Christmas: A Revival

The holidays are here! Unfortunately, with it comes the chance to hurt the environment. This article shouldn’t be a slap on the wrist for all the mistakes done, but instead  an eye opener for all the things that can be done better for future holidays. With the majority of the population celebrating within the same 1-2 days, pollutants can quickly sneak up and rise to unhealthy amounts. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have an environmentally-friendly mindset, it is important to see what can be done better to improve the quality of life. Christmas is a great holiday to reinvent to lessen the carbon footprint that is being given off during this time. 

Every holiday, and especially major holidays, food waste is a big concern. With a big holiday like Christmas, food waste can bring major CO2 into the atmosphere. A study that was done in England reported that roughly “270,000tonnes of food [is] wasted in the UK each year” (Westwater, 2018) during the holiday season. This statistic includes seventy-four million mince pies, two million turkeys, and five million Christmas puddings. There is a lot to unpack from just this singular statistic.  From Eco-Youth’s previous article about Thanksgiving, it can be estimated that a regular 16 pound turkey can weigh 32 pounds. With just England alone, the two million turkeys would produce 64 million pounds of CO2. The puddings in England would produce roughly 7 million pounds of CO2. In England alone, an estimated 71 million pounds of CO2 is emitted just from Christmas, a 1-2 day holiday. 

BBC News. (2020). Bristol Waste says vast amounts of food waste are generated at Christmas [Photograph]. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-55386848

In America, the winter season is brutal when it comes to food waste. During this time of year “30 and 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste each year” (Russaw, 2019). This can prove to be detrimental to the environment and the surrounding landscapes. Given the fact that the United States is 40 times bigger than Britain, the 71 millions pounds of CO2 can be expected to be up to 40 times greater. There could be many reasons for this large food waste problem. Supermarkets during this time offer discounts that cause people to buy unnecessary foods that they don’t need. Christmas dinner being the star of this time of year tends to sway people to also overbuy on items in fear that there would be no variety for the dinner plate. These two trends, which often repeear during major holidays, are a great contribution to food waste. 

There can be many solutions to avoid this problem, but the main solution would be to save the leftovers! Freezing and refrigerating food is a great way to combat this issue because it lengthens the longevity of the food making it still edible for future days. Another great solution would be to compost the leftover food! Composting is great; it nourishes the soil and adds nutrients for plants to grow. Making sure excessive food doesn’t hit the landfill ensures that unneeded methane gas doesn’t go up into the atmosphere. 

Another huge problem concerning the environment and climate change is deforestation. With less and less trees, the earth is able to absorb less and less carbon dioxide which causes a ride in greenhouse gases. So, the natural choice for some people would be to opt for a fake Christmas tree. The advantages seem bluntly clear: less wood is cut down, the tree stays up and less pollution is emitted during the process. Besides, fake Christmas trees can last much longer than just one holiday season.  The Independent did an interview with Anne Mari Cobb, a certification officer at Soil Association Forestry, and she had some opposing views. She stated “‘Real Christmas trees are a renewable resource that doesn’t result in pollution, if responsibly recycled or disposed of’” (Barr, 2020). There is in fact truth in her statement.  A tree that is six feet and is properly disposed of (“burning it on a bonfire, planting it or having it chipped” (Barr, 2020)) is 7 pounds of CO2. Compared to one that isn’t properly disposed of, the CO2 emissions can go up to 16 pounds. A fake Christmas tree can have a footprint of up to 88 pounds of CO2. In order to fulfill the life of a properly disposed Christmas tree, the fake tree would need to be used for 12 years, and 6 years for an improperly disposed tree. The problem with this is that most fake trees do not fulfill the 12 years mark because the “average usable lifespan is six years” (Mitchell. 2019), but most are kept up to 10 years. The best part of growing natural trees is that “the process of growing a Christmas tree to optimum heights takes around eight to ten years” (Barr, 2020), so need for a fake tree is no longer needed because a new tree ready to be used is grown within the lifespan of one fake tree. Natural trees also have benefits that most fake trees do not have like a natural CO2 cycle within the home. The tree takes in the CO2 produced and expels O2. 

Even though a fake tree might seem like the logical approach, weighing out the pros and cons proves otherwise. Investing in a real tree can actually be more beneficial towards the planet than investing in a fake tree. With all things, try to locally source the tree so that the travel of the tree does not rack up any unneeded CO2. Buying a tree with roots rather than one that is cut from the stump can help reuse the tree annually (reducing the carbon emission even more!). People can also rent Christmas trees where trees are sourced locally from nurseries and return back to the nursery to live out the rest of its life. One company based in California called rentxmastree gives the citizens of California the option to rent a tree and return it back to its nursery after use. 

