in your hands.
For the months of June and July, I lived and worked on a small market farm in Southwest Colorado. We grew vegetables on a few acres of land and in some small greenhouses, raised a couple hundred chickens and a handful of goats and pigs, and then sold the produce, eggs, and sausage at two weekly farmer's markets. Three Great Pyrenees theoretically kept the animals in check, but would often trot up to you in the fields with a smile on their face after, yet again, escaping from a rogue hole in the fence.
I lived in a trailer along the edge of a creek, downhill from the main house, accompanied by an old blue school bus, a few other stationary trailers, and a green VW van, all home to other farm folks and a few surprisingly friendly cats. We shared a firepit, some indoor-turned-outdoor furniture, and an open-air kitchen with a propane stove that would singe your eyebrows clean off if you weren't paying attention.
We started working after 7 a.m. – before the sun got too strong – and ended the day between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., or whenever the task at hand got done. During the early part of the season, we did a first pass at weeding all the beds that had already been planted, the greens and turnips in full swing and the onions and squashes just beginning to grow in earnest. There were raised beds and a new greenhouse to be built, eggs to collect and wash, compost to be spread, and crops to be harvested and cleaned and weighed for market on Thursdays and Fridays. As the summer carried on, harvest days became longer, and late-season crops were transplanted – and, of course, there was more weeding to be done.
While I retreated mid-afternoon to hike, or read, or cool off in the river, the farmer continued working; when we finished dinner in the evening, he went back into the fields with a headlamp. Work on a farm was never finished, I soon learned; it didn't happen between set hours, but all the time, until the work was done – which, of course, it never is.
When you search for a host on the WWOOF website, the farm profiles display photos of lush pasture, wicker baskets of cherry-red tomatoes, smiling goats and bins of freshly-harvested produce. It's true that the buckets of kale and lettuce looked almost suspiciously lush, and watching the sunset from the hill overlooking the farm and valley felt practically ethereal, but to live and work on a farm is to dispel a bit of that pure idealism – to learn the reality of a place that grows things without industrial machinery or pesticides that allow for such neat, uniform rows of crops.
You learn the reality of weeding the same acre for three months for two short weeks of harvesting; of black widows crawling from the piles of pulled bindweed and wild amaranth that you kneel on between the beds, and no-see-ums biting the tips of your ears until they swell. You learn how dry dirt gets into the crevices of your overalls and never seems to come out, and on the first day of monsoon season, you learn that your trailer isn't as watertight as you'd expected. Your body learns to wake up when the sun does, and go a little longer between showers than you'd prefer.
If you're lucky enough to WWOOF in Southwest Colorado – and if you're an east-coaster, like me – you'll learn for the first time what drought really feels like. The cracks in the ground were wide enough to drop quarters into. The creek running through the farm was hardly more than a trickle, the crawdads dragging themselves towards the last crevices of water, which became mere patches of mud as the weeks went on. Most of the Southwest has been in a chronic drought since 2000, and climate change is the unmistakable culprit; farmers in Colorado and the rest of the region have been forced to make painful changes, including major cutbacks on crops for lack of water.
Our days were almost entirely dictated by weather. A heatwave rolled through during my first week as we were erecting a new greenhouse; the temperature dial on the side of the tool shed had crept to nearly 100ºF before noon, and we retreated into the shade until the sun began to set and the temperature to drop before returning to the task. The irrigation water was shut off towards the middle of the summer, and all we could do was wait for monsoon season. Evidence has suggested that, even when the rains do come to offer some relief, climate change has made them less helpful. They came in late June, and I learned that the smell of it is different – stronger, and more metallic – and that the ground sucks it up within seconds, the dirt as dry as if rain had never come.
But you also learn about a different way of life.
WWOOFing – or any experience that takes you out of your own world, and what you view as the norm – opens a window into the everyday lives of other people; it allows you to see a world that exists outside of your own. I learned when it feels like to live in a town of 1,000 people and know the majority of those you pass on the street by name. I learned how jobs like farming aren't just careers, but an all-encompassing way of life. I learned about the culture and attitudes of people in a different part of the country. I learned how it feels to live in nature, away from the city that moves a million miles a minute, even during a global pandemic.
There are a lot of different lives to live, which we can't truly understand until we see them.
While every WWOOF experience will be different, they will all have this in common.
~ ~ ~
Like most life-changing, view-altering experiences, WWOOFing really is a giant leap of faith. You read the reviews, look at the pictures, zoom in on the closest town on Google Maps, talk to the farmer and ask all your questions – but you'll never know exactly what will happen. It could be a disaster, or it could be wonderful. It does take a great deal of courage, and a willingness to live in less-than-glamorous circumstances. It requires meeting entirely new people, doing physically and intellectually demanding work, and launching yourself into an entirely unknown situation.
I didn't really know what the next few months of my life would look like when I got off that plane and into that red pickup truck. I didn't know what people I would meet on the farm and in Mancos, or that they'd become such staples and joys in my everyday life. I didn't know that I'd go to a wedding of ex-WWOOFers on this very farm where they met, or learn (the hard way) that I'm a terrible mountain biker, or climb up to 13,500 feet on a mountainside of scree. I didn't know that I would learn how to properly throw a dart, or form unexpectedly meaningful relationships. I certainly didn't know that I would fall in love with farming, but that happened too.
You build a new life from the ground up – especially when you're planning to stay for a significant amount of time – that you eventually have to leave, which is far harder than all the rest.
Many WWOOFers – as I learned from other transient types in Colorado, and from the farmers who had a slow-moving, revolving door of WWOOFers come work for them – will set up a schedule for themselves, booking short, back-to-back visits on farms as they travel across the country. While taking advantage of this unique opportunity for housing and companionship is great, I advocate for the way I did it: staying in one place long enough to become a part of the community, and form some real, lasting relationships with the people there.
Another major consideration for many when choosing a host site is the number of WWOOFers housed at a given time; the difficulty of moving to a strange, faraway place is eased knowing that there will be others there to share it with. I had the experience of being both a lone WWOOFer and one of a group, my time split in half. Working alone with the farmer for my first month, I was able to get a lot of individual mentorship, learn about the things I was interested in, and form a closer relationship with him and others on the farm than I might have if I shared the time with lots of other workers.
As my second month rolled around, two other WWOOFers joined me, and besides the benefit of having more hands as the harvests got bigger, we formed a special kind of friendship: we shared a life experience together – one that no one could ever really understand besides each other. I have no doubt that they will remain a part of my life, even after going our separate ways.
In the end, togetherness was the crucial piece to the puzzle. We all worked together, cooked together, ate together, took weekend hikes and swims and played Tuesday night bar trivia together. Of all the wonderful benefits of WWOOFing – working outdoors, exploring the mountains, traveling – the community you form is the most important part.
For many, WWOOFing is a way to support yourself on a shoestring budget, with your food and living expenses paid for. But it's also clear why the majority of participants are young, unattached people: without an income, making student loan, rent, or mortgage payments is extremely difficult, and only possible if you've been able to save money for some time beforehand. Most people can't just step away from their lives and dependents to move away and work for free. It's yet another example of how privilege factors into our ability to have certain experiences.
Our lives have changed a lot in the past year and a half – in ways that, hopefully, might make experiences like this possible for more people: student loans payments are on hold, remote work and school are prevalent phenomena, and for some – myself included – stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits have granted more financial freedom to pursue different kinds of work.
After losing my own job in 2020, I shuttled between temporary and part-time gigs, trying to find something that would stick. As COVID dragged on, I'd started to give up on finding passion and joy in anything. The days and months blurred together, and it felt like the "most important" years of my life were quietly slipping away. I lost all sense of what I wanted from my life, and found myself looking around, wondering how I got here.
