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How the oil industry pumped Americans full of fake news

The world has known about the dangers of climate change for decades — so why are oil and gas companies still drilling for crude as if there’s no tomorrow? There’s no simple answer. But any explanation would have to give some credit to the wizards of public relations. For more than a century, these spinmasters downplayed misdeeds, twisted facts, and cajoled the media into mimicking their talking points.

“A lot of what we have as PR today, in general, was built in service of the fossil fuel industry,” said Amy Westervelt, the host of Drilled, billed as “a true-crime podcast about climate change.” The first season of Drilled investigated the history of climate denial, and the second looked at the West Coast crabbers suing Big Oil for contributing to warmer oceans and throwing the marine food web out of whack. In the latest season launched last month, Westervelt introduces the “Mad Men of Climate Denial” — the publicists who coached the fossil fuel industry how to shape public opinion over the past century.

Creating a cloud of confusion around established science is one of their well-known tactics. Exxon and the coal industry knew about global warming as early as the 1960s; instead of telling the public, they spread doubt about the science behind it. That’s just one facet of the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda machine. (“Propaganda” might seem too strong of a word, but Westervelt says it’s the very definition: “a one-sided message with the aim of shifting public opinion or policy.”) Digging through archives, presidential libraries, and old PR books, Westervelt found the pushy executives, manipulative schmoozers, and “inventive” storytellers who made it work.

“People are largely unaware that there’s a massive system running underneath everything,” Westervelt said in an interview with Grist. “A lot of the ideas they have about the fossil fuel industry and even the language they use has been crafted very carefully by the industry itself.”

She takes us on a wild journey from a turn-of-the-century massacre in Colorado coal country to the messaging strategy of, yes, Nazi Germany, telling the stories of the people who worked to boost oil’s image and how their experiences taught them to influence the media, politicians, and the courts. Here are just a handful of the wild strategies they came up with, all still in use.

Fake news: “Fake news” proliferates on the internet today, a plague of modern life with a long pedigree. You can trace it back to Ivy Ledbetter Lee, often called the father of modern public relations. In the early 1900s, Lee was tasked with rehabilitating the public image of the tycoon John D. Rockefeller. His company, Standard Oil, had brutally stamped out a workers strike at a Colorado coal mine in 1913, setting tents on fire and spraying their camp with machine guns. Lee crafted a story to smooth things over, claiming that the strikers were actually plants hired by a labor union, and that the whole thing had been orchestrated by Mother Jones, a famous labor organizer (he also made up that she ran a nearby brothel). “What are facts anyway but my interpretation of what happened?” Lee said later on.

Corporate philanthropy: Lee’s coverup went so well that Rockefeller kept him on board for the rest of his life. In addition to inventing the press release (imagine, the newspaper prints your version of the story word for word!), Lee prodded Rockefeller to donate to charitable causes, like museums, to burnish his reputation. The approach gained traction as other robber barons realized that they, too, could be remembered as kindly philanthropists. The arts are now soaked with oil money — and with their names emblazoned on art museum walls and festivals signs, corporations get a similar reputational boost.

Herb Schmertz and Sheila O’Malley Fuchs attend a party at the Parrish Art Museum in 2007. Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Astroturfing: What better way to counter grassroots activists than to fake your own grassroots group? This practice, called “astroturfing,” was the brainchild of Daniel Edelman, a PR whiz who advised Mobil Oil, Big Tobacco, and many other companies in the mid-20th century. There are now hundreds of fake front groups backed by oil-funded lobbying groups like the Western States Petroleum Association, said Christine Arena, former vice president of the firm Edelman (yes, named after Daniel), in the podcast. They go by friendly names like “California Drivers Alliance” or “Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy.”

False equivalence: Herb Schmertz, who advised Mobil starting in the 1960s, took an aggressive stance toward the press. He’d attack any journalist or outlet critical of his company, arguing that they weren’t hearing Mobil’s side of the story, and then watch them overcorrect in the next edition. The approach eventually expanded to demanding airtime for climate deniers. One study looking at climate change articles in major U.S. outlets between 1988 and 2002 found that more than half of them presented climate science and fringe, Big Oil-friendly theories as equivalent. “It took a while for newspapers to realize that this was not a great way to go,” Westervelt said.

It seems like many in the media have decided to stop playing along. And there are other signs that the tide is turning against the oil industry. Once the world’s most valuable company, Exxon’s stock has dropped by a third over the last five years, wiping away nearly $200 billion in market value. Jim Cramer, the loudmouth host of CNBC’s Mad Money, recently said that it’s time to ditch oil stocks. Even public relations companies are now taking their services elsewhere.

“As soon as an industry starts to get an irretrievably bad image, the PR folks start dropping off, and the industry has to find somebody else to do this stuff,” Westervelt said. She said she has seen oil companies turn to more obscure consulting groups, like FGI Consulting and the DCI group, to do their PR work.

The fossil fuel industry is starting to move away from publicly denying the facts about climate change (which isn’t working as well these days) and back toward pro-oil, all-American messaging, like the new ads from the American Petroleum Institute that tout oil and natural gas as “energy progress.” If only Big Oil was as good at cutting greenhouse gas emissions as it was at marketing.

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How the oil industry pumped Americans full of fake news

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It’s not just Australia — Indonesia is facing its own climate disaster

It’s not just Australia that’s having a rough start to the new year. Indonesia’s sinking capital of Jakarta and the surrounding areas have been inundated with rain, triggering landslides and floods that have killed dozens of people.

