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July 2, 2014 / Green America

GMOs: The Uninvited Guest at Your Picnic

Shared via GMO Inside.

The season of charcoal smells and checkered tablecloths has begun. It’s a great time to get together with family and friends to share laughs and delicious food. However, there may be an uninvited guest at your picnic or BBQ – GMOs. Unfortunately, almost everything on our typical plate is likely to have some GM ingredients, from the ketchup to the bun. Sometimes these GMOs are disguised and, unfortunately, often overlooked.

Adding to the discreet infiltration of GMOs is the fact that meat, dairy, and eggs– even though not genetically modified themselves–are produced using GMOs. Corn and soy make up the majority of animal feed in the US. With 88% of corn and 93% of soy in the US grown genetically modified, our farm animals are raised on GMOs. Animals, like humans, are deeply impacted by the quality of their diets. A 2013 study showed that pigs fed an entirely GMO diet suffered from severe stomach inflammation when compared to pigs given non-GMO feed. Their GMO-fed bodies are then turned into food for us.

Before you head off to your Fourth of July picnics and BBQs, review the items below for likely GM ingredients and tasty non-GMO alternatives. Then, share the knowledge. While the topic of GMOs has hit the mainstream, not everyone knows all the facts or understands the destruction GMOs are causing to our planet and our bodies. Use this picnic season as an opportunity to talk to your loved ones about GMOs.BurgersVeggieBurgerHotDogsGMO Picnic Items (and Better Options) Buns – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cottonseed Fiber, Vegetable Oil (Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oils), Distilled Vinegar (often derived from corn), Mono and diglyceride (often derived from soybean, cottonseed, corn, canola), Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate (stearic acid maybe from soy), DATEM (usually derived from soy or canola oil), Maltodextrin (maybe from corn), Corn Starch, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour

Veggie Burger (meat-free) – Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy Protein Concentrate), Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Dextrose, Soy Protein Isolate, Natural And Artificial Flavors From Non-Meat Sources, Maltodextrin, Soy Sauce, Soy Lecithin

Meat Burger - Cows Fed Corn and Soy Silage

Hot Dog – Mechanically Separated Turkey (fed GMOs), Mechanically Separated Chicken (fed GMOs), Pork (fed GMOs), Corn Syrup, Flavor

Veggie Hot Dog (meat-free) – Corn Syrup Solids, Methylcellulose (sometimes from corn), Dextrose, Egg Whites, Natural Flavors, Sugar, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Protein, Soy Protein), Hydrolyzed Corn Protein, Soy Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Soybeans, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy Protein), Soybean Oil, Citric Acid

Sweet Corn – GM varieties entered the market in 2012

  • Buy organic!

Ketchup – Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup

Mustard – Distilled Vinegar, Natural Flavors

Pickle Relish – Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vinegar, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 80

Mayonnaise – Soybean Oil, Whole Eggs And Egg Yolks, Vinegar, Sugar, Natural Flavors

Processed Cheese – Milk (cows fed GMOs), Whey, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Enzymes

Chips – Soybean oil and/or Canola oil; Corn if corn chips; possibly Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, and many more depending on chip flavor

Soda – High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor

You can always buy other brands that you like too. Just look for the Non-GMO Project or USDA Organic labels to stay away from GMOs.OrganicNonGMOVerified

July 1, 2014 / Sam Catherman

New Tool for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Fossil Free

 

The Fossil Free Index tracks the stock market’s performance, minus the oil, gas, and coal industries. 

Given the link between burning fossil fuels and global climate change, financial professionals are increasingly searching for investment opportunities that exclude oil, gas, and coal companies. Fossil-Free Indexes LLC (FFI), an environmental, social, and governance index and research company released its first broad American market fossil-free index last week. The announcement of the new index is a timely contribution to the growing fossil fuel company divestment movement across the country.  Market indices represent the value of an entire stock market at a single moment, and may be used to track changes over time. The Fossil-Free Index is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, omitting any fossil fuel companies identified by FFI’s “The Carbon Underground 200,” a proprietary list cataloguing some of the most carbon-intensive investment options.

The release of the index, coming in the same week as the Rhodium Group’s “Risky Business” report on the broad economic effects of climate change, strengthens the message that a warming globe is most certainly not good for businesses. As rising temperatures and more intense weather events become commonplace, so do the risks of damage to critical infrastructure and natural resources. By seeking out opportunities for economic growth while minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions (by decentivizing them altogether), investors can help shift focus away from climate- damaging fossil fuels, and towards efficient, clean, and renewable sources of energy.