During that time, when I needed something to hold on to – some hope for a pre-pandemic future – I pictured a different kind of life: working away from a screen, somewhere in nature, doing something with my hands. I didn't know what kind of life I wanted to live, but I needed to find out – and WWOOFing gave me the chance to.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.
Amazon illegally fired two employees after they publicly criticized the company for its lack of action on climate change and its failure to protect warehouse workers from the novel coronavirus, the National Labor Relations Board determined.
Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were highly visible members of the small group of Amazon employees who in 2018 called for Amazon to do more to address climate change, and eventually got 8,700 colleagues to sign on to their efforts. They were fired last April, not long after their group of about 400 employees spoke out, in intentional and public violation of Amazon's tightened down internal policies clamping down on employee criticism.
Cunningham and Costa allege they were fired in retaliation for their activism. If they and Amazon do not settle the case, the NLRB will accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices and the case will go before an administrative law judge. Also this week, the NLRB will be counting votes to see if Amazon's 6,000 Alabama warehouse employees will unionize, a potentially major change for the company's notoriously exploitative labor practices.
As reported by The Associated Press:
Cunningham said the ruling proves that they were on the right side of history.
"Amazon tried to silence us," said Cunningham. "It didn't work."
Because of the ruling, Amazon could be forced to offer Cunningham and Costa their jobs back, pay them back pay and reimburse them for expenses related to losing their jobs.
Cunningham and Costa, who were user-experience designers at Amazon, were the two most prominent voices among a group of workers who wanted the company, which has a giant carbon footprint, to take more steps to combat climate change and to stop doing business with oil and gas companies. They held protests and spoke to the media about their concerns.
About a year ago, Cunningham and Costa planned a call between Amazon warehouse and office workers to talk about unsafe conditions in the e-commerce giant's warehouses. Before it could happen, Amazon fired both women. An Amazon executive quit in protest, saying he couldn't stand by as whistleblowers were silenced.
For a deeper dive:
- Employees Are Fighting for Climate Change at Work - EcoWatch ›
- Amazon Threatens to Fire Employees Who Speak out on Climate ... ›
- Amazon Employees Risk Jobs to Protest the Company's Climate ... ›
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
The choices we make now about how to recover from this pandemic will shape not only our health and economic future, but also the future of human life on this planet," Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said in a statement.
BREAKING: Almost 200 organizations from across the country are demanding the government put people first with a Jus… https://t.co/ski8lyiXF9— Leadnow (@Leadnow)1590408945.0
"This moment is a reminder that the status quo can and must be disrupted," the new Just Recovery for All website declares. "We are standing on the threshold between the old world and the next and we must choose to build the future we want."
A just recovery—which would enable the government and civil society to "build back better"—rests in six key principles:
- Put people's health and well-being first, no exceptions. Health is a human right and is interdependent with the health and well-being of ecological systems.
- Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people. Focus relief efforts on people—particularly those who are structurally oppressed by existing systems.
- Prioritize the needs of workers and communities. Support must be distributed in a manner consistent with Indigenous sovereignty, a climate resilient economy, and worker rights, including safe and fair labor standards and a right to unionize. Improved conditions for essential service workers must be maintained beyond this crisis.
- Build resilience to prevent future crises. We cannot recover from the current crisis by entrenching systems that will cause the next crisis.
- Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders. In a globalized world, what happens to one of us matters to all of us.
- Uphold Indigenous rights and work in partnership with Indigenous peoples. A Just Recovery must uphold Indigenous Rights and include the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, in line with the standard of free, prior, and informed consent.
The principles were endorsed by progressive groups focused on a broad range of issues including 350.org, the Canadian Federation of Students, Oxfam Canada, and The Leap.
"The huge collaborative effort that brought these principles to life over many weeks of rich, challenging discussions exemplifies the kind of action we expect of political leaders as we move through this crisis," Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada said in a statement.
"It's going to take a massive and diverse community of voices to encourage governments to be bold in the face of corporate lobbies, and to put people and communities first," she said.
"Our goal was to capture the immense amount of care work happening throughout Canadian civil society right now and present a vision of a Just Recovery that leaves no one behind," Abreu explained. "We know this is a vision the majority of Canadians support, and millions of people are ready to take action."
As for the inevitable question—How are you going to pay for it?—the groups say the money is already there. It's just a question of changing who's on the receiving end. From the new site:
The government currently gives billions of dollars in handouts to industries that harm our environment and communities, including the oil and gas industry. Canada also loses billions of dollars to offshore tax havens every year.
Right now, the government is working on a plan to rebuild our economy. It is likely that they will unveil a stimulus package, but it's on all of us to ensure that money goes directly to workers and communities, not corporations. By bailing out people, not big businesses, and closing tax loopholes, we can start to build a sustainable and just future for all.
Dr. Courtney Howard of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment says it's clear from what she's witnessed amid the global pandemic that people are willing to use moments of crisis as turning points for positive change.
"To feel safe," she said, "we need to manage two planetary health emergencies at once—Covid-19 and its economic fallout, and climate change."
"We've shown that when pressed, we prioritize health. We take care of one another," said Howard.
"We have a generational opportunity to use this time of crisis and reflection to bring to life a vision of planetary health for all," she continued. "We've stayed home to save lives. By working together on a just and healthy recovery, we'll save more."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- 40 Million Health Workers Endorse Green Recovery - EcoWatch ›
- Multisolving Our Way to COVID-19 Economic Recovery - EcoWatch ›
By Courtney Lindwall
Whether you're simply fascinated by the superorganism that is a humming hive, want to pollinate your garden, or hope to harvest some honey, the ancient art of beekeeping offers much for beginner apiarists. "It blew me away how complex and organized the bees were," says Jason Thomas, senior IT specialist at NRDC, who began his hobbyist beekeeping career maintaining the hives on the roof of NRDC's New York City office. Here are tips from Thomas and other bee advocates on how to get started.
Join a beekeeper's association.
Beyond books and YouTube tutorials, your local beekeeper's association can offer guidance and insider tips as you learn the ropes. The American Beekeeping Federation offers a good jumping-off point, with listings by state. Once you find your local club, see if it offers classes for newbies. That's how Nicole Rivera Hartery, who now owns her own New Jersey–based beekeeping service called Bees on Main St., got her start: by taking an intensive course through Rutgers University's agricultural program. "I was fortunate enough to assist the members on their hives, and they became my mentors."
Keep native bees in mind.
While honeybees get the attention, there are about 4,000 species of native bees across North America. Some, like the underground-dwelling mining bee and the solitary mason bee, help pollinate agricultural crops. And like honeybees, native species, too, face myriad threats: climate change, pesticides, and toxic pollution. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that one in four native bee species are in peril. To protect against further decline, advocate for measures that support the health of all bees. Urge your lawmakers to ban harmful uses of neonics, a pesticide responsible for killing birds and bees, and encourage your community to cultivate a "pollinator pathway" lined with bee-friendly habitat and food sources.
Grow your own pollinator garden.
Bees feed off of nearby flowers, carrying sticky pollen on their legs and pollinating plants as they forage from two to four miles. Plant annuals that bloom throughout the season or perennials that bloom in sequence to provide food all year long. The ideal plants depend on where you live, but bees love native wildflowers and flowering trees—like wild cherries, horse chestnuts, tulip trees and crepe myrtles, for example—as well as fruit and vegetable gardens. (Read more tips on attracting bees and other pollinators here.) Watch out for toxic plants, like azaleas and rhododendrons, or ones that produce less nectar, like pansies. "If we all do this, we have a real opportunity to create a good stretch of pollinator habitat," says Guillermo Fernandez, executive director of the Bee Conservancy, "and to enjoy watching the wildlife that stops by for a sip of nectar."
