By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz
With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.
1. Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil (forthcoming November 2020)<p>Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical contexts in this short read. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience. <em>Be My Guest </em>is at once an enjoyable read and a hopeful meditation on how food and hospitality can make a positive difference in our world.</p>
2. Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli, and Eliot Gee<p>In <em>Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition</em>, leading professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, featuring research from the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project </a>(BFN) of the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/alliance/" target="_blank">Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT</a>. Through this analysis, the authors propose that the localized activities in these countries are not only benefiting communities, but are transferable to other regions.</p>
3. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. by Ashanté M. Reese<p>In <em>Black Food Geographies, </em>Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight community agency in response to unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification, and urban food access. Through her analysis, she argues that racism impacts and exacerbates issues of unequal food distribution systems.</p>
4. Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (forthcoming October 2020)<p>Access, equity, justice, and privilege are the central themes in this forthcoming collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of Black communities and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food. Named for Black Lives Matter, <em>Black Food Matters </em>highlights the history and impact of Black communities and their food cultures in the food justice movement.</p>
5. Diners Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture by Emily J.H. Contois (forthcoming November 2020)<p>In <em>Diners, Dudes & Diets</em>, Emily Contois looks at media's influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. In doing so, Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic. She argues that this has influenced both the way consumers think about food and their own identities.</p>
6. Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net by Maggie Dickinson<p>The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is essential for individuals who face food insecurity on a daily basis. Still, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or undocumented. <em>Feeding the Crisis</em> provides a historical overview of SNAP's expansion and traces the lives of eight families who must navigate the changing landscape of welfare policy in the United States.</p>
7. Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries by Rebecca T. de Souza<p>In <em>Feeding the Other</em>, Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. Throughout the work, de Souza underscores the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries, and the charged idea of a handout. She argues that while food pantries currently stigmatize clients, there is an opportunity to make them agents of food justice.</p>
8. Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle<p>In <em>Feeding the People,</em> Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from a relatively unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle's work highlights the importance of the potato during famines, war, and explains the politics behind consumers' embrace of this food. Interspersed throughout are also potato recipes that any reader can try.</p>
9. Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal by Hanna Garth<p>In <em>Food in Cuba</em>, Dr. Hannah Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in the context of Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Throughout the work, Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. And through stories about families' sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become intimately linked.</p>
10. Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain<p>Scholar, speaker, and strategist Marcia Chatelain provides readers insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout Black communities. Dr. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with Black capitalists and the civil rights movement. This book highlights the dichotomy between fast food's negative impacts on Black communities and the potential economic and political opportunities that the businesses offered them.</p>
11. Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper by Andrew Coté<p>In <em>Honey and Venom,</em> Andrew Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own trajectory in the industry. A manager of over one hundred beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools, and more. Coté's<em> </em>passion for beekeeping comes through clearly as he narrates the challenges and rewards of his career.</p>
12. Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont by Teresa M. Mares<p>Agriculture, immigration, and Central American and Mexican farm workers may conjure ideas of the Mexico-U.S. border, but in <em>Life on the Other Border</em>, Teresa Mares gives a voice to those laboring much farther north. Mares introduces the readers to the Latinx immigrants who work in Vermont's dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers. This is an inspiring read that touches on the intersection of food justice, immigration, and labor policy.</p>
13. Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy by Michael Symons<p>In <em>Meals Matter</em>, Michael Symons argues that economics used to be, in its essence, about feeding the world but has since become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons introduces readers to gastronomic liberalism and applies the ideas of philosophers like Epicurus and John Locke to the food system. Through this approach, he seeks to understand how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics.</p>
14. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg<p>Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and has since been a global symbol of environmental activism. Her community organizing and impassioned speeches are uncompromising as she argues that climate change is an existential crisis that needs to be confronted immediately. <em>No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference </em>includes Thunberg's speeches and includes her 2019 address to the United Nations.</p>
15. Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It by Tom Philpott (forthcoming August 2020)<p>In <em>Perilous Bounty</em>, journalist Tom Philpott critically analyzes the centralized food system in the U.S. and argues that it is headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpot argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation's wellbeing and provides well-researched data to back up his claims. Providing readers insight into the experiences of activists, farmers, and scientists, this is a great read for those starting to learn about the state of the country's food system and for those who are already deeply involved.</p>
16. Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, And How Big Business Changed The Way The World Eats by Maryn McKenna<p>In this exposé on the chicken industry, acclaimed author Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. <em>Plucked </em>makes it clear that food choices matter and show how consumers' desire for meat, especially chicken, has impacted human health. McKenna also offers a way forward and outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again.</p>
17. Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice by Lana Dee Povitz<p>Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and established food co-ops. In <em>Stirrings</em>,<em> </em>Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts. She highlights the successes of grassroots movements and reminds readers of the many women leaders in the New York food justice movement.</p>
18. The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern<p>In <em>The New American Farmer</em>, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern offers a look at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. In this book, Minkoff-Zern details the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners themselves and outlines the many barriers that workers must overcome during this transition. Through interviews with farmers and organizers, Minkoff-Zern shows that these farmers bring sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit our food system.</p>
19. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren<p>Hope Jahren breaks down climate change for readers in an accessible and data-driven book. <em>The Story of More </em>explains<em> </em>how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. Although she argues that the planet is in danger, she also provides a variety of everyday actions, like decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference.</p>
20. Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry<p>Author, chef, and food justice activist Bryant Terry provides readers with over a hundred recipes to create approachable and flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. This book is a wonderfully practical recipe book that begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients, and even includes a music playlist. Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate Chef Terry's <em>Vegetable Kingdom</em>.</p><a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Make+this+summer+a+season+of+reflection+and+self-education+with+Food+Tank%27s+reading+list+%E2%80%94+new+and+important+books+from+%40AMReese07%2C+%40GretaThunberg%2C+%40EmilyContois%2C+%40BryantTerry%2C+%40DrMChatelain%2C+and+more&url=https%3A%2F%2Ffoodtank.com%2Fnews%2F2020%2F07%2Ffood-tanks-summer-2020-reading-list%2F&via=foodtank"><span></span></a>
By Ashutosh Pandey
Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
- Dangerous Chemicals From E-Waste Found in Black Plastics From ... ›
- Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials ... ›
- Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Neil King and Gabriel Borrud
Human beings all over the world agreed to strict limitations to their rights when governments made the decision to enter lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis. Many have done it willingly on behalf of the collective. So why can't this same attitude be seen when tackling climate change?
- The Crunch Question on Climate: How Can I Help? - EcoWatch ›
- The Power of Collective Action Gangnam Style - EcoWatch ›
- Scientist Finds Remarkable Way to Connect People Emotionally ... ›
By Emma Charlton
Gluts of food left to rot as a consequence of coronavirus aren't just wasteful – they're also likely to damage the environment.
Methane on the Rise<p>Not only is this a tragic waste of food at a time when many are going hungry, it is also an <a href="https://donatedontdump.net/2014/07/07/the-effects-of-food-waste-on-the-environment-by-junemy-pantig/" target="_blank">environmental hazard</a> and could contribute to global warming. Landfill gas – <a href="https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas" target="_blank">roughly half methane and half carbon dioxide (CO2)</a> – is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material.</p>
Food decay leads to production of greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide. EPA<p>Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 28 to <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf" target="_blank">36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat</a> in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p><p>"Many export-oriented producers produce volumes far too large for output to be absorbed in local markets, and thus <a href="https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2333" target="_blank">organic waste levels have mounted substantially</a>," says Robert Hamwey, Economic Affairs Officer at UN agency UNCTAD. "Because this waste is left to decay, levels of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas, from decaying produce are expected to rise sharply in the crisis and immediate post-crisis months."</p>
Food supply chains are easily disrupted. UN FAO<p>Dumping food was already a problem before the crisis. In America alone, <a href="https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton" target="_blank">$218 billion is spent growing, processing, transporting</a> and disposing of food that is never eaten, estimates ReFED, a collection of business, non-profit and government leaders committed to reducing food waste. That's equivalent to around 1.3% of GDP.</p><p>Since the pandemic took hold, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-52267943" target="_blank">farmers are dumping 14 million liters</a> of milk each day because of disrupted supply routes, estimates Dairy Farmers of America. A chicken processor was forced to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/business/coronavirus-destroying-food.html" target="_blank">destroy 750,000 unhatched eggs a week</a>, according to the New York Times, which also cited an onion farmer letting most of his harvest decompose because he couldn't distribute or store them.</p>
Food Prices Collapsing<p>The excess has also seen prices collapse. The <a href="http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/foodpricesindex/en/" target="_blank">FAO Food Price Index</a> (FFPI) averaged 162.5 points in May 2020, down 3.1 points from April and reaching the lowest monthly average since December 2018. The gauge has dropped for four consecutive months, and the latest decline reflects falling values of all the food commodities – dairy, meat, cereal, vegetable – except sugar, which rose for the first time in three months.</p><p>All this while the pandemic is exacerbating other global food trends.</p><p>"This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis," said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN. "The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGhLKAbNDiY&feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain</a>."</p>
- Food Waste Set to Increase by 33 Percent Within 10 Years - EcoWatch ›
- Reducing Food Waste Is Good for Economy and Climate, Report Says ›
- 23 Organizations Eliminating Food Waste During COVID-19 ... ›
Storing large amounts of energy is key to using more renewable energy because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.