As of Tuesday, the torrential downpours have left at least 67 people dead as rising waters deluged more than 180 neighborhoods and landslides buried at least a dozen Indonesians. Search missions for survivors are still ongoing, and officials say the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are found.

Indonesia’s national meteorological agency said the rainfall on New Year’s Day was the heaviest downpour in a 24-hour period since Dutch colonists began record-keeping in the 1860s. Although floodwaters are starting to subside, the Indonesian Red Cross Society warned people to expect more severe rainfall in the coming days.

Dasril Roszandi / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The communities most vulnerable to flooding are those in poor neighborhoods — especially slums located near wastewater, which can spread pathogens when combined with flooding. More than 1,000 soldiers and health workers were dispatched to use disinfectant sprays in these areas on Sunday to prevent the spread of disease.

Jakarta, which is home to about 10 million people, is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and extreme weather. It also has dangerous levels of air pollution and the largest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia. On top of that, the city’s rapidly growing population has faced major water shortages in recent years due to a dearth of groundwater. Meanwhile, rivers are polluted with garbage, and researchers say that at least 20 tons of trash are dumped in the Jakarta Bay each day.

Donal Husni / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The city is sinking as quickly as 9 inches a year in some neighborhoods, and about half of it is already below sea level. The country is also the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, mostly due to the country’s deforestation habit. And if Indonesia and the rest of the world don’t take measures to slash emissions drastically, researchers say that 95 percent of northern Jakarta will be submerged by 2050.

The country has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement, but the government is still set to rely on coal to generate electricity for the next decade. And a recent survey from YouGov and the University of Cambridge revealed that a whopping 18 percent of Indonesians believe there’s zero link between human activity and the climate crisis.

Ed Wray / Getty Images

Last summer, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced that the capital city will be relocated to the island of Borneo, hundreds of miles northeast of Jakarta, by 2023. But don’t assume that amounts to an acknowledgement of the climate crisis.

“I don’t think the climate is necessarily the reason for the Indonesian government to move the capital,” Rukka Sombolinggi, an indigenous leader from the Toraja ethnic group, said during a press conference at the United Nations General Assembly last year. “It’s simply because the capital is just so overwhelmed and crowded with people, making the traffic and the quality of air and water terribly alarming.”

The irony is that Indonesia also holds one of the most effective tools to fight against climate change: mangroves. These tall trees growing in coastal waters can remove and store carbon humans have emitted into the atmosphere. But instead of protecting and expanding mangrove ecosystems, the government has continued to allow corporations to slash and burn mangroves for palm oil production, thus producing more carbon emissions.

And even in the wake of devastating floods, the Indonesian government plans to stay the course. Two government ministers told Reuters this week that they have no plans to change their climate policy after the New Year’s flooding. But the head of the country’s meteorological agency minced no words about the impact of climate change on the floods’ severity. “The impact of a 1-degree increase can be severe,” Dwikorita Karnawati told reporters on Friday. “Among that is these floods.”

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It’s not just Australia — Indonesia is facing its own climate disaster

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When the Earth Had Two Moons – Erik Asphaug


When the Earth Had Two Moons

Cannibal Planets, Icy Giants, Dirty Comets, Dreadful Orbits, and the Origins of the Night Sky

Erik Asphaug

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: October 29, 2019

Publisher: Custom House


An astonishing exploration of planet formation and the origins of life by one of the world’s most innovative planetary geologists. In 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 took the first photos of the far side of the moon. Even in their poor resolution, the images stunned scientists: the far side is an enormous mountainous expanse, not the vast lava-plains seen from Earth. Subsequent missions have confirmed this in much greater detail. How could this be, and what might it tell us about our own place in the universe? As it turns out, quite a lot. Fourteen billion years ago, the universe exploded into being, creating galaxies and stars. Planets formed out of the leftover dust and gas that coalesced into larger and larger bodies orbiting around each star. In a sort of heavenly survival of the fittest, planetary bodies smashed into each other until solar systems emerged. Curiously, instead of being relatively similar in terms of composition, the planets in our solar system, and the comets, asteroids, satellites and rings, are bewitchingly distinct. So, too, the halves of our moon. In When the Earth Had Two Moons, esteemed planetary geologist Erik Asphaug takes us on an exhilarating tour through the farthest reaches of time and our galaxy to find out why. Beautifully written and provocatively argued, When the Earth Had Two Moons is not only a mind-blowing astronomical tour but a profound inquiry into the nature of life here—and billions of miles from home.

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When the Earth Had Two Moons – Erik Asphaug

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Red sky, flying embers: Australia’s fires are the first climate disaster of the decade

Wildfires scorched almost every continent in 2019, but the ongoing wildfires in Australia have caused unprecedented damage.

As fires have blanketed more than 12 million acres of land in Australia, killing at least 20 people and leveling more than 1,000 homes, tens of thousands of people have evacuated to safer ground while many are missing. On Thursday, the Australian state of New South Wales — which includes Sydney, the country’s largest city — declared its third state of emergency since November, and experts say the flames are getting worse. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service issued a fire spread prediction map that shows where the flames are projected to expand over the weekend as weather conditions deteriorate.

A record-breaking heatwave and ongoing drought caused by extreme temperature patterns in the Indian Ocean — all connected to climate change — created the conditions allowing these exceptionally intense wildfires to thrive. For those of us outside of Australia, photos of blood-orange skies, thick gray smoke, and people fleeing for their lives offer a small but devastating glimpse at the first major climate catastrophe of the 2020s.

