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September 2, 2014 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

DON’T HAVE A COW: A Sneak Peek at the Fall “Green American”

FallGAMCover2Cows have a profound impact on our planet. In fact, if you want to reduce the environmental impact of your diet, the single-most important thing you can do is eat less beef—or none at all.

According to a 2013 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), raising beef and dairy cattle contributes 9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide (14.5 percent for all types of livestock).

However, researchers from the World Bank and International Finance Corporation say that figure underestimates the impact of livestock on the climate crisis. Add in the rainforest lands that are razed to make way for livestock grazing (primarily cattle), and you end up with a figure closer to 51 percent, they say in a 2012 report for Worldwatch.

And that’s just the climate crisis. Consider the tons of genetically modified soil and corn grown to feed cows. The pesticides applied to those fields that runs into the ocean, causing “dead zones” where no life can survive. The stunning amount of water cows need: It takes 840 gallons to produce one pound of conventional beef, according to Denis Hayes, co-author of Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment. The unspeakable cruelty practiced in conventional slaughterhouses.

In our upcoming Fall issue of the Green American, we talk with Hayes—president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and founder of the first-ever Earth Day—about the considerable environmental and health impacts of raising and eating cows, and what to do about it.

As a first step, Hayes recommends zeroing in on your beef consumption and making what beef you may choose to eat local, grass-fed, and organic. (There’s evidence, Hayes says, that the best-managed grass-fed cattle farms can actually be a carbon sink.)  But even more importantly is the fact that everyone needs to cut their beef consumption in half, at least—grass-fed beef requires more land than conventional beef, so converting the world to grass-fed beef but maintaining current consumption levels would be an environmental nightmare.

Of course, the best option would be for people to go vegetarian or vegan. Our upcoming issue features two sisters—and co-owners of Anything Vegan—who are vegan chefs, caterers, and nutritionists, offering their best advice for going vegan simply and joyfully.

But, as Hayes notes, “according to a poll done for Vegetarian Times, just 3.2 percent of American adults are vegetarian.”

Those of us at Green America wish that number were much larger, but, as Denis says, “wishing won’t make it so.”

That’s where our “Don’t Have a Cow” blog series comes in. Every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the month of September, Green America staff and select outside experts will be blogging about our favorite ways to eat less meat and go vegetarian or vegan. Use the magazine to spread the word to the 97 percent who eat meat in your community about why everyone should eat less meat. And use the tips, recipes, and resources we’ll include in this blog series to challenge yourself and everyone you know to further in shrinking your dietary impact.

If you’re already vegetarian or vegan, we invite you to share your expertise with others in the comments sections.

In that spirit, here’s my favorite, simple recipe for (vegan) hummous, from the family recipes of a Lebanese friend. 

Hummous bi tahini

19 oz. chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)

¼ cup sesame tahini

1 clove garlic

½ tsp. salt

¼ cup lemon juice

Drain liquid from the chickpeas and set liquid aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding only enough liquid to achieve desired consistency. (More liquid = thinner dip.) If you like your hummous lemony, you can add lemon juice in addition or instead. Blend 2-3 minutes into a smooth paste. Place in a small platter. Sprinkle with olive oil and garnish with fresh parsley.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe in the comments section below!

 

 

August 28, 2014 / Sam Catherman

Bank of America Reaches Record Settlement with Justice Department, and Taxpayers Cover the Costs

Over the past year, the Justice Department has reached multiple settlements with the country’s largest financial institutions regarding their involvement in the 2008 financial crisis. JP Morgan Chase forked over $13 billion this past November, Citigroup settled for $7 billion this July, and now Bank of America will pay a record $16.65 to the DOJ. While all of these settlements involved the sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unknowing investors, the recent case is different. Under the guise of providing relief to homeowners who have lost their houses, BofA will actually stick the taxpayer with a bill of up to $5.8 billion for their wrongdoings.

mortgageThe settlement, reached last Thursday, is unique in that it actually allows Bank of America to write-off most of the cost as a tax deduction. Previous settlements with similar large banks contained more restrictions on this practice, but BofA will be able to treat the payment as if it were just another operating cost, for tax purposes.

