3p Contributor: Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Recent Articles

Amazon to Power Data Centers With Renewable Energy

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 29th, 2015 | 1 Comment

amazon packagingFor years, Amazon has received criticism of its environmental policies. In 2012, an article published in the Guardian pointed out that Amazon hadn’t published a sustainability report. Try looking for one on Amazon’s website, and you still can’t find it. However, last summer Amazon hired Kara Hartnett Hurst, CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, as its first sustainability executive. And this month, the company made a big announcement concerning renewable energy.

Amazon Web Services is planning to buy the energy generated by a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, the company announced last week. The wind farm, called the Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge), is expected to start generating power by January 2016. It will generate enough electricity, 500,000 megawatt hours, to power about 46,000 homes a year, and will be used to run both current and future AWS Cloud data centers.

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Palm Oil Giant Launches Web Portal to Make Its Supply Chain Transparent

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 28th, 2015 | 0 Comments

palm oil plantationWilmar International Ltd., the largest palm oil producer in the world, is the first industry player to make its palm oil supply chain transparent via an online platform. The decision is expected to help the palm oil company achieve its goal of eliminating deforestation and exploitation from its operations.

Wilmar mapped out its supply chain and listed all of its palm oil mill suppliers in Indonesia and Malaysia on a dashboard website. The dashboard, which went live last week, is a result of a collaboration with the Forest Trust. The company’s supply chain map shows where its refineries in Indonesia and Malaysia are located, and includes a traceability summary for each one.

The dashboard includes a mechanism to report improper activities. All concerns are logged under the Grievances Procedure, and progress and findings will be reported on the dashboard.

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The Business Plan to Preserve Sonoma County Winemaking

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday January 26th, 2015 | 0 Comments

vineyardThe Sonoma County Winegrape Commission (SCWC) is determined to protect and preserve the region’s wine industry. The SCWC, founded in 2006, recently announced its 100-year business plan to preserve agriculture in Sonoma County, California, namely growing wine grapes.

The wine industry is important for Sonoma County. In 2012, the wine industry contributed $1.4 billion to the local economy and accounted for 1 in 3 jobs. Over 1,800 growers are a part of the SCWC.

The area is no stranger to sustainability: Last year, it announced plans to be the nation’s first sustainable wine growing region by 2019. The region has reached one-third of its target in just one year. The winegrape growers are following a sustainability program as well, which focuses on 138 farming and business practices, including land use, energy efficiency, water quality assessments and carbon emissions.

Over 43 percent of the county’s vineyard acres have completed a sustainability assessment, and 33 percent are certified under a third-party auditor program. Over 950 winegrape growers have attended sustainability-related events.

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Report: Offshore Wind Better Job Creator Than Offshore Drilling

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment

offshore windWhile proponents of offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast tout it as a job-creator, the practice would actually cost jobs, according to a new report.

Offshore drilling would put at risk some of the almost 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product that rely on healthy ocean ecosystems. Offshore wind could provide twice the amount of jobs and energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, a new report by Oceana finds. Oceana’s projections only show the amount of jobs that could be created by 2035. However, many more could be created after that date, according to the report.

Gradually developing offshore wind energy on the East Coast would result in 143 gigawatts of power being generated over the next 20 years. That is enough energy to power over 115 million households. In the next 20 years, offshore wind could create about 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling. The energy created by 20 years of offshore wind in the Atlantic could produce 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) more than the oil and gas that is recoverable in the same area. Extracting and using all of the economically-recoverable offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic would only meet oil demand for 132 days and gas demand for 283 days. Offshore wind could generate more energy in just 13 years than all of the economically-recoverable offshore oil and gas resources, the report concludes.

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Is Wendy’s Dropping Soda From Its Kid’s Menu?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday January 16th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Wendy'sOne more fast food chain may be dropping soda from its kid’s menus. Although Wendy’s has yet to confirm it, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reports that the fast food chain is removing soda as the default option in its kid’s meals. The move is praised by CSPI, MomsRising.org and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

McDonald’s made a similar announcement in 2013, and its policy goes into effect this year. Subway, Chipotle, Arby’s and Panera Bread don’t include soda in their kid’s meals either. The ICCR filed a shareholder resolution last year with Wendy’s, but withdrew it when the company agreed to consider removing sodas from the kid’s menu.