Flaccus, Gillian. (2018). In this November 2018 photo, Casey Grogan, owner of Silver Bells Tree Farm and president of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Assosication, trims noble fir at his 400-acre Christmas tree farm in Silverton, Ore. [Photograph]. AZCentral. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2018/12/19/real-fake-christmas-trees-better-environment/1892885002/

The Holidays also bring about another environmental issue: overuse and waste of wrapping paper. There is a lot of wrapping paper used in the wrapping of presents (226,800 miles). This much wrapping paper equates to roughly “2.3 million pounds of plastic wrapping paper that is reported to end up there every year” (Haraczek, 2020). This could be fine if ALL the wrapping paper was just paper and completely degradable. However,  there was all sort of wrapping paper you could find in the store. Some have glitter, extra decorations, grooves, and other decorations that taint the paper with unnecessary chemicals. When this paper is thrown out in the regular garbage, it ends up in landfills while discharging harmful chemicals into the soil. Wrapping paper doesn’t have to end up in landfills and slowly harm  our environment. To add onto the hazards of wrapping, an experiment was conducted using an air quality tracker, Awair which proved that when gifts were unwrapped, VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) were released into the air making the air quality poor. The goal of this experiment proves that wrapping paper sold in stores can end up harming the environment by releasing toxins that end  and oneself while just existing and spreading joy. 

The harsh truth about the recycling process and wrapping paper is that not every center will accept them. So the best option would be to contact your local recycling center and make sure they accept what you need to be recycled. A test by Popular Science can help determine if a given wrapping paper is recyclable or not. All that needs to be done is “crinkle the paper up into a ball—if it stays that way when you let go, it’s fine to put in the recycle bin” (Haraczek, 2020). To every problem, there is a solution!

There can be great substitutes to use instead of using wrapping paper. These can include using gift bags instead of boxes and wrapping paper. The boxes that gifts come in are often thrown out, but by using a gift bag, it can be recycled for other gifts and future holidays. It is a cheaper and less pollutant option to wrapping paper. Another option is using newspapers and twine. This option is recyclable and biodegradable. Just remember to use hemp twine as it is biodegradable! A fabric bag is great to use and can even be used later as a regular bag to carry with you. Overall, the tip is to get creative with wrapping gifts and trying to stray away from commercially produced wrapping paper. A home wrapped option opens the door for creativity and the option to lessen your carbon footprint. 

The Pioneer Women (2020). [DIY wrapping paper with twine and winter scene painted on presents] [Photograph]. The Pioneer Women. https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/holidays-celebrations/gifts/g32703477/christmas-gift-wrapping-ideas/

Christmas can be seen as a time of joy and celebration, and it should be. In a time like this, however, it is important to also pay attention to common pollutants and try to minimize what we use. Big holidays like Christmas give consumers the chance to splurge and buy unnecessary things like food and excessive wrapping paper that might end up being not composted or not recycled. If given the chance, minimize how much of a product is being bought and also always check to see if it is environment friendly. Try to drift away from mass produced things and if given the chance, do some DIYs to help lessen the carbon footprint. 

From Eco-Youth to your family – Happy Holidays!

Works Cited

“74 Million Mince Pies Thrown Away Every Christmas.” Unilever UK & Ireland, http://www.unilever.co.uk/news/press-releases/2012/74-million-mince-pies-thrown-away-every-christmas.html.

“Are Artificial or Real Christmas Trees Better for the Environment?” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 30 Nov. 2020, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/christmas/christmas-tree-real-living-artificial-plastic-environment-carbon-footprint-a9235551.html.

Awair. “Could Some Wrapping Paper Be Unhealthy for You?” Awair Blog, 14 Dec. 1970, blog.getawair.com/is-unwrapping-gifts-unhealthy.

“Calculating the Carbon Cost of Christmas – in Puddings!” University of York, http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2007/carbon-christmas/.

Horaczek, Stan. “2020 Is the Perfect Year to Quit Wrapping Paper.” Popular Science, http://www.popsci.com/story/diy/quit-wrapping-paper/.

“How Much Food Goes to Waste During Christmas, and How Can We Prevent It? – Respect Food.” Grundig – Respect Food, http://www.respectfood.com/article/how-much-food-goes-to-waste-during-christmas-and-how-can-we-prevent-it/.

“How to Solve Britain’s Overstuffed Christmas Food Waste Epidemic.” The Big Issue, 18 Dec. 2018, http://www.bigissue.com/latest/how-to-solve-britains-overstuffed-christmas-food-waste-epidemic/.

“Pricing out a Real vs Artificial Christmas Tree.” Old World Christmas, oldworldchristmas.com/blogs/the-yule-blog/pricing-out-a-real-vs-artificial-christmas-tree.

