By Ellen Furlong
On Jan. 24 the White House welcomed two new residents: Champ and Major, the newly minted first dogs of the United States. The first dogs are poised to offer special benefits to workers in the White House.
Promoting Well-Being<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUzNjM4OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDQxNTg1MX0.3wAaMwHIdVaRh9cIyfTesDpQMK0Pwg9nyUNCtfuTuCU/img.jpg?width=980" id="443d8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4cb3d440ff15ab78cd8309e1ca58050f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1120" data-height="746" />
Presidential pup Major Biden stretches his legs on the White House lawn. Adam Schultz / Official White House photo<p>These benefits explain why many workplaces – from <a href="https://thebark.com/content/barks-directory-best-dog-friendly-companies" target="_blank">Amazon to Zygna</a> – have begun welcoming dogs into their offices. Recent research suggests that dogs in the workplace can lead to <a href="http://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00138" target="_blank">increased worker engagement, lower employee turnover</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0021943605277399" target="_blank">greater work satisfaction</a> and even enhanced employee <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010089" target="_blank">cohesion and communication</a>.</p><p><span></span>The Oval Office, the site of momentous decisions, enormous stress and complex social dynamics, may benefit from dogs even more than typical workplaces. After all, stress can compromise <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.003" target="_blank">decision-making</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051117174336.htm" target="_blank">problem-solving abilities</a>. Pets can alleviate stress, however, dampening these effects and leading to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1161/hyp.38.4.815" target="_blank">improved performance on difficult tasks</a>.</p><p>Not only do people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2019.1550280" target="_blank">report feeling less workplace stress around dogs</a>, but their very bodies tend to support this claim. A growing area of research suggests human <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-013-9546-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heart rates slow, levels of the stress hormone cortisol shrink</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.1992.tb137178.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blood pressure decreases</a> when people hang out with dogs. Interestingly, the positive effects of pups on stress levels exceed that of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000024236.11538.41" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">even a close friend or family member</a>: A dog will reduce your stress more than your spouse or best friend will. After all, dogs are <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-dogs-nose-knows-no-bounds-and-neither-does-its-love-for-you-148484" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">naturally inclined to love you unconditionally</a> and will never find fault with the way you slurp your soup.</p><p>Dogs may reduce stress because they <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-balance/201804/how-dogs-drive-emotional-well-being" target="_blank">provide social support</a>. You may feel supported by your pooch, in part, because of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261022" target="_blank">oxytocin feedback loop between humans and dogs</a>. Oxytocin, a hormone involved in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0079-6123(08)00427-5" target="_blank">promoting social bonds</a>, is released in both dogs and humans when <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dog-gazes-hijack-brains-maternal-bonding-system-180955019" target="_blank">gazing into each other's eyes</a>.</p><p>People report <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/089279306785593928" target="_blank">improved mood</a>, <a href="https://news.ubc.ca/2018/03/12/sit-stay-heal-study-finds-therapy-dogs-help-stressed-university-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increased happiness and greater energy levels</a> around dogs. And, on the flip side, they enjoy reduced feelings of <a href="https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/How-Dogs-Can-Help-with-Depression" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depression</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2007.11.007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">loneliness</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024506" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">negativity</a> when dogs are present.</p>
Creating Connection<p>Given dogs' skill at providing these supports and boosting mood, it may not surprise you to learn they work their magic not only one on one, but also in group settings. In the presence of a dog, people in groups have <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/089279304785643203" target="_blank">better social interactions, engage in more conversations</a> and are more likely to form <a href="http://doi.org/10.1163/156853007X169333" target="_blank">long-term friendships</a> with one another.</p>
President Clinton and President Chirac of France showing Buddy some love in 1999. National Archives and Records Administration<p>The effects of dogs as social lubricants can go further: Dogs even foster development of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1348/000712600161673" target="_blank">social support networks</a> among their humans, leading to a sense of community, and more social interactions between people in their vicinity. These engagements offer opportunities for even more social support in high-stress environments. And perhaps most importantly, <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/175303708X371564" target="_blank">people are more likely to offer help</a> when a dog is present.</p><p>Having Champ and Major in the White House may help President Biden and his staff navigate the stresses and tensions of the current political landscape. Beyond "indogurations," tweets and cute photo ops, Champ and Major will offer physical, psychological and social benefits in the Oval Office.</p><p>In short, pets (<a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-being-cat-lover" target="_blank">yes, cats too!</a>) improve the quality of life in almost every context – including presidential ones. Perhaps they can, even in a small way, play a role in uniting a divided country. After all, personal politics aside, isn't it comforting to know there will be paws pattering around the White House again?</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ellen-furlong-1165354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ellen Furlong</a> is an associate professor of Psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ellen Furlong has written for Audible / The Great Courses. She has received funding from The National Institute of Health. She is a member of The Animal Behavior Society, The Comparative Cognition Society, The American Psychological Association, and The Society for Teaching of Psychology.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-bidens-dogs-could-make-the-oval-office-a-workplace-with-less-stress-and-better-decision-making-153406" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Julia Conley
Public interest groups spoke out Monday about a White House event at which Vice President Mike Pence touted the Trump administration's deregulation efforts. President Donald Trump did not attend the "Cut the Red Tape" event due to the attack in Las Vegas, but the meeting went on as planned with the White House barring the press from the room.