By Greg Watts
Many of us have been spending more time at home than ever before, and chances are unless you live by yourself in the middle of nowhere, at some point unwanted noise will have infiltrated your lockdown.
Creating Quiet<p>Reducing noise at the source is usually the best course of action. Ideally, many of us would like to reduce the number of noisy vehicles passing our homes and gardens but unfortunately, we can't control this. In the case of road traffic, reducing the speed limit would help – as would a smoother road surface or, better still, a surface that absorbs sound such as porous asphalt. These are all jobs for the highway authority – but they may have more pressing claims on their budgets.</p><p>There are, however, things you can do around your house and garden to make things a little more peaceful. A barrier such as a close boarded fence, earth mound or wall close to the road should help – but they will have to be long enough and high enough to have much effect.</p><p>Much depends on where the house is in relation to the road. The aim would be to position any barrier so that the road is not in view from any exposed window or part of the garden.</p>
A high wall or substantial fence can reduce traffic noise if placed close to the road. Author provided
Natural Features<p>Interestingly our <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-tranquil-spaces-can-help-people-feel-calm-and-relaxed-in-cities-82358" target="_blank">perception of tranquillity</a> is shaped not only by the sounds we hear but also what we see.</p><p>A study involving brain scans has shown that we process auditory information differently <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20600971/" target="_blank">depending on the scene in view</a>. The noise of a sandy beach and highway at distance are quite similar, but research has shown that if using the same sound recording while showing a beach scene (as opposed to a highway scene) to volunteers in an MRI scanner, the resulting brain patterns differ significantly. The rated tranquillity also differs significantly.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273366914_Tranquillity_and_soundscapes_in_urban_green_spaces-predicted_and_actual_assessments_from_a_questionnaire_survey" target="_blank">research on tranquility has shown</a> that the rated tranquillity of a place depends on both the percentage of natural features – such as greenery, rock, sand and water – in view and the level of man-made noise.</p><p>This means there is a trade-off in the sense that if you cannot control the noise, the perceived tranquillity improves if the amount of greenery or water in view increases. This is worth bearing in mind when creating a tranquil garden space.</p>
Finding Tranquillity Indoors<p>Inside the home, some of the same principles apply. Reduce sources of noise by installing double glazing to windows and doors and add a thicker insulation layer in the loft to control aircraft noise.</p><p>If it proves difficult to control noise in the bedroom then think about changing rooms so that you sleep on the non-traffic side of the house. Another thought is to include pictures of nature as wall art – the bigger the better – as <a href="https://core.ac.uk/display/76945458?source=2" target="_blank">research has shown</a> that installing pictures of nature scenes on the walls, as well as playing relaxing sea sounds as background music, can significantly improve people's experiences of tranquillity and anxiety in a doctor's waiting room.</p><p>Many of us have enjoyed listening to the birds more often with the reduced traffic levels of lockdown. It would be nice to think the "new normal" would include some of these gains. Hopefully people will realize that many of the journeys they make by car are not strictly necessary. And it's important not to forget that nature is around us all the time – if only we just take a moment to stop and listen.</p>
By Monica Evans
This article has been updated to reflect corrected information in the original version.
The Cook Islands government plans to license seabed mining operators to prospect its exclusive economic zone for manganese and cobalt nodules within the coming financial year, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown told the Cook Islands News.