Learn the local laws.
Whether you're tending to a single hive on your city roof or dozens in the country, get to know your local area's rules. Common ordinances include mandatory registration, limits on the number of hives, or restrictions on distancing from neighbors. In New York, for example, beekeepers are required to register their hives with the health department and renew their license annually.
Set up your hive.
Where you live, the amount of space you have, and your budget will influence how you set up your hive. The standard design since 1852 has been the Langstroth hive: It's more manageable because of its modular box and vertically hung frames—like folders in a filing cabinet—which help prevent them from fusing together. This where the bees make their honeycomb, store resources, and lay eggs. While plastic frames are durable, Thomas recommends natural materials like wood. "Anything plastic—the bees won't want to use that," Thomas says. Other designs include top bar, flow, and hex hives. Be sure to elevate your beehive off the ground—6 to 10 inches—to help keep it away from pests and ground moisture.
No hobby is without its gear. Start with what you'll wear for protection: Most apiarists recommend a sturdy suit (with ventilation for warm days), gloves, and a veil. As for tools, the basics include a hive smoker, which helps calm bees naturally and mask their alarm pheromones when you're disrupting their hive; a bee brush, to safely move bees without squishing them; and a hive tool, for prying open lids and separating frames. You may eventually want to purchase things like a queen clip, which allows you to catch and hold your queen bee, or a honey extractor.
Buy (or attract) some bees.
Most beekeepers purchase their starter bees online—typically the Western or Italian honeybee. A standard package has about 10,000 bees, including a queen. (Thomas recommends picking them up from a nearby retailer; shipping can cause bee loss.) After introducing the bees to the hive, set up a feeder—for initial sustenance—and remove it once the bees find nearby nectar. Some beekeepers choose to capture a wild swarm or attract one to a swarm trap, although Thomas cautions that this technique is best attempted by more experienced beekeepers.
Learn to read your frames.
Apiarists must tend to their hives throughout the year. Conduct check-ins every 7 to 10 days. Use your smoker to calm the bees and be careful not to crush any as you remove frames for inspection. Being able to "read your frames" takes experience, but be on the lookout for a healthy queen; a brood distributed in solid blocks within the comb cells; abundant pollen and nectar; and no pest or disease issues. Hive maintenance also changes through the seasons. Spring is when most hives grow. In winter, populations naturally shrink and hives need to be insulated. (In New York, Thomas aids overwintering by keeping a Canadian species that's more acclimated to the cold.)
Ensure your hive is "queenright."
Your hive may have thousands of worker bees and drone bees—but often just one queen, who lays all the eggs and whose good health—a state called "queenright"—determines the health of the hive. Learn to spot the queen quickly by watching for her longer abdomen and hairless back. You can also identify her by the way worker bees encircle her. Signs that your hive may no longer have a healthy queen include a lack of eggs and brood, a population decrease, and an agitated temperament.
Plan for pests and disease.
Even in the best-maintained hives, pests are unavoidable. "I thought I'd only have to worry about wasps," Hartery says, "but when I found out everything I'd have to protect them from, it was a shock." Varroa mites are most common (and often treatable with remedies like oxalic acid), but other threats include mice, wax moths, and small hive beetles. Your bees may also catch diseases, like the nosema fungus, but many are treatable if you catch them early. Aim for "Integrative Pest Management," which prioritizes nontoxic, preventative, least-invasive measures, before resorting to potentially harmful options, like miticides.
Reap the (sweet) rewards.
If you're mostly in it for the honey, keep in mind that it could take a while. "Usually, don't expect honey your first year," Hartery says. Thomas advises buying frames with existing honeycomb to start. When the honey comes, it will have the unique flavor of the plants the bees feasted on. Apiarists can also use their hives' comb, pollen, and wax to make everything from candles to pollen patties, which can be fed back to the bees before winter.
Stay the course.
"As beekeepers, we dedicate so much to these hives and we just want them to be healthy," Hartery says. "When we lose one, it can be pretty devastating." Her advice? Know that losing a hive is inevitable. But the rewards of the job have always won out for Hartery. "I get done working, and I'm able to sit back and observe—just watch them work together. It definitely opens up your eyes to life in general. You think, this is how we should be as a human race; this is how we should work together for the greater cause."
- Pesticide Exposure Changes Bees' Genes - EcoWatch ›
- To Help Save Bumble Bees, Plant These Flowers in Your Spring ... ›
- Is Your Avocado Toast and Almond Milk Harming Bees? Maybe ... ›
Three-and-a-half decades after the world's worst nuclear disaster, Ukrainian officials are transforming the deserted Chernobyl exclusion zone into a monument that educates and warns tourists about the consequences of human error.
On the night of April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded and caught fire, sending radioactive material into the air just 65 miles north of the capital city of Kyiv. Despite the health risks of the explosion, Soviet leaders attempted to keep the accident quiet, according to the AP.
The explosion's radiation killed 31 plant workers and firemen in the immediate aftermath, and later killed thousands more due to radiation-related illnesses, such as cancer, The Guardian reported. Eventually, tens of thousands of residents were evacuated from the surrounding areas.
"This is a place of tragedy and memory, but it is also a place where you can see how a person can overcome the consequences of a global catastrophe," said Bohdan Borukhovskyi, Ukraine's deputy environment minister, according to the AP. "We want a new narrative to appear — it was not a zone of exclusion, but a zone of development and revival."
Ukrainian officials are hoping to classify Chernobyl as a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the plan to transform Chernobyl's grim narrative. "We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is a first and important step towards having this great place as a unique destination of interest for the whole of mankind," said Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine culture minister, according to The Guardian. "The importance of the Chernobyl zone lays far beyond Ukraine's borders... It is not only about commemoration, but also history and people's rights," he added.
Officials have taken initial steps toward making the site a monument in hopes of attracting more tourists and funding, the AP reported.
Other initiatives include using part of Chernobyl's exclusion zone as a storage ground for the country's nuclear waste for the next 100 years. Currently, Ukraine transports its nuclear waste to Russia, so the new repository at Chernobyl will save the government up to $200 million a year, the AP reported.
Ukrainian officials also hope to turn Chernobyl into a tourist attraction; visitors doubled in 2019 following the release of the critically acclaimed HBO mini-series about the disaster, Euronews reported. Although pandemic restrictions halted travel in 2020, officials hope the site will eventually earn more money for future restoration.
"Our tourism is unique; it is not a classic concept of tourism," said Borukhovskyi, according to Euronews. "This is an area of meditation and reflection, an area where you can see the impact of human error, but [where] you can also see the human heroism that corrects it."
Today, visiting certain parts of the exclusion zone with an experienced guide is relatively safe thanks to low levels of radiation. Despite higher levels of radiation in other areas, the zone is thriving with bears, bison, wolves, lynx and dozens of bird species, the AP reported. Biologists also use the site to study how animals adapt to radiation, finding that they're surprisingly resistant to exposure.
Gaining the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site could mean additional protection and more visitors for Chernobyl, but Tkachenko warns that, "Chernobyl should not become a wild playground for adventure hunters," according to the AP. "People should leave the exclusion zone with the awareness of the historical memory of this place and its importance for all mankind."
Update: The headline was updated from "Nuclear Explosion" to "Nuclear Disaster" as the latter is more accurate.