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Chipotle Says ‘No’ to Pork After Supply Chain Violations

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 15th, 2015 | 0 Comments

chipotle Chipotle Mexican Grill is serious about upholding its Food With Integrity program. It’s so serious about it that the Mexican food chain suspended a pork supplier for violating the company’s standards, the Associated Press reports.

As a result, Chipotle stopped serving pork at hundreds of its restaurants. It’s the first time the company has had to stop serving an ingredient.

Chipotle found out about the supplier’s violations through a routine audit, and most had to do with how the pigs are housed. Chipotle requires its pork suppliers to house pigs humanely and not in cramped pens. The company’s website states that it has sourced 100 percent of its pork from producers who follow its guidelines.

When it comes to beef that doesn’t meet its “responsibly raised” standards, Chipotle has posted signs in a restaurant stating that the beef has been “conventionally raised.” “In this case, we won’t make that kind of substitution,” Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told the AP.

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New York City Bans Foam Packaging

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday January 13th, 2015 | 2 Comments

foam packagingNew York City is joining a slew of California cities that have banned foam packaging. Known as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, the formerly common packaging product can’t be used by food service establishments, stores and manufacturers on and after July 1, 2015. Polystyrene loose packaging also falls under the ban.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) determined that there is not a sufficient market for post-consumer EPS collected curbside, and therefore it was unable to accept it for recycling.

In December 2013, the New York City Council passed Local Law 142, which required the sanitation commissioner to determine if EPS foam could be recycled at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in a way that is “environmentally effective, economically feasible and safe for employees.” The DSNY collected about 28,500 tons of EPS in 2014 and an estimated 90 percent is from single-use food service products.

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Waste Management Tackles Landfill Diversion

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday January 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment

WMWaste Management is a company known for collecting trash. However, the company is making strides to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in landfills, as its 2014 sustainability report shows.

In 2013, WM took 15 million tons of recyclable materials from the waste stream, an 88 percent increase since 2007 and a 16 percent increase in the last two years. The company is well on its way to meet its goal of collecting 20 million tons of recyclable materials a year by 2020.

There are a variety of ways that WM is reducing waste sent to landfills. One of them is through mining: At many of its facilities, WM mines waste for cardboard and metal that can be recycled and resold. It began mining in 2011 by focusing on mining cardboard from its transfer stations. In 2013, WM focused on landfills and expanded the materials it mines. WM is mining materials at 117 of its transfer stations and 21 of its landfills.

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NRDC Files Lawsuit Over Toxic Pesticide Used In Pet Flea Control Products

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments

flea collar When we put flea control products on our pets, we want to kill the fleas on our four-legged friends — not expose ourselves to toxic pesticides. That’s why the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit this week against the Environmental Protection Agency.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit challenges the EPA’s decision to allow the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) to be used in pet flea control products. The lawsuit petitions the court to “review and set aside the final order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denying NRDC’s request to cancel all pet uses of the pesticide tetrachlorvinphos.”

NRDC has long been concerned about the pesticide. The organization conducted a study in 2007/2008 that found the levels of TCVP residues on the fur of pets wearing flea collars to be unsafe for toddlers. In 2009, NRDC filed a formal petition with the EPA asking the federal agency to not allow TCVP to be used in pet products. NRDC didn’t receive any information about the status of its petition. In February 2014, the organization filed a lawsuit that requested a mandate that the EPA respond to its petition. In May 2014, the EPA promised to respond by the end of October, and in November the federal agency published a safety assessment that, according to the NRDC, “ignores the science and fails to account for the increased vulnerability of kids.”

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California Governor Calls for 50 Percent Renewables By 2030

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday January 7th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Solar panelsOn Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown gave the inaugural address for his fourth gubernatorial term. During the address he praised California’s progress during the last 40 years. He also used the speech to call for new environmental targets — most notably increasing the state’s electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030.

California first established a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) in 2002, accelerated it in 2006 and expanded it in 2011. Under the current law, all utilities and electricity providers must source 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

As Brown pointed out, California is a leader in renewable energy with the “most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere.” Since the state is “on track” to meet its 2020 goal, it’s time for new challenges, including increasing the RPS because, as Brown put it, “These efforts, impressive though they are, are not enough.”

In addition to increasing the RPS, Brown proposed two other 2030 goals: reducing the petroleum used in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent, and doubling the efficiency of existing buildings and making heating fuels cleaner.

