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Trump trashes 50-year-old environmental law, blames coronavirus

With the nation’s eyes on ongoing protests for racial justice (not to mention a seemingly endless public health crisis), last week President Trump signed an executive order that would waive key requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The landmark 1970 law requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed federal actions and projects, including the construction of major highways, airports, oil and gas drilling, and pipelines. Trump’s new executive order relaxes the law’s requirement that major new infrastructure and energy projects undergo environmental reviews to ensure they will not significantly harm the environment and nearby public. (Industry representatives often blame the environmental impact statements required by the law for the extensive delay of permit approvals.)

“From the beginning of my Administration, I have focused on reforming and streamlining an outdated regulatory system that has held back our economy with needless paperwork and costly delays,” Trump wrote in the executive order. “The need for continued progress in this streamlining effort is all the more acute now, due to the ongoing economic crisis.”

But the president’s desire to suppress the 50-year-old law long predates the coronavirus-fueled recession.

Early this year, the Trump administration announced plans to overhaul key elements of the law, including by limiting requests for community input prior project approval, disregarding project alternatives, and shortening the deadline for environmental impact statements and environmental assessments. Pollution-burdened communities have long leveraged NEPA as a defense mechanism to protect their health and the environment — examples include the fights against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of the 710 freeway in Long Beach, California.

The new order promotes a quicker permit approval process on these kinds of projects by invoking a section of federal law that allows individual government agencies to use their own emergency authorities to bypass environmental requirements. Trump’s order weakens standard environmental review requirements not just in NEPA, but also in the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.

Even before Trump declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a national emergency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality held two public hearings in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., to gather feedback on Trump’s initial proposal to overhaul NEPA in ways that would speed up projects and de-emphasize environmental reviews. Students, construction workers, university professors, and grassroots activists testified before a panel of expressionless White House officials, testifying that NEPA’s requirements are vital for their safety, health, and the environment.

Anthony Victoria Midence and other environmental advocates in California’s Inland Empire, a region that experiences some of the country’s worst smog, have united environmental and labor groups to fight a controversial airport expansion that the government’s own assessment shows would add one ton of pollution to the region’s air each day. The groups invoked NEPA to mount a legal challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the project’s permits. Trump’s new executive order would have stymied their efforts, according to Victoria Midence, who is the community director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, a local social justice group.

“It’s clear that the Trump administration is willing to sacrifice working people of color for the benefit of industry,” he told Grist. “This latest move by Trump further demonstrates that he does not care about black and brown lives.”

The new executive order comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalizing a rule last week that will make it much more difficult for states, tribes, and the public to protest or block pipelines and other projects that could pollute the air and water systems. The decision, which overturns a 50-year-old understanding of the Clean Water Act, would set a strict one-year deadline for states and tribes to approve or deny proposed projects such as pipelines, dams, or fossil fuel plants.

Trump also signed another executive order last month that allows several federal agency heads to weaken regulatory requirements “that may inhibit economic recovery.” The move prompted the EPA to alert the fossil fuel industry that it could suspend enforcement of certain environmental laws, including those that require the gathering of public input on projects and the monitoring of air pollution levels.

“We need to place people over profit,” Victoria Midence told Grist. “As we suffer through this pandemic with the fear that our lungs and heart are already compromised because of diesel pollution, Trump is removing perhaps the last protections we have to raise our voices and demand environmental justice.”

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Trump trashes 50-year-old environmental law, blames coronavirus

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Storms wreak havoc on land. We’re only beginning to understand what they do underwater.

You’ve likely heard about broad trends that scientists are certain will occur as a result of climate change: Plants and animals will be pushed out of their native habitats. Ice sheets will melt, and sea level will rise. Extreme weather events, like droughts and storms, will become more common and more severe.

But go a layer deeper and ask about the effects of those changes on the environment — on plants, animals, and ecosystems at large — and the certainty fades. “There’s been research on climate extremes for a number of years — but it’s the impact research, the impacts on the ecology, that is now catching up with that,” said Stephen Thackery.

Thackery is a lake ecologist at the U.K. Center for Ecology and Hydrology who is part of a team that published a new study in the journal Global Change Biology on the effects of extreme weather on freshwater ecosystems.* He and his colleagues combed through the last 50-plus years of peer-reviewed research to find out what is known, specifically, about how storms can alter phytoplankton communities, or algae, in lakes.

