El Niño may be back for a visit this year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center released a statement Wednesday saying that current indicators point toward a possible El Niño warming trend for this coming summer or fall.
That could mean more rain for some areas on the Pacific Coast, and particularly for the rain-starved counties of Southern California.
The push for sustainably sourced palm oil has been gaining prominence in the past few years. Quite a number of organizations have stepped up to the plate recent months to lobby for improved sourcing methods that don’t destroy forests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. Environmental advocates ranging from Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network to local zoos like Woodland Park, Cheyenne Mountain and St. Louis have taken a stand to encourage oil producers and purchasers to make the switch to sustainable sources.
Coffee is on the minds of many these days–coffee grounds, that is. And no wonder. Pondering the meaning of life over that cup of java naturally leads to pondering the values of sustainability and eco-claims for businesses (it does for me at least), and what’s a more sustainable, multipurpose ingredient than the dregs from our favorite brew?
After all, gardeners have been using coffee grounds to benefit their plants for eons. Housekeepers use them to clean their pots and tone up furniture scratches, and cooks use them to scour off the stain and smell of their favorite foods (and you thought that was all there was in the pot after you finished your morning brew).
But all of those uses won’t absorb the left over grounds found in say, London, England, where its plethora of coffeehouses produce more than 200,000 tons of filtered coffee grounds per year.
And that’s why both researchers and private companies have been so intent upon finding ways to use those grounds in mass production.
For those who find that trying to read a nutrition label on a package of food is something akin to trying to decipher the jargon on last year’s climate change report, good news: the FDA now hears you.
This week the federal government proposed some changes to the 1993 nutrition labeling system that we find on packaged foods in supermarkets. They aren’t huge and they aren’t jazzy, but even my nutritionist dad would have been impressed with the tweaks.
After all, if you want someone to remember the information, give them the facts first, right? Most of us are wowed by numbers, not by scientific names for the pieces and parts that make up our food. To many of us, 5 percent saturated fat speaks a lot more plainly than “saturated fat 1 gram.”
The newest edition to the label is the “Added Sugars” line, which is no doubt directed at educating us about the sugar that often gets added to our food during preparation. It’s a great idea, especially for diabetics who must avoid additional sugar.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has withdrawn its certification of Swedwood, a forestry subsidiary of furniture giant IKEA (which also goes under the names Swedwood Karelia and IKEA Industry).
According to the FSC, a recent trip to the Karelia Forest in Russia revealed that the company has been harvesting old-growth trees in the protected regions of the Russian forest, which is located near the Russia-Finland border.
The subsidiary has leases to log 700,000 acres, as long as it does not cut down old-growth trees and trees in specified areas. According to FSC’s report there were “major deviations” from regulations that included the suspected harvesting of 600-year-old trees.
While world governments debate the best ways to reach the 2020 advisory of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Kingdom of Bhutan has quietly taken another strong step toward environmental sustainability.
Last week, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, met with Nissan’s Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn to hammer out a deal in which Nissan would supply all-electric LEAF cars to Bhutan to replace its conventional government and taxi fleets. The Royal Government of Bhutan wants to convert the nation’s capital, Thimphu, to a green-powered city. Transitioning its conventional vehicle fleet to EVs would bring it closer to that goal.
If you want to start a debate, just mention rent control. But if you want to find yourself in a battle, throw in the sharing economy.
That was the lesson last week when a Slate writer penned an article about her town’s misfortunes due to the sharing economy. Rachel Monroe, resident of Marfa, Texas, explained why Airbnb and, by extension, the sharing economy began as a godsend for the small town of Marfa (population just under 2,000) but later became the possible “cause of Marfa’s housing shortage.”
We economize on our driving by using shared resources, or we bike to work, or walk to save on our carbon footprint. We reduce our energy usage where we can by buying appliances that conserve water and electricity and we lobby for energy-smart concepts like solar or wind energy production.
And yet, one of the world’s greatest culprits in environmental pollution is something we use every day and probably give the least consideration to its environmental impact: our clothes.
Conventional textile production is one of the most polluting industries on the planet. The World Bank estimates that the textile industry is responsible for as much as 20 percent of industrial pollution in our rivers and land.
Finding ways to curb the environmental pollution caused by textile production starts with finding new ways to produce fabrics that don’t require toxins and large amounts of water, and which minimize harm to local the ecology.
It’s a lesson that, not surprisingly, cuts across all segments of the oil industry these days and is as old as the Alaska pipeline: There’s always a price with fame, including fracking fame.