- Chernobyl Could Become World's Largest Solar Farm - EcoWatch ›
- 30 Ways Chernobyl and Dying Nuke Industry Threaten Our Survival ... ›
- Chernobyl Wildfires Could Spread Radioactive Particles - EcoWatch ›
By Jessica Corbett
A coalition of 80 U.S. agricultural, consumer, environmental, public health, and worker groups sent a letter Thursday to key figures in the Biden administration calling for them to "respect Mexico's sovereignty and refrain from interfering with its right to enact health-protective policies" — specifically, the phaseout of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn.
"Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year's Eve decree," Timothy A. Wise of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (ITAP) noted earlier this year. "His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock."
"Mexico imports about 30% of its corn each year, overwhelmingly from the United States," Wise added. "Almost all of that is yellow corn for animal feed and industrial uses. López Obrador's commitment to reducing and, by 2024, eliminating such imports reflects his administration's plan to ramp up Mexican production as part of the campaign to increase self-sufficiency in corn and other key food crops."
The groups' letter on the Mexican policies and U.S. interference — published in English and Spanish — is addressed to recently confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. Its lead author is Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA).
"We call on Secretary Vilsack and Trade Representative Tai, as key leaders in the new administration, to respect Mexico's decision to protect both public health and the integrity of Mexican farming," Schafer said in a statement. "It is completely unacceptable for U.S. public agencies to be doing the bidding of pesticide corporations like Bayer, who are solely concerned with maintaining their bottom-line profits."
BREAKING: 80 orgs deliver letter to @USDA, @USTradeRep opposing U.S. interference in Mexico's glyphosate phaseout https://t.co/m7M2o4sFmB— PAN North America (@PAN North America)1619722728.0
Fernando Bejarano, director of Pesticide Action Network in Mexico, explained that "we are part of the No Maize No Country Campaign, a broad coalition of peasant organizations, nonprofit NGOs, academics, and consumers which support the presidential decree and fight for food sovereignty with the agroecological transformation of agricultural systems that guarantee the right to produce and consume healthy, nutritious food, free of pesticides and transgenics."
"We reject the pressure from corporations such as Bayer-Monsanto—and their CropLife trade association—which are working in both the United States and Mexico to undermine the presidential decree that phases out the use of glyphosate and transgenic corn," Bejarano said.
The letter highlights Guardian reporting on U.S. government documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents revealed that CropLife America and Bayer AG—which acquired glyphosate-based herbicide developer Monsanto in 2018—worked with U.S. officials to lobby against Mexico's plans.
According to journalist Carey Gillam's mid-February report:
The emails reviewed by the Guardian come from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies. They detail worry and frustration with Mexico's position. One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador's administration as "vocal anti-biotechnology activists," and another email states that Mexico's health agency (Cofepris) is "becoming a big time problem."
Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is "pushing" for the U.S. to "fold this issue" into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect July 1. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns "regarding compliance" with USMCA.
Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email "how we could use USMCA to work through these issues."
The Guardian also noted correspondence involving the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As the letter to Vilsack and Tai points out: "This interference and pressure from the agrochemical industry is continuing. On March 22nd, industry representatives sent a letter directed to your attention as leaders of USTR and USDA, identifying Mexico's planned phaseout of glyphosate and genetically modified corn as a 'leading concern' for agribusiness interests and the pesticide industry (represented by the pesticide industry's trade group, CropLife America)."
"We strongly object to any interference by U.S. government officials or agribusiness interests in a sovereign state's right to enact policy measures to protect the health and well-being of its people," the letter states. "We urge your agencies to resist and reject these ongoing efforts."
"We welcome the administration's stated commitment to listening to the science, improving public health, protecting the environment, and limiting exposure to dangerous chemicals and pesticides, while holding polluters accountable and prioritizing environmental justice, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities," it adds. "We trust that these stated commitments, as well as your dedication to 'fairness for farmers,' extend equally to other countries and include respect for other nations' and peoples' rights to self-determination."
Other signatories to the letter include the American Sustainable Business Council, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, ITAP, and Organic Consumers Association.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
It likely comes as no surprise that the world's best-selling electric vehicle manufacturer is also one of the top solar companies in the U.S. Tesla solar products like the Solar Roof and Powerwall have made a name for themselves in the renewable energy industry, and in this article, we'll dive into whether they're really worth the hype.
Read on to learn more about Tesla solar panels, the Tesla Solar Roof system and the Tesla Powerwall solar battery.
Overview of Tesla Solar
As noted, the Tesla enterprise has sought to become the first and foremost name in U.S. solar rooftop installations. These efforts started back in 2016 when Tesla acquired the company SolarCity. At the time, SolarCity was the leading residential solar installer in the country, and it just happened to be founded by cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
In the time since, numerous other solar manufacturers have made strong plays in the residential solar market, and some of those leaders, such as Sunrun and Vivint Solar, have jockeyed back and forth with Tesla for being the market leader. Rankings vary depending on the year, quarter or even month observed, though no single provider ends up providing more than 15% of the market share.
That inherent diversity in the market is a great opportunity for potential customers to shop for their best option and identify what specific offerings best align with their needs and budget. Unsurprisingly, Tesla solar comes in first place for many households. Specifically, the basic offerings that Tesla solar has become known for are:
- Tesla solar panels: Standard rectangular panels most people associate with solar installations
- Tesla Solar Roof: Rather than panels on top of the roof, these systems use solar shingles designed to cover the entire roof and look like the roof tiles themselves
- Tesla Powerwall: Rechargeable battery Tesla can install in conjunction with new solar systems or add to existing systems to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of home energy use
Tesla Standard Solar Panels
The most basic offering, and the one the majority of customers are envisioning when considering solar energy for their household, are standard Tesla solar panels. These work the same way as any rooftop solar panel, but the main features that set Tesla solar panels apart from competitors' products include:
- 24/7 monitoring: You can keep tabs on your panels at any time and from anywhere through a mobile monitoring app. The app tracks your panels' performance, efficiency and generation, as well as detects any issues with your system.
- Aesthetics: Tesla prioritizes the design of its rooftop panels in a way competitors don't, creating a sleek, blended, low-profile installation that brings direct curbside appeal.
- Streamlined pre-installation: As part of Tesla's solar panel installation process, homeowners send in photos of their equipment and system spaces rather than having a crew come out to inspect these areas. This helps bring total costs below the national average.
The exact nature of the installation chosen for your home will be customized based on your rooftop, power needs, geography, budget and more.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
Here are a few specs to note regarding Tesla solar panels:
|Category||Tesla Solar Specs||Why it Matters|
|Wattage||42 5W||Most residential solar panels run around 250 W to 300 W. This means you will need to purchase fewer Tesla panels to produce a certain amount of power.|
|Operating Temperatures||-40°F to 185°F||These are the lowest and highest temperatures your Tesla solar panels will operate in. While it's not likely they will ever reach these extremes, most residential solar panels are rated to similar degrees.|
|Size||82.4" x 40.9" x 1.57" (including frame)||Most residential solar panels measure about 65 inches by 39 inches. Tesla's are longer, which allows you to purchase fewer modules.|
|Warranty||25 years||Tesla's performance warranty is about average for the industry.|
|Inverter||3.8 kW or 7.6 kW||The Tesla Solar Inverter is a key part of the home solar system, as it converts the panel's direct current (DC) power into usable alternating current (AC) power for in-home consumption. Tesla's inverters operate at 97.5% efficiency and come with a 12.5-year warranty.|
As you may be able to tell, Tesla's panels are some of the best solar panels on the market today. This leads to one question: How much do they cost?