Mining a Marine Protected Area?<p>The Cook Islands made international news in 2017 when it turned its entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which spans nearly 2 million square kilometers (772,000 square miles), into the <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/will-a-massive-marine-protected-area-safeguard-cook-islands-ocean/" target="_blank">largest mixed-use marine protected area in the world</a>. Dubbed "Marae Moana," which means "sacred ocean" in Cook Islands Maori, the park was designed to ensure all activities within it complied with its overarching purpose: to protect and conserve the ecological, biodiversity, and heritage values of the country's marine environment.</p><p>A decision-making council and a technical advisory group, both comprising government officials, traditional leaders and civil society organizations (CSOs), were established to help develop a new marine spatial plan that fit the objectives of Marae Moana, and to ensure that any new ocean-related initiatives comply with the park's overarching purpose. The plan is still being developed.</p><p>Meanwhile, the government passed a new act, the Seabed Minerals Act 2019, which sets up new institutions and processes for planning and designating areas for seabed minerals activities. The act is legally subservient to the provisions of the act that established Marae Moana, called the Marae Moana Act 2017. "No license may be granted that…would likely lead to a contravention of a declaration of a marine protected area, the Marae Moana Act 2017, or other zoning rules," it reads.</p><p>But Kelvin Passfield, director of the local conservation group Te Ipukarea Society, told Mongabay he is concerned that without having completed the research and consultation to create the marine spatial plan, there's a risk that "they're going to give out mining exploration permits for areas which may in fact be places that should be protected under Marae Moana." He also expressed concern about the effectiveness of Marae Moana's checks and balances in practice: Te Ipukarea Society sits on its technical advisory group, but Passfield said the government has ignored its advice and that of other CSOs with marine conservation expertise, and that the advisory group had only met once in the past 12 months.</p><p>"Civil society have a role to play in advocating and raising awareness on issues," Herman said when asked about the CSOs' concerns. "But at the end of the day, Government needs to make often-hard decisions based on the best interests of our country and people."</p>
Known Unknowns<p>Te Ipukarea Society advocates that the Cook Islands endorse a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining that civil society leaders put forward at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August 2019 and that the governments of Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea support. The idea is to allow sufficient time to conduct in-depth research on the ecosystems in question and potential mining impacts.</p><p>But the Cook Islands government has vocally opposed the moratorium. Marine scientist Jacqueline Evans, who directed the Marae Moana coordination office from 2017 to 2019, was <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/10/cook-islands-mpa-leader-fired-after-supporting-seabed-mining-freeze/" target="_blank">fired</a> last year after expressing support for the freeze in an internal email.</p><p>In a <a href="http://www.cookislandsnews.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/item/77261-mark-brown-seabeds-law-safeguards-our-oceans" target="_blank">letter</a> to the Cook Islands News on June 4, Deputy PM Brown said the government simply wants to gain the knowledge to determine whether or not mining could be conducted sustainably, and issuing exploration licenses is the only way to fund such research. "Without exploration (which I stress, is not 'mining'), we have no realistic way of gaining a better understanding of the deep-sea environment, and indeed to know whether we may or may not be able to harness the resources which exist at these depths in the longer term," he wrote.</p><p>Passfield said while the government claims all parties want the same thing — more information — "they have not demonstrated this in their actions." Last year, it approved two short research cruises by different companies and "there was no requirement placed by Government on these cruises to collect any biological samples," he said. "Only nodule and sediment samples were taken, and this was just for analysis for mineral content, nothing biological."</p>
Pennsylvania regulators failed to protect public health and the environment from pollution and other harms caused by fracking operations, a grand jury investigation concluded.
- Fracking Cases in Pennsylvania Expose the Human Cost of Drilling ... ›
- Fracking Caused Pennsylvania Earthquakes, New Report Confirms ... ›
- Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than ... ›
By Sara Lindberg
There have never been more choices when it comes to organic, natural, or eco-friendly cleaning products. Knowing which products are certified organic and which ones are just a safer alternative to traditional cleaners is often confusing. And how do you know which ones can really get the job done?