The release of the index supports the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, with concerned investors of all ages urging the managers of pension funds, university endowments, and other large institutions to cease investment in companies that continue to burn fossil fuels as if there were no negative consequences. Divestment has been a powerful agent of change in the past – in the mid-1980s, enough global pressure was applied to South African companies that the government was compelled to end its policy of racial apartheid. Advocates tout the effectiveness of withholding investment from companies that support harmful practices and building a broad movement for change.

The founder and CEO of FFI, Stuart Braman, states that “Our products will be common-sense, accessible, low-risk options for institutions and individuals to help protect the planet along with their investments.” A reliable fossil-free index is a crucial step in today’s divestment movement. It comes at a critical moment for renewable energy in our country – in the first third of 2014, the US produced 14% of its electricity from renewable sources. The FFI will ensure that protecting your money and your planet are not mutually exclusive, and that we continue on a path with fewer fossil fuels, and more clean energy. To learn more about fossil-free investing, visit www.greenamerica.org/fossilfree

July 1, 2014 / franteplitz

Clean Energy Now! No Fracked Gas Exports!

July13-fbcover[1]Momentum is building around the country – and on July 13 our nation will see its first national mobilization against the export of fracked natural gas and in support of the clean energy economy we so desperately need.

Green America is proud to join our allies in supporting the rally and march on July 13 in Washington, DC: Stop Fracked Gas Exports: Cove Point and Beyond!

Green America members and colleagues have taken a firm stand against the development of a fracked, liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant at Cove Point, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. The plant has known threats to human and environmental health – and yet the government has failed to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be conducted before proceeding with plans for the facility.

We have urged the Maryland Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the Cove Point LNG export facility. Water pollution, air pollution, explosions, increased likelihood of earthquakes, and increased gas costs here at home are key reasons to oppose the export of fracked gas.

Now more than ever we need to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will serve us for generations to come. Every dollar that goes to dirty energy is a dollar taken away from a clean energy future.

Having delivered our statements signed by thousands of concerned individuals and business leaders, we’ll next make our views visible with a major coalitional rally and march in the nation’s capital. Our message is simple: No gas exports from Cove Point and beyond; Invest now in renewable energy and energy efficiency!

Sign up
for the rally and march today! And meet fellow Green Americans at noon at the northeast corner of 3rd St, SW and Independence Ave., SW — look for the Green America sign!

June 25, 2014 / Elizabeth

Well, what phone should I buy then?

2014gam98apr-may-fix-it-flow250wAs word spreads about the dangerous chemicals used in electronics manufacturing, we have been getting asked “well, what phone should I buy then?”

For smartphones and other electronics, the best way to ensure your next phone does not contribute to worker abuse is to buy a used or refurbished phone.  Before you make the choice to buy though, you may try to fix the phone you have (if broken) or simply pledge not to upgrade needlessly.  Phone manufacturers and service providers like to encourage customers to upgrade their devices at least every year, but phones can in fact work for much longer.

We put together a flow chart to help you choose your next phone.

FIX:
iFixit is also a great resource to learn how to repair your electronics and order needed parts.

BUY USED:
Mobile Karma is a great resource for used phones, and they help to divert phones from ending up in landfills.

RECYCLE:
If and when your phone does stop working, recycle it with an e-Stewards recycler.

e-Stewards recyclers are certified monitored by the nonprofit Basel Action Network to ensure that they recycle e-waste responsibly and do not ship it overseas where workers in scrapyards are exposed to dangerous work with without protection.

Green Americans know that when we make purchases we are voting with our dollars, and we want to know that our spending does not finance unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment. By pledging not to upgrade, fixing your phone, or buying you are helping to curb the ever-growing demand for new, exploitative phones.

Do you have any other tips for choosing electronics responsibly?

June 24, 2014 / Elizabeth

Putting an end to Human Trafficking in Thailand’s fishing sector

Last Friday, the US State Department released its 2014 Global Trafficking in Persons Reportan annual report that documents human trafficking around the world and each country’s efforts to combat the issue.   In this report, State downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, demonstrating that the Thai government is not compliant with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, particularly with regard to its treatment of migrant workers. This is especially evident in the fishing sector.