Approximately $5 billion of the grand total is considered a “civil penalty.” Typically, money paid to resolve a civil penalty cannot be written off as a business expense, but a tenth circuit court ruled earlier this month that businesses may write off penalties such as these as a “compensatory cost.” If Bank of America doesn’t try to write off these $5 billion of civil penalties, the other $11.63 billion portion of the settlement will still stick the taxpayer with a $4 billion tab. If they succeed in writing off the civil penalties, the taxpayer will be on the hook for $5.8 billion.

This latest settlement seems particularly egregious due to the facts that there were no individuals prosecuted in the case, and the assistance programs set up to pay back defrauded homeowners are extremely difficult to qualify for. Even if we look past the fact that no single company in the history of the United States has paid this much money for a single case, the underlying problem still exists. The banks were able to get away with unlawfully ripping off millions of people who didn’t know any better, and there were no real consequences. Without consequences, there is no real deterrent for behavior like this to occur again in the future.

If you’re tired of supporting these behemoth institutions that let struggling Americans foot the bill for their deceitful practices, there is still a way to receive the financial services you need. By banking with a community development financial institution you can be sure that your account supports something positive. No longer will you contribute to a banking industry that continues to get away with financial crimes.

Green America’s responsible finance programs have the resources to help you ditch your megabank and take charge of your own money. Check them out today and start putting your money where it belongs: back in your own community.

August 27, 2014 / Green America

GREEN YOUR SCHOOL: NYU’s Student & Labor Action Movement

As students start getting ready to go back to school, some of them are also getting ready to embark upon a new year of greening their campuses. Green America editorial fellow Sari Amiel discovered five inspiring examples of how students are making their campuses more socially just and environmentally sustainable. Every Monday and Wednesday from August 14th through August 27th, we’ll post one of Sari’s stories here on our blog.

A USAS "speak-out" demonstration marked the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

A USAS “speak-out” demonstration marked the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse.

When New York University’s Student & Labor Action Movement (SLAM) is not actively influencing its university’s policies, the group is opening students’ eyes to the abuses that foreign and domestic laborers face on a regular basis.

Each year, SLAM works on three to four major projects. Its labor committee alternates between protesting local injustices and participating in national campaigns that United Students against Sweatshops (USAS), of which SLAM is a chapter, organizes.

“Difficult working conditions is a universal issue,” says junior Anne Falcon. “We work on international solidarity campaigns, which just show how everything is interconnected… Fighting issues here [in New York] reverberates around the world.”

This past year, SLAM worked on USAS’ End Deathtraps campaign. This movement arose in response to the collapse of the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza factory, which caused 1,137 deaths. Just prior to the building’s collapse, garment workers had been ordered to return to their stations even after local police had deemed the building unsafe.

As part of the campaign, SLAM asked NYU’s administration to change its Labor Code of Conduct, which outlines its clothes suppliers’ responsibilities, so that these companies are required to sign The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. This Accord is a legally binding document that requires retailers to take meaningful steps to improve workers’ safety at their supplier factories.

SLAM also organized a die-in as part of the campaign.  In this event, students laid in the hallway outside a meeting of the University Senate, which has both student and faculty members. After persuading the University Senate to pass a resolution in favor of changing the Code of Conduct, the group sang carols about workers’ rights outside the president’s office.

On May 1, the End Deathtraps fight continued with SLAM’s four-hour sit-in at the university’s Gould Welcome Center. The group urged NYU to stop purchasing JanSport merchandise due to the sweatshops that VF Corporation, its parent company, does business with in Bangladesh. SLAM was granted a meeting with university officials, and, five days later, NYU stated that it would stop placing orders with JanSport unless it and VF signed the Accord. For Falcon, this sit-in was the most difficult event to plan and participate in.

“Our plan was to occupy the Welcome Center for as long as it took to get a meeting with administrative officials, so we might have stayed over the entire weekend,” says Falcon. “They might have locked us in, because it was on a Friday.”

Following these actions, NYU did change its Code of Conduct, and it now requires the companies that make its logo apparel to sign the Accord.

