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.


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
13 January 2012, 12:22 PM
The oceans' acid test, playing with wildfire, raising a glass to climate change
Napa Valley vineyards in autumn. (tibchris)

Transit riders run over by reduced tax breaks
Thanks to a lack of action by Congress before the holidays, mass transit commuters will have to pay an additional $550 in taxes this year, reports the New York Times, while those who commute by car will benefit from an increase in pre-tax benefit for monthly parking. In addition to encouraging the number of cars with single occupants, the move will no doubt clog already congested streets and increase carbon emissions. It also takes a jab at people who, for the most part, already deal with enough aggravation (think late bus arrivals, screaming babies and the person who insists on practically sitting on your lap despite the availability of other seats.) Maybe when Congress gets back in session, they’ll consider making the tax benefit, at the very least, apply equally to car and transit users.

Acidic oceans threaten entire food chain
Sharks are already stressed by the public’s taste for shark fin soup and warmer weather meddling with their dating habits. Now it looks like they will have to add acidic oceans to their list of worries. Increasingly acidic waters thin the shells of their main food source, tiny marine creatures, reports MSN. But it’s not just sharks that rely on these species for food. Virtually every creature from salmon to seals to even humans will be affected, thanks to a little thing we like to call the marine food web. Scientists already know that as oceans absorb more carbon, the waters acidify, which makes living conditions very uncomfortable for any animal with a shell, and creates food scarcity for everyone else. Add this to the already overwhelming threats of pollution, habitat loss and overfishing, and it’s clear to see that the oceans—and the people who work to save them-- including Earthjustice—have their work cut out just trying to keep their heads above water. 

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
22 December 2011, 1:12 PM
Facebook “likes” sustainability, McDonald’s goes locavore, Seattle bans bags
The corn rootworm is taking a bite out of Monsanto's bottom line. (Purdue University)

Pesticide-resistant bugs eat Monsanto’s crops, lies & profits
Monsanto is taking a page from George Orwell's 1984 with the recent release of an EPA report that chides the biotech company for not adequately monitoring its pesticide-resistant crops, reports Mother Jones. According to the agency’s report, a pesky bug known as corn rootworm is rising up and decimating corn fields in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska. Unfortunately for Monsanto and its farmers, the insect is targeting Monsanto’s Bt corn, which is engineered precisely to resist rootworm. The problem of pesticide resistance is a well-known issue amongst those in the ag and business world these days. In fact, Earthjustice is suing the USDA for failing to adequately asses the environmental and economic impacts of Monsanto's RoundUp Ready crops. But despite evidence to the contrary, Monsanto continues to deny that its products propagate pesticide-resistant bugs and weeds, all while promoting new genetically engineered seeds designed to “fix” the very problem that it won’t admit it created. That is some clever doublespeak indeed.

Greenpeace successfully prompts Facebook to “like” clean energy
After two years of prodding by Greenpeace, Facebook has announced that it will move away from dirty coal and power its operations using clean, sustainable energy, reports the UK Guardian. According to a Greenpeace report, more than half of Facebook’s electricity is powered by coal. That’s bad news for the climate and for clean air, considering that coal plants are the nation’s worst toxic air polluters (though that could change thanks to a recent Earthjustice victory wherein the EPA set the nation’s first-ever toxic air pollution limits for power plants.) In the meantime, though, moving off coal is a great first step to greening one of the most popular social networking sites out there. Now we just need to keep a close eye on Facebook to make sure it lives up to its largely vague green promises.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
16 December 2011, 12:30 PM
Environmental justice backlog, greenwashing Walmart
Popular sodas like Mountain Dew may contain flame retardants. (PaysImaginaire)

American sodas spiked with flame retardants
That mid-day caffeine boost you reach for every afternoon may contain a chemical that causes skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, reports Environmental Health News. Sodas like Mountain Dew and Gatorade contain brominated vegetable oil (BVO), a synthetic chemical  that keeps a soda’s fruity flavors well-mixed inside the can or bottle. Recent studies have found that brominated flame retardants, which may have effects similar to BVOs, build up in people’s bodies and are linked to “impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.” BVOs are found in about 10 percent of US soda drinks. Though drinking the occasional soda is unlikely to cause any health problems, binge drinkers and young children may want to find another way to get through the day with their eyes open.