How We Chose<p>To curate our list of top-rated cleaning products, we considered many criteria. Some key elements include:</p><ul><li><strong>The types of ingredients in a product. </strong>We took a careful look at the ingredients used in each product to make sure they were safe, nontoxic, and naturally derived. We avoided products with ingredients that have the potential to negatively impact the health of your family or the environment.</li><li><strong>Top choices from reputable environmental organizations.</strong> Groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publish annual reports on organic and natural cleaning products with rankings from best to worst. We also considered cleaners certified with the Green Seal, which are greener and healthier products.</li><li><strong>A product's cleaning ability.</strong> The best organic cleaning products don't only need to be safer and less toxic to use. They also need to do a great job at cleaning. We considered how effectively different products cut through dirt, grease, soap scum, or grime.</li><li><strong>The opinion of cleaning experts.</strong> We spoke to cleaning experts who regularly use organic and all-natural products. We asked for their input on what ingredients to look for — and avoid — and which products they recommend.</li><li><strong>Awards, user reviews, and customer feedback.</strong> We considered feedback from websites that sell organic products and only considered products that had significantly more raves than complaints.</li></ul>
About Organic Products<p>"There are many cleaning products on the market that claim to be organic, but very few have the USDA certified organic label," says James Scott, co- founder of Dappir, a commercial and residential cleaning company.</p><p>"Usually, you'll see [labels] like natural, all-natural, or plant-based, but these do not necessarily mean organic," he explains.</p><p>While many of these cleaners are excellent options and are a lot safer than chemical-laden cleaning products, if they don't carry the USDA organic label, they can't be considered a certified organic cleaner.</p><p>If a product isn't USDA certified organic, we have called that out in our list.</p><h3>A Word About Price</h3><p>Organic cleaners often cost more than nonorganic products. Also, within the organic cleaning category, it's not uncommon to see a wide range of prices. With that in mind, here's how we indicate cost:</p><ul><li><strong>$</strong> = under $10</li><li><strong>$$</strong> = $10–$20</li><li><strong>$$$</strong> = over $20</li></ul>
- How to Make Your Own Natural Cleaning Products - EcoWatch ›
- 10 Natural (And Vegan) Ways to Clean Your Home - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Green Cleaning Products for Tackling Messy Homes - EcoWatch ›
By Sonya Angelica Diehn
Dams are often touted as environmentally friendly. Although they do represent a renewable source of energy, a closer look reveals that they are far from green. DW lays out the biggest environmental problems of mega-dams.
1. Dams Alter Ecosystems<p>Water is life — and since dams block water, that impacts life downstream, both for ecosystems and people. In the case of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopia-egypt-sudan-make-slow-progress-in-nile-dam-row/a-52015611" target="_blank">Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)</a>, which is being built in Ethiopia and is set to be Africa's largest source of hydroelectric power, Egypt is concerned it will receive less water for things like agriculture.</p><p>Downstream ecosystems rely not only on water, but also on sediment, both of which are held back by big dams. As solid materials build up in a manmade reservoir, downstream land becomes less fertile and riverbeds can become deeper or even erode away. <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/115/47/11891" target="_blank">Emilio Moran</a>, a professor of geography and environment at Michigan State University in the US, described sediment loss of 30 to 40% as a result of large dams.</p><p>"Rivers carry sediment that feeds the fish, it feeds the entire vegetation along the river. So, when you stop sediment flowing freely down the streams, you have a dead river."</p><p>And ecosystems may have adapted to natural flooding, which dams take away. </p><p>Mega-dams also often have a large footprint on land upstream. Aside from displacing human communities, flooding to create a reservoir also kills plants, and leaves <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/tanzanias-biggest-wildlife-reserve-under-threat/a-43902762" target="_blank">animals to drown or find new homes</a>. Reservoirs can also further fragment valuable habitat and cut off migratory corridors. </p>
2. Dams Reduce Biodiversity and Cause Extinction<p>Aquatic species, particularly fish, are vulnerable to the impacts of dams. Moran says the Itaipu Dam, which was constructed on the border between Paraguay and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s, resulted in a 70 percent loss of biodiversity.</p><p>"On the Tucuruí Dam that was built in the 80s in the Amazon," he added, "there was a 60% drop in productivity of fish."</p><p>Many fish species rely on the ability to move about freely in a river, be it to seek food or return to where they were born. Migratory species are badly affected by the presence of dams. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported a 99% drop in catches of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/poaching-dams-imperil-ancient-danube-fish/a-43907515" target="_blank">sturgeon</a> and paddlefish — both of which are migratory — over a period of three decades. Overfishing and river alteration were cited as major threats to the species' survival. </p><p>A <a href="http://www.mrcmekong.org/highlights/the-study-on-sustainable-management-and-development-of-the-mekong-river-including-impacts-of-mainstream-hydropower-projects/" target="_blank">2018 study</a> predicted that fish stocks on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/a-dam-building-race-threatens-the-mekong-river/a-50049206" target="_blank">Asia's Mekong River</a> could drop by 40% as a result of dam projects – with consequences not only for biodiversity, but for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on those fish.</p><p>The stakes for biodiversity are particularly high for animals threatened with extinction. And not only for aquatic species. The <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/new-orangutan-species-found-in-indonesian-forest/a-41217498" target="_blank">Tapanuli orangutan</a> — the Earth's rarest ape, with only 500 individuals left — could finally be pushed to the brink if a planned hydroelectric project in Sumatra, Indonesia, is completed. Dams can literally snuff out species. </p>
3. Dams Contribute to Climate Change (and Are Affected by It)<p>As reservoirs fill, upstream forests are flooded, eliminating their function as carbon sinks. As the drowned vegetation decomposes, decaying plants in manmade reservoirs release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. That makes reservoirs sources of emissions — particularly those in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/forest-sos-earths-green-lungs-disappear/a-44908586" target="_blank">tropical forests</a>, where there is dense growth. It's estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from dams amount to about <a href="https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/66/11/949/2754271" target="_blank">a billion tons annually</a>, making it a significant global source.</p><p>And as the climate changes, more frequent and prolonged drought means dams will capture less water, resulting in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/hydropower-supply-dries-up-with-climate-change/a-42472070" target="_blank">lower electricity production</a>. Countries dependent on hydropower will be especially vulnerable as temperatures keep rising. </p><p>Moran described a vicious circle, for example in Brazil, which gets 60 to 70% of its energy from hydropower: "If you wipe out half the rainforest, there will a loss of half the rainfall. And then there won't be enough water to provide the amount of power from those dams," he explained. </p>
4. Dams Reduce Water Quality<p>Manmade reservoirs trap fertilizers that run into the water from surrounding land. In addition, in some developing countries, sewage flows directly into the reservoirs. This kind of pollution can result in algae blooms that suck the oxygen out of the water, making it acidic and potentially harmful to people and animals.</p><p>Still water in large manmade lakes is warm at the top and cold at the bottom, which can also affect water quality. While warm water promotes the growth of harmful algae, the cold water that is often released through turbines from the bottom of a reservoir may contain damagingly high mineral concentrations. </p><p>In some cases, water in manmade reservoirs is of such bad quality that it is not even fit to drink. </p>
5. Dams Waste Water<p>Since more surface area of the water gets exposed to the sun, reservoirs result in much more evaporation than the natural flow of the river before that dam existed. It's estimated at least 7% of the total amount of freshwater needed for human activities evaporates from the world's reservoirs every year.</p><p>This effect is made worse in hot regions, Moran pointed out. "Certainly if you had a reservoir in a tropical area with high temperatures, there is going to be a lot of evaporation," he said. And big reservoirs "are, of course, evaporating constantly."</p><p>Reservoirs are also a haven for invasive plant species, and weed-covered reservoir banks can lead to evapotranspiration — or the transfer of water from the land to the atmosphere through evaporation from soil and transpiration from plants. Such evapotranspiration amounts to six times more than the evaporation from the water's surface. And there is even evidence that dams increase water use and promote water waste by creating a false sense of water security. </p><p>In the face of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/water-shortages-pose-growing-risk-to-global-stability/a-50394997" target="_blank">dwindling global freshwater resources</a>, some question whether dams should be reconsidered. </p>
So What Are the Alternatives?<p>The evidence is damning. But if mega-dams have so many harmful environmental effects, what are the alternatives? Although some green groups point to small hydropower as being more ecologically sound, Moran is skeptical. "A dam is a dam - it's blocking the fish, it's blocking the sediment."</p><p>He pointed to the need to consider not just how to maximize energy production, but also maintain ecological productivity. One option he cited is the use of in-stream turbines. </p><p>And many environment advocates agree that other renewable energies such as solar and wind can provide clean electricity at a far lower environmental cost. </p>
- Planned Mega-Dam Threatens Fish Populations and Food Security ... ›
- Dams Cause Climate Change, They Are Not Clean Energy - EcoWatch ›
- Mega-Dam Projects Will Force Tens of Thousands of People From ... ›
By Jacqui Stol, Annie Kelly and Suzanne Prober
In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.