How Much Do Tesla Solar Panels Cost?
While Tesla is known for high quality (which can often be quite pricey), the company actually advertises its solar panel systems as the "Lowest-Cost Solar Panels in America." Is that a fair claim to make?
Kind of. The cost of solar panels depends on a number of factors, including the size of your system, installation complexities, available local tax incentives and more. Given all of these considerations, though, Tesla seeks to ensure it can truly follow through on the "lowest cost" claim via its price-match guarantee. Through this program, homeowners can present a recent quote (within 14 days of order) from a competitor for a similar system, and Tesla will match the price.
In general, the average Tesla solar system of about 8.2 kW will cost a home $11,840 (after accounting for the federal solar tax credit), while an extra-large system of 16.3 kW will cost $22,200. Tesla estimates that most homeowners recoup that investment in six to eight years.
If you want to see how much a Tesla solar panel system would cost for your home, you can use the company's design feature. And to get a free quote to compare from a top installer in your area, you can fill out the form below.
Tesla Solar Roof
Moving beyond the conventional solar panels that are associated with household solar power, Tesla has made waves with its offering of the Tesla Solar Roof. The difference in this system is that rather than large-scale panels installed on top of roof tiles, Tesla uses solar shingles that integrate with the look of your existing roof while generating energy to power your home.
This new way of thinking about residential rooftop installations isn't just a gimmick. The Tesla Solar Roof brings with it a host of benefits that makes it more appealing than standard solar panels:
- The solar shingles are three times more durable than standard panels, meaning the risk of damage from hail, storms or other environmental factors is minimized.
- By covering the entire rooftop, even more clean solar energy can be generated for the home.
- The aesthetic appeal of the solar rooftop is undeniable, as no panels appear outside of the existing design of the roof. Rather, the Solar Roof is a part of the building aesthetic. Note that Tesla used to offer different styles of solar roof tiles, but today it only offers black-on-black tiles.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
That said, the decision to go for a full solar roof over standard solar panels is not an obvious choice for all households. These installations bring with them a number of downsides that may turn customers away:
- Solar shingles are more expensive to create on a per-watt basis, and they usually have a greater total coverage area. This makes the initial investment notably more expensive and out of reach for many customers.
- While a storm is more likely to damage a standard solar panel than a solar shingle, if a storm is severe enough that it is able to cause Solar Roof damage, repair costs will be higher than they would be for other types of solar panel repairs.
- Solar panels can be readily installed and then removed later on for any reason a homeowner may choose, but the solar roof is a more permanent decision.
While customers may have an untold number of solar panel providers to choose from when going the traditional route, Tesla is among the only companies offering solar shingles today.
How Much Does a Tesla Solar Roof Cost?
Given that the main drawback of a Tesla Solar Roof is the significant investment it will require, even more so than traditional solar panels, curious homeowners will naturally ask: Exactly how much more do they cost?
We used Tesla's website to design theoretical systems in Florida and received the following outputs:
|City in Florida||Square Footage of Home||Average Monthly Power Bill||System Size||System Cost Estimate*||Powerwall Cost||Cost of System Per Watt|
|Daytona Beach||2,000||$125||10.88 kW||$63,460||$10,500||$5.83|
|Fort Lauderdale||3,000||$225||19.59 kW||$93,772||$17,000||$4.79|
*System estimates include installation and Powerwall costs but do not reflect federal and local tax credits. All data sourced from tesla.com/energy/design.
These costs, of course, are simply example quotes, and prices will vary based on location, energy needs, local incentives and more. For example, the Solar Energy Industries Association notes that the average cost per watt for a fully installed system in 2020 was $2.96 (before tax credits). All told, the solar roof is significantly more expensive than the traditional solar panel route.
The ideal customer who will want to consider a Tesla Solar Roof either a) doesn't consider money to be an object, or b) is already considering a rooftop replacement and wants to lump in this upgrade (though installing a solar roof amid a roof replacement will add $10,000 to $70,000 to the solar roof installation costs, according to Tesla's online cost calculators).
The last Tesla solar product that homeowners may be considering is the Tesla Powerwall, which is one of the best solar batteries on the market. By adding a battery to your home solar system, you can use solar energy even when the sun isn't shining (like at night or on cloudy days), have power stored up in case of a utility outage, and even sell the excess energy back to the grid when energy costs are greatest.
Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
When considering Tesla solar energy storage for a new or existing solar system, customers will come across both the Tesla Powerwall and the Tesla Powerwall+. The Powerwall+ comes with additional benefits (at an additional cost, of course). Key differences between these two options include the following:
|Category||Tesla Powerwall||Tesla Powerwall+|
|Energy Capacity||13.5 kWh||13.5 kWh|
|On-Grid Power||5.8 kW continuous||7.6 kW / 5.6 kW continuous|
|Backup Power||10 kW peak||9.6 kW / 7 kW continuous
22 kW / 10 kW peak
|Size||45.3" x 29.6" x 5.75"
|62.8" x 29.7" x 6.3"
|Warranty||10 years||10 years|
All customers who install a Tesla Solar system, whether standard solar panels or a Solar Roof, are required to purchase a Powerwall (or Powerwall+) to ensure the highest efficiency and effectiveness of their system. The Powerwall and Powerwall+ are also available for purchase alone to pair with an existing non-Tesla solar installation, though the homeowner will still need to utilize a Tesla-certified installer.
How Much Does a Tesla Powerwall Cost?
Once again, cost will be a major question and consideration for potential Powerwall owners. The main factor that will determine how much your Tesla solar battery setup will cost is how many Powerwalls you actually need based on the size of your panel system.
While every system will differ, each installation type will be unique and your mileage may vary, we reached out to Tesla to ask about general cost estimates and found the right rule of thumb to consider is:
- One Powerwall: $10,500
- Two Powerwalls: $17,000 (i.e., price drops to $8,500 each when buying two at a time)
Why Should a Home Go Solar?
Given the extensive costs and considerations pertaining to Tesla solar, is solar energy even worth it for your home? The upfront costs of these systems are a serious hurdle for many homeowners, but if you have the capital available, there are numerous reasons to consider going solar:
- With the climate crisis worsening, installing solar on your home is a direct way for you to reduce your home's carbon footprint and potentially even start a trend of neighbors adopting clean energy after seeing you do so.
- Monthly power bills can be high and volatile, so the more energy you can generate self-sufficiently for your home, the less you'll pay in utility bills.
- In many areas, the owners of a solar system can sell their excess energy back to the utility company, which can give you a greater return on your solar system investment.
- Rooftop solar combined with energy storage is a great way to reduce how likely your home is to be impacted by power outages.
- Installing solar panels ups the market value of your home, and with a sleek Tesla solar system, they can also make a home more aesthetically appealing.
While the high costs to install may be frustrating, it's important that potential customers research or talk to experts about available tax incentives that come from federal, state and local governments. These incentives come as credits, rebates, low-interest loans and other tools to help make solar power accessible to more homes.
FAQ: Tesla Solar
How much does Tesla solar cost?
A Tesla solar system (including equipment and installation) can vary in cost from $11,840 for 8.2 kW of standard solar panels to $22,200 for 16.3 kW (both after tax incentives). A Tesla Solar Roof will have a higher price tag, typically in the ballpark of $30,000 to $90,000. A Tesla Powerwall will be about $8,500 to $10,500 per 13.5 kWh battery. These costs represent a wide range of system sizes, local geographies, available tax incentives and more.
Why is Tesla solar so cheap?