EPA turns a blind eye to environmental justice cases
Despite an EPA memo outlining environmental justice issues as a top priority, more than a dozen complaints alleging that air pollution is disproportionately harming low-income and communities of color have languished under Administrator Lisa Jackson’s EPA, reports iWatch News. Some of those complaints have sat in the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights for more than a decade, such as one woman’s case in Texas that alleges toxic emissions from a 10-mile stretch of oil refineries and industrial plants have caused her to have several miscarriages. Though the EPA insists that it has made “meaningful progress” on many of the complaints, environmental justice advocates are skeptical, like Earthjustice’s Marianne Engelman Lado, who told iWatch, “The backlog doesn’t seem greatly improved, and it’s not clear what processes they use to evaluate the complaints. Why is that progress?”

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
09 December 2011, 2:53 AM
Tiny plastic problems, “green” tanning, dry-clean druggies
New Mexico's dairy farms must clean up their act. (USDA)

New Mexico dairies forced to clean up their cow pies
New Mexico recently passed some of the most progressive water regulations for dairy farm operations in the West, reports High Country News. Large dairy operations create huge waste problems—each cow produces about 145 pounds of solid and liquid waste per day—so when Texas transplant Jerry Nivens found out in 2007 that a large dairy was planning to set up shop near his town, he and a band of allies teamed up against the powerful dairy lobby, and won. Four years later, after countless hours of grassroots organizing, New Mexico citizens have done what others in Idaho, Washington and California—all big dairy states—haven’t yet been able to: stop dairy farms from polluting their groundwater with nitrates, antibiotics and deadly bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. The new rules may inspire citizens in other states to follow suit by taking matters into their own hands when Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations of any kind—whether they house chickens, cows or pigs—poison their community.

Oceans get fleeced by clothes with microplastic
Polyester yoga pants may seem harmless with all of their comfy-ness and warmth, but every time you wash them you may be polluting the ocean, reports Grist. According to a new study by Environmental Science and Technology, approximately 2,000 polyester fibers are released for each piece of polyester clothing thrown the wash. And since the home appliance industry doesn’t filter out these tiny fibers, they end up in the world’s oceans where they can potentially harm marine life. Though most of the attention to date has been on plastic giants like the garbage patches found in the Atlantic, Pacific and elsewhere, these tiny microplastics worry scientists because they can be eaten by bottom feeders like clams and mussels, eventually making their way up the food chain, to us.

View Jonathan Wiener's blog posts
15 November 2011, 8:46 PM
Earthjustice again calls on FTC to bring enforcement action against online retailers
What a listing for a freezer on Newegg's website should also tell you, but doesn’t, is that the freezer uses so much energy that it will cost you around $90 each year just to run.

Back in July, I wrote about the lengths to which shoppers sometimes have to go in order to find legally required energy efficiency information about appliances for sale online. In response, more than 10,000 of you wrote in supporting our petition telling the Federal Trade Commission to require online retailers to display that information front and center in their product listings.

Unfortunately, some retailers still have not got the message that this information is important to consumers. While some retailers continue to bury energy efficiency information in hard-to-find places on their websites, others don't provide it at all.

Take, for example, Newegg. The 12th largest online retailer in the country according to Internet Retailer, it lists this Haier freezer for $679. The listing says the freezer “meets your food storage needs, whether your goal is to save money buying grocery items in bulk, or you're looking to preserve in-season fruits, vegetables, or meat.”

What the listing should also tell you, but doesn’t, is that the freezer uses so much energy that it will cost you around $90 each year just to run. No model in its class has been less efficient than that since at least 2007. That additional cost of 13 percent each year should be disclosed on Newegg’s website, but it isn’t. And it's not as if Newegg can't find this information: Haier posts a copy of the model’s Energy Guide label (which understates most products' energy costs by almost 10 percent) on its website, and other retailers post that label clearly when they list the model.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
03 November 2011, 2:16 PM
dust rule despisers, spill dodgers, Cracker Barrel car chargers
Photo courtesy of quinn.anya

