On Saturday activists from Climate First! entered, in succession and without incident, two TD Bank branches in Washington, DC, attempting to initiate discussions with the bank about its investments in the Keystone XL pipeline.
The action was taken one day after a TD Bank press release was issued—later discovered to be a clever prank by the environmental group, Tar Sands Blockade. The fake press release announced that the bank intended to sell all of its shares in TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline in the U.S., due to the stock’s financial risk, as well as the beating that the bank’s “green” reputation has been receiving. Activists were surprised that neither bank manager showed any reluctance to speak with them.
Ted Conwell and Brian Higgins of Climate First! conversed with both employees, asking why TD Bank had invested in carbon intensive fuels that many experts say could lead to climate instability if they all were burned for energy. Predictably, both managers responded that they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the bank regarding such matters, but would provide contact information for individuals who could respond. Climate First! will attempt to contact these individuals early this week in an effort to further the discussion.
This morning, a fake press release was sent from an email address at yourtdbank.com, to a parody website designed to look like TD Bank's press page announcing the bank's divestment from Keystone XL and tar sands. The fake release cited President Obama's recent climate speech and a host of economic problems for the tar sands industry as reasons for TD Bank’s decision to sell its $1.6 billion stake in Keystone XL and live up to their motto to be “As Green As Our Logo.”
The media stunt was claimed by the Texas-based nonviolent direct action organization, Tar Sands Blockade, who over the last year has successfully caused major delays to the construction of the southern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The fake story was published by media sources such as International Business Times, before later realizing it was a hoax.
Today’s hoax was part of a sustained campaign to encourage financial institutions bankrolling Alberta’s tar sands industry to divest from toxic projects like Keystone XL and highlight TD Bank's blatant hypocrisy on environmental issues.
Yesterday, TD Bank touted their eco-consciousness by announcing a partnership with the Nature Conservancy to preserve 107 acres of Florida forests. The tar sands mega-project, which analysts say will only be economically viable if Keystone XL and other pipelines are built, would destroy or degrade 34 million acres of the world's largest, most pristine forest and the largest terrestrial carbon sink.
“Today's media stunt was intended to hold TD Bank accountable for bankrolling the most ecologically devastating project on planet Earth. If TD Bank wants to be 'as green as its logo,' then it must immediately divest from tar sands exploitation and Keystone XL, which will have devastating climate impacts,” said Ron Seifert, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson.
“TD Bank’s green-washing of its preservation of 107 acres in Florida while simultaneously investing in the destruction of a forest the size of the entire state of Florida is downright absurd and must be brought to light.”
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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
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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.