By Peter Beech
Using waste food to farm insects as fish food and high-tech real-time water quality monitoring: innovations that could help change global aquaculture, were showcased at the World Economic Forum's Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2020.
Fly fishing. nextProtein
BiOceanOr's AquaREAL system. BiOceanOr
- Environmental Innovation Will Transform Business as Usual ... ›
- How an Army of Ocean Farmers Is Starting an Economic Revolution ... ›
By Jared Kaufman
Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.
- Chefs Are Going Back to Their Roots for Local, Sustainable Foraged ... ›
- This Montreal Company Turns Juice Pulp Into Food - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Something is fundamentally wrong in the food supply chain. More and more people are going hungry and applying for food assistance. Meanwhile, farmers are dumping milk and eggs and plowing under their fields. Major food buyers like schools, hotels and restaurants have shut down, leaving nowhere for the food to go. This is the largest amount of food destroyed since the Great Depression.
A strawberry field in Ventura, California on Jan. 18, 2020. Tracie Hall / Flickr
By Courtney Lindwall
If you're one of those people cooped up safely at home, with creative energy and free time to spare—count yourself lucky. Here, we've rounded up a list of two dozen environmental projects that can make your time indoors, or right outside, a little brighter. Whether you're ready to start rescuing more of your kitchen scraps, sewing your own cloth napkins, or documenting those backyard butterflies, we hope these simple green ideas will provide a calming means of coping during these unprecedented times. Have fun and stay safe.
Experiment in the Kitchen<p><strong>Spice up mealtime with recipes from </strong><a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/" target="_blank">Save the Food</a> that will also help prevent your food from going to waste. Make a fromage fort to spread on your crackers, or "scraps falafel" to use up wrinkly onions and wilted herbs. And for dessert, how about some <a href="https://savethefood.com/recipes/leftover-mashed-potato-apple-cider-donuts" target="_blank">leftover mashed potato apple cider donuts</a>? </p><p><strong>Rescue wilting herbs.</strong> Make <a href="https://savethefood.com/storage" target="_blank">herb oil ice cubes</a><a href="https://savethefood.com/storage" target="_blank"> by </a>packing diced herbs into an ice cube tray, covering with olive oil, and freezing. Thaw for ready-made flavor in your next dish. You can also transform less-than-fresh herbs into sauces, like chimichurri or pesto, or roast them and mix with salt to create longer-lasting seasonings. </p><p><strong>Start a windowsill herb garden. </strong>You'll need some seeds or a small plant, an upcycled container like a coffee canister that leaves room for growth and drainage, and a sunny ledge. (The Herb Society of America can help you determine <a href="https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/intro-to-herbs/hsa-gardening-for-kids/light-indoor-gardens.html" target="_blank">the right dose of light and water for each species</a>.) In a few weeks' time, you'll be ready to add a sprig of fresh basil to your bowl of pasta or diced cilantro to your batch of guac.</p><p><strong>Arrange a plant-based recipe swap</strong> with friends and family, which will reduce your diet's climate impacts while creating some virtual community. (Remember: If <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sujatha-bergen/saving-planet-starts-our-plates" target="_blank">every American cut just one hamburger</a> or about a quarter pound of beef out of their diet each week, we could reduce emissions by as much as taking about 10 million cars off the road each year.)</p>
Enjoy a Dose of Nature<p><strong></strong><strong>Make your own basic bird feeder</strong> using pine cones, twine, nut butter, and birdseed. <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-rxsVfAvaa/" target="_blank">This video from the Feminist Bird Club shows you one way to do it.</a> Hang it on a nearby tree you can spot through your window, then grab a pair of binoculars and do some armchair birding!</p><p><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-and-why-be-seed-savior" target="_blank"><strong>Create an herbarium</strong></a>—a scrapbook of pressed, dried flowers or other plants. To prepare your samples, press the plant matter in a large book or between sheets of newspaper and place a weight on top. When the leaves are dry, mount them on acid-free paper to preserve them, and label each specimen on the page. You can also include illustrations, photographs, seed packets, and notes.</p><p><strong>Sharpen your naturalist ID skills.</strong> Try to identify every species of plant in your backyard or on a neighborhood walk. You can do the same for wildlife—and share your findings through <a href="https://www.projectnoah.org/" target="_blank">Project Noah</a>, a citizen science platform to discover, share, and identify wildlife.</p><p><strong>Grow new indoor plants</strong> with the use of stems and leaves, rather than seeds. Though it <a href="https://www.bbg.org/gardening/article/how_to_propagate_houseplants" target="_blank">depends on your individual plant</a> species, propagating houseplants is often as easy as cutting off a stem or leaf from an existing plant and sticking it in soil or fresh water. If it takes, a new root system should form within a few weeks—leaving you with a hearty second plant within a few more months. (Pro tip: This works for green onions too! Nearly submerge their sliced-off roots, end down, into a glass of water that you change every few days. Voilà: a nearly endless supply of scallions.)