Republican dust up over phantom environmental regulation
Conservative Republicans are so intent on eliminating “unnecessary” environmental regulations that they recently set their sights on eliminating a rule that doesn’t even exist, reports the Washington Post. The so-called “dust rule” regulates farm dust, which is mixed with things like dirt and dried cornstalk bits and is technically considered pollution by the U.S. EPA. The agency does limit how much of this particle pollution can be in the air, but just two states—Arizona and California—require farmers to take some dust control measures. Though EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has said that she’s unlikely bring on stricter dust rules, regulation-wary Republicans aren’t taking any chances and have already proposed three new bills to prevent a rule that does not (and probably will never) exist. Unfortunately, the zealousness with which Republicans have attacked this rule is just the latest in a spate of attempts to cut the EPA off at its knees for trying to regulate environmental health hazards like coal ash, power plant pollution, and mountaintop removal mining.
Exxon punts financial responsibility on Valdez spill
While the oil continues to linger on the shore of Alaska’s Prince William Sound—twenty some years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill—the company who caused this mess is quietly trying to get out of paying to clean it up, reports Mother Jones. To date, Exxon has paid about $900 million over 10 years for cleanup costs, but when the government asked for an additional $92 million in 2006 to address existing problems, Exxon said no way, arguing that it is only responsible for “restoration projects” and not costs associated with cleanup. Of course, none of this matters to the people affected by the spill, who are too busy trying to move on with their lives to argue over semantics.

View David Lawlor's blog posts
16 September 2011, 12:15 PM
Global event encourages turning parking spots into temporary public spaces
S'more Park created in a parking space by PGA Design, a landscape architecture firm based in Oakland, Calif. The temporary park was constructed as part of the 7th Annual PARK(ing) Day.

Cars sure are important. I mean, we design our towns and cities—heck, our whole civilization—around their ubiquitous presence. We construct massive parking structures where cars live for temporary periods, have a whole dining subculture based on the automobile, and dot the sides of our city streets with parking spaces deemed so valuable as to demand a fee for their use.

That’s why what I saw when I strolled into work today was so refreshing.

Outside the front door of Earthjustice’s office in downtown Oakland, Calif., a bucolic camp site scene was occupying a space next to the curb and between two white lines painted on the street where I would normally spy a pickup truck or late-model sedan. There was a collection of tree stumps to sit down on, there were board games resting on a small table, and there was an actual campfire complete with s’more-preparation paraphernalia.

Happy PARK(ing) Day!

2 Comments   /  
View Jonathan Wiener's blog posts
22 July 2011, 9:12 AM
Groups ask FTC to take the mystery out of appliance information

Today, we begin with a quiz:

Which of the following should online consumers have to do to be able to evaluate the operating costs of an appliance?

  1. Scroll to the very bottom of a long page of text, then visit other websites and do the same until they have enough data points to make their own comparisons.
  2. Click on a button labeled "Larger Photo."
  3. Follow a link labeled "Manual."
  4. Find and follow a link labeled "Take a Product Tour," and then select a tab labeled "Documents."

The answer, of course, is none of the above. Energy efficiency information is an important consideration for those who want to know the real costs of appliances before purchasing them, and consumers are legally entitled to it. But many online retailers require consumers who want it to jump through just these sorts of ridiculous hoops, as you can see here, here, here and here. (Or, click through the slideshow below to see screenshots.)

  • Scroll all the way to the bottom of the 'Features & Specifications' list to find the operating cost ... and then repeat the hunt on other online appliance sites to be able to make comparisons.
  • It makes perfect sense: the operating cost of this appliance is  found by clicking on the 'Larger Photo' link.
  • Equally helpful, the operating cost for this appliance is buried in the PDF manual.
  • If all else fails, 'Take a Product Tour,' and click through five tabs to find your way to 'Documents,' and, finally, the operating cost of the appliance.

Earthjustice, today, asks the Federal Trade Commission to end this practice.

5 Comments   /  
View David Lawlor's blog posts
11 July 2011, 11:58 AM
Get your eco-groove on with these environmentally focused tunes
Bonnie Raitt

Every lifestyle has its de facto soundtrack. Depressed suburban teens have emo music. Trust funders living beachside have a steady supply of Bob Marley to keep them chanting down Babylon. And old folks with office jobs have Paul Simon and the Gipsy Kings.

What about environmentalists?

Besides recordings of rain storms or whale songs, what do tree huggers and bioregionalists listen to when they jam out? Well, here is a collection of eco-groovy tunes to add to your playlist that not only rock, but will garner you instant enviro street cred.

View Jonathan Wiener's blog posts
31 May 2011, 2:08 PM
Some tips to improve their efficiency
(Photo credit: ALT1040 / Flickr.)

I was talking to a co-worker recently about how to improve the efficiency of her new TV. She doesn’t watch much—certainly not the five hours a day that new TVs average—so the obvious answer of “Turn it off” wouldn’t have helped much.

Instead, I sent her these helpful tips from the folks at CNET and our friends at NRDC, which basically amount to “at least turn it mostly off,” by turning down the brightness and disabling certain features that are constantly running in the background.