Humans rely on freshwater ecosystems in myriad ways: drinking water, fishing, recreation. Entire regional economies depend on lakes enticing tourists to their shores. A murky lake, or one overtaken by the dangerous blue-green algae cyanobacteria, threatens safety and livelihoods. If we can better predict how extreme weather will interact with lakes, local leaders can use that information to inform adaptation measures and potentially prevent ecological and economic disaster.

Unfortunately, the scientists’ search turned up few studies that could answer that question in the first place. And the reports they did find varied too much from one to the next to draw any firm conclusions.

One problem: When scientists have looked at the effects of storms on lakes, they haven’t been looking at the whole picture. Some storms bring strong winds, some bring heavy rains, others bring both. These events have direct impacts on lakes themselves, like churning up the water and altering water temperatures. But storms also have indirect effects on lake ecology by flushing sediment, fertilizer, and other pollutants from the entire watershed into them. “Lakes are like bowls catching everything that happens within the watershed,” said Jason Stockwell, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Vermont who led the project.

In the study, Stockwell and his colleagues propose a framework that takes both the direct and indirect effects into account. They’re hoping that future researchers adopt that approach instead of isolating and studying one interaction, like how wind on the lake’s surface alters phytoplankton communities.

One of the reasons this kind of multivariable approach has been slow to start is that the technology to measure all of the potential effects of storms — physical, biological, and chemical — is still relatively new. Long-term lake monitoring projects tended to collect data on different aspects of the ecosystem weekly or monthly, not nearly often enough to catch what’s happening in the water during and immediately after a storm hits. Without that resolution in the data, it’s hard to separate whether an observation can be attributed to a storm or is due to some other factor, like a seasonal shift.

There’s evidence that researchers are already shifting their methodologies to address this gap. Stockwell’s colleagues at the University of Vermont are engaged in a long-term research project called Basin Resilience to Extreme Events, or BREE. They are taking that holistic, watershed-scale approach to study the relationship between extreme weather — including storms, heat waves, cold snaps, and droughts — and harmful algal blooms in Lake Champlain, which runs along Vermont’s western border with New York.

BREE actually takes the framework put forth by Stockwell and team one step further, integrating policy and governance into its assessment model. “I can imagine a future state where we can send out a broadcast to recommend farmers don’t spread fertilizer or manure for the next week because we’re expecting heavy precipitation,” said Chris Koliba, a professor of community development and applied economics at the university who is affiliated with BREE. “That’s what this kind of work is starting to reveal.”

Stockwell said that over the past decade or so research on storms has already picked up in other fields, like land ecology, and that aquatic ecologists are starting to catch up. Now that he’s seen how little has been established, Stockwell’s next project is working on trying to determine what a “normal” seasonal trajectory is for phytoplankton communities so that when a storm passes through, he and other researchers will have a better understanding of whether shifts in the communities are due to the storm or are part of a natural progression.

“In freshwater systems, I think it’s starting to take off in a big way now,” Stockwell said “This paper is synthesizing and integrating a lot of information that I think will be a go-to resource.”

Correction: We originally wrote that the study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Grist regrets this error.

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Storms wreak havoc on land. We’re only beginning to understand what they do underwater.

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New York’s ambitious climate and environmental justice laws are in effect. Here’s what’s next.

New York state’s landmark climate legislation has finally reached the finish line after a four-year marathon through Albany. And that means it’s reached the starting line for the state’s race to net-zero emissions.

The climate law, originally called the Climate and Community Protection Act but ultimately dubbed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, struggled to make it past the Republican-controlled state senate for three years until Democrats finally won it back in 2018. Although New York Governor Andrew Cuomo altered the bill by slashing some labor and social justice provisions last summer, the CLCPA was still considered a major win for climate activists when Cuomo signed it into law in July with former Vice President Al Gore at his side.

But there was a catch: In order for the CLCPA to go into effect in 2020, Cuomo needed to sign a separate environmental justice bill by the end of 2019. As of mid-December, he hadn’t signed it, making several environmental advocates anxious as the January 1 deadline drew near. But finally, on December 23, Cuomo signed the environmental justice bill, putting the landmark climate law into effect as New Yorkers rang in the new year.

So what happens now that the environmental justice bill and the CLCPA are in effect? The CLCPA made headlines for being the most ambitious emissions-reduction legislation in the country thanks to its promises to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and 100 percent renewable electricity by 2040. But in the short term, the main outcomes of the two new laws will be … new policymaking bodies!