</p><p><strong>Observe monarch butterflies</strong> in your backyard and share your findings with Monarch Watch, an organization devoted to their <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/monarch-butterflies-get-head-start-schoolyard" target="_blank">conservation</a>. Each year, monarchs make a remarkable 3,000-mile trek from as far north as the southern parts of Canada to the mountains of Mexico and back—but these pollinators are <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sylvia-fallon/monarch-butterfly-numbers-fall-again" target="_blank">in danger</a>. Register as one of Monarch Watch's citizen scientists to <a href="https://monarchwatch.org/calendar/?fbclid=IwAR1bawlAoraeMokwdiZa_GVONQqtDnqQxc_EM_UwzbO0zhq733PT6CQIgLc" target="_blank">help track the population's health</a>.</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-turn-your-patch-earth-barren-bountiful" target="_blank">Boost your backyard biodiversity</a>. </strong>Plant some milkweed—the main food source for monarch caterpillars and egg-laying habitat for the butterflies. Hang a bee nesting box somewhere it can get sunlight and warmth. Add a barn owl box or attach a simple roosting perch to a pole. For reptile enthusiasts, set up a small wood pile, using brush or old logs as shelter for lizards and snakes (plus fungi).</p>
Do Some Handiwork and Art Projects<p><strong>Make face masks </strong>for your friends, family, and workers on the frontlines. This <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/DIY-cloth-face-covering-instructions.pdf" target="_blank">Center for Disease Control guide</a> breaks down different techniques. If you're comfortable sewing, you'll just need two 10-by-6-inch rectangles of fabric, two pieces of elastic, and a needle and thread for each mask. The no-sew option only requires a T-shirt and scissors. Remember: Cloth masks should be cleaned regularly (the CDC says a washing machine is sufficient) in order to remain effective.<strong></strong></p><p><strong>Get your crayons out </strong>and do some therapeutic coloring. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and as part of a collaboration with NRDC, Studio Number One and its creative director, artist Shepard Fairey, have converted some of its archival activist artwork into <a href="http://www.studionumberone.com/free-downloads" target="_blank">black-and-white printouts for at-home coloring.</a></p><p><strong>Tackle your plastic bag stash</strong>, especially if your city or town is among those that recently banned the bag. Since current conditions may eliminate collection and recycling programs for plastic bags in your area, consider upcycling them instead. There are plenty of online tutorials for how to make outdoor pillow cushions stuffed with plastic bags, weave bags into <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-basket-out-of-plastic-bags/" target="_blank">sturdy baskets</a>, or wind them into jump ropes.</p>
Build Your Community<p><strong></strong><strong>Start an environmental movie club.</strong> Various apps let you host movie nights with friends online, so you can chat while you watch. You can find our recs for standout environmental films on <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-QNBxqJAUR/" target="_blank">Instagram</a>—including <em>Poisoning Paradise</em>, <em>Virunga</em>, and <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-turn-your-patch-earth-barren-bountiful" target="_blank"><em>The Biggest Little Farm</em></a>—with short summaries and tips on where you can find them online.</p><p>Document the environmental changes in your community<strong>, as they relate to climate change, through the </strong><a href="https://earthchallenge2020.earthday.org/" target="_blank"><strong>Earth Challenge </strong>2020's online portal</a>. The project will collect billions of observations in air quality, plastic pollution, and insect populations, and your insights will help promote policy change to address our warming world.</p><p><strong>Tune in to a new podcast</strong>. We recommend <a href="https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/range/hot-take-4#/" target="_blank"><em>Hot Take</em></a>, featuring NRDC's own Mary Heglar and her cohost Amy Westervelt, which takes a critical but constructive, intersectional look at how climates issues are being covered in the media. And despite the weighty content of the podcast, laughter is one of its defining sounds.</p><p><strong>Connect with climate justice activists</strong> by following along with <a href="http://thisiszerohour.org/our-actions/#actions" target="_blank">Zero Hour's Getting to the Roots digital series</a>. Each week, it focuses on a different theme that is a root cause of the climate crisis as well as ways to solve it—through digital leadership training, webinars, virtual open mics on Instagram and Twitter, art competitions, and podcast releases.</p><p><strong>Write a </strong><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-write-successful-letter-editor" target="_blank"><strong>letter to the editor</strong></a> that tackles one of the environmental issues facing your community that's close to your heart. The letter can be written in response to a piece that's already been published by a given media outlet, or it can be a proactive statement of support for or opposition against a particular issue that affects fellow readers. It's the perfect way to reach thousands of individuals and still remain publicly engaged without having to leave the comfort of your home.</p>
By Aaron Mok
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts like Dana Gunders from ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.
Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste. In honor of Stop Food Waste Day on the 29th of April, Food Tank is highlighting 23 organizations and companies trying to eliminate pandemic-fueled food waste.
- Reducing Food Waste Is Good for Economy and Climate, Report Says ›
- 20 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste - EcoWatch ›
- How to Make a Change for Stop Food Waste Day - EcoWatch ›
Now might be a good time to go vegetarian.
As meat-processing plants close across the country to stop the new coronavirus from spreading among employees, industry leaders and experts are warning of meat shortages in the nation's grocery stores.
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New methods to reuse "fast fashion" clothes, recycling of construction materials, and adoption of electric school buses could all become possible in New York City under far-reaching new climate legislation introduced Thursday by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
By Tim Lydon
Can the United States make progress on its food-waste problems? Cities like San Francisco — and a growing list of actions by the federal government — show that it's possible.
The Promise of Reducing Waste<p>No matter which way you slice it, food waste is a significant issue. In the U.S., up to <a href="https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm" target="_blank">40 percent</a> of all food is tossed in the garbage. It's more than just the uneaten food you scrape off your plate. Food waste happens at every stage of production, from vegetables rotting on the vine to dumpsters full of unsold fruit and meat at your local grocery store.</p><p>"Our food system is operating with a 40% inefficiency," said Katy Franklin, operations director for the nonprofit <a href="https://www.refed.com/?sort=economic-value-per-ton" target="_blank">ReFED</a>, a leading resource for food-waste research, data and solutions design. The organization works in support of both U.S. and UN waste goals.</p><p><span></span>It comes with a huge cost for the climate: This waste represents an enormous use of fossil fuel to grow, ship and refrigerate food that no one will ever eat. And as food products decompose, they release <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warming-potentials" target="_blank">methane</a>, a greenhouse gas with many times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide. <a href="https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home" target="_blank">Nearly all discarded food</a> in the U.S. ends up in landfills, where it produces <a href="https://www.epa.gov/lmop/basic-information-about-landfill-gas" target="_blank">up to 14 percent of our country's methane emissions</a>.</p><p>Looking at production, distribution and disposal, the United Nations estimates that excess wasted food generates <a href="https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/food/reduced-food-waste" target="_blank">a full 8 percent of worldwide global carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>If food waste were a country, it would be the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the U.S.</p><p>And the waste contributes to a host of other problems, including deforestation, pollution from fertilizers and pesticides, and human-rights issues from forced labor or food inequality.</p><p>But recognizing that problem also creates the opportunities for improvement. Tackling food waste, Franklin points out, "can be a huge part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions" and solving other problems.</p><p>Franklin and others see a lot of reasons for optimism, especially the 2018 Farm Bill, the most important elements of which are just starting to take effect. Top food-waste experts at ReFED and the Harvard Law School's <a href="https://hls.harvard.edu/dept/clinical/clinics/food-law-and-policy-clinic-of-the-center-for-health-law-and-policy-innovation/" target="_blank">Food Law and Policy Clinic</a> collaborated on recommendations for the bill, which were mostly accepted by Congress.</p><p>"It was satisfying and really thrilling to see the bill provide both funding and intellectual investment in the issue," said Franklin. "That's a magical combination."</p>
The Farm Bill Creates Leadership<p>While the Farm Bill put a range of programs in motion, three specific elements showcase the systemic changes needed to achieve serious cuts in food waste.</p><p>First, the law set the stage for the creation of a high-level "food-waste liaison" under the Secretary of Agriculture, with specific <a href="https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:7%20section:6924%20edition:prelim)" target="_blank">duties for researching and cutting waste</a>. Franklin calls the new position an exciting signal of government leadership, which can help galvanize participation throughout the business, consumer and government sectors. While the 2018 Farm Bill did not pay for this new position, preliminary funding was included in the 2020 appropriations bill that passed in December 2019. The provision was inserted in both bills by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who in 2018 also launched Congress' first-ever <a href="https://www.wastedive.com/news/congress-food-waste-caucus/522693/" target="_blank">Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus</a> and has introduced other bills to curb food waste.