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Broke Is the New Green

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Planet-friendly products are getting easier to find, but they’re still too expensive for most people to buy.

If you can’t afford fair trade coffee, organic cotton towels, and reclaimed wood tables, environmentalism can seem like a cause you can’t join. It’s good to shop your values, but the truth is, you can’t shop your way to sustainability. If you’re too broke to shop green, there’s a pretty good chance that you are already living that way.


Housing ties with transportation as Americans’ biggest direct carbon impacts, making fantasies of off-grid homesteading or net-zero efficiency hard to resist. At least, they would be if they weren’t so expensive.

As inspiring as these sorts of homes are, it takes 15 to 20 years for a net-zero house to offset the carbon emissions from its own construction. Which means that energy retrofits to an old house are not only much cheaper than moving to a new one, they are just as green.

Density, meaning both the size of your home or the number of people you squeeze into it, lowers per capita emissions more than almost any other housing change. Besides reduced per capita energy consumption, the benefits cascade into reduced transportation emissions and consumer waste.

In fact, the U.S. could achieve half of its climate targets if everyone got a roommate.


Feel guilty because you can’t afford a Prius? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s true that about 80 percent of a vehicle’s emissions result from driving it rather than manufacturing it. But the exact math on whether it’s greener to buy an efficient new car is not clear cut.

Replacing your 1970s Buick that gets 8 mpg with a 1990s Honda might be greener than buying a new electric vehicle (unless it’s a recycled EV). Next time your old car is in the shop, you can feel extra virtuous.

Walking, biking, and taking public transportation are all greener than driving, no matter what kind of car you own.

Shopping Less

Four-fifths of the impacts that can be attributed to consumers are not direct impacts, but are secondary impacts, the environmental effects of producing the stuff we buy.

If your tight budget has you thinking twice before you head to the register, you are eliminating waste before it’s produced. That’s called precycling, and it’s the greenest consumer choice you can make.

When you really do need to buy stuff, a new organic cotton T-shirt is undoubtedly better than a new one made from conventional cotton. But life cycle analysis shows that by far the most important factor is the number of times consumers wear a garment before throwing it out. Buying second-hand is almost as good as not buying at all, because it extends the life of the product.

Cooking More

Forget fancy dinners at the latest organic, locavore restaurant. Even fast food is more expensive than cooking at home.

What you might not know is that cooking at home produces fewer greenhouse gases than eating the same meal at a restaurant. Plus, you have more influence over your own ingredient choices and food waste at home. Suddenly, making beans and rice starts to look like environmental activism.

Feature image courtesy of  1820796 from Pixabay 


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Broke Is the New Green

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Forget the hype. Here’s the state of clean energy in 6 charts.

The world isn’t putting its money where its mouth is to fight climate change.

That’s the depressing takeaway from an annual report the International Energy Agency released on Tuesday. Worldwide investment in renewable energy fell slightly last year, and the proportion of money budgeted to low-carbon energy has stagnated at 35 percent. The report shows that, despite all the rousing pledges to embrace clean power, governments around the world are still spending most of their investment money on new ways to burn fossil fuels.

“[I]nvestment activity in low-carbon supply and demand is stalling, in part due to insufficient policy focus to address persistent risks,” wrote EIA Executive Director Faith Birol, in the preface of the organization’s World Energy Investment report.

The following five charts from the EIA provide a sense of what is happening.

Here’s the big picture: Since 2105, the world had been pouring smaller amounts of money into all kinds of energy investments — coal, natural gas, and renewables. In 2018, instead of dwindling further, energy investments levelled off. Why? Because the money going into coal mining and oil drilling offset decreases for other projects. Investment in coal supply crept up 2 percent, the first rise since 2012.

There is some good news if you dig down far enough. For instance, the number of electric cars and buses on the roads is shooting up. And they’re displacing vehicles running on oil: “Globally, electric cars and buses sold in 2018 are expected to offset 0.1 million barrels per day of transport oil demand growth,” the report’s authors wrote.

But that’s just a drop in the oil barrel: The report also notes that fracking in the United States alone produces 6 million barrels of oil a day.