Previously, SLAM participated in a USAS-led campaign against Adidas, which it alleged had neglected to pay severance to 2,800 workers that it laid off in Indonesia. This campaign was won nationally in April of 2013, after 17 universities, not including NYU, ended their contracts with Adidas, forcing the company to pay the severance.

On the local front, SLAM has a student debt committee, which is asking NYU to impose a 10-year freeze on tuition and increase the value of financial aid packages by 25 percent. Students voiced these demands in a protest that they staged during NYU President Sexton’s State of the University speech.

“NYU has the worst history of student debt in the history of higher education,” says Falcon. “We want our university, and every university in the country, by extension, to provide more resources for the students, as well as a more democratic means of resource distribution.”

Recently, SLAM achieved a victory in another of its ongoing local campaigns. SLAM claimed a member of the Board of Trustees at NYU Law School violated the rights of employees in his nursing home business by decreasing their vacation and sick days, raising the price of their healthcare, locking out workers, and preventing union formation. SLAM wanted him to resign from the Board, and he did so in May of 2014.

“We’ve had a really good track record,” says Falcon. “We’ve won a lot of our campaigns. So it just sort of happens that we’ve had to start new campaigns pretty much every year, which is fantastic.”

Which is remarkable considering the group is never granted an audience with the NYU president. Instead, it works with a school official whose designated job is to handle SLAM’s requests.

“[The administration can be] very unreceptive until we significantly escalate the pressure from our campaigns,” says Falcon. “The best way to apply pressure is by…getting more people [involved and] having actions in more public places, somewhere that everyone will see.”

SLAM has been featured in Democracy Now and The Nation, and the Huffington Post mentioned two of SLAM’s campaigns in its list of “the 25 Best Progressive Victories of 2013.”

—Sari Amiel

August 25, 2014 / Green America

GREEN YOUR SCHOOL: Fossil Free Stanford

As students start getting ready to go back to school, some of them are also getting ready to embark upon a new year of greening their campuses. Green America editorial fellow Sari Amiel discovered five inspiring examples of how students are making their campuses more socially just and environmentally sustainable. Every Monday and Wednesday from August 14th through August 27th, we’ll post one of Sari’s stories here on our blog.

Stanford students unite to "X out" the fossil fuel industry. Photo by Kira Mineheart

Stanford students unite to “X out” the fossil fuel industry. (Photo by Kira Mineheart)

On May 6, 2014, Stanford University became one of the first schools to recognize the importance of divesting its endowment from companies whose practices threaten students’ futures. Fossil Free Stanford (FFS), one of many student-run divestment groups in the country, was the catalyst behind its school’s removal of funds from coal mining companies from the endowment portfolio.

“I think a lot of the frustration with activism around climate change…is that you can make small-scale changes, but they aren’t really questioning the structures that got us into this,” says sophomore Mikaela Osler, FFS Student Outreach Coordinator. “[Divestment] is a symbolic statement saying that Stanford no longer supports [the fossil-fuel] business model.”

FFS was inspired by a talk, titled “Do the Math,” that author Bill McKibben, founder of the climate nonprofit 350.org, delivered on Stanford’s campus in November of 2012. To avoid a dangerous 2°C rise in the average global surface temperature, McKibben stated that 80 percent of carbon reserves should remain in the ground. Also, many scientists agree that atmospheric carbon—which now exceeds 400 parts per million (ppm)—should stabilize at 350 ppm for the world to avoid the worst effects of global climate change. Through his Fossil-Free Divestment campaign—which Green America supports and covered in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of the Green American magazine—McKibben asks people and organizations, primarily colleges and universities, to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies in order to financially and socially pressure these companies to replace dirty energy sources with renewables.

“Fossil fuel companies are big,” says junior Michael Peñuelas, a Lead Student Organizer of FFS. “[The Fossil-Fuel Divestment movement is] a way to magnify our individual voices with an institution as a megaphone.”

Last year, FFS submitted a request for review to the university’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensure (APIRL), a group of faculty, alumni, and students that helps ensure that Stanford’s endowment fund does not go into socially and environmentally detrimental investments.