</p><p>Until the liaison is hired, many of the duties assigned to the position by the Farm Bill fall to Elise Golan, the USDA's director for sustainable development. She describes the role as a natural fit for USDA because reducing food waste addresses the department's focus areas, including agriculture, nutrition, food safety and the environment.</p><p>Golan's office is presently determining the best methods to define and measure U.S. food waste, an early task the Farm Bill laid out for the liaison.</p><p>"We need benchmarks to generate good statistics," she said, "but even more importantly they help us identify the drivers of waste at every level, from farms to consumers."</p><p>Although some broad national estimates exist, experts say a lack of more specific data limits the ability to track progress in reducing waste across the entire food system. A 2019 Government Accountability Office report reached <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/699911.pdf" target="_blank">similar conclusions</a>. The report identified specific data gaps and pointed to inconsistent methods for measuring food waste among government agencies and others as a barrier to progress.</p><p>Golan says part of solving that problem requires greater coordination among federal agencies, another liaison role described by the Farm Bill. As an example of headway toward the goal, she points to an <a href="https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2019/04/09/usda-epa-and-fda-unveil-strategy-reduce-food-waste" target="_blank">interagency strategy</a> signed in 2019 by EPA, USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, which includes a commitment to improving food-waste measurement.</p><p>Other roles the liaison may eventually take on, as dictated in the Farm Bill, include raising public awareness, expanding existing programs, and nurturing both governmental and non-governmental partnerships, broad roles that experts say are best served by federal leadership.</p>
Feeding the Hungry<p>In the second effort at establishing systemic change, the Farm Bill set the stage for removing hurdles that commonly prevent supermarkets, restaurants and farmers from donating unwanted food to charity.</p><p>According to the nonprofit Feeding America and other experts, food donations <a href="https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/our-approach/reduce-food-waste" target="_blank">carry enormous potential</a> for reducing waste while helping people in need. But getting companies to donate goods has been a problem. Surveys have shown that many retailers avoid donating surplus food because they <a href="http://www.foodwastealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/FWRA_BSR_Tier2_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">fear potential lawsuits</a> over less-than-optimal foodstuffs, even though they'd theoretically be protected by so-called "<a href="https://foodwastealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/FOOD-WASTE-REDUCTION-ALLIANCE.pdf" target="_blank">good Samaritan</a>" laws.</p><p>The Farm Bill took steps to fix that problem by clarifying protections established more than two decades ago under the 1996 <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-104publ210/pdf/PLAW-104publ210.pdf" target="_blank">Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act</a>. The Act previously offered liability to individual donors, nonprofits and "gleaners" — people who gather excess food left behind on agricultural fields. The new bill expanded that liability protection to cover direct donations by retailers.</p><p>The Farm Bill also required whoever eventually takes on the food-waste liaison role to publish additional guidance on the Bill Emerson Act, something no agency has done in the decades since the law's passage.</p><p><span></span>Experts say weeding out this confusion around liability protections can spur growth in commercial food donations. Toward that end, the Farm Bill also authorizes millions of dollars to help farmers participate in donation programs, especially for the perishables that comprise a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect" target="_blank">high percentage</a> of U.S. food waste. As one of the first examples, this September the USDA rolled out a new program that <a href="https://www.ams.usda.gov/content/usda-announces-establishment-milk-donation-reimbursement-program" target="_blank">reimburses farmers for milk donated to low-income families</a>.</p>
More Composting<p>The third example from the Farm Bill is a new fund to support community composting programs, which provides a total of $25 million to jumpstart pilot efforts in at least ten states.</p><p>Franklin and others call this provision especially important.</p><p>"There are so many valuable components of food-waste material," said Franklin. "There's really no reason they shouldn't be part of a circular economy that helps produce energy, soil and other products."</p><p>That's just what San Francisco's mandatory composting law has done, while also alleviating the burden on landfills and sharply cutting heat-trapping methane emissions.</p><p>There's an economic benefit, too, says Franklin. Recycling food often creates more jobs than tossing it. That point holds true in Massachusetts, where recycling food waste supported more than 900 jobs and $175 million in economic activity in 2016 alone, according to a <a href="https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/12/nx/orgecon-study.pdf" target="_blank">recent report</a> from the state government.</p><p>The three Farm Bill examples track well with a "<a href="https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-hierarchy" target="_blank">food recovery hierarchy</a>" developed by the EPA and others to guide thinking on food waste. It emphasizes that communities address waste prevention as their top priority, then move through a series of other solutions that include donating, repurposing and composting food, all before the least desirable practice of dumping it in a landfill.</p>