“Rent a Living Christmas Tree.” RentXmasTree.com | Rent a Living Christmas Tree, rentxmastree.com/.

Russaw, Jeanine Marie. “5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season, According to the Experts.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 13 Dec. 2019, http://www.newsweek.com/stop-holiday-food-waste-tips-bea-johnson-1477037.

Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Pollution

Lichtenstein, R. (1961). Turkey [Photograph]. Observer. https://observer.com/2017/11/best-thanksgiving-themed-works-of-art/

Thanksgiving this year is a little different from the rest. COVID-19 has forced many families to celebrate alone or with restrictions. This year, however, Thanksgiving should also be looked at from a different perspective: an environmental perspective. It might not seem like Thanksgiving, a once a year holiday, would have any environmental impact at all or even have a personal impact. It all has to do with how people gather their food and how they come together to celebrate this holiday. 

It is known that eating plant-based food will greatly reduce the CO2 level in the environment. A vegan diet, for example, will reduce many things such as “greenhouse gases, but also global acidification, eutrophication, and land and water use” (Vegconomist, 2019). A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of the staple turkey dish. The CO2 emission of cooking a 16 lb turkey will vary from state to state because of their means of preparation. States that use more socially friendly means of preparation like in Main or Vermont (relying on renewable energy) will have a much lower CO2 emission during this time than states such as Wyoming or Kentucky (relying on coal). To take into account the worst-case scenario, which would be using coal to prepare the dinner, Carnegie Mellon University researchers conducted a study to find out how much CO2 is actually emitted when cooking such a big bird. In the case of using coal, Wyoming, for example, “emits 32 pounds of carbon dioxide” (Rea, 2016).  Wyoming currently has 578,759 people living in it and there are 230,630 households in the state. (United State Census, 2019) If every household prepared a turkey on Thanksgiving that would equate to 7,380,160 pounds of CO2 emitted in one day. Using a CO2 calculator from the Guardian, a round trip from the LAX airport in Las Angeles to New York’s New York John F. Kennedy airport would produce roughly 1537 pounds of CO2. The people of Wyoming would be able to fly roughly 4801 round trips from LA to NY. This is just an example of the state with the lowest population using coal. This number would be substantially bigger in states with a higher population like Kentucky. To understand this emission on a smaller scale, the total emission of a one 16 pounds turkey is “equivalent to one dish of turkey gravy, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, rolled biscuits and apple pie combined” (Emanuelli, 2020). For future holidays, in order to lessen the CO2 emission during Thanksgiving dinner, it is recommended to obtain food from a plan-based source. This doesn’t imply to transform the entire dinner vegan, but to become conscious of what is being bought and if something can be substituted for something plant based- do it! There are many vegan meat substitutes called meat-analogue or “mock meat” that can help lower the carbon footprint. There are other things that can be done to ensure an eco-friendly Thanksgiving like staying local.

This year, despite being advised “nearly 7 million travelers have gone through TSA checkpoints” (Root, 2020) as of Wednesday, November 25, 2020. Even though this is much less than the previous years, it can still have a great toll on the Earth. This also doesn’t account for the food being imported  from different countries during this time. It would be a wise decision to also be conscious of where the food is being bought. For example, cheese from Europe would be more harmful  to the environment than cheese made in Wisconsin. In order to limit wasteful or non-needed carbon emissions, buying food from local farms or markets is better. By supporting local farms and markets the economy in that region is also being boosted. The food grown locally also helps in well being because the nutrients are fresh due to the fact that the crop is in season and just cultivated.

Holidays seem to be a secret killer when it comes to global carbon emissions. It seems to slip the minds of people that even the smallest of things can impact the Earth greatly.  For future holidays to come, it is best to keep the Earth in the back of our minds. By doing so and keeping a conscious mind of what is being bought, we can help reduce carbon emission everywhere. Ultimately, that is the goal, to better the state of the planet for habitable use for years to come. With the current state of the world, it is important to keep the Earth in mind for this exact reason.

Works Cited

Emanuelli, Alexandra. “The Environmental Impact Of Your Thanksgiving Dinner.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 26 Oct. 2020, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/thanksgiving-dinner-ecological-impact_l_5db07ef7e4b0d5b78944bc6e.

Jasinski, Nicholas. “Hedge Funds Are Finally Beating the Market in 2020. Here Are Their Top Holdings.” Barron’s, Barrons, 25 Nov. 2020, http://www.barrons.com/articles/hedge-funds-finally-beating-market-in-2020-here-are-top-holdings-51606258710.

Kommenda, Niko. “How Your Flight Emits as Much CO2 as Many People Do in a Year.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2019/jul/19/carbon-calculator-how-taking-one-flight-emits-as-much-as-many-people-do-in-a-year.