The CLCPA sets broad targets for emissions reductions, but the hard work of figuring out how to decarbonize New York’s economy will fall into a new group called the Climate Action Council. The Climate Action Council consists of 22 members including the heads of state agencies, the majority and minority leaders of the state senate and assembly, and various appointed experts — including at least one fuel gas executive. The Climate Action Council is required to come up with its first “scoping plan” for reducing emissions within two years, and then to revisit the plan every five years subsequently.

Meanwhile, the environmental justice bill will create a permanent environmental justice advisory group within the existing Department of Environmental Conservation, plus an interagency coordinating council that will make sure New York state agencies are treating New Yorkers fairly when it comes to the enforcement of environmental policies. Since low-income communities of color tend to bear the brunt of the fossil fuel industry’s social costs, the goal is to ensure that vulnerable or disadvantaged communities aren’t suffering negative environmental consequences from state policies.

The advisory group will consist of representatives from local environmental organizations that advocate for low-income communities of color, some business representatives, local government environmental officials, and members of either state or federal environmental organizations. The group will be tasked with developing a model environmental justice policy for state agencies by the end of 2020. Once the state adopts the group’s model policy, each agency will have six months to come up with its own environmental justice policy, but if an agency fails to come up with one, it will have to comply with the advisory group’s version.

The advisory group will also advise agencies on decisions like land-use permits for fossil fuel projects and monitor their compliance with the environmental justice policies.

New York Renews, a statewide coalition of nearly 200 advocacy groups, pushed for the environmental justice bill to be passed alongside the CLCPA, and for the CLCPA itself to include environmental justice provisions. “Protecting vulnerable populations, communities of color, and low-income communities should be a priority for all climate solutions,” said Adrien Salazar, a campaign strategist at progressive think tank Demos and a 2019 Grist 50 Fixer. “Science has shown consistently that communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are most vulnerable to climate impacts and pollution. This is why equity and justice was written into the CLCPA.”

This isn’t the first time New York has attempted to address environmental injustice. In 1999, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation received a federal grant from the EPA to develop a comprehensive environmental justice program, and eventually created an advisory group. Though the Department of Environmental Conservation officially adopted an environmental justice policy in 2003, it failed to follow through on most of the advisory group’s recommendations.

But the CLCPA and environmental justice bill are binding — they require the state to meet its emissions reduction targets and make good on its commitments to address environmental injustice and invest in vulnerable communities. But Salazar, whose organization is part of New York Renews, warned that if agencies fail to mobilize adequate resources and put significant plans into motion, New York could very well fail to reach the goals it sets for itself.

“This will take every agency setting up programs and policies to meet the state’s goals, directing resources accordingly, and beginning to enact those plans starting now,” he said. “The state has to demonstrate how important it is to not just pass bold climate policy but to get the implementation right.”


New York’s ambitious climate and environmental justice laws are in effect. Here’s what’s next.

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Earth911 Podcast, Sept. 23, 2019: CBD Sustainability, Solar Installation Contracts, & Indoor Vertical Gardens

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Following the rapid rise of CBD-based products, Earth911 looks at the environmental footprint of the non-psychoactive product of hemp and cannabis plants. We also walk you through the steps to a successful home solar installation contract and explore the opportunity to green your interior with vertical gardens. Join Evelyn Fielding-Lopez, Sarah Lozanova, and Mitch Ratcliffe for this week’s sustainable living and recycling discussion.

Products containing CBD are promoted as cures of pain, anxiety, and animal health, but is the production of CBD sustainable? We explore how CBD is grown and packaged to discover if your cannabis-based skin regime or sleep aide is good for the planet. Most CBD comes from industrial hemp farms, which use the spent plant material to make textiles and rope, among various other uses for this ancient plant. We also answer a related Earthling Question about how to determine the quality and dosage of CBD products.

If you are planning to install solar panels before the next annual reduction in government subsidies, check out Sarah’s guide to finding the right contractor and negotiating a good deal.

As we head into fall, it’s a good time to look indoors for vegetative inspiration. Vertical gardens beautify your home while freshening the air and supplying herbs for your winter meals. And if you’re looking for other projects for the longer nights ahead, we have some ideas for using the wood from shipping pallets to make furniture, kitchen racks, and more. We cover how to choose the right pallets, the tools you’ll need, and point to some great DIY projects.