Helicopters dump water on bushfires as they approach homes located on the outskirts of the town of Bargo on December 21, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. David Gray / Getty Images

This picture taken on December 31, 2019 shows firefighters struggling against the strong wind in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales. Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images

Smoke and flames rise from burning trees as bushfires hit the area around the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales on December 31, 2019. Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images

Cars line up to leave the town of Batemans Bay in New South Wales to head north on January 2, 2020. Peter Parks / AFP via Getty Images

Tourists walk with a dog through dense smoke from bushfires in front of the Batemans Bay bridge as cars line up to leave the town in New South Wales to head north on January 2, 2020. Peter Parks / AFP via Getty Images

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Red sky, flying embers: Australia’s fires are the first climate disaster of the decade

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9 Commitments to Make This World Oceans Day & How to Keep Them

Imagine getting out of bed in the morning, and instead of hitting the floor, your feet land in a pile of garbage. As you make your way to the kitchen, you become more and more entangled in the debris.

You?eventually get to your destination, but you’ve lost all feeling in your lower limbs. The harder you tug, the tighter the grip becomes. You spot some granola on the counter. If you can’t move, you may as well have a snack, right?

One mouthful and you’re gagging. It looks like granola but it’s actually more trash. Now what? You can’t move, and you’re probably going to die because you ate something you shouldn’t have.

Welcome to the life of our ocean’s many inhabitants.

According to figures published in Science in 2015, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year. To the untrained eye, a lot of that garbage looks like food.?Sea turtles, for example, favor a diet of jellyfish and can quite easily mistake plastic bags floating for jellyfish. Scientists recently?discovered that animals also “eat ocean plastic because?it smells like food.”

Our Oceans are in Trouble

Along with serving as the planet’s largest habitat ? an estimated 50-80 percent of all life on earth?lives beneath the ocean surface ? the ocean also helps to regulate the global climate.

[Watch] Oceans 101 | National Geographic

Climate change is changing that. These are a few of the ways that’s happening:

As ocean temperatures rise, storms increase, delicate ocean life comes under threat and food chains are disrupted.
Rising sea levels cause flooding in coastal regions.
Ocean acidification results in lower levels of carbonate ions, making it difficult for calcifying organisms such as deep sea corals, oysters, clams, etc. to build and maintain shells.
Ocean dead zones (the name given to areas with low oxygen levels) are also increasing, thanks to pollution and climate change.

Humans Are at the Heart of the Problem

Our oceans face a multitude of threats, and human activities are at the heart of the problem. According to National Geographic, “More than 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities.”

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise. Plastic pollution is choking the ocean and its inhabitants. Agricultural pesticides contaminate our water. Factories and industrial plants dump their sewage in the ocean. Out at sea, oil spills, poaching, overfishing, bycatch, illegal whaling and offshore drilling unleash a whole other set of manmade problems.

On the bright side, if humans are the problem, then we can also be the solution.

At a global level, UNESCO has instituted the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Taking place between 2021-2030, the decade is being hailed as “a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to strengthen the management of our oceans and coasts for the benefit of humanity.”

[Watch] Explaining the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

How to Fight Ocean Plastic

World Oceans Day is an opportunity for all of us to step up and make a difference. Change begins in our homes, at the grocery store and in the way we live our lives. These are some ways you can “be the change” in your day-to-day life.

1.?Stop Eating Fish and Seafood

Many argue that eating fish and seafood is fine, so long as it’s sustainably sourced. I’d argue (and I’m not alone) that sustainable fishing is a myth. How can we call any type of fishing sustainable when most of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from fishing gear?

Bycatch is another real issue, resulting in the deaths of thousands of marine turtles, dolphins, porpoises and young whales (to name a few) each year.

2. Support Organizations Working to Save Our Oceans

A super easy way to make a difference is simply by supporting the organizations that work to save our oceans.

3.?Avoid Beauty Products that Contain Microplastics

Microplastics have a devastating effect on the environment, and you can find them in a host of beauty products, from scrubs and eyeliner to lipstick and sunscreen.

Make a point of supporting ethical, eco-conscious businesses that use only natural and organic ingredients. Alternatively, whip up your own DIY beauty products.

4.?Take Care of Your Beaches

Go on regular beach cleanups. You can join a group, create your own or go solo, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to get out there and pick up some trash.

If you don’t live near the beach then support an organization that’s cleaning up the ocean.

5.?Be a Responsible Pet Owner

Don’t flush your kitty litter down the toilet. Keep seafood sustainability front of mind when buying food for Fido or Trixie.

If you have an aquarium, wild-caught saltwater fish are a big no-no. And while we’re on the subject, never release aquarium fish into the ocean or river.

6.?Avoid Products From the Ocean

Coastal towns are known for their sea-inspired souvenirs. Some of these keepsakes are harmless, but a lot of times they’re made from endangered marine life.

Never buy tortoiseshell hair accessories, coral jewelry, shark products (teeth, fins, etc.) or cosmetics containing traces of whales or sharks.

7.?Use Environmentally-Friendly Products

When you clean your home, the products you use go down the drain and into our water sources before finally making their way to the sea. Whether you’re doing the dishes or scrubbing the bath, make sure you use something that isn’t harmful to the environment.

You can either buy eco-friendly products or create your own DIY green cleaning kit.

8.?Recycle With Care

Most people nowadays recycle. The problem comes in when we’re lazy about it. Tossing a greasy pizza box or dirty aluminum can into your blue bin?can?contaminate an entire batch of recycling. Something that could have been recycled will end up on the landfill as a result.