“New Study: Vegan Diet Reduces Carbon Footprint by 73% – Vegconomist – the Vegan Business Magazine.” Vegconomist, 19 July 2019, vegconomist.com/society/new-study-vegan-diet-reduces-carbon-footprint-by-73/.

“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Wyoming.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/WY.

University, Carnegie Mellon. Thanksgiving Dinner’s Carbon Footprint: A State-by-State Comparison – Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Carnegie Mellon University, http://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/news/news-stories/2016/november/thanksgiving-carbon-footprint.html.

Vaping: More than Lung Harm

Vaping seems to be an easier alternative for those trying to quit smoking. Several brands are nicotine-free and offer a better solution to quit or ease into the process of not smoking. However, throughout the past few years vaping, formally known as e-cigarettes, have become very popular for both adults and teenagers. Brands such as JUUL and Lava2  have risen in popularity. These brands contain nicotine and can be highly addictive, as well as degenerative for the health of young adults in particular. Vaping can also be linked to many environmental hazards.

CBS Denver. (2019). Vaping Trash: Litter Increasingly Gets Noticed Around Boulder [Photograph]. CBS Denver. https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/05/20/vaping-cartridges-litter-pods-boulder-high-school-vape/

Vapes are tiny devices that use a “battery to heat up a special liquid into an aerosol that users inhale” (American Lung Association, 2020). The devices are becoming a staple piece on the beach and starting to overpopulate the typical pollutant that might be expected to see such as plastic bottles and 6-pack rings. There are many factors that vapes contribute to polluting the earth; however,  the first problem with vapes is they are encased in a plastic that  is not biodegradable or even recyclable. The best action for recycling vape pens would be an electronic recycling facility where any electronic with a circuit board can be recycled. This accounts for computers, phones, printers, and even stereos. The brand JUUL runs into a problem with electronic recycling because they do not contain circuit boards. This makes them virtually impossible to recycle as a whole, leaving regular garbage cans the only option for disposing of a vape. The flavored pods that can be bought for vapes cause an even greater risk for the environment. Since the pods contain additives such as nicotine, they cannot be recycled like any other plastic product “because the nicotine is toxic, which means the pods are essentially hazardous waste” (Donnelly Tim, 2019). The pods themselves are very small pieces of plastic. In 2017, the company JUUL managed to sell 16.2 million devices along with 175 million refill kit pods. It can be estimated that “easily over a billion and as many as two billion little squares of plastic [go] into the trash each year” (Donnelly Tim, 2019). This can lead to sudden surges in increased plastic pollution in waterways along with landfills. 

Vapes are powered by batteries, and the  most commonly used are lithium-ion batteries (commonly found in smartphones). They are great batteries to use because they can supply lots of power with multiple charges. Compared to other batteries, they are more stable and supply higher energy than other rechargeable batteries. Problems arise with lithium-ion batteries when the lifetime of the battery ends. Most consumers will toss them in the regular garbage bin where it will be mixed with other trash and can possibly leak hazardous materials into the environment. The production of such batteries also isn’t the most eco-friendly either. Lithium extraction ends up changing the natural landscape such as the extraction of lithium in North America where traditional mining methods are used. However, in places in South America like Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, where the metal is most abundant, the techniques used to extract the metal end up causing more harm than good. The process of lithium extraction starts with extracting brine from salt flats to leaving a mixture of “manganese, potassium, borax and lithium salts” to evaporate a year at a time. The evaporation can use up to “500,000 gallons [of water] per tonne of lithium” (Katwala Amit, 2018). If this mixture leaks into local waterways it can poison the wildlife and people in the area. In some cases, it left local waterways in Chile with “unnatural blue hue[s]” (Katwala Amit, 2018). With the battery created and set up for consumers to use, it can lead to damaging effects if used improperly. If damage is inflicted upon the battery, then a fire is inevitable. The gas released from the battery is a mix of different fluoride gases (hydrogen fluoride, phosphoryl fluoride). These gases can lead to long term health effects such as chronic lung disease, skin damage, and eye damage (if exposed to eyes).

Example of what the toxic fumes from a lithium-ion battery look like. Burn Hard Zen. (December 28,2014). Lithium Battery Causing Extreme Fumes When Cut [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLc74Qpvweg

Improper disposal of vapes, such as throwing into the ocean or the regular waterways, can have devastating effects on the environment. The toxic chemical inside of the vape liquid and the lithium-ion batteries can leak into the waterways and pollute the oceans and local drinking waters.