This week’s Earthling Questions are about how to recycle the interior of a vehicle and whether alkaline batteries need to be bagged for recycling. Be sure to keep your guides to recycling single-use batteries and rechargeable batteries handy.

Join the conversation and share your thoughts with the community in our Earthling Forum.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
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Earth911 Podcast, Sept. 23, 2019: CBD Sustainability, Solar Installation Contracts, & Indoor Vertical Gardens

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Eaarth – Bill McKibben



Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

Bill McKibben

Genre: Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: April 13, 2010

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Seller: Macmillan

"Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important." —Barbara Kingsolver Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature , Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we've waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We've created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth. That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend—think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we've managed to damage and degrade. We can't rely on old habits any longer. Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back—on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change—fundamental change—is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.

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Eaarth – Bill McKibben

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Is My Roof Too Shaded for Solar Panels?

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Many people want to install solar panels but their roofs are very shaded. Is it worth it to go solar?

Obviously, solar panels produce more power when they are in direct sunlight, but they do generate some power when shaded. Here are the typical reasons for shady roof areas and how to place solar panels to take advantage of the light that is available.

Solar Orientation

It is ideal to install the solar panels on a south-facing roof.

When the panels point either west or east, they will not get as much direct sun during part of the day. If the panels face east, they will produce a lot of energy in the morning but very little in the late afternoon. The reverse is true if they face west. It is not recommended to install solar panels facing north as they will receive almost no direct sunlight.

To determine the generation loss due to orientation, use the PVWatts calculator tool and edit the azimuth field, which represents the angle at which your solar panels must be placed. 


Although trees are wonderful for so many reasons, they are not necessarily compatible with solar panels unless they are planted on the north side of the home.

Trees on the south side can be most problematic because they can block midday sun, which is very important for overall power production. Trees can also prevent passive solar gains that can keep your heating energy use down in the winter.

There are a few things to keep in mind with trees. They could shade your solar panels more in the colder months when the sun is at a lower angle (especially if you live farther north). It is also important to consider the type of trees and how much they will grow.

Some smaller trees can be pruned to keep them small while some trees are just immense. Deciduous trees will shade your panels less in the winter months than conifers because they lose their leaves. However, even branch shade does have an impact on energy production.

Dormers, Gables, and Chimneys 

These roof features are another culprit for solar electricity production. Aside from strategically placing solar panels where they aren’t shaded, there are few ways to get around these architectural obstacles.

An experienced solar installer will be able to place the panels where they receive the least amount of shading. Unfortunately, this might limit the size of the array.

Other Locations for Solar Panels

Keep in mind that you can install panels on a garage, as an awning, on a carport, or even on a trellis. This will probably increase the installation cost, especially if you need to purchase materials to reinforce the trellis or carport. Yet, these structures can be useful solar locations and provide other benefits. 

Join a Community Solar Farm

Community solar gardens or farms are owned by a group of people or a company. They allow a group of households and businesses to use the renewable energy that off-site solar panels generate without installing the solar panels on their properties. Solar farms are ideal for renters, apartment dwellers, low-income households, and people with shaded roofs.

Some states have legislation in place making this arrangement more feasible and economical. Currently, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, and Colorado are the the top states for community solar farms. But 15 other states also have policies supporting community solar projects, and in several other states, utility providers and other groups are working to offer community solar. If you live in one of these states and have a shaded roof, joining a community solar farm might be a great option.


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Is My Roof Too Shaded for Solar Panels?

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Climate experts to New York: Go green or go home

Thirty-five scholars, policy experts, and researchers from across the country are urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to commit the state to zero net emissions by 2040 by the end of this year’s legislative session in June.

In a letter sent to Cuomo and state Senate leaders on Monday, these experts laid out how and why New York state is uniquely positioned to achieve this goal and serve as a model for other state, national, and international policies.

The thinking behind the letter: New York finally has the support it needs to pass strong climate legislation, so lawmakers should strike while the iron is hot.

“Now that the Senate has flipped to Democratic control and is led by advocates of climate action as well, this seems a perfect time to enact a new law,” said Michael Gerrard, a signee and professor at Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

Cuomo has a track record of talking big, and sometimes acting big, on climate. He famously banned fracking in New York state, and was one of President Trump’s most fiery critics over the plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. But Cuomo’s critics point out that he has been slow to condemn the Williams pipeline, which would bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania into the state.