Beyond the Farm Bill<p>Congress and government agencies are far from the only ones working on food waste. If anything, they're late arrivals in a field where conservation and humanitarian groups have been toiling for years. They include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), ReFED, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Feeding America and many others, as well as hundreds of local food rescue groups that connect unwanted food with people in need. In fact, the Farm Bill provisions reflect many of these organizations' <a href="https://furtherwithfood.org/resources/opportunities-reduce-food-waste-2018-farm-bill/" target="_blank">longstanding recommendations</a>.</p><p>The groups have helped spur the food industry into action. For example, large retailers such as Walmart <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/jun/26/food-waste-walmart-date-labels" target="_blank">began efforts to standardize food expiration labels</a> after a 2013 <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/issues/food-waste" target="_blank">report</a> by NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic showed confusion over the labels leads up to 90 percent of Americans to toss perfectly good food. In 2017 they were <a href="https://www.supermarketnews.com/food-safety/gma-fmi-hail-fda-s-support-best-if-used-label" target="_blank">joined</a> by industry associations representing dozens of major firms, who volunteered to trim the more than ten date labels — including "best by," "sell by," and "expires on" — to just two: "best if used by" and "use by."</p><p>The Food and Drug Administration <a href="https://www.fda.gov/media/125114/download" target="_blank">approved</a> their choice of "best if used by" to indicate optimal quality this past May but stopped short of sanctioning "use by" as a marker for when an item could be safely consumed.</p><p>Still, ReFED and others <a href="https://www.chlpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/date-labels-issue-brief_June-2019.pdf?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=c1b8e93b-4265-4c57-9dc1-a645175d9ccb" target="_blank">point out</a> that voluntary industry efforts are not enough. They say a continuing mishmash of retailer approaches and state food safety laws have prevented the universal standardization of labels. That standardization, they say, is only achievable by federal legislation that includes oversight, comprehensive consumer education, and consistency between state and federal laws. That may still emerge: In 2019 Rep. Pingree of Maine introduced label reform <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3981/text" target="_blank">legislation</a> that matches ReFED's recommendations.</p><p>But as label reform shows, major industry players are coming to the table to help fight food waste. The EPA and USDA encourage their efforts through the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-food-loss-and-waste-2030-champions" target="_blank">2030 Food Waste Champions</a> program, which highlights companies working toward the government's 2030 goal. Members include Walmart, Campbells, Kellogg, Kroger and more than 20 other large retailers. Although the program is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-food-loss-and-waste-2030-champions" target="_blank">voluntary</a> and doesn't require independent verification, highlighting again the need for better overall measurement standards, supporters argue it incentivizes companies to reduce waste.</p><p>"We've been lucky," said Franklin, "because reducing food waste has a lot of appeal among businesses right now."</p><p>But as Franklin says, unexpected events or market shifts could temper efforts at any time. She also points to the need for greater consumer education, as she's regularly reminded that most people remain unaware of the food-waste problem.</p><p>But she sees promising work there, too, and highlights the World Wildlife Fund's <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/teaching-resources/toolkits/food-waste-warrior-toolkit" target="_blank">Food Waste Warrior toolkit</a> for school teachers. Similar experiential education is also included in a <a href="https://civileats.com/2020/01/16/a-new-bill-aims-to-fix-food-waste-in-schools/" target="_blank">bill</a> Rep. Pingree and others introduced in January, which would initiate a new federally supported food-waste program in schools.</p>
Consumers may waste more than twice as much food as previously thought, a new study has found.
- How to Make a Change for Stop Food Waste Day - EcoWatch ›
- 20 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste - EcoWatch ›
- Food Waste Set to Increase by 33 Percent Within 10 Years - EcoWatch ›
The holiday season is supposed to be about giving and sharing, but often it is actually about throwing away. The U.S. generates 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year's than it does during the rest of the year. That's around one million extra tons per week, according to National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) figures reported by The Associated Press.