FFS’s undergraduates cooperated with graduate students, alumni, and faculty to drum up support for their cause. The group pushed the undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council to pass resolutions in support of fossil-fuel divestment, they obtained over 400 supportive letters from alumni, and they drafted a letter that 170 fully tenured faculty members signed. FFS members also knocked on students’ doors, tabled, and organized rallies to increase students’ support for divestment. In Stanford’s spring elections, over 75 percent of undergraduate students voted in favor of divestment from fossil fuel companies.

“It was a big effort to get all the demographics in line,” says Peñuelas. “It’s very likely that [the administration] would never have considered divestment without student pressure.”

While the group was building general support for divestment, APIRL researched the environmental and social impacts of fossil fuels. In spring of 2014, APIRL concluded that climate change would cause “substantial social injury.” Acting on APIRL’s recommendation, Stanford’s Board of Trustees voted to divest its $18.7 billion endowment from 100 coal mining companies. FFS had originally wanted the university to divest from the 100 coal companies and the 100 oil and natural gas companies that own the largest carbon reserves.

“[Stanford] chose half of the list that we gave them, which we were pretty excited about and proud of Stanford for doing, but…in the long term we are absolutely pushing for full divestment,” says Peñuelas.

Peñuelas also acknowledged that FFS conducted its campaign in a relatively favorable and receptive environment. Due to the existence of APIRL, the students faced an open dialogue from the administration. Also, as a school on the West Coast, Stanford does not rely on coal to power its campus or to provide jobs in the local community. Students at most other schools have not been as fortunate in their crusades for divestment—at American University and Harvard University, some were even arrested. Peñuelas believes that Stanford’s decision will move the divestment campaign forward, both in other colleges and for the public as a whole.

“We have dozens of articles, dozens of radio shows, [and] plenty of TV coverage of this,” says Peñuelas. “The direct proximate impact of Stanford’s coal divestment is not to end the coal industry, but it’s to cause a giant conversation, which it kick-started.”

The group plans to formally request that APIRL conduct a review of oil and natural gas companies in the coming months.

Sari Amiel

August 21, 2014 / Sam Catherman

Wind Energy Project Faces Political Roadblocks in Maryland

Wind power is at risk in Maryland. That is why this past week Green America, along with 20 other environmental groups called on Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) to revise a bill that would halt efforts to construct an onshore wind energy project in Somerset County, MD. You can read a copy of the letter here. Green America, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council also sent a letter to Senator Mikulski on behalf of hundreds of Maryland Businesses encouraging her to permit the wind farm to go forward.

WindSenator Mikulski added language to The Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 that would require Pioneer Green Energy to wait to begin construction on the Great Bay Wind Project until an independent study from MIT concerning the effects of wind turbines on naval radar testing at the Patuxent River Naval Base (Pax River Base) is completed. The issue arises from the Pax River Base’s highly sensitive radar system designed to test the stealthiness of fighter jets and weather wind turbines will interfere with the radar system. But, Senator Mikulski’s concerns are unfounded, as Pioneer and Pax River have already agreed that the turbines may be turned off during routine radar testing, with no interference to the military’s activities. Federal law states that the military must cooperate with alternative energy developers, and Pioneer says it expects the Navy to work with the company in order to reach an agreement to resolve the radar testing issue.

Representative Steny Hoyer, whose district includes the Pax River Base, wrote a letter with Senators Mikulski and Ben Cardin to local lawmakers raising concerns about the wind farm’s proximity to the military facility. The Pax River Base employs 22,000 people, contributes $7.5 billion to the state economy annually, and continues to grow at a time where other military bases are shrinking. Private contractors and foreign governments pay to use the base’s radar, and they fear that the interference from the wind farm would drive away those interests.

However, since Pioneer and Pax River Base are already in agreement on how to proceed with the issue (the turbines can simply be turned off during military activity), the potential harm to Pax River’s radar is little more than a red herring. Waiting for a study on the effects of wind turbines on the base’s radar testing will allow permit and tax-credit deadlines for the wind farm to pass. This would effectively halt any progress on the wind farm and cost the state of Maryland jobs and growth potential for clean energy.

