Posts tagged: green consumerism

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
11 May 2012, 9:14 AM
Beneficial pollution, farmers market boost, plastic oceans
Photo courtesy of matthewven (flickr.com)

Investigation sets flame to chemical retardant claims
Flame retardants have long been heralded as life-saving chemicals that slow fires, but a recent investigative series by the Chicago Tribune has found that the toxic chemicals, which are found in American babies at the highest recorded levels among infants in the world, both may not be safe or prevent fire deaths. Among the discoveries that the Tribune uncovered includes a decades-long campaign of deception by the flame retardant industry that has loaded American homes with furniture treated with chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. Read the entire series here.

Air pollution protecting humans from climate change
Air pollution may be clogging up your lungs and burning your eyes, but at least it’s keeping global warming in check, reports E: The Environmental Magazine. According to research by Harvard scientists, for many decades the eastern half of the U.S. stayed cooler than the rest of the country thanks to a thick cloud of particulates that reflected incoming sunlight, helping to mitigate rising temperatures. But as levels of industrial pollution have decreased, warming has increased, inadvertently creating a perverse incentive to pollute the air. Despite the benefits, the researchers were quick to point out that they weren’t against improving air quality. After all, air pollutants like particulate matter from coal-fired power plants can embed themselves deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems, no matter how breezy the weather stays. Find out how Earthjustice is working to enforce Clean Air Act regulations to both clean up the air and reduce greenhouse gases.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
16 April 2012, 12:09 PM
GMOs and BPA get a kiss, while green chemistry gets the boot
Photo courtesy of healthserviceglasses (flickr)

EPA disses green chemistry program
Recently, the EPA pulled the rug out from under a green chemistry grant program without any explanation and little notice, reports Environmental Health News. The program, which planned to bring together experts in many fields to design a new generation of green chemicals that are less toxic to people and the environment, would provide $20-million towards the research of green chemistry. It was nixed just weeks before the deadline for proposals, a move that no doubt annoyed the researchers who worked for months on the program. Though the EPA says it may pick back up the program in the future, the recently burned scientists are, not surprisingly, skeptical as to whether that will ever actually happen.

FDA says BPA is A-Okay
The Food and Drug Administration won’t ban bisphenol-A (BPA) anytime soon, despite several studies that have linked the chemical’s exposure to a wide range of ailments, from obesity to cancer and even to changes in behavior, reports Grist. According to the FDA, there’s still not enough evidence to deem BPA a threat. And the fact that the chemical, which is found in up to 90 percent of the human population, may be potentially harmful doesn’t mean we should ban it. After all, what would soup companies, baby bottle manufacturers and other industries do without their precious BPA? It’s not like there are other alternatives out there that are safer and cost-effective, right? Wrong.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 March 2012, 11:42 AM
Gas price lies, “safe” fracking water, BPA bans
Dirty air, not eating all those chips, may cause obesity, so munch on! (Photo courtesy of loop_oh)

Forget Fritos: Air pollution may be making people fat
Sure, it’s got nothing on the much-hyped “Paleo Diet,” but a new theory that air pollution may be making us fat could provide one more bullet in the never-ending arsenal of dieting ticks and trips that people can use to lose weight. According to Discovery News, just as the oceans are becoming more acidic as they sequester more carbon dioxide, studies show that our blood becomes more acidic when we breathe in CO2-laden air, even just for a few weeks. But though higher acidity in the ocean means weaker coral reefs and shell-covered creatures, a drop in pH in our brains acts much differently by making appetite-related neurons fire more frequently, which could result in us eating more, sleeping less and, eventually, gaining more weight. Though the theory hasn’t yet been heavily tested, previous studies have shown that the issue of obesity goes far beyond cutting calories and exercising more. And, even if the theory doesn’t pan out, clean air is definitely tied to a whole host of other great health benefits, like not dying early, so take a deep breath!