With the exception of the pipeline, things are already looking greener in New York. The state Senate just passed a landmark package of bills on Tuesday, amending the state constitution to guarantee a right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment for all. They’re also in the process of considering the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA), a progressive measure that would mandate a totally carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and institute a handful of equity provisions. Plus, New York City just passed its own Green New Deal, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to take the New York real estate industry to task over its emissions.

The letter proposes a two-pronged approach to reaching zero net emissions by 2040: Decarbonizing the energy sector first, and only then buying offsets for some of the most challenging sources of emissions to eliminate, such as those from agriculture, flying, and cement production.

“Achieving zero net emissions, rather than zero direct emissions (which means not emitting any CO2 at all), is ambitious, consistent with the scientific recommendations of the IPCC, and provides greater flexibility to meet climate goals at lower cost,” the letter reads.

The experts say decarbonizing electricity is the “linchpin” to achieving zero emissions, not only because energy is one of the biggest emissions culprits, but also because carbon-neutral energy is essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial, heating, and transportation sectors. They advocate for using all possible forms of carbon-free energy. “The legislation should focus on achieving key ends (carbon-free electricity) rather than specifying a limited set of means (specific technologies),” they write.

Michael Davidson, a signee and research fellow at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, said he is excited to see what New York state passes. The resulting legislation be a guide for other states looking to uphold the Paris Agreement, and it could inform the national discussion about how to decarbonize the economy, he said.

“We hope that the leaders in Albany will now sit down and hammer out a deal that works for everyone,” said Gerrard. “The differences seem quite bridgeable.”

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Climate experts to New York: Go green or go home

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5 Ways to Be a More Eco-Friendly Dog Parent

Millions of households across the United States include a dog. And our dogs certainly have an impact on how environmentally friendly our lifestyle is. Ready to turn your dog into an eco-warrior? Here are five ways to be a more eco-friendly dog parent.

1. Spay or neuter your pet

Credit: DanBrandenburg/Getty Images

Spaying and neutering your pets would technically fall under the ?reduce? category of the three R?s (reduce, reuse, recycle). According to the ASPCA, roughly 6.5 million companion animals go through U.S. animal shelters each year. Some are adopted, and others are strays who go back to their owners. But sadly about 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. And in many cases, these are healthy, loving animals who simply weren?t lucky enough to find a household to adopt them.

That?s where spaying and neutering come in ? as well as adopting versus allowing a breeder to bring more animals into this situation. Every little bit helps to put a dent in the homeless pet population. Not only do you reduce the number of shelter animals, but you also minimize the strays on the streets who often lead painful, shortened lives and might become nuisances in the community. Not to mention spaying and neutering can help increase your pet?s health and longevity. So do your part to reduce pet overpopulation, as well as the resources that go into managing it.

2. Properly dispose of pet waste

Disposing of pet waste is a bit tricky because your ideal eco-friendly techniques typically won?t work. Here are some methods you shouldn?t use, as they can harm the environment, according to PetMD.

First, don?t flush dog poop down the toilet. This can send parasites and other pathogens that aren?t killed at water treatment facilities into the waterways. Consequently, this can harm ecosystems, especially marine life. Plus, people can become sick and actually end up using more resources (e.g., lots of toilet flushing for a stomach bug) than you thought you were saving by flushing the waste in the first place. Similarly, composting is not an option for dog poop (unless your community has a dog waste composting program), as it also allows the spread of pathogens.

So what can you do? Bagging the waste and throwing it in the trash is usually your best option. But on the bright side, you can go green with your poop bags. More and more companies are offering biodegradable bags, though sometimes that can be a bit misleading. Not all companies have appropriately tested their products in typical landfill conditions, so it?s important to do your homework before buying. ?Choose a company that has testing to back up their biodegradable claims,? PetMD says.

3. Reduce your dog food paw print

Credit: Chalabala/Getty Images

Buying dog food and other supplies in bulk helps to reduce packaging waste, as well as the number of trips you take to the store. ?Pay attention to packaging materials, and try to buy products packaged in recycled or recyclable materials,? the American Kennel Club suggests. Plus, look for foods that have eco-friendly ingredients, such as certified sustainable seafood.