The administration has demonstrated repeatedly since Trump took office in January that it aims to roll back safeguards put in place by the Obama administration in a number of areas. The president announced early in his term that he would offset any new regulation by scrapping two existing regulations. According to an analysis by Reuters, federal agencies have so far taken 25 deregulatory steps, affecting infrastructure projects, the environment and workers in a wide variety of sectors.
According to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year, and because of the material they're made from, most municipal recycling centers don't accept them (more on this below).
The most sustainable option is to skip the bag altogether. You can also make your own reusable produce bags out of old T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase them new, here are our recommendations for the best reusable produce bags on the market today.
Eco Joy<p>If you're making the switch to more sustainable shopping bags and want a variety of products to use, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Sandwich-Biodegradable-Eco-Drawstring/dp/B003PK4W3I/ref=sr_1_36?crid=3TDUCB8ZOM7WI&dchild=1&keywords=produce+bags+grocery+reusable&qid=1613484643&sprefix=produce+bags%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-36" target="_blank">Eco Joy Cotton Reusable Produce Bags</a> set is a great place to start. The set comes with three mesh drawstring bags, three muslin drawstring bags, a large mesh tote and a zippered sandwich-size pouch.</p><p>Each product is made with organic, non-GMO cotton that's ethically sourced in accordance with Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) standards. The cotton comes from India and Turkey, and the bags are hand-assembled in Canada by the owner of Eco Joy, so you can feel good about supporting a small business while reducing your environmental impact.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 300 Amazon reviews</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Zero-waste; Handmade in Canada; WRAP compliant; Machine washable</p>
Organic Cotton Mart<p>Some shoppers prefer to use mesh bags when shopping for fruits and veggies. We recommend checking out <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Best-Reusable-Produce-Organic-Cotton/dp/B07CK2TJKL/ref=sr_1_16?crid=10A7NM0LQ0B7E&dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1613483897&s=home-garden&sprefix=mesh+pro%2Cgarden%2C162&sr=1-16" target="_blank">Organic Cotton Mart's Reusable Cotton Mesh Produce Bags</a> if you're in this camp, as they're made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton.</p> <p>Mesh reusable produce bags can make the checkout process easier than muslin bags since you can see what's inside them without having to open them up. Plus, the tare weight (i.e., the weight of the empty bag that should be subtracted from the total weight of your produce to make sure you don't pay extra for using your bag) is printed right on the label of Organic Cotton Mart's bags, making everything that much more convenient.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.6 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable
Simple Ecology<p>On the other hand, if you just want to purchase muslin bags, we like <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Ecology-Reusable-Organic-Shopping/dp/B004UJ0U0C" target="_blank">Simple Ecology's Reusable Produce Bags</a>, which are also made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. Simple Ecology also has a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6AUMBG/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B01N6AUMBG&pd_rd_w=MA3ZS&pf_rd_p=cbc856ed-1371-4f23-b89d-d3fb30edf66d&pd_rd_wg=hVunQ&pf_rd_r=G6RTQ1Z5DKEY325MAJZ9&pd_rd_r=5d298b3a-1be7-4ebd-a9e1-d5d672a40497&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMzc4RVAxWjNLOTdCJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTc0NTAwMzBDMjFYOVJPTUpWSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjYyOTM4M0s4Vk81SVBPS1NFSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbF90aGVtYXRpYyZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=" target="_blank">starter kit</a> that comes with several reusable grocery bags if you're looking for more variety.</p> <p>The benefit of using muslin reusable produce bags is that, unlike mesh, there are no holes for small items to slip through. This means that in addition to larger produce, you can use them to purchase bulk foods like lentils, beans and rice — or even powders like flour or spices — without worrying about anything leaking. They're also best for keeping leafy greens fresh.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,500 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified packaging when purchased from manufacturer
ECOBAGS<p>Whether you're buying bread, fresh flowers, produce or all of the above, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/ECOBAGS-Market-Collection-Reusable-Natural/dp/B08KFGPGN5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ECOBAGS Market Collection Reusable Bag Set</a> is ideal for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/farmers-markets-coronavirus-safety-2645581711.html" target="_self">farmers market</a> shopping or large grocery hauls. The netted bags are durable, flexible, and pack down small so they're easy to keep in your car or purse.</p> <p>ECOBAGS is a woman-owned certified B Corp, which means it uses sound social and environmental practices. These bags come in packs of three or five and have a few different handle lengths and color options, but they're all made with GOTS-certified organic cotton.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating: </strong>Not applicable</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Certified B Corp; SA8000 certified for the protection of basic human rights of workers</p>