Take the time to “up your recycling game” so the right things end up in recycling.

9.?Say Sayonara to Single Use Plastic

With an estimated eight million tons of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans each year, bidding farewell to single-use plastic should be something every human commits to. Living zero-waste?is easier than you think, it just takes a little planning and forethought.

There are plenty of common items that you can replace with zero-waste alternatives. There are also a number of products you can carry with you at all times to help you avoid unnecessary packaging, such as a water bottle, coffee cup and on-the-go cutlery set.

I get that avoiding single-use plastic completely is a huge challenge. Companies package in accordance with their bottom line, and that invariably has nothing to do with the environment. The solution? Create an eco brick. You’d be amazed by how much trash can be squished into one bottle. Take a look at this recent Facebook post of our own ecobrick in progress:

There you have it. A whole lot of reasons to save of our oceans and a bunch of ways to do just that. Happy World Oceans Day.

Take Action

Want to go a step further? Join over 55,000 Care2 members, and?sign and share the petition?to?support efforts to?save marine mammals from being strangled to death by manmade trash.

If?you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can?create a Care2 petition, and use this?handy guide?to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

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9 Commitments to Make This World Oceans Day & How to Keep Them

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10 Simple Hacks for an Eco-Friendly Bedroom

You might wake up every day with good intentions to take care of the planet. But are you an eco-warrior in your sleep? With some sustainable design choices, your sleep space can be healthy both for you and the environment. Here are 10 simple hacks for a more eco-friendly bedroom.

1. Choose organic bedding

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Pesticides aren?t just something to avoid on your food. It?s also ideal to look for bedding and other fabrics that are organic and produced in a sustainable manner. ?The cotton industry uses one quarter of all the pesticides that are consumed in the world,? Greg Snowden, founder of the Green Fusion Design Center, tells HGTV. ?For that reason alone, it’s important to support organic cotton sheets and bedding.? Opting for chemical-free bedding also means you won?t be absorbing toxins into your skin as you sleep. ?Be suspect when you see the words ?repellents? or ?proof? on bedding labels, which indicate the product has been treated with chemicals,? HGTV says.

2. Go green with your mattress

When it comes to furnishing a bedroom, your mattress is probably the most important choice you?ll make. After all, getting enough quality sleep is vital to your health and well-being. Your mattress should support you through a comfortable night?s sleep ? and it shouldn?t have any qualities that adversely affect your health. ?Choose a mattress that’s toxin-free and doesn’t contain polyurethane foam and fire-retardants such as PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers),? HGTV says. ?? Green options include organic wool- and cotton-filled mattresses that are just as comfortable as a chemical-filled mattress. The greenest option is latex.?

3. Avoid down filling

Although some companies are trying to source down feathers via slightly less horrifying methods (such as not plucking live birds), don?t be fooled into thinking down bedding is friendly to the environment or the animals. Buying a down product might mean you?re supporting ?the cruelty of the foie gras and meat industries because many farmers who raise birds for food make an extra profit by selling their feathers as well,? according to PETA. And we know the meat industry is a major contributor to climate change. So choose vegan fillings, such as cotton or buckwheat, for an all around friendlier option.

4. Give old furniture new life

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

If you?re looking to refresh your bedroom decor, make something old new again. New furniture not only is typically more expensive, but it also takes more resources to produce and ship. So take inventory of what you already have if you?re doing a bedroom redesign. Even if you?re not that handy, there are many easy DIY tactics to give furniture a facelift. Or check local thrift stores and antique shops for pieces that meet your needs. ?You can often find old headboards to upholster or paint, giving a singular look to the bed for less,? according to HGTV. ?An old door turned on its side and wall mounted is another eco-friendly, and rustic, solution.? And try to keep any large furniture pieces on the neutral side, so you can continue to use them even if your decorating style changes.

5. Use low/no-VOC paints and stains

If you are going the DIY route, make sure any paints, stains and other products you use have little to no volatile organic compounds. VOCs are a major pollutant of indoor air and are found in many household products, including paints, solvents, wood preservatives and adhesives, according to the EPA. They can cause short- and long-term health effects, such as headaches, dizziness, breathing issues and cancer. And many of these products are considered hazardous waste that can pollute water and destroy ecosystems. So buy the greenest products possible for your projects. Use them according to label instructions, and dispose of them safely.

6. Reuse or recycle old fabric

It?s not just old furniture that you can repurpose for your eco-friendly bedroom. You also can take a green approach to your fabric choices. There?s a lot of fabric in bedrooms ? sheets, duvet covers, blankets, curtains, etc. And while buying organic bedding is a plus for the environment, don?t forget some other sustainable strategies. ?For inexpensive DIY pillows or curtain panels, visit fabric shops and ask for their leftover material scraps,? HGTV says. ?Or, repurpose old blankets and sheets for a comforter that’s completely your own.? And if you have old fabric items you?re not going to use, either donate them or bring them to a facility that takes textile recycling.

7. Open windows

For your best sleep, experts suggest your bedroom should be somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Sleep.org. But that doesn?t mean you always have to snooze in a climate-controlled environment. Open windows anytime the weather allows it to take advantage of the cool night air (and to chase out some of those indoor air toxins). If opening windows isn?t an option, opt for a fan in the bedroom. ?Buy a stylish ceiling fan to circulate hot and cool air, and save money on energy bills,? HGTV says.