Tesla is able to mass-produce its equipment, use economies of scale and streamline the installation process by recruiting homeowners themselves to contribute to the evaluation of their homes. These are some of the factors that allow Tesla to offer a price-match guarantee, ensuring the company offers the cheapest solar panels in the U.S.
How effective are Tesla solar panels?
Once installed, Tesla solar panels are highly efficient and effective, which has kept them as one of the most popular solar installers in America and able to offer customers payback periods of just a handful of years.
Does Tesla solar include installation?
When you buy solar panels, depending on your location, Tesla will either send its own installers or contract workers from another local installation company to set up your system.
Should I buy a home solar system?
The concept of going solar is fairly straightforward: by installing solar panels or shingles on the area of your roof that gets the most direct sunlight, power is generated for use in your home, offsetting the need for you to purchase that power from your utility company. Doing so will help you save money each month and ensure the energy used within your home is carbon-free. Other advantages include the ability to generate power even during local utility outages and directly increasing the resale value of your home.
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Coffee has enormous cultural significance. It's a staple of culture, cuisine, and everyday life for people all over the planet. Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, and the crop is a highly traded commodity of huge importance to global economies.
These millions of cups aren't without consequence, however. The growing, processing, and transportation of coffee – everything that happens before it's poured into our mugs – have large-scale environmental and social repercussions.
Grown in tropical regions around the equator – called the "Bean Belt" – coffee beans travel far before ending up in our cabinets. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia are the top producers of coffee – so, for those living in the continental United States, "local" coffee isn't an option, and its impact will always be substantial.
Increased demand and the undercutting of smallholders in coffee production have led to more destructive growing practices, including monocropping and replacing shade-grown coffee with sun-grown. Extreme exploitation of labor is also tied to coffee production, and farmers typically earn only between 7-10% of the retail price of their product – and less than 2% in Brazil – according to the Food Empowerment Project.
Beyond its production, the way we choose to prepare and consume coffee can also create avoidable waste: from filters to mugs, to spent coffee grounds. Luckily, there are ways to choose and consume your coffee more consciously, from choosing the product to how it's prepared.
Here are a few tips for a more sustainable and responsible coffee routine if you can't kick the habit.
1. Choose Consciously
Doi Chaang coffee on display for sale inside a coffee shop in Chiang Rai. Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images
When perusing the coffee aisle, look at the packaging for legitimate labels and third-party certifications. Real certifications will let you know that the coffee's production processes followed specific environmental and/or humanitarian regulations.
Be very wary of greenwashing as well: many companies will stamp illegitimate certifications on their packaging – like "100% All Natural," or "Certified Sustainable" – which don't represent any real standards and mislead consumers, giving the appearance of sustainability and responsibility without any basis.
The "local" label is another one to avoid; no coffee is "local" if you live in the continental U.S., regardless of what the packaging might tell you (locally roasted, maybe, but not grown).
There are a few legitimate certifications that consumers can look for when purchasing coffee:
Shade-grown coffee employs natural processes in coffee-growing, as overhead trees drop leaves and bark that suppress weeds and deliver nutrients to the soil, while also providing a habitat for wildlife and preventing soil erosion. Because of its higher yield, sun-grown coffee – that is, coffee grown in wide-open spaces – became popularized in the 1970s, but has reduced biodiversity and necessitated greater use of pesticides and fertilizers by farmers. Deforestation is already linked to coffee production and has only accelerated with the rise of sun-grown coffee and increasing global demand.
Many of the following certifications mandate that a certain percentage of coffee produced by a farm is shade-grown.
Rainforest Alliance Certified
Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee includes environmental, social, and economic criteria. Growers certified under this label must follow a list of standards set by the Sustainable Agricultural Network, which addresses deforestation, bans the alteration of waterways and dumping of wastewater, restricts the use of pesticides, and requires farms to pay workers at least the federal minimum wage. The Rainforest Alliance certification is being upgraded this summer to address more issue areas and employ newer technologies to verify compliance on farms.
The seal has faced criticism, however, for requiring only 30% of the coffee in a package to have followed these standards, and for not including a fixed price for growers or a provision for organic cultivation.
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Bird Friendly Coffee
The requirements for Bird Friendly Coffee are often considered more stringent than those of the Rainforest Alliance, mandating coffee be 100% organic and 100% shade-grown. The seal aims to protect the habitats of migratory birds and requires that a farm be certified organic, maintain a healthy soil base, and employ zero use of pesticides.
The checklist requires, among other qualifications, at least 40% of a coffee farm to be covered in shade and grow 10 different tree species at a minimum to discourage monocropping.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair trade standards primarily focus on supporting farmers and workers. The major labels indicating that a product is fair trade certified are Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade America – the U.S. member of Fairtrade International. Both protect farmers against price fluctuations by setting a price floor that requires a minimum price per pound of coffee, plus additional funds for community development.
These labels have their own complications, as there are many other political and economic complications for farmers, including debts from previous price fluctuations; but, they are a step in the right direction.
The word "fair trade" is also ripe for greenwashing, stamped onto packages with no standards behind it. Be sure to verify whether a product is actually fair trade certified by one of these organizations when purchasing coffee.
USDA OrganicLike other certified-organic products, this label verifies that a farm has followed strict environmental standards, which prohibit synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Products labeled "100% organic" follow these guidelines completely, "organic" products must contain at least 95% organically-produced material, and anything indicating it was "made with organic ingredients" must contain at least 70%.
You can learn more about organic coffee subscriptions here.
2. Replace Disposable With Reusable
Hiraman / E+ / Getty Images
Given all of the complex, energy-intensive processes that go into producing coffee, the environmental footprint of your morning cup goes far beyond plastic waste – but, with 64% of Americans drinking at least one cup a day, that resulting waste is nothing to scoff at.
When brewing coffee at home or grabbing one on-the-go, consider replacing the following:
Coffee filters are like any disposable product: they require energy and resources to produce and then end up in landfills when disposed of. Many of these filters are also chemically bleached with oxygen or chlorine, which has further environmental consequences.
Compostable filters are a partial solution, as they do reduce the overall volume of waste, but still must be created and transported before ending up in your coffee machine.
Luckily, many reusable alternatives can easily replace a disposable filter in traditional coffee machines or pour-over appliances: often made of plastic, metal, or a washable fabric (usually linen or cotton), they should be emptied and rinsed between each use.
Twenty-five percent of Americans have reported using single-cup coffee brewers, although it's no secret that single-use coffee capsules are an incredible source of waste, given that many aren't designed to be recycled or composted. If every K-cup thrown into landfills were lined up, it would wrap around the globe more than ten times.
If you can't quit the coffee-capsule method, stainless steel capsules can be purchased for most single-serve coffee machines. Some compostable capsules have been developed, but, like coffee filters, these too had to be produced and transported, expanding their environmental impact far beyond that of a reusable alternative.
What about coffee on-the-go?
Fifty-eight billion paper cups are thrown away every year in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and their inner polyethylene coating is expensive to recycle, so most of those 58 billion are sent directly to landfills.
A durable, reusable mug for to-go coffee can cut out this waste – around 23 pounds of trash each year, for a daily coffee drinker – and last for years, or even decades. Collapsible coffee mugs can be easily stored in a bag for when you're in a pinch.
Buy in Bulk
Skip the single-use packaging if you can. Many grocery stores will sell coffee beans in bulk, poured into your own reusable bag, and paid for by weight.
3. Consider Your Vessel
Besides choosing reusable alternatives to single-use items, you can also brew your coffee by methods that inherently require less energy.