President Barack Obama and former President William J. Clinton along with representatives from more than 60 organizations as part of the Better Buildings Challenge announced nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades Dec. 2 to buildings over the next two years. This investment includes a $2 billion commitment, made through the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum, to energy upgrades of federal buildings using long-term energy savings to pay for up-front costs, at no cost to taxpayers. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) pushed for this action in its 2010 report that encourages using executive authority to achieve greener buildings.
“The administration is tapping into tools already at its disposal to enhance the energy efficiency and sustainability of the nation’s multifamily and commercial buildings—all without seeking new funds or authority from Congress,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “By directing these funds to invest in high-performing energy efficient and sustainable buildings, the federal government will stimulate significant new green investments and job creation while saving taxpayer dollars, increasing energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and create healthier working environments.”
As the White House reports, “These investments will save billions in energy costs, promote energy independence, and, according to independent estimates, create tens of thousands of jobs in the hard-hit construction sector.”
In addition, 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents and labor leaders committed to invest nearly $2 billion of private capital into energy efficiency projects; and to upgrade energy performance by a minimum of 20 percent by 2020 in 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings. This announcement builds on a commitment made by 14 partners at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting held in June to make energy upgrades across 300 million square feet, and to invest $500 million in private sector financing in energy efficiency projects.
“This announcement is another step toward the $130 billion a year we could save and nearly 1 million jobs we could create in the process if we had greener, more efficient buildings,” added Fedrizzi. “We continue to be committed to engaging our 16,000 USGBC members, our 170,000 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professional credential holders and our 79 chapters across the country to advance the Better Buildings Initiative and encourage the use of the LEED Green Building Program as a pathway to ensuring the immediate, measureable and proven results this challenge is meant to create.”
These investments are estimated to create 50,000 jobs in the hard-hit construction industry, a figure that could be increased by 114,000 through other components of the Better Buildings Initiative, according to a recent analysis released by The Real Estate Roundtable, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In early 2012, USGBC will also release a new report that will serve as an updated guide for policymakers to enhance sustainability and efficiency in multifamily housing and commercial building through existing executive authority.
Better Buildings commitments announced Dec. 2 include:
3M, AFL-CIO, Alcoa, Allegheny College, Ascension Health, Blue Hill Partners LLC, Briggs and Stratton, CBRE, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cummins Inc., Delaware State University, Denver, CO, The District of Columbia, Douglas County School District, NV, Energi, Inc, Forest City Enterprises, GE, HEI Hotels & Resorts, Houston Independent School District, TX, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), Jones Lang LaSalle, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Kohl’s Department Stores, Legrand, Michigan State University, Nissan North America Inc, The PNC Financial Services Group, Poudre School District, CO, Prologis, RREEF Real Estate,Sacramento, CA, Saint-Gobain Corporation, Schneider Electric, Serious Energy, Inc., Shorenstein Properties LLC, State of Iowa, Department of Administrative Services, State of Minnesota, SUPERVALU, TIAA-CREF, University of California, Irvine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Utah, Southern California Edison, Walgreens Co., Wyndham Worldwide and Ygrene Energy Fund.
For more information, click here.
The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. With a community comprising 79 local affiliates, nearly 16,000 member organizations, and 170,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. GDP from 2009-2013. USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org.
The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. More than 43,000 projects are currently participating in the commercial and institutional LEED rating systems, comprising over 7.8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 120 countries. In addition, more than 14,000 homes have been certified under the LEED for Homes rating system, with more than 63,000 more homes registered. By using less energy, LEED-certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.