Even better, skip the packaging altogether, and make food at home for your dog. You don?t have to cook their whole diet (unless you really want to and know how to do it right). But forgoing the bagged and boxed treats in favor of ones you make yourself ? or even just replacing them with some fresh fruits and veggies ? can reduce waste and energy consumption. And that will certainly add up over the course of your dog?s life to reduce their carbon paw print.

4. Choose eco-friendly pet products

You might already choose environmentally conscious companies for your human products. And it?s just as important to support those types of companies that make pet products to encourage their growth in the industry (but keep your antenna up for greenwashing).

Just like with dog food, look for items ? leashes, toys, cleaning supplies, etc. ? that are packaged in eco-friendly materials. And keep an eye out for plant-based products. ?When it comes to pet supplies, one of the most common plant-based materials you?ll find is hemp,? according to PetMD. Hemp ? used for items, such as leashes and collars ? is durable and doesn?t need much water or harmful chemicals to grow.

You also can look for toys and other products made from recycled materials, such as plastics turned into fiberfill. And to really recycle, look around your home for items you can turn into dog toys, bedding, etc. Plus, put in the effort to mend old items until they?re no longer safe for your dog.

Moreover, if you no longer need some of your dog products, consider donating them to an animal shelter ? a great form of reusing. Shelters often welcome gently used leashes, collars, harnesses, beds, crates, toys, towels and more. Just make sure you call ahead about your donations, as sometimes shelters have too much of a specific item.

5. Grow a green garden and lawn

Credit: ChristopherBernard/Getty Images

There are many reasons to grow a more eco-friendly garden. For instance, you contribute to a balanced ecosystem, reduce environmental toxins and use fewer resources. But what does that have to do with your dog?

Green gardening practices and being a dog parent actually go hand in hand. A major issue for both the environment and our pets is the use of synthetic lawn chemicals. Not only do these chemicals pollute our water and kill beneficial species (among other consequences), but they also pose serious dangers to your dog.

Ingesting fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and other products (including some organic varieties) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors and even death in a dog, according to VetStreet. Even if you don?t see your dog ingest anything while outside, they?ll still get the products on their paws ? which they?ll certainly lick later. So try to use the most natural products possible on your property. Or better yet, grow low-maintenance plants that don?t need these products, and take pride in knowing that your garden is benefiting both your pet and the planet.

Main image credit: al_louc/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Ways to Be a More Eco-Friendly Dog Parent

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6 Sustainable Decor Ideas for the Holidays

The holidays are one of the merriest times of year, but they can also be one of the most environmentally wasteful. Between un-recyclable wrapping paper, plastic snow and tinsel, major food waste, carbon-intensive traveling?and artificial trees, Mother Nature probably isn’t a big fan of the Yuletide season.

But?this time of year doesn’t have to be such an environmental disaster. When it comes to decorating your interior, it’s easy to go sustainable. Plus, it’s way more affordable than buying decor from the store!

To get you started, here are six ideas for ditching plastics and bringing a little sustainability into your holiday decorations.

1. Use branches.

Find some nice branches?birch works beautifully?that you can use to decorate your mantle or tables. You can set them amongst other natural decor or bundle them into a vase and string them up with fairy lights.

When out harvesting, the branches you choose should be dry, insect-free, and in good condition. If you can, pick up branches that have fallen on the ground rather than stealing from living trees.

2. Light some candles.

Candles set the ambience for any special occasion. Load up on natural soy, coconut or beeswax candles for a clean-burning visual delight. If you’re super crafty, you?might even try making your own beeswax candles or scented soy wax candles at home!

3. Decorate with pinecones and nuts.

Pinecones and nuts are holiday staples, so if you have access, why not load your centerpieces with them? You could even paint your pinecones or nuts with an eco-friendly paint?just be sure to prepare them properly.

4. Hang winterberries, mistletoe or holly.

Collect a few branches of hardy local berries to decorate your home. Not only do they add a pop of festive color, but they are cheap and pretty easy to forage.

Winterberries are a staple on the East coast, but varieties of holly bushes grow all across North America.

5. Bundle dried grasses.

Collect some cattails or beautiful amber grains from a local pond or field. Tie a big red bow around them and you have some festive decor?perfect for spreading festive, plastic-free cheer throughout your home.

6. Make your own ornaments.

Instead of buying cheap plastic ornaments to fill out your tree, why not make your own? Try cutting paper snowflakes or hanging small items from around your house that have special meaning to you I have a few keychains, necklaces, and small toys that look great on my holiday tree.