History shows that “drill, baby, drill” mentality doesn’t lower gas prices
The commonly held notion that more domestic drilling leads to lower U.S. gas prices is completely false, reports the Associated Press, which came to the conclusion after analyzing more than three decades’ of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production. Though both political parties are guilty of using the "drill, baby, drill" mentality to link higher gas prices to an "unfriendly" domestic drilling policy, the facts tell an entirely different tale. For example, since February 2009 we’ve increased oil production by 15 percent (yes, during the Obama presidency, which is supposedly extremely unfriendly to domestic energy production), yet between 2009 and 2012 prices at the pump spiked by more than a dollar during that time. The reason, much to Americans’ dismay, is that since oil is a global commodity, neither the U.S. nor our president has much say in determining the price of gasoline. We do, however, have a say in how much gas we use, which means that the only real way to decrease the amount that we pay at the pump is to, simply, use less gas by driving more gas-efficient cars and taking public transit, to name just a few examples.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
15 March 2012, 12:23 PM
Dog-gone oil spill cleanups, coastal city wipeouts, leaded bullets
Is your baby getting its daily dose of hormone-disrupting chemicals? (photo courtesy of pfly)

Low chemical doses may have big health effects
A recent finding that tiny doses of certain hormone-altering chemicals can lead to harmful health effects could lead to a paradigm shift in the way that regulators evaluate a chemical’s harmfulness, reports Environmental Health News. Traditionally, toxicologists and regulators have evaluated the toxicity of a chemical by following the common adage, “The dose makes the poison,” which means that some chemicals can be harmful at high doses but perfectly fine at lower doses. However, this latest research has flipped that theory on its head by finding that some chemicals, especially those with hormonal properties like bisphenol A (BPA), can actually have a more harmful effect on people at low, rather than high, doses. Considering that BPA is found in everything from baby bottles to soup cans, the new study has implications not only for scientists and regulators, but for the people who are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis.

Arctic oil spill cleanup methods go to the dogs
Norwegian researchers are experimenting with using dogs to sniff out oil spills in the harsh Arctic environment, reports the UK Guardian. So far the super-sniffing dogs, a dachshund and two border colliers, have been able to detect the scent of oil up to three miles downwind of a spill. Though impressive, the oil sniffing dogs experiment has largely been derided as a last ditch option for cleaning up oil in an area where “we do not have adequate science and technology…particularly in ice,” said Marilyn Heiman, a director of PEW’s US Arctic Program. Though Shell doesn’t plan to deploy oil-sniffing dogs to the Arctic anytime soon, its existing “plan” to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic if one were to occur is scarily inadequate and is based on very unrealistic assumptions, says Earthjustice attorney Erik Grafe, who added, “The fact is, there simply is no way to adequately respond to an oil spill in the Beaufort Sea—it is too remote, icy, stormy, dark, and foggy. Shell’s plan needs to acknowledge the difficulties of the region, not assume them away.” 

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 March 2012, 10:46 AM
Toxic ships, BPA-free soup, bicycle buses
Photo courtesy of fox_kiyo

U.S. schools buying McDonald’s pink slime rejects
It’s baaaaack. Last month, burger enthusiasts rejoiced after McDonald’s announced that it would no longer be using ammonium hydroxide, an anti-microbrial agent that, when used on inedible scrap meat turns into a pink slime, as the basis for their burgers. But they may have sighed in relief a little prematurely, according to the Washington Post, which recently reported that the “USDA, schools and school districts plan to buy the treated beef…for the national school-lunch program in coming months.” Though the FDA considers ammonium hydroxide as “generally recognized as safe,” food safety advocates and parents beg to differ and have called on the government to stop feeding children beef scraps that were previously destined for pet food. In addition to the moral and health implications of feeding our kids dog food, the anti-bacterial treatment doesn’t seem to be all that effective. According to a 2009 NYT piece, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in meat from Beef Products Inc., the company from which the USDA and schools are planning to buy the ammonium hydroxide-treated meat.

Navy dumps old, toxic ships into ocean for target practice
The Navy’s ship dumping program is polluting the ocean and scrapping much-needed recycling jobs, reports the Associated Press. For years, the Navy has been dumping its old ships into the ocean as part of a program known as “Sinkex," short for sinking exercises. Though the Navy has found ship-dumping to be an inexpensive way to send its ghost ships to the grave, the problem is that the massive boats are loaded with toxic chemicals like PCBs, asbestos, lead and mercury that may contaminate the water and local fish populations. In fact, new data from a study in Florida supports the conclusion that PCBs, dumped during ship sinking exercises, are leaching from the sunken vessels and are entering the marine food chain, making nearby fish unsafe for human consumption. Late last year, Earthjustice sued the EPA for its ongoing failure to regulate the ship-sinking program, arguing that the agency is “legally required to keep dangerous chemicals like PCBs out of our oceans.” In addition to trashing the ocean, the ship-sinking program takes away recycling jobs that could stimulate local economies and squanders natural resources.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
02 March 2012, 11:15 AM
Google oceans, cutting oil subsidies, beach-bound tsunami debris
(Photo courtesy of B Rosen)