8. Add insulating decor

Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Speaking of windows, the bedroom is an ideal space to hang thicker, insulating window treatments that can block hot and cold outdoor air ? as well as light for those mornings when you want to sleep in. And this kind of insulating, energy-saving decor doesn?t stop at the windows. Adding rugs to the bedroom also can reduce your need for climate control, especially in the colder months. ?We all like the feel of soft rugs under our feet, but did you know that putting down layers of rugs will stop heat escaping from a room?? Ikea says. ?So turn up the rugs, and you could be turning down the thermostat.?

9. Choose dimmer bulbs

The bedroom probably isn?t a place where you need bright lighting. So an easy way to conserve some energy is by replacing all your bedroom lighting with dimmer LED bulbs. ?LED lights last for around 20 years, which significantly cuts down on the number of times you?ll have to change the bulbs,? Ikea says. ?Not only that, you?ll be cutting down your electricity bill too, as LED uses 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs.? And if you fall asleep with those LEDs still on, you won?t have to feel so bad about the energy you?ve wasted.

10. Make space to hang clothes

Clothing is a whole other category that impacts the environment. And one way you can make your bedroom more conducive to eco-friendly choices is by setting up an area to hang clothes you don?t want to put in your closet. This can be a spot for air-drying clothes. Or it can be a place to keep clothes that simply need to air out a little, rather than a full wash. ?Hang trousers or tops up on hooks overnight and you won?t need to wash them so often, saving water and time spent ironing,? Ikea says. Along those lines, aim to keep your closet decluttered. Know what you have in there, so you can shop your own closet instead of wasting resources on extraneous purchases.

Main image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

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10 Simple Hacks for an Eco-Friendly Bedroom

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9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

Do you love fresh herbs but lack the space to grow them in a garden? That’s what container gardens are for. Several varieties of herbs can thrive in containers?even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Here are nine herbs suitable for container gardens, as well as some helpful container gardening tips.

1. Basil

Credit: OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If you cook up a lot of Italian dishes, a basil plant is a must. Basil prefers full sun and moist, well-draining soil, but you usually can get away with keeping it in a little shade if you must. A sunny windowsill indoors also can work.

In the summer months, you might see white flowers on your basil that ultimately will produce woody stems and less flavorful leaves. “Snip away flowering stems as soon as you spot them to promote new, tasty foliage,” according to the Better Homes & Gardens plant encyclopedia.

Harvest basil by picking as many individual leaves as you need or clipping sprigs and storing them in water at room temperature, like cut flowers.

2. Chives

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Chives are generally a low-maintenance herb ideal for beginning gardeners.

“Chives grow best in full sun and well-drained soil,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “They tolerate part shade well and will grow and blossom when they receive at least 6 hours of bright, direct light.” They also self-seed and tolerate transplanting particularly well, making it easy to propagate your plant.

Harvest chives by snipping stems near the soil as needed to add a fresh, onion-like flavor to dishes.

3. Lavender

Light requirements: full sun

Lavender isn’t always easy to grow indoors because of its sun requirements, but it can flourish in an outdoor container garden, as long as you use well-draining soil.

“Every part of the plant is infused with aromatic oil, making this a choice herb to place along pathways or near outdoor seating areas so you can savor the fragrance,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

You can cut entire flower stems to dry for use in recipes or aromatherapy.

4. Mint

Credit: Mableen/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Mint seems like it can manage to grow practically anywhere and everywhere. And that’s partially why growing it in a container is ideal: It won’t spread to places where you don’t want it.

“For the most productive plants with the most flavor, plant mint in soil rich in organic matter and provide consistent moisture,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “Although many varieties tolerate drought, they won’t grow as well or have as good a flavor.”

Harvest mint in the morning before the sun has had a chance to dry the leaves. You can either pick leaves as needed or cut back stems to promote a fuller plant.

5. Oregano

Light requirements: full sun

Like lavender, oregano also requires a lot of light and would prefer to be in a sunny outdoor container garden. Plus, good drainage is a must.

Try to harvest oregano frequently to prevent the plant from flowering, which diminishes its flavor and produces woody stems. That might mean cutting some to dry for later use. “To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer,” Better Homes & Gardens says. “Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation.”

6. Parsley

Light requirements: full sun

Parsley also makes a great addition to outdoor container gardens, preferring sun and rich, moist soil. “Place the container gardens on a patio or deck where they receive at least eight hours of bright sunlight a day,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

When harvesting, cut outer stems about an inch above the soil. Use parsley fresh, wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to a month or dry the leaves for later use.

7. Sage

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Sage is a tough herb that can tolerate drought and likes well-draining soil. This makes the plant generally low-maintenance?though adequate watering and ample sunlight make for tastier foliage.

Pick leaves as you need them, or take stems for drying, cutting the top six to eight inches of growth. Plus, don’t hesitate to let the plant bloom if you’re not overly concerned about harvesting top-notch leaves. “Sage’s light blue flowers and gray/green foliage help it look at home in any flower border,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

8. Tarragon

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If French cooking is your thing, try growing your very own tarragon plant. “With a sunny window and rich soil, you can raise French tarragon indoors,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “If light isn’t strong enough, stems will likely sprawl and leaf flavor will diminish, but you’ll still be able to savor the licorice taste.”

Cut the leaves as needed ? preferably regularly to encourage more growth. And if you’re adding fresh tarragon to hot dishes, do so right before serving, as heat can lessen its flavor.

9. Thyme

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Light requirements: full sun

Thyme can make a great groundcover in your garden that actually deters some pests. But it also grows effectively in containers, as long as it gets enough sun.

