The Orlando City Commission unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday establishing a goal to move Orlando to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2050. Orlando is now the largest city in Florida to make such a commitment and joins a growing movement of more than three dozen cities nationwide that have committed to a 100 percent clean energy future.
Council chambers were filled with elated members of the First 50 Coalition, a broad-based alliance led by the League of Women Voters of Orange County that is pushing for sustainability in Central Florida.
"Today, Orlando takes its place on the regional, state and national stage as a forward-thinking city committed to a healthier, sustainable future," said League of Women Voters of Orange County co-president Carol Davis. "This is a first, important step, and we plan to continue to support and encourage the City to follow with concrete measures that solidify this commitment."
Orlando represents the 40th city in the U.S. to commit to move to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. Mayor Buddy Dyer has already championed multiple green energy initiatives, including signing the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda in the past few months. In June, Mayor Dyer signed onto the Sierra Club's Mayors for 100% Clean Energy campaign and endorsed a vision of powering all of Orlando with 100 percent clean energy. Other Florida cities that have committed to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy include St. Petersburg and Sarasota.
The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch, a key member of the First 50 Coalition, praised the City Commission's vote.
"We stand in support with the Orlando City Commission, in realizing the importance of renewable energy to it residents, by taking the necessary actions to begin the transformation," said Beverlye Colson Neal, president of the NAACP's local branch. "We look forward to working with the City to educate the residents of the importance and advantages of renewable energy as we move into the future."
Sara Isaac, League of Women Voters of Orange County's director of partnerships, agreed. "We applaud the City of Orlando for looking ahead to the future and seeing that a better tomorrow is possible if we take bold action today," Isaac said. "Orlando is a young city that is just now beginning to fully realize its possibilities. This action showcases Orlando as a potential powerhouse player on the national stage."
In a letter sent to commissioners urging their support, First 50 acknowledged that Orlando has already taken significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, praising in particular Green Works Orlando and Smart ORL, which boosted Orlando down a path of clean-energy and sustainability.
Orlando's vote was applauded by Phil Compton, senior organizing representative with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 Campaign in Florida, and a member of the First 50 Coalition.
"All across our state and our nation, cities are committing to a future powered by 100 percent clean and renewable energy for all," Compton said. "Today, Orlando joins this growing movement of cities that are ready for 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation's preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for shooting a male bald eagle near Gaston, Oregon in late June. Total reward, including the Audubon Society of Portland's $1,500 reward offer for a conviction, now totals $6,500.
The eagle was first spotted injured the third week of June, but was unable to be caught. Continued searches led to his rescue on June 28.
The eagle's condition when initially treated was grim: complications from the gunshot wound to his shoulder were feared fatal. The eagle has since improved, though it is doubtful he will be able to return to the wild or ever enjoy the freedom of flight again. Compounding this tragedy, the Audubon Society of Portland—that is providing the eagle's care—believes he was half of a nesting pair. How the eagle's mate or their eaglets fared following his injury is unknown.
The eagle's shooting is under investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Oregon State Police. Bald eagles are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the latter of which makes hunting, capturing, shooting, injuring or killing a bald eagle a crime punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail for first offenses. It is also a violation of Oregon state law to hunt bald eagles—which could result in additional charges under the state anticruelty law.
"Though the shooting of a bald eagle is a tragedy no matter when it occurs, the timing of this crime is bitterly ironic. This living symbol of the United States spent the Fourth of July fighting for his life because of the shooter's cruel act," said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. "The Animal Legal Defense Fund thanks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Oregon State Police for their efforts to hold the perpetrator accountable, and offers our full support in getting justice for this eagle."
If you have information related to this incident, please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Oregon Office at 503-682-6131.
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By James O'Hare
Some people feel the need to let everyone know they have money. They talk about it incessantly or constantly remind people of their wealth by putting their name on buildings in gaudy letters. Others prefer to put those dollars to good use.
About 70 years ago, Russ Gremel made a wise investment.
The Chicago, Illinois native bought roughly $1,000 worth of stock in a burgeoning pharmacy chain. That chain was Walgreens, which has since grown into a drug retail giant worth more than $62 billion.
Gremel is now 98 years old and his stock is worth more than $2 million. But rather than cashing out and living extravagantly in the time he has left, Gremel is making sure the world is a little better for the next generation, by donating his stocks to help establish a 400-acre wildlife refuge, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"I'm a very simple man," Gremel told the Tribune. "I never let anybody know I had that kind of money."
Gremel has no wife or children to leave the money to. He's lived in the same Jefferson Park home for 95 years. Growing up poor (his family lost everything after the 1929 stock market crash) taught him to enjoy life and be completely content living modestly. Nonetheless, he retired from practicing law at age 45.
Though he had immense wealth at his fingertips, he had no desire to spend it needlessly. At the same time, he sees no use in hoarding the money, letting it sit dormant when it could be put to good use.
"Why not give it to them now when … I have the pleasure and enjoyment of seeing it," he said.
Nature has always been important to Gremel, who spent much of his youth outdoors, hiking and camping. When he was 19, he traveled west across the country, hitchhiking and riding the rails on trains. His odyssey took him through Yellowstone National Park.
It was at that time that he promised himself, "You're not going to die at 70 years of age and say, 'What if?'"
Gremel also cares about mentoring youth, and spent 60 years as a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America.
A year ago, he donated his stocks to the Illinois Audubon Society, which used the money to buy a 400-acre property from Augustana College. As a thank you, the reserve will be dedicated to Gremel on June 7.
"It's incredibly generous," said Jim Herkert, the executive director of the Audubon Society. "It's allowing us to protect a really valuable and important piece of property and fulfill one of Russ' wishes that we could find a place where people could come out and experience and enjoy nature the way he did as a kid."
But for Gremel, the donation has nothing to do with generosity and everything to do with a sense of duty to help other people.
"You have to do some good in this world," Gremel said. "That's what money is for."
Who needs to put their name on a building, when someone else has already put it on a park?