Example of a lithium mine in Atacama, Chile. Alvarado, I (2018). [ Lithium extraction on a lithium mine in Chile] [Photograph]. Reuters. https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/water-fight-raises-questions-over-chile-lithium-mining

However, there might still be hope for disposing of vape pens and their pods. If taken apart and each part is recycled on its own, then vapes such as JUUL’s can be disposed of properly and more safely. PEGEX, a hazardous waste disposal service, said to Guardian that in order to properly dispose of hazardous waste such as the vape pen it requires, “removing the filler material, rinsing it under running water until all nicotine residues are removed” (Paul Kira, 2019). The same procedure should be done for the pods,  with the only difference being  that the pods should be sealed with the original plug. The batteries for the vapes should be taken to a proper facility such as an electronic waste facility or even a battery recycling location. The acceptance of such items varies from locations, so contact to these locations is necessary in order for proper disposal. 

Works Cited

“About Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 Sept. 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/about-e-cigarettes.html.

Beres, Damon. “The Unseen Consequences of Your Juul Habit.” Mashable, Mashable, 9 May 2018, mashable.com/2018/05/09/juul-e-waste-recycling/.

Bird, Sophie. “Waste from Vapes Is Polluting Environment.” Indiana Environmental Reporter, 29 Oct. 2019, http://www.indianaenvironmentalreporter.org/posts/waste-from-vapes-is-polluting-environment.

“CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 Apr. 2018, emergency.cdc.gov/agent/hydrofluoricacid/basics/facts.asp.

Katwala, Amit. “The Spiralling Environmental Cost of Our Lithium Battery Addiction.” WIRED UK, WIRED UK, 3 Aug. 2018, http://www.wired.co.uk/article/lithium-batteries-environment-impact.

Larsson, Fredrik, et al. “Toxic Fluoride Gas Emissions from Lithium-Ion Battery Fires.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 30 Aug. 2017, http://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-09784-z.

“Sales of JUUL e-Cigarettes Skyrocket, Posing Danger to Youth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Oct. 2018, http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p1002-e-Cigarettes-sales-danger-youth.html.

Transcribers, Motley Fool. “Altria Group Inc (MO) Q1 2019 Earnings Call Transcript.” The Motley Fool, The Motley Fool, 25 Apr. 2019, http://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2019/04/25/altria-group-inc-mo-q1-2019-earnings-call-transcri.aspx.

“Vaping’s Other Problem: Are e-Cigarettes Creating a Recycling Disaster?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 Aug. 2019, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/26/vapings-other-problem-are-e-cigarettes-creating-a-recycling-disaster.

“What’s in an E-Cigarette?” American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/e-cigarettes-vaping/whats-in-an-e-cigarette.

“Your Vape Litter Is Becoming an Environmental Disaster.” Earther, 24 Oct. 2019, earther.gizmodo.com/your-vape-litter-is-becoming-an-environmental-disaster-1839226689.

Amazon Aiming for Carbon-Neutrality

Amazon News. (February 4, 2020 ). Inventing Amazon’s electric delivery vehicle [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKpOE8eulXM

The two main threats that peril the existence of humankind are nuclear annihilation and climate change. Both of these crises can have a bad turnout for the worldwide population as neither are being controlled to the extent in which they should be. With the addition of the ever-growing change in climate, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have placed the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight. This clock, that measures the countdown to ultimate catastrophe or apocalypse, gives little wiggle worm for legislators and activists to revert the effects of both nuclear threats and climate change. Although the legislatures themselves should act more sturdily against these topics, it leaves major corporations in charge of changing their own companies for the better of the planet. One of the biggest corporations on the planet, Amazon, is making strides to help prevent further destruction of the planet. 

In 2019, Amazon announced its new plan for going carbon neutral by the year 2030.  This plan, called “Shipment Zero,” aims to “ reach 50% of all Amazon shipments with net-zero carbon by 2030.” (Amazon Dave Clark, 2019). However, even before the announcement of this project, Amazon had already made headway towards a sustainable future. In 2018, Amazon announced to make 50 “fulfillment facility rooftops worldwide” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2018). This includes the 11,700 solar panels put in place in the Fulfillment center located in Tracy, California. Even earlier, in 2017, Amazon placed a wind farm in western Texas to help the local communities in which they are located. It is reported that these farms will generate “1,000,000 MWh [megawatt-hour] of clean energy” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2017) to the surrounding areas; furthermore, this will provide energy to power homes and provide more jobs to the communities in the wind farm areas. 