We’d need to really goose investment in low-carbon energy to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement in sight, according to this report. In 2018 spending on energy efficiency and nuclear power stayed flat from the previous year, while money for renewable power dropped. Money for batteries grew by almost half, but that’s not as significant as it sounds because we’ve never spent much on batteries.

You know what hasn’t stagnated? Demand for energy. More people around the world are installing air conditioners and gaining access to basic creature comforts like thermostats.

And we’re not building enough low-carbon electric plants to keep up.

“Energy investment is misaligned with where the world appears to be heading, and also far out of step with where it needs to go,” the authors of the report wrote. The graph below suggests that the world needs to double the amount it’s investing in low-carbon energy systems every year to have a reasonable chance of avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels.

At least the amount of government money flowing to science is increasing. And funding for energy research and development is going up.

But even that silver lining has its cloud: The money going to research isn’t keeping up with economic growth in many countries. Even though Europe’s overall economy grew last year, the European Union put a smaller percentage of its money into energy inventions.

These days politicians mostly agree that the risks of climate change are dire, but policies haven’t shifted with the rhetoric. In this snapshot, global movement toward a carbon-free energy system looks more like a tentative tiptoe than a sprint.

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Forget the hype. Here’s the state of clean energy in 6 charts.

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Beto O’Rourke might have an oil money problem

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Beto O’Rourke, millennials’ favorite wannabe-senator-maybe-president, has landed himself in the burn book. The Texas Democratic representative has been taken off the list of politicians who signed a “No Fossil Fuel Money” pledge, according to a new report by Sludge.

Taking the pledge, led by Oil Change USA, means politicians will not knowingly take contributions of over $200 from “the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies — companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”

O’Rourke received $430,000 from individuals working in the oil and gas industry, 75 percent of which he received in the form of a donation over $200. There were 29 large donations from fossil fuel executives, according to Sludge reporter Alex Kotch, a strict no-no if you’re sitting pretty on that list. O’Rourke accepted no money from any PAC throughout the entirety of his campaign.

“While we are pleased he hasn’t taken fossil fuel PAC money, he needs to go further in order to be in compliance with the full No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge,” David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change USA, told Sludge. Other millennial favorites still on the list include Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

In the 2018 Texas midterms, O’Rourke faced incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, who received $505,000 in donations from the oil and gas industry. No surprise, Cruz didn’t signed the pledge.

O’Rourke has the high, high score of 95 percent from The League of Conservation Voters, but has a couple less-than-green votes on fossil fuels. In 2015, he voted against the oil export ban and in 2016, he voted against an amendment which would prohibit the use of funds for offshore drilling research in the Gulf of Mexico. O’Rourke also failed to mention climate change in the first high-profile debate between him and Cruz in September.

The 2020 rumor mill is churning despite O’Rourke’s claims that he isn’t interested. It’d probably be easier for O’Rourke to avoid oil-stained contributions during a presidential bid versus a Senate run in the major oil state. If he does run, the O’Rourke campaign may want to reread the fine print of the pledge and do their best to get back on the nice list.

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Beto O’Rourke might have an oil money problem

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University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green


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University Recycling 101: How College Students Go Green

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6 Money-Saving Rules for Limiting Food Waste When Shopping

There has been a lot of focus on food waste of late, and with good reason. To cite the oft-cited statistic, some 40 percent of food in America goes uneaten what an embarrassment of luxury we have.

Fortunately, the issue is no longer being mindlessly swept aside.Ugly produceis now trendy and hopefully here to stay; and the media is increasingly rife with tips for how not to waste food at home.

But were kind of missing an important point on a personal level we need to start addressing food waste before it comes into the home; that is, when were shopping. And this is more of an uphill challenge than may meet the eye. We have manipulative marketing thrust upon us by food manufacturers to buy their products; we have devilishly sneaky supermarket tactics that entice us to fill up our cart. I also think that there may be some good old animal instinct going on here as well after all, procuring too much food and storing it away is a time-honored survival strategy.

With all of that in mind, having some simple rules can help steer a shopper away from buying too much food; food that may likely end up in the trash and in the meantime, save a little money along the way as well.