If you’re crafty, knit, felt, carve or sculpt your own ornaments. Even edible ornaments like gingerbread people, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, cranberry beads and popcorn strings work great.

While you can totally invest in a few special ornaments that speak to you, try making the majority of your ornaments each year. It’s a lot more fun and makes your tree uniquely reflective of YOU!

Looking for other ways to make your holidays more sustainable? Eat plant-based, get a tree from a sustainable and responsible tree farm, and reuse old bags and newspaper as gift wrap (with some festive doodles and decorations, of course).

How will you celebrate the holidays in sustainable style this year? Share your ideas with the community in the comments section below! ?

Related on Care2

8 Fun Indoor Activities to Beat the Winter Blues
How to Reduce Financial Anxiety Around the Holidays
Should We Be Capitalizing ‘Human’?

Images via Getty

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Sustainable Decor Ideas for the Holidays

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What does the Violence Against Women Act have to do with climate change?

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As the world heats up, it’s also becoming more violent. There’s been a lot of research linking climate change to war, violent crime, and even road rage. But you may not have heard that climate disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Michael were accompanied by a surge in intimate partner violence, or IPV. (The term is favored over “domestic violence” for encompassing different relationships and genders.)

Hurricanes often lead to displacement and isolation, which makes people more vulnerable to IPV. And climate change in general disproportionately impacts those who are already more likely to experience IPV: low-income women, women of color, and women experiencing homelessness.

To compound the problem, resources to address IPV are limited after climate disasters, when more people tend to need them. In the year following Hurricane Harvey, the number of women who sought help at a Houston-based crisis center doubled, as Yessenia Funes writes in Earther. Shelters are sometimes forced to close their doors in the wake of disasters. After Hurricane Florence, a domestic violence shelter in Wilmington with 19 beds was left in shambles.

The closely connected issues of climate change and IPV — both of which the federal government has a long history of ignoring — will only grow more pressing as time goes on. “This growing impact of climate change will continue to put more women at risk for experiencing violence,” says Jennifer First, program manager at the Disaster and Community Crisis Center at the University of Missouri. “We need effective mechanisms to be developed and evaluated to address this problem.”

Yet rather than developing more policies and services, Congress may be about to do the opposite. On Friday, the Violence Against Women Act, the most robust federal attempt to address intimate partner violence, is set to expire unless Congress renews it. Since its passage in 1994, the act has funded critical services for survivors, including legal assistance, rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers, and transitional housing. It has also helped survivors of IPV get green cards. These services are all crucial in the wake of climate disasters.

That said, the act has some notable flaws. While amendments have broadened the scope of who is protected under the act (including LGBTQ couples and undocumented immigrants), some advocates say it’s still not comprehensive enough in addressing the staggering rates of sexual violence against Native American women. A new reauthorization of the act, introduced by Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, would fill in some of these gaps, but would still fail to protect Native American tribes in Alaska and Maine.

Additionally, 85 percent of VAWA’s funding goes toward the criminal legal system. This reliance on criminalization can perpetuate abuse, as Leigh Goodmark, law professor at the University of Maryland, argues in the Conversation. Research shows that mandatory arrest laws, for instance, make abusers more likely to murder their partners.

IPV needs to be thought of as a broader structural issue rather than just a criminal justice issue, explains Samantha Majic, an associate professor of political science at John Jay College who researches and writes on sex work and gender. “Women are not subject to intimate partner violence just because men are bad, but also because they don’t have economic options that make it easier to leave the situation,” she says.

Despite its shortcomings, the act brings up an important conversation: how to equitably address the national epidemic of IPV in tangent with that other issue the government repeatedly fails to act on — climate change.

Jennifer First of the University of Missouri has developed a framework for social organizations and all layers of government to incorporate domestic violence in disaster recovery and preparedness efforts. One of the ideas behind the framework is cross-training. “Many emergency management first responders may not know what to do in a domestic violence situation,” she explains. And in turn, she says, “many domestic violence shelters may not think about environmental disasters.”

The framework is currently being implemented by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence. First hopes this model will eventually spread around the country.

As VAWA sits in congressional purgatory, it’s becoming apparent that addressing IPV means more than renewing the act. It also means dealing with climate change and preparing for disasters with the most vulnerable people in mind.

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What does the Violence Against Women Act have to do with climate change?

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