Think of the energy used by a typical drip-coffee machine: the hotplate left on for hours, the digital display, and the phantom energy sucked up whenever it's plugged in. Appliances like these are usually cheaply made, and planned obsolescence will guarantee the need to purchase a newer model within a few years. Large coffee pots also produce much more than a single cup, often leading to wasted coffee down the drain.
Manual brewing methods require far less energy, such as French presses and Moka pots, which skip the disposable filters and require only the energy needed to boil the water. Pour-over coffee carafes can produce enough for multiple people and are very compatible with a linen coffee filter.
For those with an affinity for iced coffee, cold brew is perhaps the least energy-intensive of all, with time being the main component.
4. Don't Waste It
Natalia Rüdisüli / EyeEm / Getty Images
The average mature coffee tree will produce only about two pounds of beans per year – so, given the environmental and social impacts of its production along with that low yield, it's important to make sure that no coffee is poured down the drain.
When you find yourself with leftover brew, save it in the fridge for tomorrow's iced coffee, or freeze it in an ice cube tray to add to cold brew or smoothies.
5. Compost the Grounds
MonthiraYodtiwong / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and can be given a second life through composting. Some gardeners even sprinkle spent coffee grounds around their plants to repel slugs and snails without the use of insecticides.
Explore options for composting at home or in your neighborhood, and keep those nutrient-rich grounds out of landfills.
While making our morning coffee might seem as simple as pulling the grounds out of the cabinet and boiling the water, we should be aware of the complex processes that brought these beans to our kitchens, especially as climate change begins to impact our coffee consumption.
Some argue that the only truly responsible action would be cutting coffee out of our lives altogether – but, incorporating more realistic methods by which to reduce the impact of our morning cup will help ensure that both the environment and workers are being protected.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.
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By Brett Wilkins
A pair of Indigenous land defenders locked themselves to equipment at a fossil fuel pumping station in British Columbia on Saturday, vowing to continue resisting a government-owned oil pipeline that is harming the climate, the environment, and First Nations peoples whose unceded lands it traverses.
The pipeline protesters — self-described on social media as "accomplices" of the Braided Warriors and Tiny House Warriors — locked themselves to a crane at Trans Mountain Corporation's Blue River pumping station.
The Trans Mountain Pipeline — which is owned by the Canadian government through subsidiary Trans Mountain Corporation—carries crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the British Columbian coast. It is widely considered the world's dirtiest oil.
In addition to the harm done to the climate and environment, the pipeline has grave social costs. According to First Nations advocates, it desecrates sacred Indigenous land, and transient workers housed in man camps are often perpetrators of crimes against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Murder, rape, human trafficking, and other crimes abound, contributing to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S).
Two accomplices of Tiny House Warriors and Braided Warriors are locked down to equipment at TMX pumping station in… https://t.co/kCXQwAfrTj— Braided Warriors (@Braided Warriors)1617459214.0
Secwepemc land defenders have strategically built tiny houses along the route of the 518 km (321 mile) pipeline "to assert Secwepemc law and jurisdiction and block access to this pipeline."
"We have never provided and will never provide our collective free, prior, and informed consent—the minimal international standard—to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project," the Tiny House Warriors website declares. "The Tiny House Warrior movement is the start of re-establishing village sites and asserting our authority over our unceded territories."
Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc land defender and Tiny House Warrior, told The Sparrow Project — a nonprofit grassroots public interest newswire focused on amplifying stories from struggles for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice — that Trans Mountain does "not have consent from the Secwepemc and failure to recognize Secwepemc title, land rights, and Indigenous jurisdiction will only result in more conflict, direct actions, blockades, and Indigenous land occupations, which will increase the risks and economic uncertainty for Trans Mountain and its construction deadlines."
The Braided Warriors, an Indigenous organization that promotes First Nations rights and sovereignty in the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam territories, said on its Instagram page that "we are in solidarity with the Secwepemc people in their fight to stop foreign invasion of their lands and protect their lands, waters, animals, and peoples."
"It is our role to be accomplices to Indigenous land defenders and put ourselves on the line to stop the ongoing colonization of Indigenous territories and peoples," said Braided Warriors. "This pipeline will affect all of us and all future generations, but first and foremost will impact the nations and peoples along this route, including Secwepemc people."
"Today we stand on unceded, unsurrendered, illegally occupied Secwepemc land to show that we will not stop until the pipeline is terminated and the land is returned to the rightful title holders," they added.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
It's hard to discuss the secrets to a healthy microbiome without mentioning probiotic supplements. But with so many options on the market, how do you know the best probiotic for you?
We break down the ins and outs of probiotics, including the best probiotic supplements available and what to look for in a high-quality probiotic. We also explain the different strains, number of CFUs, the difference between probiotics and digestive enzymes, and the benefits that these dietary supplements may have on your overall health.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good-for-you living organisms and beneficial bacteria that thrive in your digestive system. Contrary to popular belief, not all bacteria are bad for us. In fact, probiotic strains contribute to digestive health, which in turn supports your immune system and overall health. Taking a probiotic can sometimes be just as effective as taking a supplement to boost your immune system.
Our bodies need probiotics to maintain the right balance between good and bad bacteria within the gut. This balance keeps our digestive systems operating normally. In particular, probiotics stimulate the nerves responsible for moving food through the digestive system. This helps alleviate certain health issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, and even eczema and allergies.
Some probiotic strains help your gut absorb medications more effectively and turn elements of the food you eat into vitamins that your body needs to thrive. In this way, a well-fed and active gut microbiome is key to a healthy immune system and metabolism.
So how do the tiny organisms do all this work? Again, it's all about balance. If bad bacteria enter your body and threaten to make you sick, the probiotics you eat or consume in a supplement counteract these bad actors to keep you healthy. Likewise, beneficial gut bacteria fight inflammation, which is a factor in many leading chronic diseases in the U.S., including diabetes and heart disease.
How can you support your microbiome with plenty of probiotics? First, you can eat foods that naturally contain probiotics. These natural sources include fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh.
However, if you want to maximize the good bacteria in your gut and reap the health benefits of probiotics without drowning in miso soup, then a supplement might be right for you. Just like a daily vitamin subscription can help support your overall health, a daily probiotic may help boost your immune and digestive health.The key is to find the best probiotic for your needs.
Our Picks for the Top Probiotic Brands
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 - Sunwarrior Probiotics
- Best Prebiotic - Bulletproof Innerfuel Prebiotic
- Best Probiotic + Enzymes - Onnit Total Gut Health
- Highest CFU - Global Healing Floratrex
- Best Plant-Based - Vital Plan Advanced Biotic
- Best for Exercise Recovery - NutraOne Probiotic X
- Best Probiotic + Fiber - Poophoria Rhythm & Harmony
- Best for Travel - Care/of Gut Check Probiotic
How We Chose the Best Probiotics
Here are the factors we considered to create our list of the best probiotic supplements.
We looked to see how many different probiotic strains were included in each product and the types of strains used.
Number of Colony Forming Units
The number of Colony Forming Units, or CFUs, is the number of active microorganisms present in each serving of the probiotic.
We noted if the supplement contained additional digestive enzymes, fiber, or prebiotics to help boost digestive health.
The best probiotics are also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and non-GMO.
8 Best Probiotic Supplements for Gut Health
Best Overall: Sunwarrior Probiotics
- Strains - 4 active strains
- Strength - 10 billion CFU
- Added Ingredients - 4 strains of non-fiber phage prebiotics, spinach extract
Why buy: Sunwarrior Probiotics include 10 billion CFU of four different active soil-based probiotic strains. These soil-based organisms are thought to be more naturally resistant to the harsh conditions in your gut, giving them a better chance at thriving to help your digestion. We like that this probiotic is also vegan and plant-based, and includes four strains of prebiotics and Solarplast, a unique spinach-extract that provides added chloroplasts.