Because the herb is native to Mediterranean areas with poor, rocky soil, it prefers to be in a well-draining container?and doesn’t require much care from you. Just prune it to encourage new growth, taking bunches to dry if you don’t need it fresh.

Container Gardening Tips

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Growing herbs in containers is typically an easy process, as long as you get a few major components right. Here are five container gardening tips from MiracleGro.

1. Harness the sun.

“In general, choose a spot that receives six or more hours of sun, except in the very warmest regions, where herbs appreciate afternoon shade,” MiracleGro says.

Be aware of each plant’s light requirements, and place them accordingly. A perk of container gardening is it allows you to shift plants throughout the day to more (or less) sunny spots.

2. Provide proper pots and soil.

Many herbs prefer well-draining soil, which also means your pot needs plenty of drainage holes.

“Containers must be large enough to contain the herb’s root system and keep the plant itself upright,” according to MiracleGro. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that’s at least one-third as tall as the final height of the herb listed on the plant tag or seed packet.”

3. Water and feed as needed.

Although?some herbs prefer drier conditions, you still should keep a regular watering schedule. Follow instructions for individual plant varieties, but in general water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Likewise, some herbs need feeding to continue producing quality foliage. Check the plant’s care instructions to maximize your harvest.

4. Don’t fall in love with the flowers.

The flowers that bloom on herbs are great for attracting pollinators and other animals to your garden. But a flowering plant usually means less tasty foliage for you.

To preserve your herbs’ culinary quality, pinch off blossoms as you see them?though in some cases you actually can use the flowers in your dishes.

5. Learn the best harvesting methods.

It’s important to know how to harvest your herbs to maintain healthy growth. “When you harvest leaves on herbs that grow in clumps (like chives, lemongrass, cilantro, or parsley), pick outer leaves first, working your way toward the center of the plant,” MiracleGro says. “For herbs that have an upright stem with a growing point, like mint, stevia, basil, or oregano, snip individual branches.”

With just a little gardening know-how, you’ll always have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

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


9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

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15 Green Challenges Just in Time for Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day ? a day of political and civic action focused on protecting our planet. Because every person counts when it comes to eco-friendly actions, here are 15 green challenges to try this Earth Day.

1. Take a shorter shower

Start your Earth Day on an eco-friendly note by taking a shorter shower than normal. Set a timer to really challenge yourself ? and bonus points if you keep the water on the colder side. ?Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too,? according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. ?That’s because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water.? Be sure you also turn off the water while brushing your teeth. And if you have any leaky fixtures, make Earth Day the day you finally get them fixed.

2. Buy local

If you?re doing any shopping on Earth Day, make a point only to go to local establishments ? especially restaurants that serve food produced in the area. ?In North America, fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before reaching your plate,? according to the World Wildlife Fund. If you have a farmers market open near you, head over to stock up on fresh, local produce.

3. Green your commute

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Challenge yourself to a greener commute in the spirit of Earth Day by biking, walking or using public transit. ?If 25 percent of Americans today used mass transit or other alternatives to driving for their daily commute, annual transportation emissions nationwide would be slashed by up to 12 percent,? according to the NRDC. If ditching your car isn?t an option, at least see whether you can carpool with someone ? even if it?s just to run errands. Every little bit counts.

4. Take your car for a tuneup

Speaking of driving, Earth Day is a fitting day to take your car in for a tuneup. ?If all Americans kept their tires properly inflated, we could save 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year,? the NRDC says. ?A simple tune-up can boost miles per gallon anywhere from 4 percent to 40 percent, and a new air filter can get you a 10 percent boost.? So check your tires and schedule your car for other service if necessary to make sure you?re rolling as eco-friendly as possible.

5. Check for expiring food

Make Earth Day the day you finally clean out your refrigerator and pantry, checking for expired and almost-expired food. ?Approximately 10 percent of U.S. energy use goes into growing, processing, packaging, and shipping food ? about 40 percent of which just winds up in the landfill,? according to the NRDC. So if you find items that will expire soon, work them into your meal plan before they do.

6. Go vegan

If you eat a plant-based or mostly plant-based diet, you?ve already won this challenge. If not, at least make Earth Day a vegan day. ?Since livestock products are among the most resource-intensive to produce, eating meat-free meals can make a big difference,? the NRDC says. And who knows? You might discover some great vegan options to regularly incorporate into your meals.

7. Wash on the lowest settings possible

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If you have laundry to do, keep it as eco-friendly as possible. ?Using cold water can save up to 80 percent of the energy required to wash clothes,? according to the WWF. ?Choosing a low setting on the washing machine will also help save water.? Similarly, if you?re washing dishes, try to run a full load in the dishwasher instead of handwashing, which actually uses more water.

8. Switch off and unplug

You don?t have to go out on Earth Day and buy all new energy-efficient appliances (unless you really want to). But you can use the day to hunt for ?energy vampires? ? i.e., electronics and other appliances drawing power even when they?re not technically in use. Some examples include a computer sitting idle instead of fully shut down or even a coffee maker left plugged in just to keep that little clock functioning. Switch off and unplug what you don?t need to slay those vampires.

9. Green your lighting

Again, you probably won?t be purchasing new efficient appliances on Earth Day, but maybe you can pick up some more efficient lighting. If you haven?t already, make the switch to LED bulbs. ?LED lightbulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than conventional incandescents,? according to the NRDC. ?They?re also cheaper in the long run: A 10-watt LED that replaces your traditional 60-watt bulb will save you $125 over the lightbulb?s life.? Plus, instead of always using overhead lighting with multiple bulbs, try positioning some lamps around your home and even at work to lower your energy use.