Earlier this year, governor O’Malley vetoed a similar bill in the Maryland state legislature that would have delayed the project until the MIT study was completed. The governor cited safety measures that were already in place to deal with the wind turbines’ interference with military radar testing. To delay the project, said O’Malley, would send a “chilling message” to clean-energy businesses looking to set up shop in Maryland. 

There are a number of reasons to allow Pioneer’s wind project to proceed without interruption. The project would bring Maryland $44 million in tax revenue, at least 25 turbines providing 150 mw of clean, renewable energy, and hundreds of construction jobs. In addition to providing a path for sustainable economic growth for Somerset County, the wind farm could power thousands of homes while protecting the delicate Chesapeake Bay from pollution due to other energy sources. 

Green America is encouraging all Marylanders to call Senator Mikulski and let her know that you want her to withdraw her language from the Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 and let the Great Bay Wind Project go forward.

Please call Senator Mikulski’s office today at 202-224-4654.

Here’s a sample script:

As a Maryland resident, I support clean wind energy for our state.  I am very concerned that Senator Mikulski has introduced language to the Senate Appropriations Act of 2015 that would likely kill a new wind farm development in Somerset County.  The wind developer is already working to address Senator Mikulski’s concerns regarding the wind farm’s potential interference with radar that the nearby PAX river naval base.  Therefore a delay to conduct further studies is not needed, and could kill this vital new wind project, and prevent wind power from developing in the state in general.  

That’s why I’m urging the Senator to withdraw the language she inserted into the Defense Appropriations Act and allow the wind farm to go forward.

Thank you.   

August 20, 2014 / Green America

GREEN YOUR SCHOOL: Project Compost, University of California—Davis

As students start getting ready to go back to school, some of them are also getting ready to embark upon a new year of greening their campuses. Green America editorial fellow Sari Amiel discovered five inspiring examples of how students are making their campuses more socially just and environmentally sustainable. Every Monday and Wednesday from August 14th through August 27th, we’ll post one of Sari’s stories here on our blog.

ProjectCompost3

The Project Compost student staff members pick up compost from around campus in an electric vehicle known as “Cyclops.”

Passionate students at UC Davis are helping their school meet its ambitious goal of being zero-waste by the year 2020. Project Compost, a student-run group, keeps an average of 2,358 pounds of organic waste—such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and laboratory plants—out of landfills each week.

In many spots on campus, students sort their organic waste into special bins, and the university sends the compostables to a private industrial composting facility located 40 minutes from campus. But several campus cafes, plant laboratories, and living communities do not benefit from this service, so Project Compost diverts these venues’ organic waste away from landfills. Project Compost’s founders established the group as an official unit of the student government, so it receives funds from the university.

“The composting that we do on campus is very small-scale compared to the amount of industrial-scale composting that the university already organizes…[but] is sort of an educational way for students to see how the process works, and it also [provides mulch], the finished product, at the end,” says Noelle Patterson, the Student Unit Director of Project Compost. “A lot of the places that we divert from would not have composting if it weren’t for our services.”

Both Project Compost and UC Davis keep substantial quantities of organic waste out of landfills each year—the former collects more than a ton of waste, and the latter diverts over 100 tons.

Project Compost’s 25 student volunteers use an electric vehicle—donated by the campus coffeehouse, their largest pickup location—to carry the organic waste to a 60-foot-long compost pile. A tractor turns the entire compost pile, adding oxygen, which the microorganism decomposers need. After four to six months, the finished compost is ready to use as organic fertilizer. Project Compost distributes the compost to community members and uses some in its own vegetable garden, in which interns grow radishes, carrots, melons, and strawberries, among other plants.

This past year, Project Compost also organized 12 workshops to educate students and community members about composting and vermicomposting, which involves the decomposition of organic matter using worms. The group encourages students to try vermicomposting, which can be done in closed containers on a small scale, making it conducive to apartments and dorm rooms.

“I think that our strongest suit is in the education and awareness we bring to students and the community,” says Patterson.

Patterson also has a favorable view of the direction in which her school is headed.

“I see more compost bins popping up around campus, so UC Davis is making a lot of great strides. I think that Project Compost always has potential to expand… I would love to see the group grow.”