1. Dont shop hungry

This is a well-known dieting strategy, but applies to food waste and money-saving as well.Researchfinds that shopping when youre hungry leads not only to the buying of higher-calorie items, but also to buying more of everything. And incidentally, this applies toshopping for non-food items too. Being hungry just naturally boosts the desire to acquire things, whether they’re needed or not.

2. Dont shop tired

A Swedishstudyfound that sleep deprivation led to not only the purchase of higher calorie foods, but more food by weight as well. And although it was a small study, this writer’s real-life experience points in the same direction. Another problem with shopping when youre tired is that you may be more tempted to purchase convenience foods and ready-made meals these may not lead to more food waste, but they are more expensive and often come with excess packaging waste.

3. Bring your own storage containers

In her quest to live a zero waste life,TreeHugger writer Katherine shops with jars she brings clean empty jars to the market for bulk items and foods from the deli, meat and seafood counters. Not only is this a wonderful way to avoid packaging, but its also a great way to maintain portion control as you can purchase custom amounts of an item.

4. Don’t buy big

Unless you know you will use all of the product, dont fall for the buy big and save swindle for perishable food. The little bit of savings will mean nothing if you end up throwing the unused food out.

5. Dont be seduced by sales

If something on your shopping list is on sale, no problem. But dont be enticed to buy more than you need unless you are sure you will be able to use it. And especially dont buy something thats on sale just because its a good deal impulse bargain shopping all too often ends up as wasteful shopping. If you want to take advantage of sales, use coupons or a circular and make sure to work the sale items into your shopping list at the menu planning stage. (If you have a menu planning stage.)

6. Shop frequently

While shopping every day or two may not work with the one-giant-shopping-trip-a-week-lifestyle model, it definitely has its benefits: You can be less glued to a meal plan; you can take advantage of whats local and fresh daily; you can shop to suit what youre in the mood for; food will sit in your refrigerator for shorter periods of time; you will need to store less food at home which is more energy-efficient, et cetera. When shopping more frequently, use just a hand-held basket rather than using a cart a big cart does nothing but whisper secret siren songs enticing you to feed it.

And granted, living in a walkable city or European village makes shopping more more feasible, but as Katherine notes inChange your shopping habits to reduce food waste: “Unless youre a diligent home cook, who sticks faithfully to the meal plan and then creates meals based on whats in the fridge, its a good idea to buy less food more frequently. Limit your planning to the next several meals, in order to accommodate unforeseen schedule changes, and then watch your trash output shrink along with your total grocery expenses.”

Written by Melissa Breyer. This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

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 Money-Saving Rules for Limiting Food Waste When Shopping

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Rachael Yamagata’s Dramatic "Tightrope Walker"

Mother Jones

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Rachael Yamagata
Tightrope Walker
Frankenfish Records/Thirty Tigers

Courtesy of Frankenfish Records/Thirsty Tigers

With her husky, commanding voice, Rachael Yamagata could have been a torchy lounge chanteuse in the pre-rock’n’roll ’50s or a bluesy soul shouter in the late ’60s. On this fine fourth album, she throws subtlety to the winds and sounds like she’s having the time of her life, romping through a set of dramatic pop tunes designed for maximum entertainment. Highlights include “Nobody,” a scorching floor-shaker soaked in obsessive desire, the seductive earthy folk of “Easy Target,” and the rousing anthem “Money Fame Thunder,” which closes the album on an uplifting note. Yamagata’s savvy, efficiently constructed songs are commercial in the best possible sense, catchy and engaging, but consistently smart to boot. Enjoy!

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Rachael Yamagata’s Dramatic "Tightrope Walker"

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Maine Governor Warns That Drug Dealers Named "D-Money" Are Impregnating Young White Girls

Mother Jones

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Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage told a town hall audience on Wednesday that heroin use is resulting in white women being impregnated by out-of-state drug dealers named “D-Money.”

LePage was asked by an attendee what he was doing to curb the heroin epidemic in his state. “The traffickers—these aren’t people that take drugs,” he explained. (You can watch the exchange beginning at the 1:55:00 mark. “These are guys with that are named D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty, these types of guys, that come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we that we’ve go to deal with down the road.”