With a population that more than doubled since 2006 when the fracking fever gripped North Dakota, the town of Williston’s real estate prices have burst through the roof. Average monthly rents and leases now top those of New York City, making it the most expensive place to live in the country. An 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment will cost you somewhere in the range of $2,100 per month. A 1,400-square-foot plan, spacious in comparison, ranges around $3,500 a month. Add another $500-600 per month if you want it furnished.
Monsanto continues to stand its ground against disclosing information about the costs associated with the genetically modified crop (GMO) industry. On Jan. 28, Monsanto shareholders, at the urging of the company’s board, overwhelmingly defeated two resolutions that would have increased transparency about Monsanto products.
One resolution, re-filed by Harrington Investments Inc., called for the board to issue a report detailing the financial risks and operational impacts related to certain GMO production. The issues included the costs of “seed contamination of non-GMO crops” and “damage to farmers’ reputations, livelihood and standing in the community” resulting from lawsuits that have ensued with neighboring farmers.
John Harrington, CEO and president of Harrington Investments, charged that the board “increasingly keeps stakeholders in the dark, about the true financial risks of GMOs … The corporation spends an incredible amount of shareholder money to prevent American consumers from knowing the extent to which it controls our national food supply.”
Walmart’s grip on the retail market may be slipping these days. Three unrelated reports just released suggest that America’s box store giant has some improvements to make both inside and outside of its stores.
Last week equity researchers at Wolfe Research (WR) in New York downchecked the superstore from a “market perform” to an “underperform” rating for its current staffing and stocking practices.
If a California state senator has his way, sugary drinks will eventually be treated the same way that regulatory agencies treat cigarettes: as a health risk.
Sen. Bill Monning of Carmel, Calif., has introduced a bill to the state Senate that calls for warning labels to be placed on all sugary drinks. That includes drinks sold in vending machines and distributed in school cafeterias.
The new bill, which proposes to add an article to the state’s Health and Safety Code called the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Safety Act, would be California’s latest attempt to regulate food and drug merchandizing. The Sherman Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law of 2008 (which regulates the branding of food among other items) and the Pupil Nutrition, Health and Achievement Act of 2001 both preempt federal food and drug laws and control what food manufacturers do to market items in the state. The two acts also make businesses that sell those products (either across the counter or in a vending machine) responsible for knowing what is being sold on their premises.
Nothing tells a story better than a picture, and as advertisers have discovered, nothing sells a product more than an edgy photo–even if it is sexist.
Whether it’s a businesswoman in a tight miniskirt and heels, on her back in an alluring pose that seems to have nothing to do with the professional subject matter, or a nude model holding an automotive wrench over her ample frontage, suggestive imagery still sells.
And it sells the wrong message, says Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg. The founder of the women’s advocacy organization Lean In, Sandberg has made it her mission to rebrand the sexist, stereotypical way that she feels women are viewed both in and outside the workplace.
For many of us, our cell phone is our lifeline to the outside world. These days we can use mobile technology to pay bills, make a reservation, reorder medications or check for callbacks from a prospective employer or a future landlord. We can monitor our checking account, keep up with news and local happenings and stay in moment-to-moment contact with loved ones at home.
While it’s hard at times to think of life without our little transportable backup, the truth is mobile technology has revolutionized the way we live our lives, both at home and while on the go.
Mobile Technology and Homeless Populations
And it also plays an indispensable role in the daily lives of those who don’t have a place to call their own. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are more than 600,000 people without a home in which to sleep on any given night. That includes not only people who live on the street or in shelters for long periods of time due to unemployment, illness or financial problems, but those who are temporarily without a place to live. For the homeless, the tangible access to a phone can mean the chance to reserve a bed in a shelter or find a place to get a warm meal. It ensures a way to call for help in distress or medical need. And it means that someone who doesn’t have an address to put down on an application can receive that all-important call for work that may give them the funds to eventually find a place of their own.
Organic food producers and environmental organizations have a persuasive request for President Obama: Require labeling for GMO foods.
As voter-led initiatives ramp up nationwide, some of the country’s largest environmental organizations and most popular organic brands are leading their own campaign to urge federal labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO).
More than 200 of the country’s largest and smallest voices in the environmental movement have penned a letter calling on the federal government to require labeling of GMO foods. Food manufacturers like Amy’s Kitchen, Ben & Jerry’s and Eden Foods have been joined by environmental farming, research and advocacy groups that include As You Sow, Oregon Tilth, Sierra Club and Center for Environmental Health in this latest call for federal oversight.