Sari Amiel

August 19, 2014 / Elizabeth

If you like shrimp, choose wisely

Shrimp Image for Slider

Image credit: NOAA

If you like shrimp but don’t want to put your money towards a product that was caught or grown under abusive conditions, the below guide will helpful to consider the next time you go to the grocery store or order an appetizer at your favorite seafood restaurant.

A recent six-month investigation by the Guardian found slaves working for no pay on Thai fishing boats, catching fish that is used as feed on shrimp farms. Workers who managed to escape from these boats spoke of 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture, and execution-style killings. Some were given methamphetamines to keep them going.

Beyond these human rights concern, there are a number of environmental problems that effect fish farms, including the waste generated on them and resulting run-off, as well as the wide use of antibiotics.

The NRDC put together a helpful list to decrease the impact of your shrimp consumption:

  • Eat less shrimp! The Worldwatch Institute estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year.
  • Replace your industrial shrimp purchases withHenry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood (Ecofish’s retail brand) available at 3500 stores nationwide, including Whole Foods and Target Superstores.
  • Seek out the blueMarine Stewardship Council ecolabel, which indicates sustainable practices, when shopping or dining out. Here’s a list of stores and restaurants that stock MSC-certified products.
  • When buying wild-caught shrimp, look for varieties from the Pacific coast, particularly Oregon and British Columbia.
  • Ask your favorite restaurants and stores what kind of shrimp they are stocking, and if you’re not satisfied with their answer, let them know!

Read NRDC’s complete “Shopping Wise” article here>>

Take action to improve conditions for workers in the Thai fishing sector>>

August 18, 2014 / Green America

GREEN YOUR SCHOOL: Cornell University’s Dump and Run program

As students start getting ready to go back to school, some of them are also getting ready to embark upon a new year of greening their campuses. Green America editorial fellow Sari Amiel discovered five inspiring examples of how students are making their campuses more socially just and environmentally sustainable. Every Monday and Wednesday from now through August 27th, we’ll post one of Sari’s stories here on our blog.

Cornell's "Dump and Run" program gets items that students would normally throw away at the end of the school year into the hands of people who can use them.

Cornell’s “Dump and Run” program gets items that students would normally throw away at the end of the school year into the hands of people who can use them.

 

As each year of college draws to a close, students have to face a reality that, for months, they been avoiding—the amount of stuff that has accumulated in their rooms. With time and space in short supply, students will often throw away many still-useful items. That’s why Cornell University gives its students the ability to “Dump and Run.”

Since 2003, Cornell’s Dump and Run program has decreased its move-out waste stream by collecting unwanted items at the end of each school year and re-selling things that are still usable at the start of the next year.

“[This program is] really good in terms of keeping as much as we possibly can out of the landfill,” says Karen Brown, Cornell’s Director of Campus Life Marketing and Communications, who oversees the Dump and Run program. “And I think it’s very effective in terms of our relationship with the Ithaca community.”

Before Cornell’s residence halls close for the summer, the Campus Life office reminds students to place their unwanted items in collection boxes, which are situated in several residence halls, sororities, and fraternities around campus.  In the late spring and summer, those living in off-campus residences and homes in the community can also call Brown’s office to request pickups of their donations.

Dump and Run commonly receives refrigerators, clothing, lamps, and storage containers. Many of the donated items still contain tags, says Brown. In the past few years, she has seen a life-size inflatable palm tree, Halloween costumes, aquariums, Christmas trees, and a $700 pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.

Volunteers from local nonprofits, along with a few student volunteers, spend the summer in a 3,500-square-foot storage unit, sorting through the collection of college artifacts to separate still-usable items from things that are clearly at the end of their lives and need to be disposed of.

“We try to recycle everything that we can,” says Brown. “I’m pleasantly surprised [by] how little ends up in the landfill.”

The vast majority of the items are sold at the campus Dump and Run sale on the Saturday after freshmen move-in day. This sale is open to Cornell students and staff, as well as the general public. It’s so popular that, although the sale starts at 8:30 a.m., townspeople start arriving at 5:30 a.m. By the time the doors open, there are usually about 100 people lined up outside.