Amazon News. (October 24, 2017). A Texas oil town learns to love wind [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=137&v=78RAkM-Q73Q&feature=emb_title

In addition to all these steps, Amazon has partnered with Global Optimism (another climate change organization that aims to cut carbon emission completely by 2050) to form “The Climate Pledge”, which is a “commitment to meet the Paris Agreement 10 years early” (Climate Pledge, 2019).  The major car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, has joined “The Climate Pledge” with Amazon by “adding more than 1,800 electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans to its delivery fleet in Europe” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). 1,200 of these vehicles will include the eSprinter, the newest commercial van added to the collection of electric vehicles at Mercedes-Benz. The remainder of the vans will be the smaller, mid-sized version of the eSprinter, called the eVito. Both of these options give access to all needs. The eSprinter will be used in larger more populated areas while the eVito will supply the needs of smaller areas that “require a smaller-format vehicle” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020).

Also in 2020, Amazon’s “The Climate Pledge” partnered with We Mean Business to “reduce carbon emissions worldwide” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). We Mean Business aims to support this project by trying to commit other companies, both large and small, to “The Climate Pledge”. They will work with the companies and their supply chain “to encourage suppliers to ramp up their climate goals” (Amazon Day One Staff, 2020). The CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, Maria Mendiluce said that in order for companies to reach the goal of carbon-neutral processing a pressure on the supply chain is needed and more “Nature-Based Solutions” are needed. Both of the companies are committed to providing resources to help raise awareness and provide companies to search for possible solutions to reach this goal of carbon-neutrality. One of the resources includes supporting and pushing the idea of a decarbonized economy, which is one of the goals that the United Nations Climate Change Conferences outlined in its campaign Race to Zero. Other resources include pushing all of the signatories involved in “The Climate Pledge” to set goals in the Science-Based Targets initiative. This initiative supports the idea of setting scientific targets for corporations to undergo carbon-neutrality.

Sources:

Unfccc.int, unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign.

Clark, Dave. “Delivering Shipment Zero, a Vision for Net Zero Carbon Shipments.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 9 Jan. 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/what-is-shipment-zero.

The Climate Pledge, http://www.theclimatepledge.com/.

“Current Time.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 23 Jan. 2020, thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/.

Daimler. “‘Ambition2039’: Our Path to Sustainable Mobility.” Daimler, 13 May 2019, http://www.daimler.com/investors/reports-news/financial-news/20190513-ambition-2039.html.

“Our Team of Optimists: Global Optimism.” Global Optimism, 9 Sept. 2020, globaloptimism.com/about-us/.

Staff, Day One. “Amazon Launches Largest Wind Farm Yet.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 9 May 2018, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/amazon-launches-largest-wind-farm-yet.

Staff, Day One. “The Climate Pledge and We Mean Business Partner to Reduce Carbon Emissions Worldwide.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 16 July 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/the-climate-pledge-and-we-mean-business-partner-to-reduce-carbon-emissions-worldwide.

Staff, Day One. “Mercedes-Benz Joins The Climate Pledge.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 28 Aug. 2020, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/mercedes-benz-joins-the-climate-pledge.

Staff, Day One. “Sustainability by the Numbers.” US Day One Blog, Amazon, 18 Apr. 2018, blog.aboutamazon.com/sustainability/sustainability-by-the-numbers.“What Is a Science-Based Target?” Science Based Targets, sciencebasedtargets.org/what-is-a-science-based-target/.

The Effect PPE Has On the Environment

** DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ANTI-MASK. IT SUPPORTS MASK WEARING AND OTHER PPE**

Gull stuck in face mask
BBC. (2020). The elastic straps on the face covering had become increasingly tight around the gull’s legs [Photograph]. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-essex-53474772

The modern world has turned to PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as a way to protect from the Coronavirus. PPE is any piece of equipment that helps protect not only the wearer but also any other person around the wearer. Examples of PPE include basic medical equipment such as gloves, masks, and eye protection. Although wearing basic PPE, against deadly diseases, isn’t a novel concept, the sudden increase in demand and removal of PPE may have detrimental effects on the environment around us. 

The PPE that will be mostly studied in this article is  masks. Within the past few months, masks can be sold almost anywhere; however, the mask that is most commonly found within the public is the surgical masks. They are approved by the FDA and the CDC. Surgical masks protect from hazardous fluids and respiratory emissions. They are mainly constructed from non-woven fabric, which according to INDA.org are, “broadly defined as sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fiber or filaments,” and “flat, porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibers or from molten plastic or plastic film.”  Examples of these materials include polystyrene, polyester, polycarbonate, and polyethylene. These are great materials to use in protective equipment because of the properties it is able to supply the wearers. Some of the properties include, liquid repellency, bacterial barrier, sterility, filtering, and cushioning (INDA, 2019). 