10. Tweak the thermostat

Depending on where you live, you might be using the heat or the air-conditioning (or neither) when Earth Day rolls around. If you?re in a climate-controlled environment, tweak the thermostat just a little bit, so it kicks on less often. ?Moving your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year,? according to the WWF.

11. Look for air leaks

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Fixing air leaks in your home can potentially save around 10 percent to 20 percent on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Not only is that great for your wallet, but the environment will thank you, too. Some common places to look are around windows and doors, baseboards, vents and fans, fireplace dampers and the attic hatch. Plus, check your fridge to make sure its seal is still strong.

12. Broaden your recycling knowledge

If you already recycle, that?s great. Definitely don?t get lazy about it on Earth Day. But how well-versed are you in recycling protocol? Recycling rules sometimes vary by community, and there?s a chance you?re unwittingly recycling something that clogs the machines or otherwise just belongs in the trash. Find your local rules, and read through them to make sure you?re doing things correctly.

13. Take special recyclables to the correct facilities

As long as you?re thinking about recycling, use Earth Day to gather any special recyclables that can?t go in your normal recycling bins, and take them to the proper drop-off facilities. Often there are recycling events on Earth Day that accept items, such as old electronics and batteries. Check your community calendar, so you don?t miss events for any special recyclables you want to get rid of.

14. Sign up for e-bills

This Earth Day challenge should only take you a few minutes. If you?re still getting paper bills or other mailers you don?t need, change your settings to get the electronic versions instead. ?In the United States, paper products make up the largest percentage of municipal solid waste, and hard copy bills alone generate almost 2 million tons of CO2,? according to the WWF. Likewise, tell companies to take you off their mailing lists for advertisements (you can find all those online nowadays anyway), and ask for digital receipts and records whenever possible.

15. Ask for eco-friendly additions at work

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You might not have as much control at your office as you do at home in terms of making the place more eco-friendly. But you still can put in some requests. Ask for eco-friendly additions, such as recycling bins if you don?t already have them or 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper products. Challenge your colleagues to bring in reusable mugs and water bottles instead of using paper or (gasp) Styrofoam cups. And if you have an office coffee pot, try to get people on board with purchasing one of the more eco-friendly coffee brands (and definitely not the single-serve coffee pods).

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


15 Green Challenges Just in Time for Earth Day

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These Products Will Turn You into a Zero-Waste Superstar

Let’s not beat around the organic bush. Living a zero-waste lifestyle takes effort. I mean, you’re basically thumbing your nose at convenience.

The thing is, convenience comes at a price, and it’s a lot more than the cost of your Starbucks grand? double-mocha with extra cream.?Convenience?means leaving a trail of single-use plastic in your wake.

None of us sets out to do harm. We’re just opting for easy in a world that’s too busy. Unfortunately, easy invariably comes with consequences. Imagine knowing your straw was responsible for?this:

5 Zero-Waste?Products

Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle might take some effort, but it’s not hard. If everyone carried these five items with them, we’d stem the tide of trash that we’re washing into our rivers and?oceans.

1.?Collapsible Coffee Cup

Given the amount of coffee and tea we indulge in on a daily basis, keeping a cup in your bag is a no brainer. The problem is, most reusable cups are unwieldy, especially if you’re a grand? double-mocha kind of person (and who isn’t?).

The solution: Get a collapsible coffee mug. They’re leak-proof and much easier to stow than their bulky, full-sized cousins. How ingenious!

2.?Bamboo Straw

Biodegradable straws are de rigueur in a lot of hippie and health-conscious establishments, but most mainstream outlets are still all about the bottom line. That approach doesn’t allow for anything other single-use plastic straws.

The solution: Invest in some reusable straws. (One for you and the rest for your envious table mates.) You get all different types (stainless steel, silicon, glass, etc.), but I like bamboo, because it’s best for the environment.

3.?Filtered Water Bottle

More and more companies are turning plastic bottles into jackets, but that’s not a good enough reason to grab a bottle of Evian with your lunch. Plastic water bottle pollution is worse than you think, with only one in every six bottles being recycled (or downcycled, really). And that’s just the tip of a two million-ton iceberg.

The solution: A filtered water bottle is the perfect workaround. You get to be a better human and have filtered water on tap. There are plenty to choose from, so it’s up to your budget and personal taste.

4.?On-the-Go Cutlery Set

More and more restaurants and eateries are joining the sustainability movement. It’s gratifying to see them providing wooden utensils rather than the usual plastic cutlery we’re accustomed to. But, like with straws, the movement is still in its infancy.

The solution: Buy an on-the-go cutlery set. It’s worth spending the money on a quality kit, as a poorly made knife or fork that doesn’t do the job is enough to ruin a good lunch.

5.?Lunch Box/Food Container

Making your own food from scratch is better for your health, your budget and your zero-waste efforts. But let’s face it: not everyone has the time or the inclination to spend the weekend meal prepping.

Maybe going to your favorite deli for lunch is how you indulge in ‘me time.’ Perhaps enjoying a meal out with friends and family is your preferred way to socialize. I get it.

The solution: Get a lunch box/food container and ask the deli to serve your meal in there instead of their plastic takeout containers. And when you go out for dinner, guess where your leftovers go?