“I think this program has done a lot to help with our relationship with our surrounding town…because they really appreciate it,” says Brown. “It’s a great way to convince people to clean out their basements and garages.”

After the sale, Brown says the program distributes leftover items to nearby nonprofits that might be able to use them. Dump and Run volunteers give leftover clothes to a local women’s center, send blankets and towels to animal shelters, and donate nonperishable food to food pantries.

However, Cornell does manage to sell most of the donations it receives. It gives almost 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale to the local nonprofits that send volunteers to help with the Dump and Run program. The fraction of the sales revenue that each nonprofit receives is proportional to the number of hours that its volunteers spent working with Dump and Run. Cops, Kids & Toys, the group that helps Dump and Run the most, volunteered more than 3,000 hours last year.

One of these nonprofit groups is a student-run organization. According to former co-Chair Christina Roberti, Cornell’s Student United Way chapter uses its share of the sale revenue to fund its Summers of Service program. Summers of Service provides financially constrained high school students with a stipend so that they can afford to accept unpaid summer internships at nonprofits.

Cornell’s Campus Life office presently stores items in facilities donated by the Cornell Veterinary School. However, a lack of storage space is the largest constraint that Dump and Run faces, so students still end up throwing some still-usable items out at the end of the year.

“When we see things end up in the dumpsters and we know we can’t go get it, it’s disheartening,” says Brown. “I think if we had twice the warehouse space, we would fill it.”

From a student perspective, Roberti really appreciates the Dump and Run program.

“From my point of view, it saves a lot of waste,” says Roberti. “I just moved out of a 14-person house… Anything that wasn’t trash we donated to Dump and Run, but we probably would have thrown it out had it not been for the sale.”

—Sari Amiel

August 15, 2014 / Elizabeth

Health and Safety Findings at Quanta, Mac and iPod Manufacturer

FLA Report

FLA’s Assessment of Quanta Shanghai and Changshu, both first-tier Apple factories

Last August the Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted audits in two of Apple’s final assembly plants in China. These factories are both owned by Quanta–Tech-Com in Shanghai manufactures Mac computers and employs roughly 32,000 people and Tech-Full in Changshu manufactures iPods and employs nearly 5,000 people.

The findings from these audits were released today, one day after Apple’s announcement to ban benzene and n-hexane from final assembly or “first-tier” suppliers. Putting aside these two chemicals, the audit findings bring to light a number of other serious health and safety concerns that exist in the Chinese mega-factories in which Apple manufactures its products. While Apple has spent the past year putting “corrective action plans” in place for the findings, a number of major issues, particularly concerning worker hours, worker compensation, worker representation on environmental health and safety (EHS) committees, and chemical risk remain issues in these factories.

To read the Executive Summary of FLA’s findings as well as the detailed reports for each Quanta factory please see FLA’s website.

Here is a summary of some of the Health and Safety findings:

Tech-Com (Quanta Shanghai)

No. 68, Sanzhuang Rd., Songjiang Export Processing Zone, Shanghai, China

Poor Air Quality
The scope of indoor air quality testing was not compliant with the local authority’s requirements. The testing scope missed several significant occupational hazards. Additionally, while isopropyl alcohol was widely in use, there was not an exhaust ventilation system provided. Finally, there was no extraction system provided for the heat seal packaging machines, which adversely effects the air quality in the working environment.

Insufficient Protective Gear
Most of the protective masks currently in use were not certified, as per legal requirements, and were not assessed for their effectiveness against VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Additionally, the emergency shower and eyewash in the chemical warehouse were not designed for easy access and use in case of emergency.

Insufficient Chemical Safety Information
50% of the MSDS (material safety data sheets) for chemical substances in use were incomplete or had unreliable information about chemicals, ingredients, and chemical composition.

Improper Storage of Hazardous Materials
The chemical storage sections in production areas are not totally isolated from offices and rest areas. Additionally, some flammable/toxic substances were stored under chairs, on desk, and under assembly lines.

Incomplete Information
Auditors were not granted access to the entire site; therefor the risk assessment for occupational hazard control was not completed in all labs and buildings.