In these situations, it is equally as important to look at both sides of the argument. Mask wearing does stop the spread of the Coronavirus. As an environmental organization, Eco-Youth must raise awareness of  how this simple act could harm the planet. Ever since the start of the pandemic, researchers have been finding masks everywhere, including uninhabited islands of Soko in Hong Kong.  This is not good for the wildlife and the environment as a whole. Since the masks are primarily made of plastic fabrics, animals can end up eating the sing-use mask or other PPE. Even worse, the increasing flow of masks and other single-use PPE, which can have a lifespan up to 450 years, can lead to “impaired mobility, infection, limb amputation, starvation, suffocation, and death,” (Ocean Asia, 2020)  in marine life. This not only happens in countries like China, but the same effect has been studied in France where conservationists from the non-profit Opération Mer Propre have studied the French coastline and found the aftermath of the single-use PPE in the waters of the Mediterranean . Laurent Lombard, one of the people on Opération Mer Propre, warned the public on his Facebook by saying, “there is likely to be more masks than jellyfish in Mediterranean waters…!” 

From floating face masks to recycling cutbacks: how the pandemic has hit  the war on plastic
Laurent Lombard/Operation Mer Propr. (2020). Gloves and protective face masks seen in the Mediterranean in May, held by a volunteer clean-up diver [Photograph]. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/floating-face-masks-recycling-cutbacks-pandemic-has-hit-war/

The world must take environmental precautions to prevent further damage to the environment. Countries like France have taken strides to prevent further contamination because not long after Mr. Lombard posted his concerns, a French politician, Eric Pauget expressed his concerns to the President of France, calling forth an effort to collect, recycle, decontaminate or sort the single-use masks to lessen the “environmental footprint in [French] societies.” (Eric Puaget, 2020). 

As a consumer, there are many options to choose from that can help from stopping the transmission of the Coronavirus and still be eco-friendly. It is important to know that some reusable face masks do not have the same medical-grade standards as some single-use masks. They might fit looser, so might not block all the small particles. Please still wear a mask to minimize contact with contaminated areas. If you are still using the single-use please cut off the straps because they can end up entrapping wildlife and end up posing a threat to their life.  Here are some eco-friendly options to choose from:

Masks from the Old Navy are equipped with three layers of cloth. They are made of 100% cotton, and are machine washed, and tumble dried. The Old Navy offers many patterns; however, most are on backorder. 

O2 Canada is a little more expensive than the rest of the other brands; however, it does have the highest protection. The masks come with filters (which will have to be bought if used up). The company provides different colored shells to customize the mask. Also, the mask is equipped with medical-grade silicone to provide a snug fit. 

Hyper Good upcycles waste to prevent waste coming into landfills. This company uses leftover materials to create their masks. Hyper Goos has a movement called BETTER PPE in which they donate a mask to an essential workers for every mask that is sold. 

Selva Negra is a LA-based company. They used eco-friendly materials such as cotton, silk, and linen. Most of the designs are plaid. They are also machine washable, but must be hung out to dry. 

Made Trade masks offer a two-layer face mask and are made of recycled materials  (hemp and organic cotton). They follow CDC and Kaiser Permanente’s guidelines for cloth face coverings. The masks come in adult and kids sizing, with an option for a filter (not included). Made Trade offers four colors to choose from. 

PLEASE CONTINUE FOLLOWING CDC GUIDELINES TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19!

Trump V. Environment

With the Trump administration in office, it seems like there is a constant battle to save our environment. President Donald Trump’s actions make it extremely difficult  to keep a stable and healthy environment for us to live in. From an outsider’s point of view, it might be difficult to see how he deliberately destroys the environment; however, with a bigger looking glass, the initiatives taken by both him and his administration become very clear. Since the very beginning of his administration, extraordinarily public and transparent decisions have been made to stall progressive decisions towards fighting climate change. In an on-going list that National Geographic has made, they have detailed events that stretch towards the beginning of President Donald Trump’s presidency; moreover, on January 25. 2017 the “Trump administration had removed all references to climate change from the White House’s website” (National Geographic, 2020). The extensive list covers every decision that President Donald Trump and his administration have made to fight against climate change and it’s activists. 

  1. Trump Administration Removes Remarks Regarding Climate Change on the White House Website 

From the very beginning of Trump’s presidency, combating the changing climate clearly wasn’t on his agenda. Since his inauguration, there seemed to be no “ reference to combating climate change”, which contrasted that of the previous POTUS Barack Obama as this was a “topic that had been featured prominently on the White House site” (The Washington Post, 2017). Replacing this was an effort to “eliminate ‘harmful and unnecessary policies’ such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule”. (The Washington Post, 2017).  In place of this would be Trump’s “The American First Energy Plan”. The entire plan states how President Trump will enhance “ domestic oil and gas production”, along with  “reviving America’s coal industry”. With this, the Plan writes about the loosening “restrictions on polluting waterways with coal mining waste”. (Atlantic Council, 2017).