The Lorax peddles SUVs to elementary kids
The main character from Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” a book that has long been considered a timeless screed on the environmental perils of overconsumption, is now being used to hawk gas-guzzling SUVs to school children, reports the Washington Post. In the book, the Lorax speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. But recently, the fuzzy character showed up at Alexandria’s James K. Polk Elementary School, encouraging kids to persuade their parents to take a test drive of a Mazda SUV. In exchange, kids could help raise money for other schools’ libraries and qualify for a sweepstakes entry. At the event, a Mazda rep defended the move, arguing that the eco-friendly Lorax would like the new SUVs, which have “really good environmentally friendly technologies,” like getting 35 miles per gallon. Yikes!  (If that's considered "good" gas mileage, I'd hate to know what's poor gas mileage.) Luckily, not all the kids were taken in by the greenwashed marketing pitch. For example, when a group of kids walked past the car and started excitedly yelling, “Lorax car!” , one student quietly pointed out that the Lorax doesn’t even drive a car.

Google takes its street view to the oceans
Ocean enthusiasts who are terrified of the water can now take a virtual swim among parrotfish, coral reefs and other sea creatures, all without getting wet, thanks to a new Google venture that brings Google Street View to the oceans, reports the Wall Street Journal. Partnering with oceanographers and the international insurance company Catlin Group Limited, the program will give ocean access to anyone with a computer. It will also allow scientists to track data such as migration patterns, sea turtle populations and the health of the Great Barrier Reef, which, among other reefs, is under constant threat from climate change. As with other environmental programs like wilderness treks and farm-to-school initiatives, the hope is that Google Oceans will inspire people to protect the ocean environment, which are under threat from overfishing, habitat loss, pollution and now climate change.
 

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
24 February 2012, 3:15 AM
Sour milk, filthy beaches, biotech's legal blues
(Photo courtesy of p*p)

Big business attack ads create fear conditions for environmental scientists
Scientists are being pulled out of their labs and attacked by anti-science campaigns in an unprecedented fashion, reports the UK Guardian. Though most have kept mum about the issue until now, recently the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Nina Fedoroff, spoke out about the attacks, confessing that she was “scared to death” by an ever-growing anti-science movement. The attacks, which focus on casting doubt on scientific certainties like climate change and other environmental problems, have come in the form of Facebook page hijacks, email hacks and even death threats. Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the Merchants of Doubt, a book about the links between corporate business interests and U.S. campaigns aimed at blocking environmental and health protections, told the Guardian that these are "massive organized attempts to undermine scientific data by people for whom that data represents a threat to their status quo. Given the power of these people, scientists will have their work cut out dealing with them."

Big Dairy cries giant milk tears as popularity in alternatives spills over
As alternative “milk” varieties like coconut and almond gain in popularity, the dairy industry, purportedly nervous about decreased profit shares, is fighting back, reports Grist. Big Dairy’s most recent ad campaign, “Real Milk Comes from Cows,” highlights the many ways that milk alternatives differ the real thing: from almond milk’s slightly off-color to coconut milk’s "spooky" trick of looking like real milk. Sadly, the dairy industry neglects to point out one of the main and most important differences between its product and the alternatives, which is that most conventional milk (i.e. not organic) is, as a product of industrial agriculture, likely tainted with hormones and pesticides. Milk alternatives may need to be shaken before consumption, but at least their ingredient lists won’t stir you. 

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 February 2012, 2:11 AM
Chemical list limbo, idle air pollution laws, green coup
Photo courtesy of Calgary Reviews.