Native yellow wildflowers called 'scaly buttons' bloom on a stewardship site. Jacqui Stol, Author provided
Huge Increase in Plant Diversity<p>These surveys were part of the Australian government's <a href="http://www.nrm.gov.au/national/continuing-investment/environmental-stewardship" target="_blank">Environmental Stewardship Program</a>, a long-term cooperative conservation model with private landholders. It started in 2007 and will run for 19 years.</p><p>We found huge increases in previously declining native wildflowers and grasses on the private farmland. Many trees assumed to be dying began resprouting, such as McKie's stringybark (<em>Eucalyptus mckieana</em>), which is listed as a <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=20199" target="_blank">vulnerable species</a>.</p><p>This newfound plant diversity is the result of seeds and tubers (underground storage organs providing energy and nutrients for regrowth) lying dormant in the soil after wildflowers bloomed in earlier seasons. The dormant seeds and tubers were ready to spring into life with the right seasonal conditions.</p><p><span></span>For example, <a href="https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/plants-animals/plants/herbarium" target="_blank">Queensland Herbarium</a> surveys early last year, during the drought, looked at a 20 meter (65 feet) by 20 meter plot and found only six native grass and wildflower species on one property. After this year's rain, we found 59 species in the same plot, including many species of perennial grass (three species jumped to 20 species post rain), native bluebells and many species of native daisies.</p><p>On another property with only 11 recorded species, more than 60 species sprouted after the extensive rains.</p><p>In areas where grazing and farming continued as normal (the paired "control" sites), the plots had only around half the number of plant species as areas managed for conservation.</p>
Spotting Rare Marsupials<p>Landowners also reported several unusual sightings of animals on their farms after the rains. Stewardship program surveyors later identified them as two species of rare and endangered native carnivorous marsupials: the southern spotted-tailed quoll (mainland Australia's largest carnivorous marsupial) and the brush-tailed <a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:b6930f29-3f26-415e-a760-c12c320c2931" target="_blank">phascogale</a>.</p><p>The population status of both these species in southern Queensland is unknown. The brush-tailed phascogale is elusive and rarely detected, while the southern spotted-tailed quolls are listed as <a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=75184" target="_blank">endangered</a> under federal legislation.</p><p>Until those sightings, there were no recent records of southern spotted-tailed quolls in the local area.</p>
A spotted tailed quoll caught in a camera trap. Sean Fitzgibbon, Author provided<p>These unusual wildlife sightings are valuable for monitoring and evaluation. They tell us what's thriving, declining or surviving, compared to the first surveys for the stewardship program ten years ago.</p><p>Sightings are also a promising signal for the improving condition of the property and its surrounding landscape.</p>
Changing Farm Habits<p>More than 200 farmers signed up to the stewardship program for the conservation and management of nationally threatened ecological communities on private lands. Most have said they're keen to continue the partnership.</p><p>The landholders are funded to manage their farms as part of the stewardship program <a href="http://nrmonline.nrm.gov.au/catalog/mql:2407" target="_blank">in ways</a> that will help the woodlands recover, and help reverse declines in biodiversity.</p><p>For example, by changing the number of livestock grazing at any one time, and shortening their grazing time, many of the grazing-sensitive wildflowers have a better chance to germinate, grow, flower and produce seeds in the right seasonal conditions.</p><p>They can also manage weeds, and not remove fallen timber or loose rocks (bushrock). Fallen timber and rocks protect grazing-sensitive plants and provide habitat for birds, reptiles and invertebrates foraging on the ground.</p>
Cautious Optimism<p>So can we be optimistic for the future of wildlife and wildflowers of the box gum grassy woodlands? Yes, cautiously so.</p><p>Landholders are learning more about how best to manage biodiversity on their farms, but ecological recovery can take time. In any case, we've discovered how resilient our flora and fauna can be in the face of severe drought when given the opportunity to grow and flourish.</p>
The rare hooded robin has also been recorded on stewardship sites during surveys. Micah Davies, Author provided<p>Climate change is bringing more extreme weather events. Last year was the <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/" target="_blank">warmest on record</a> and the nation has been gripped by severe, protracted drought. There's only so much pressure our iconic wildlife and wildflowers can take before they cross ecological thresholds that are difficult to bounce back from.</p><p>More government programs like this, and greater understanding and collaboration between scientists and farmers, create a <a href="https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP154278&dsid=DS4" target="_blank">tremendous opportunity</a> to keep changing that trajectory for the better.</p>
- Sydney Is Running out of Water as Bushfires Rage - EcoWatch ›
- Australia Just Had Its Hottest January Ever Recorded - EcoWatch ›
- 'Much-Needed' Rain Extinguishes a Third of Australia Fires in a Day ... ›