  1. Lifting Bans Placed on Lead Ammunition 

A common trend within the Trump Administration is rolling-back  “Obama-era” policies. In March of 2017 U.S Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repeal a ban on the usage of “lead ammunition and fishing tackle used on federal lands and waters’ ‘ (Reuters, 2017). Although this is common practice within the hunting community, the effects of using ammunition that contain ingredients such as lead can lead to devastating health consequences. Not including the effects that lead has on humans, there have been monitored effects of using lead in fishing waterways. In a study done in 14 countries, it was proven that almost 10,000 swans have “died from poisoning caused by lead that originated from ingestion of fishing weights, shotgun pellets (shot)” (USGS). The study was conducted in 1994 by Lawrence.J. Blus. The initial ban, which was placed on January 19 2017 was put in place to protect the natural wildlife from lead poison. Another action placed by Secretary Zinke was to “ identify areas where recreation and fishing can be expanded” (Reuters, 2017), and by doing so, it places more animals at risk of succumbing to lead poisoning. 

  1. REDUCING EPA BUDGET

In President Trump’s Budget Blueprint for the year 2018, he applied great emphasis on the “ rebuilding of our Nation’s military without adding to our Federal deficit” (White House, 2018); however, at the cost of adding to the Federal deficit, signifying  that cuts would have to be made to other aspects of America’s budgets. Consequential, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is meant to protect both the environment in human health got a cut or a “savings of $2.6 billion, or 31 percent, from the 2017 annualized CR level” (White House, 2018). The reasoning behind this saving is the defunding for the Clean Power Plan that was put in place to limit carbon emissions. Carbon emissions are by far the “largest source of the pollution in the country that’s driving dangerous climate change” (NRDC, 2017). This also defunds regional efforts for climate preservation such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The new budgets also cut 50 EPA programs. However, the defense budget, which is a major priority for the Trump Administration, enjoyed a $52 billions increase to $639 billion. 

  1. LOOSENING RESTRICTIONS ON TOXIC AIR POLLUTANTS 

In January of 2018, the EPA redefined what is classified as a “major source” and “open source” of hazardous air pollutants (HAP). The Clinton Administration put in place a “once in, always in” policy where a major source pollutant would remain in major source restriction even if the HAP drops to open source levels. However, with the new regulations created by the Trump administration, if a major source pollutant drops to an open-source level then it would no longer be restricted to major source restrictions. This, as a result, defeats the purpose of the Clinton Administration’s efforts to reduce HAP’s in the environment. National Geographic said this” backsliding” is what the OIAI police sought to stop. 

  1. REDUCING THE PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED SPECIES

In April of 2018, the Department of the Interior had a proposition to remove a Section 4D rule. This policy allowed for many threatened species to receive the same protections as endangered species. Some of these rights include protections from poaching, to protections that prevent people from coming too close to a given animal in the wild. The removal of this policy is concerning, predominantly because it no longer grants protection to animals in need. Even though an animal doesn’t need complete and full convergence from the ESA, shouldn’t qualify them for complete removal from danger, Threatened animals are still in need of help and safety. In the fall of the same year, there was a final action decision for the complete removal of the Section 4D rule

There are a countless number of offenses that President Trump made against the environment. To read more about, check out National Geographic’s Running List and an updated list from the New York Times of environmental rules that are being reversed by the Trump administration.

Sources:

(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201810&RIN=1018-BC97

Blus, L. J. (2003, August 11). A review of lead poisoning in swans. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0742841394000212?via=ihub

Blus, L. J. (1994, January 01). A review of lead poisoning in swans. Retrieved from https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/1015672

Popovich, N., Albeck-ripka, L., & Pierre-louis, K. (2019, June 02). The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html

References to climate change disappear from White House website. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2017/live-updates/politics/live-coverage-of-trumps-inauguration/references-to-climate-change-disappear-from-white-house-website/

September 29, 2. (2019, May 29). What Is the Clean Power Plan? Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-clean-power-plan-works-and-why-it-matters

Sharrett, P. B. (2019, May 03). A running list of how President Trump is changing environmental policy. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/

Volcovici, V. (2017, March 02). New Interior head lifts lead ammunition ban in nod to hunters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-interior-zinke-idUSKBN16930Z

Vakhshour, S.( 2017). The America First Energy Plan. Atlantic Council Global Energy Center,1-12. Retrieved from

ttps://svbweb.s3.amazonaws.com/media/new_release/The_America_First_Energy_Plan_web_0817.pdf

House, W. (2018). America First: A budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf

Wehrum, W. L. (2018). Reclassification of Major Source as Area Source Under Section 112 of the Clear Air Act. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-01/documents/reclassification_of_major_sources_as_area_sources_under_section_112_of_the_clean_air_act.pdf