McDonald’s takes pink slime goop out of burgers
It’s official: The next time you have a Big Mac craving, you no longer have to worry about your burger being loaded with pink goo, reports MSNBC. Recently, McDonald’s announced that it is no longer using ammonium hydroxide, an anti-microbrial agent that, when used on inedible scrap meat, turns into a pink slime that’s the basis for your burger. Though the USDA maintains that ammonium hydroxide is “generally recognized as safe,” food safety experts and television celebrity chef Jamie Oliver disagree, arguing that “taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest form for dogs and making it 'fit' for humans” is “shocking.” Not long after Oliver’s show on ammonia-treated beef, McDonald’s announced that it would stop using lean beef trimmings—aka scrap meat—treated with ammonia in its burgers (though McDonald's maintains that the show had nothing to do with its decision). If the idea of pink slime in your burgers doesn’t make you gag, take a look at McDonalds' ridiculous new “farm to fork” video campaign and see if you can hold that burger down.

Check out Jamie Oliver's episode on pink slime: (note: not for the faint of heart)

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
03 February 2012, 2:15 AM
Dirty lettuce, winterless havoc, sick meat
A Burmese python. (wildexplorer)

Pythons and anacondas put the squeeze on the Everglades
Forget snakes on a plane. Snakes like pythons and anacondas are taking over the Florida Everglades and eating everything—including rabbits, raccoons and even deer—in sight, reports the Washington Post. Thanks to reckless owners releasing pets they no longer want, invasive snakes are slowly climbing their way to the top of the swamp food chain to the detriment of the Everglade ecosystem, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site and boasts many rare and endangered species like alligators and wood rats. The ecological upset puts added stress on an area already plagued by water pollution from nearby industrial sugar growing operations—a problem that Earthjustice has helped clean up through recurring litigation over the last two decades. Though the Obama administration recently banned the import and interstate commerce of several snake species, others like the boa constrictor managed to slither by, which means that the snake problem may not be going away anytime soon.

Bagged greens industry gets down and dirty with contamination
The salad greens industry is trying to clean up its E. coli-tainted image by exploring new options to keep its greens clean, reports the LA Times. Over the past few years, headlines about people being sickened by bacteria-tainted greens have caused consumers to lose faith in the industry’s ability to keep salad greens safe. The easiest way to eliminate bacteria is to, of course, cook the greens, but nobody wants soggy baby spinach, so the researchers are looking into alternative methods like chlorine alternatives, radiation and even ultrasound to remove germs from tainted lettuce. In the meantime, health experts continue to argue about whether rinsing those “triple-washed” bagged lettuces makes them safer…or more dangerous. Until the debate is settled, many agree that bagging bagged lettuce and growing your own greens may just be your best (and tastiest) option.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
19 January 2012, 12:50 PM
Olympic air challenge, Nemo’s CO2 problem, NYC trashes trash
Bacon cheeseburger (Like_the_Grand_Canyon)

Ag industry takes beef with Americans eating less meat
Americans are eating less meat, which means the U.S. obsession with double-bacon cheeseburgers and chicken-fried sandwiches may one day be a thing of the past, reports Grist. According to the USDA, beef, chicken and pork sales are all down, prompting the meat industry to accuse the U.S. government of being anti-meat by “wag[ing] a war on protein.” This claim, though meaty, is full of holes considering that the U.S. gives the agriculture industry a number of economic freebies to support meat consumption in the form of farm subsidies, lax regulations and school lunch programs fueled by surplus chicken supplies. The real reasons that Americans aren’t eating as much meat are much more multi-faceted and include everything from cutting grocery bill costs and eating healthier to preserving the environment by lessoning carbon footprints. What’s your beef with that?    

Olympic athletes race against London’s air quality
London’s habitually bad air quality may negatively affect Olympic athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer, reports The Independent. Since the European Union’s limits for particulate matter—extremely small particles of smoke, soot, metals and other chemical compounds emitted from sources like power plants, factories, and diesel trucks—were first put in place a few years back, London has continually exceeded its limits, potentially putting people at risk of negative human health affects like lung and heart disease. Athletes, especially, are at risk due to their need to inhale large amounts of oxygen, which unfortunately also means inhaling unsafe quantities of particulates, nitrogen dioxide and ozone that could give them chest pains and decrease their lung capacity. Though the city has introduced long-term air quality improvement measures in London, currently there is no short term plan to clear the air before July, when the Olympic games begin.