Tech-Full (Quanta ChangShu)

No. 8, JinZhou Rd., Hightech Industrial park, Changshu Economic Development Zone, Changshu, Jiangsu, China

Insufficient Chemical Safety Information & Monitoring
The factory was adequately monitoring occupation hazard risks in the following instances:

  1. Only 9 major chemicals were included in this assessment. Several significant occupational hazards were not identified in the risk assessment for occupational hazard control (e.g., organic tin, methanol);
  2. 16 out of 25 chemicals with significant occupational hazards were not included in the risk assessment scope;
  3. There was no lab analysis of chemical ingredients, especially volatile organic compounds (VOCs), to determine the scope of occupational hazards when Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) were incomplete.
  4. 80% of the MSDS for chemical substances in use were incomplete or had unreliable information about chemicals, ingredients, or the chemical composition of the contents.
  5. Only dust, isopropyl alcohol (IPA), cyclohexane, xylene were identified as occupational hazards and measured annually. The other 10+ occupational hazards were not monitored or measured (e.g. organic tin, methanol).

Poor Air Quality
The local exhaust ventilation pipes were not used or maintained properly. This has an adverse effect on indoor air quality. Additionally, the scope of indoor air quality testing was not compliant with local authority’s requirements. The testing scope missed several significant occupational hazards and the report does not include important information (product, number/type of machines running during the test, raw material detail, etc.) that may have a direct effect on test results.

Incomplete Information
FLA auditors were not granted access to conduct an assessment for occupational hazard control in Buildings C1 and C2.

To read the detailed assessments for each Quanta factory please see FLA’s website.

 

August 14, 2014 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

VICTORY: Apple to Remove Two Potent Toxins from Supplier Factories

Green America campaigns director (right) joins representatives from China Labor Watch for our April 25th joint protest at Apple's flagship New York City store.

Green America campaigns director Elizabeth O’Connell (right) joins representatives from China Labor Watch for our April 25th joint protest at Apple’s flagship New York City store.

This spring, Green America’s End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign, in partnership with China Labor Watch (CLW), called on Apple to remove toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China. Only five months into the campaign, Apple announced in August that it would “explicitly prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane” at 22 of its final-assembly supplier factories.

“If you’ve ever wondered if signing a petition can really make a difference, now you know. With 23,000 signatures since March of 2014, we’ve been able to push one of the biggest companies in the world to change its practices,” says Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America’s campaigns director.

A known carcinogen, benzene can cause leukemia, a blood cancer, and leukopenia, a dangerously low white blood cell count.The chemical n-hexane is a neurotoxicant that can cause nerve damage and paralysis after long-term exposure. As reported in the April/May Green American, workers in electronics supplier factories—including those making Apple products—use both chemicals to clean touch screens. Undercover CLW representatives have found such workers using little to no protective equipment, with inadequate safety training.

In a statement released August 13th, Lisa Jackson, former EPA Secretary and current Apple vice-president of environmental affairs, stated that Apple had investigated 22 final-assembly supplier factories that make iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Mac computers, “and found no evidence of workers’ health being put at risk from exposure to [benzene and n-hexane].”

O’Connell, however, says the campaign’s work is not over. “Benzene and n-hexane are still allowed in factories that produce the components for iPhones and iPads,” she sas. “Beyond benzene and n-hexane, there are thousands of chemicals used in electronics manufacturing—some which are largely untested—and many chemicals used by Apple suppliers remain undisclosed. Apple needs to do more to protect workers.”

With production set to ramp up this fall with the release of the iPhone 6, Green America and CLW are now calling on Apple to extend the chemical ban to substances other than benzene and n-hexane, and to all of its supplier factories, including early-production facilities where chemical usage and safety measures are less controlled.

In July, the campaign also began targeting Samsung, after news broke that five children below the age of 16 and many minors between 16 and 18 were found working in Shinyang Electronics Co., Ltd., one of its Chinese suppliers. Workers are also exposed in Samsung’s factories to toxins like benzene and n-hexane.

Sign our new petition to Apple, as well as our petition to Samsung and demand they take action to protect all workers across their supply chains.

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