The 10 Most Inspirational Sustainability Initiatives in the U.S.
New York-based Recyclebank took note of sustainable solutions in the U.S. and issued a ranking of the 10 it believes set the bar for urban sustainability and environmental practices by inspiring other communities.
“We have watched many communities significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment; be it by reducing waste with the help of programs like Recyclebank, educating residents on sustainable practices through community volunteers, or growing food in a community garden that can be eaten for lunch at the local school,” said Javier Flaim, CEO of Recyclebank. “All of these practices are taking place in cities across the U.S and can be replicated in other communities. With this list, we hope to make positive examples out of programs and communities that are taking steps, big and small, to change America’s environmental path."
1. Green Building in Chicago, IL—It's been more than a decade since Chicago became the epicenter for LEED-certified buildings with the opening of the Chicago Center for Green Technology. The city further focused on green architecture by implementing the Green Permit Program to offer an expedited permit process and the possibility of reduced fees for green projects. Chicago has the most LEED-certified projects in the U.S. with 295.
2. Wind Energy in Corpus Christi, TX—Known as America’s Wind Power Port, Corpus Christi houses the continent’s first on-port wind farm. The Port serves as a shipping hub for wind turbines and also wants to harness Texas winds to generate more clean energy in what is already the nation's top state for wind power. Additionally, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi houses 11 vertical-axis wind turbines that produce 92 kilowatts, which makes it the largest installation of its kind in the nation.
3. Xeriscaping in Denver, CO—Denver has pioneered a type of landscaping designed to conserve water, known as xeriscaping. Besides spreading the idea to nearby “dry” climate states like Arizona and Nevada, Denver created a program to make it easier than ever for residents to xeriscape around their homes. The city’s water board has developed easy-to-follow downloadable plans and resources so that every resident can remodel their yards. The city also has a xeriscape demonstration garden that is open daily for residents that appreciate a hands-on tutorial.
4. Organic Food in La Farge, WI—La Farge is home to Organic Valley, the largest organic farming co-op in North America. State, village, federal and private funding combined to make it possible, allowing the co-op to produce sustainable food products. The 45,000 square-foot barn that houses the company optimizes natural light, minimizes heat and was built with locally sourced materials, many of which were recycled. All of the construction waste was recycled after building. The farm also plays host to the Kickapoo County Fair, which hosts sustainability workshops and rural heritage exhibits, ensuring that the entire community stays educated. The surrounding area of Vernon County, also boasts more organic farms that any other county in the nation.
5. Solar Energy in Long Beach, CA—Photovoltaic systems on the structures of the Long Beach Convention Center and Long Beach Airport aid to California's standing as the top state for solar energy. The Convention Center houses one of the largest public-facility solar installations on the West Coast, generating 1 million kilowatt-hours of pollution-free electricity. Meanwhile, the Long Beach government set up an easy to follow manual helping residents apply for the “Residential Renewable Tax Credit,” which offers a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for a solar system from the federal government.
6. Landfill Rehabilitation in New York, NY—Freshkills, formerly known as the world’s largest landfill at 2,200 acres, is being turned into a park with advanced landfill engineering techniques. Freshkills Public Park is three-times the size of Central Park. It once accepted more than 29,000 tons of trash per day, but now landfill mounds have been capped through a special process that will alleviate toxic fumes and the soil has been treated to promote proper drainage and ensure public health and safety regulations are not only met, but surpassed.
7. Climate Positive Community: Oberlin, OH—Oberlin is one of only three U.S. cities in the Climate Positive Development Program which works to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry and create a sustainable base for communities. The Oberlin Project developed five goals, including reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2015 and developing local food sources to meet 70 percent of consumption. Additionally, Oberlin College's Ecolympics, an energy reduction competition, was the precursor to the Campus Conservation Nationals, a national energy reduction competition. Oberlin's program combined the city, Oberlin College and private partners in the community.
8. Sustainable Engagement in Philadelphia, PA—Mayor Michael A. Nutter developed the Greenworks initiative five years ago to explore sustainability through the lenses of energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement. Goals were set in each category to be achieved by next year. So far, the city has expanded recycling options at events and in public spaces; added additional types of plastics to the list of recyclable materials in Philadelphia; and instituted e-waste drop-off centers to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills and engage residents in sustainable action. The city also planted more than 89,000 new trees and retrofitted more than 5,500 homes with insulation, air sealing and cool roofs.
9. Alternative Transportation in Portland, OR—The Portland Bureau of Transportation continues adding new bike routes to advance alternative transportation while maintaining current routes. Portland is also home to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance whose mission is to create healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient and accessible.
10. Organic Recycling in Wilmington, DE—The Wilmington Organic Recycling Center is the largest composting facility in North America, sitting on 27 acres and accepting 160,000 tons of organic waste per year. The plant reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 8,800 cars from area roads, per year. The center also lowers the cost of organic waste disposal by 20-50 percent, which makes it possible for more residents and businesses to participate in the program.
The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.