1. Make Your Own Tree<p>There's an <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/green-christmas-eco-friendly-2623425137.html" target="_self">ongoing debate</a> as to whether it is more ecologically friendly to buy a natural tree every year or reuse a plastic one. But neither option is climate neutral, according to <a href="https://www.omnicalculator.com/ecology/zero-waste-christmas-tree#just-how-green-is-your-tree" target="_blank">Omni's Christmas Tree Footprint Calculator</a>.<br></p><p>This tool helps you calculate the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a variety of Christmas tree options and disposal methods so you can make the greenest choice you can. A natural tree thrown in a landfill burns 21.02 kilograms of carbon dioxide, a landfilled plastic tree burns 35.16 kilograms and a replanted potted tree burns only 1.64 kilograms. But only one option emits zero carbon: making a tree of your own from items already in your home.</p><p>In addition to calculating carbon footprints, the tool also gives you instructions for making trees from books, cans, floating baubles, cardboard or succulents. Compared to a plastic tree, a book tree can save the amount of carbon dioxide generated by 84 miles of driving.</p><p>But if you really crave that pine-needle smell, you can reduce the footprint of a medium-sized live tree down to 5.724 kilograms of carbon dioxide by donating it to the elephants at your local zoo.</p>
2. Give Up on Gifts<p>More and more people are turning away from the tradition of exchanging store-bought presents. This is especially the case for the younger generation, Waste and Resource Action Programme campaigner Richard Clapham told <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/christmas-presents-plastic-packaging-waste-family-stress-a9179926.html" target="_blank">The Independent in November</a>.</p><p>"They're increasingly looking for experiences rather than 'stuff.' I think this is partly driven by their concern for the planet but also because they already have so much stuff," he said.</p><p>If you opt not to buy things, there are still many creative ways to tell loved-ones you care. <a href="https://lbre.stanford.edu/pssistanford-recycling/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-holiday-waste-prevention" target="_blank">The Peninsula Sanitary Service and the Stanford Recycling Center</a> have several alternative gift suggestions including trips to museums or parks, certificates to help with chores around the house or handmade presents. You can <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/environmental-nonprofit-recommendations-2641495614.html" target="_self">also make a donation</a> in your own or someone else's name.</p><p>Jane Ruessman, a 58-year-old translator from the UK, told The Independent that she banned presents from her family gathering. Instead, everyone gets a handmade paper hat.</p><p>"Getting together at Christmas was initially a bit of a nightmare as we all felt that we should bring along a present for all those who were coming," she said. "It was nice but pretty stressful and we would end up spending a lot of money and going home with an awful lot of stuff that we generally didn't need at all and didn't know what to do with."</p><p>And that's the last thing the planet needs.</p>
3. Make Your Feast Last<p>Americans toss an extra five million pounds of food on average between Thanksgiving and New Year's, <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-simple-hacks-to-help-you-stop-wasting-leftovers-over-the-holidays-2018-11-26" target="_blank">MarketWatch reported</a>. But it doesn't have to be that way.</p><p>There are plenty of delicious strategies for making your holiday meal last as long as possible. If you served meat, you can use it for soups or stews, or toss it in dishes like lasagna. Leftover vegetables are great in frittatas or omelettes. It's also important to freeze leftovers before they go bad. <a href="https://hartfordclimate.org/2017/11/22/zero-food-waste-holiday/" target="_blank">The Hartford Climate Stewardship Initiative</a> recommends keeping enough in your fridge for three days of leftovers and freezing the rest immediately.</p><p>You can also give your food away. Ask your guests to come with their own to-go containers and send them away with the next day's lunch. Unused canned or dry food can be donated to a food drive.</p><p>It's also a good idea to reflect after this year's meals, assess how much you actually ate, and plan to make less next year.</p><p>"If everyone had their fill, and you still had leftovers, maybe during the next round of holiday shopping you think about the excess you had and say what if you purchased the same amount and only prepared half of it?" Lisa Sposato, director of food sourcing at New York charity City Harvest, told MarketWatch.</p>
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By Claire O'Connor
Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change. Whether it's the a seven-year drought drying up fields in California, the devastating Midwest flooding in 2019, or hurricane after hurricane hitting the Eastern Shore, agriculture and rural communities are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Scientists expect climate change to make these extreme weather events both more frequent and more intense in coming years.
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