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Panera Bread Shares Animal Welfare Progress

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday January 2nd, 2015 | 0 Comments

chickensIn late December, Panera Bread shared its progress on reducing antibiotic use and cruel confinement for farm animals in its U.S. supply chain.

The company introduced its food policy in June, and part of that policy is being transparent and making a positive impact on the food system.

Panera owns 1,845 bakery-cafes in 45 states and in Ontario, Canada that operate under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. or Paradise Bakery & Cafe names.

“For years, Panera has been working closely with farmers, ranchers and experts, to learn how we can tangibly improve conditions for the farm animals in our supply chain. We’ve intentionally reduced or eliminated the use of antibiotics and confinement because we believe those are among the most critical animal welfare issues we can impact,” said Blaine Hurst, executive vice president and chief transformation and growth officer for the company.

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California Law Banning Confinement Crates Takes Effect In 2015

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday December 31st, 2014 | 4 Comments

caged hensIf hens realized the better conditions that Proposition 2, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, ushers in for them they would be holding celebrations. In 2008 California voters passed Proposition 2 requires egg-laying hens in California to be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their wings. In 2010 California lawmakers passed AB 1437 which requires all shell eggs sold in California to comply with Proposition 2, acts as a virtual ban on egg factory cages. California voters approved Proposition 2 by 63.5 percent. At the time the ballot initiative received more votes than any other in American history.

Proposition 2 extends to other farm animals. As the law states, “a person shall not tether or confine any covered animal, on a farm, for all or the majority of any day, in a manner that prevents such animal from: lying down, standing up, and fully extending his or her limbs.” A covered animal includes “any pig during pregnancy, calf raised for veal, or egg-laying hen who is kept on a farm.” That means sow gestation crates, a small space pregnant pigs are confined in, are banned in California as of January 1. Veal crates, a small space calves are housed in, are also banned.

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Starbucks Updates Animal Welfare Standards

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Monday December 29th, 2014 | 3 Comments

free range chickensStarbucks recently updated its animal welfare standards. They include phasing out sow gestation crates and cages for chickens, eliminating the use of artificial growth hormones, and eliminating the use of fast growing practices for poultry. The standards will aso address concerns related to dehorning, tail docking, and castration, and supporting the responsible use of antibiotics. The updated standards are a continuation of the buying preference in North America the company established in 2009 to use best industry practices for dairy, egg and meat production.

Starbucks stated on its website that its priority is “ensure we offer food made with ingredients such as cage-free eggs, gestation crate-free pork, and poultry processed through more humane systems such as CAK [controlled atmosphere killing].” The company has yet to create timeframes but is working to create them. Despite the lack of timeframes for each issue, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) said in a statement that “this may be the most comprehensive animal welfare policy of any national restaurant chain, because this announcement includes both shell and liquid eggs (which are used for its pastries, which it sells in such volume).”

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Good and Bad News For Climate Change Performance

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday December 26th, 2014 | 5 Comments

coal plantLooking at the 10th edition of the Climate Change Performance Index, there is good and bad news. The index, which compares the 58 top carbon-emitting nations, reveals that global carbon emissions reached a new peak. However, the index found that recent developments indicate countries have a new readiness to take action on climate change.

The first three places in the list are unoccupied to remind countries of how much still needs to be accomplished to prevent the worst climate change impacts. The first two occupied spots are taken by Scandinavian countries. Denmark tops the list at No. 4 and Sweden ranks No. 5. Denmark tops the list because of its renewable energy and emissions reductions policies. “Even though emission levels are still relatively high, the country sets an example in how industrialized countries can not only promise, but also implement effective climate protection policies,” the index, published by Germanwatch and CAN Europe, stated.

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A Comprehensive Standard For the Aluminum Industry

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

root beer canThere are many uses for aluminum: It is used in consumers goods, for transportation and even for door knobs. Given the popularity of aluminum, it makes sense to have a comprehensive standard. That is exactly what the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative (ASI) created. The goal of the ASI Performance Standard is to improve the industry’s performance through its value chain, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It took a year to develop the standards, which will be implemented through a third-party certification system. It focuses on 11 key issues: business integrity, policy and management, transparency, material stewardship, greenhouse gas emissions, emissions, effluents and waste, water, biodiversity, human rights, labor rights, and occupational health and safety. Certain end-users of aluminum, such as  Audi, BMW Group, Jaguar Land Rover and Nestlé Nespresso SA, said they would purchase certified aluminum.

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