Using these five items will drastically reduce the amount of trash you create on a daily basis. If this is all you did, you’d make a significant difference to the environment. You could stop there and still feel really good about your zero-waste efforts.

If you want?take your mission?next level, though, you could switch up your beauty routine, shop at zero-waste stores and even try your hand at a little apartment composting.

The next thing you know you’ll have been living a zero-waste for a full year.

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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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These Products Will Turn You into a Zero-Waste Superstar

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Why Regenerative Agriculture is the Future of Food

As we face an ever-growing need to combat climate change, many people around the world are looking at how we produce our food. Agriculture has a strong effect on climate change (and vice versa). While some methods contribute to higher pollution and environmental degradation, others actually have the potential to reverse climate change. And one of those practices is regenerative agriculture.

Defining regenerative agriculture

The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative of California State University, Chico and The Carbon Underground ? in conjunction with several other companies and organizations ? worked together to create a definition for regenerative agriculture. The goal was to give a basic meaning to the relatively new term and to prevent it from being ?watered down,? according to The Carbon Underground.

??Regenerative Agriculture? describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity ? resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle,? the definition reads. ?Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.?

According to Regeneration International, the objective is to continuously improve the land, ?using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment.? The practice also helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions ? a key factor in battling climate change. In a nutshell, farmers aim to leave the environment better than when they found it.

Although many of regenerative agriculture?s core tenets are similar to organic farming, the practices are not synonymous. Both farming methods do discourage the use of synthetic chemicals, though regenerative farmers might not necessarily be certified organic. And organic agriculture doesn?t guarantee a carbon drawdown, according to The Carbon Underground. Plus, unlike organic food, there?s no certification yet for regenerative products ? though a pilot program is in the works for farmers who practice regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture practices

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So what exactly do regenerative farmers do? The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative-The Carbon Underground definition lays out four main practices.

1. Contribute to soil building and fertility.

Regenerative agriculture discourages soil tillage. ?Tillage breaks up (pulverizes) soil aggregation and fungal communities while adding excess O2 to the soil for increased respiration and CO2 emission,? the definition document says. Besides carbon loss, it can lead to soil erosion and increased water runoff. Furthermore, farmers increase soil fertility through biological methods, including the use of cover crops, crop rotation, compost and manure. They avoid synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can create an imbalance in the soil?s microbiome, diminish nutrients and lead to weaker plants.

2. Improve water cleanliness and retention.

Avoiding synthetic chemicals also makes for less water pollution ? another core tenet of regenerative agriculture. Farmers have efficient irrigation systems to optimize water use and prevent contamination. Plus, as farmers work to improve the soil, this increases its ability for water retention. Among many other factors, limiting tillage is one practice that enhances water infiltration and retention.

3. Increase biodiversity, and boost the health of the ecosystem.

Regenerative farmers aim to protect natural ecosystems. ?Building biological ecosystem diversity begins with inoculation of soils with composts or compost extracts to restore soil microbial community population, structure and functionality,? according to the definition document. Again, farmers avoid synthetic chemicals on which plants can become dependent and fail to thrive naturally. They take soil samples to guide them in finding the right nutrient balance. And they use plants to attract beneficial insects.

4. Lessen CO2 emissions by diverting carbon back into the soil.

As regenerative farmers carefully manage their land and promote a healthy, natural ecosystem, it helps to increase carbon in the soil and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, the farmers? avoidance of synthetic chemicals also helps to combat climate change, as they?re often produced using high levels of fossil fuels. As for livestock, regenerative agriculture involves well-managed grazing practices that lead to better land, healthier animals and lower carbon dioxide and methane emissions.

What?s in it for us?

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Regenerative agriculture offers several benefits to the global population ? and even noticeable ones to us as individuals. These are just a few, according to Regeneration International.

Boosts food?s nutrition

Regenerative agriculture tends to produce healthy, resilient plants. And as consumers, we benefit from this with more nutritious food. The nutrient-dense soil passes on that nourishment to the crops ? and our bodies. Plus, thanks to farmers nurturing the natural ecosystem, it?s better able to filter out pollution and chemicals from our food.

Restores nature

Regenerative agriculture is just that ? regenerative. Its methods help to improve biodiversity, which ?is fundamental to agricultural production and food security, as well as a valuable ingredient of environmental conservation,? according to Regeneration International. Plus, the farmers? grazing strategies work to restore grasslands that have been degraded.

Benefits local economics

Family farmers have taken a key role in regenerative agriculture. These are people who have a strong working knowledge of their local land and how best to sustainably manage it. So support of regenerative agriculture benefits these farmers and their local economies. Plus, keeping them in business means preserving the more traditional, environmentally friendly farming practices that go back generations.

Combats climate change

Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change around the world. ?The current industrial food system is responsible for 44 to 57% of all global greenhouse gas emissions,? Regeneration International says. But regenerative agriculture has the potential to reverse this damage. Not only does it contribute lower emissions than conventional farming, but it has the ability to sequester more carbon in the soil, rather than in our atmosphere.

Feeds the global population

As the global population grows, food production will have to adjust one way or another. Continuing to use conventional farming methods likely would mean more deforestation ? and higher greenhouse gas emissions. But shifting to more widespread use of regenerative agriculture could lessen that blow. Regenerative farming conditions work to naturally protect crops from disease, pests, drought and more. This improves yields without having to add chemicals or other factors that can harm the environment. Thus, it could be a way to sustainably feed the global population for generations to come.

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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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Why Regenerative Agriculture is the Future of Food

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