Best Prebiotic: Bulletproof Innerfuel Prebiotic
- Strains - None
- Strength - 17 grams of prebiotics
- Added Ingredients - Organic acacia, guar fiber, Larch Arabinogalactan (bark and heartwood of Larch tree)
Why buy: Bulletproof Innerfuel Prebiotic is a keto-friendly, plant-based source of prebiotics designed to help nourish and boost the good gut bacteria in your body. It contains organic acacia, guar fiber, and nutrients from Larch tree bark and heartwood that feed the bacteria in your microbiome to support healthy digestion and your immune system. Mix this unflavored powder into smoothies or drinks to get the most out of your probiotics.
Best Probiotics + Enzymes: Onnit Total Gut Health
- Strains - 5 active strains + Saccharomyces Boulardii yeast
- Strength - 10 billion CFU probiotics blend; 5 billion CFU S. Boulardii
- Added Ingredients - Full spectrum digestive enzyme blend, Betaine HCI, organic Jerusalem artichoke root, organic dandelion root
Highest CFU: Global Healing Floratrex
- Strains - 25 active strains
- Strength - 75 billion CFU
- Added Ingredients - Prebiotic blend, including a patented PreforPro® Bacteriophage Prebiotic
Why buy: At 75 billion CFU and 25 active strains, Floratrex from Global Healing is the strongest probiotic on our list. Each probiotic strain is designed to help promote healthy digestion, reduce gas and bloating, and can help boost your immune system. This vegan and gluten-free supplement also contains a unique prebiotic blend to help the good bacteria thrive so you can enjoy better gut health and overall wellness.
Best Plant-Based: Vital Plan Advanced Biotic
- Strains - 6 clinical grade herbs to support microbiome
- Strength - 1.3 grams of herbs per serving
- Added Ingredients - Plant cellulose capsule, rice flour, rice hull concentrate, plant-based magnesium stearate
Why buy: While not technically a probiotic, Vital Plan Advanced Biotic can help promote digestive health and a balanced biome. It contains 6 clinical-grade herbs that work to help support your gut flora, including Japanese knotweed, Cat's Claw, andrographis, garlic, sarsparilla, and barberry. We like Advanced Biotic from Vital Plan because it offers an herbal option to promote healthier digestion and to nourish your microbiome.
Best for Exercise Recovery: NutraOne Probiotic X
- Strains - 11 active strains
- Strength - 25 billion CFU
- Added Ingredients - Proprietary enzyme blend, NUTRAFLORA FB P-95 (Fructooligosaccharides)
Why buy: NutraOne Probiotic X is designed to support healthy microflora in your digestive system for healthier digestion, immune system functioning, and even recovery from exercise. It includes the probiotic strain DE11, which may help to reduce inflammation in muscles after workouts. We like this probiotic because it can help you feel less bloated while boosting your ability to digest proteins.
Best Probiotic + Fiber: Poophoria Rhythm + Harmony
- Strains - 2 active strains
- Strength - 20 billion CFU
- Added Ingredients - Sunfiber (water-soluble dietary fiber)
Why buy: The Poophoria Rhythm and Harmony bundle is meant to both balance your microbiome to perform at its best and help ease digestion. The Harmony probiotic includes active strains of Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium lactis that can improve your digestive health and support your immune system. The Rhythm supplement includes soluble fiber and magnesium to improve the health of your intestine and colon, and to activate digestive enzymes in the gut.
Best for Travel: Care/of Gut Check Probiotic
- Strains - 2 active strains
- Strength - 1.5 billion CFU
- Added Ingredients - Natural flavors, tapioca starch, maltodextrin, magnesium oxide, xylitol, erythritol
Why buy: We love these Care/of Gut Check probiotic quick sticks because they make it easy to support healthy digestion and microflora on the go. Each stick contains 1.5 billion CFU of two important stains of good bacteria, B. longum and B. lactis. The probiotic powder has a blueberry flavor, and is quick dissolving so you can take it without water. Gut Check probiotics are perfect for travel, the gym, or the office.
The Benefits of Probiotic Supplements
Why should you add a probiotic supplement to your daily routine? For starters, if you don't enjoy eating a lot of fermented foods, taking a daily supplement of live bacteria can ensure that you enjoy the health benefits of probiotics without majorly altering your diet. A probiotic supplement works just like taking vitamins and supplements for dry skin or adding a plant-based protein powder to your diet. Simply find the brand and form you will be comfortable taking each day to boost your health.
By taking a daily probiotic product, you may reduce the risk of serious and uncomfortable digestive concerns. Some studies, including a six-week study on 70 petrochemical workers, suggest a link between regular probiotic supplementation and a reduced risk of depression and anxiety. Probiotics have even been shown to help boost the immune system and may help your body fend off respiratory infections.
There are also weight-loss benefits of probiotics. Probiotics can help increase satiety by increasing fullness hormones, leading you to eat less and experience fewer cravings. Some types of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus gasseri, are linked to a reduction in belly fat and BMI in human studies.
What to Look for in a Probiotic Supplement
There are a few important things to look for when choosing the best probiotic supplement.
Multiple Bacterial Strains
Opt for a supplement that contains multiple bacterial strains. Brands offer everything from one to dozens of probiotic strains, and studies suggest that multi-strain supplements offer more health benefits than single-strain.
Each organism in a probiotic supplement is called a colony-forming unit, or CFU. Ensure that your product lists a specific CFU count, which can range from 1 to over 900 billion per dose. Supplement manufacturers are only required by the FDA to list the total weight of bacteria in their products. However, this weight can include living and dead bacteria. Since you can only reap benefits from live microorganisms, CFU count is the best measure of a supplement's potency.
In addition, bacteria die off over time. So after checking the CFU count, ensure that the product lists CFUs at expiration, not at the time of manufacture.
That being said, more CFUs does not always equal better results. Because everyone's microbiome is different, there's no rule for selecting the right number of CFUs for you. The best probiotic supplements will be somewhere around 50 billion, and remember that more is not always better, but is usually more expensive.
The best products are third-party lab tested. This means that an independent scientific lab has assessed the product for effectiveness and to ensure that it meets claims outlined on its packaging, including the number of CFUs and potency.
At the end of the day, there's a lot of information to dig through to choose the best probiotic supplement for your lifestyle. But with a better understanding of the jargon and what to look for on packaging, you can be a better-informed consumer and find the right product to help your microbiome thrive.
How to Use a Probiotic
Most probiotics are nutritional supplements that you take daily, either as a capsule or a powder. Some brands recommend taking them with a meal while others advise taking your probiotic before eating. Almost all are best taken with a full glass of water. Many people take probiotics year round to support ongoing gut health, while others take them for a certain period of time to help rebalance their microbiome. Probiotics can also be good for travel if you suffer from digestive issues while on the road or flying.
Safety & Side Effects
According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics are generally considered safe since they contain bacteria and microorganisms already present in the human body. In the first few days after taking them, they can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating as your digestive system adjusts to the new strains of probiotics.
There are certain instances where people should be extremely cautious when taking probiotics because of a risk of infection. This includes those with a weakened immune system, those who recently had surgery, and anyone with a critical illness. Though rare, probiotics are linked to certain side effects including a risk of infection, developing a resistance to antibiotics, and developing harmful byproducts from the supplement.
Always talk to your doctor before starting probiotics, especially if you have any serious digestive or gastrointestinal disorder or illness.
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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