State legislators may attempt to impeach the governor as early as next week, over charges that he threatened to block funding from a charter school if it hired a political rival.

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Maine Governor Warns That Drug Dealers Named "D-Money" Are Impregnating Young White Girls

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4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Manage Your Money

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4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Manage Your Money

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We Lock Up Tons of Innocent People—and Charge Them for the Privilege

Mother Jones

The United States has a prison problem. We have just 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. Even though our imprisonment rate has grown more than 400 percent since 1970, locking people up has not proved to be a deterrent.

The prison problem also extends to jails, which hold defendants awaiting trial and prisoners sentenced for minor offenses. A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit focused on justice policy, reports that America’s local jails, which hold roughly 731,000 people on any given day, are holding more people even though the crime rate is going down. Jails disproportionately detain people of color longer and for lesser crimes. The report also finds that jails are less likely to give inmates the rehabilitation and mental-health support that could keep them out of prison.

Inside the Wild, Shadowy, and Highly Lucrative Bail Industry

“I observe injustice routinely. Nonetheless even I—as this report came together—was jolted by the extent to which unconvicted people in this country are held in jail simply because they are too poor to pay what it costs to get out,” writes Vera president and director Nicholas Turner. He described poor detention practices in which the mentally ill, homeless, and substance abusers are routinely jailed for bad behavior and described the practice as “destructive to individuals, their families, and entire communities.”

The 46-page report paints a devastating portrait of American jails. Here are a few quick takeaways:

1. The number of people going to jail is going up while crime rates are falling: In 1983, roughly 6 million people were admitted to a local jail. That number grew to roughly 11.7 million in 2013. Meanwhile, crime rates have been dropping. See Vera’s chart:

Jail admissions rates include people who’ve gone to jail more than once—recidivism is a separate, but related issue—but even factoring that in, more people are going to jail. The report speculates that this is tied to arrests for drug crimes: In 1983, drug defendants and inmates made up less than 10 percent of local jail populations but by 2002 they accounted for 25 percent.

2. Jail time is getting longer: Once people land in jail, their average stay has increased nearly 65 percent, from 14 days to 23. This statistic doesn’t distinguish between pretrial detention and those serving actual jail terms, but, as the report notes, “the proportion of jail inmates that are being held pretrial has grown substantially in the last thirty years—from about 40 to 62 percent—it is highly likely that the increase in the average length of stay is largely driven by longer stays in jails by people who are unconvicted of any crime.”

3. People who go to jail often work less and earn less after getting out: Spending any time in jail can, and usually does, significantly alter someone’s ability to lead a normal life upon release. Plus, many jail inmates have to pay fees for laundry service, room and board, and even booking fees. Even if they’re later found innocent, they still must pay those bills, leaving many former defendants indebted to the system.

Consider Kevin Thompson, a Georgia man who had been jailed once and was jailed again for not paying $838 in traffic fines, court fees, and probation fees to a private probation company.

4. Lack of money is the main reason defendants sit in jail: The report comes to a depressing, if not surprising, conclusion: “Money, or the lack thereof, is now the most important factor in determining whether someone is held in jail pretrail. Almost everyone is offered monetary bail, but the majority of defendants cannot raise the money quickly or, in some cases, at all.” This leads to situations where people are stuck in jail for minor offenses. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report found that in about 19,000 criminal cases in New York City, many people couldn’t afford bail set at $1,000 or less. In some cases, the accused pled guilty early to get out of jail, even if they were innocent.

5. Society’s race problems are amplified by the local jail dynamic: The Vera report notes that about 38 percent of felony defendants will spend their entire pretrial periods in jail, but only one in 10 were denied bail in the first place. The rest, many of whom are African American men, simply can’t afford to post bail: “Black men appear to be caught in a cycle of disadvantage: incarcerated at higher rates and, therefore, more likely to be unemployed and/or in debt, they have more trouble posting bail.”

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We Lock Up Tons of Innocent People—and Charge Them for the Privilege

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7 Tips To Save Money & Make Less Waste

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7 Tips To Save Money & Make Less Waste

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