In fact, there are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand. The majority of them, 80 percent, came from Myanmar and work in the most dangerous, dirty jobs, including seafood harvesting and processing, manufacturing, and domestic work.

This decision came after Green America and our allies sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, urging him to make this decision so that economic sanctions could be imposed to influence the Thai government’s efforts in preventing human trafficking.

You can read the original letter we sent to Secretary Kerry as well as the thank you letter we sent with our allies on Friday applauding this decision.

While it’s not good news that Thailand has fallen to Tier 3 status, we hope that this decision will lead to urgent action in Thailand to improve the situation for migrant workers.

In the last year, reports from, CNN, BBC, Reuters, The Associated Press and The Guardian have drawn unprecedented attention to the issue and consumer pressure campaigns have also launched to push companies to be accountable as well.

We believe the Tier 3 ranking, as well as the research and recommendations contained in the report, will be an important informational tool for international and Thai institutions, companies and investors that continue to press Thai authorities to move beyond their current approach.  Its our hope that by next year Thailand can be revoked of its Tier 3 status.

June 18, 2014 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

U.S. Patent Office Cancels Redskins Trademarks

Today the United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans”. This beautiful ad shows better than anything we could write why this name needs to go away for good.

In addition, you can read our article on “Native American Marketing Images” for more ideas on how to support justice and respect when it comes to using these images and mascots–or not using them. It was written quite some time ago, but the advice is still sound.

 

 

 

 

June 18, 2014 / Sam Catherman

President Obama: “Invest in What Helps, Divest from What Harms.”

This past weekend, President Obama delivered a commencement speech to UC Irvine, in which he urged the graduating class to take challenges related to climate change seriously.  In his address, the President called out members of Congress for resisting efforts to address climate change, asserting that there was no substance behind some peoples’ rejection of the scientific consensus on the issue.

The President used his speech to announce a $1 billion dollar fund, the National Disaster Resilience Competition, to be made available to states having endured a  national disaster between 2011 and 2013 for the purpose of rebuilding infrastructure to better withstand shocks from the environment.

He also stated that this graduating class’s generation, which includes the largest age group in the country (22), faces many challenges and opportunities in dealing with this issue ahead.

“We need scientists to design new fuels.  We need farmers to help grow them.  We need engineers to invent new technologies.  We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components.  We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age.  We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy…You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

The President’s address should serve as a reminder that we face the challenges posed by climate change together. While there are many steps we can take individually to reduce our carbon footprint and increase resilience to climate change, we also need to act on a large scale. Clean Energy Victory Bonds are a coordinated effort we can make by collectively investing in the technologies that will power the future without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By calling your representative and urging him or her to sponsor the CEVB Act of 2014, we can make significant progress towards funding clean energy technologies, reducing our carbon footprint, and increasing our long-term resilience to the effects of a changing climate on our towns, cities, and our country as a whole.  Clean Energy Victory Bonds already have 28 co-sponsors (and growing) – reach out to your Rep today and help keep the momentum going!

June 18, 2014 / franteplitz

Chesapeake Region Businesses Oppose Fracked Gas Exports & Call for Clean Energy

It’s particularly difficult for me to understand the denial that fracking has devastating consequences. It’s all about fast money for corporations. — Michael Penny, Savvy Rest, Inc.

This terminal will expand and lock-in unsustainable fracking for a generation, permanently damaging communities and causing a vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions. However, most importantly for FERC and in direct opposition to their mission, Cove Point will raise prices for American electric consumers, while reducing reliability through lower fuel availability – which after the Polar Vortex – should be reason enough to deny this project. — Richard Graves, Ethical Electric

Dozens of small business leaders in Maryland; Washington, DC; and Virginia are speaking out against the proposed export of fracked gas from Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay. As business leaders, they know they need to monitor and weigh-in on energy issues that will define energy policy locally and nationally for years to come. These businesses have come to recognize that a Cove Point gas export facility will ultimately only enrich the gas industry – while local communities will face the many dangers inherent in “fracking” gas, transporting it through pipelines, liquefying the gas, and shipping it overseas.

This past week, business leaders in the Chesapeake region delivered a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expressing their concerns about the Cove Point gas export project proposed by Dominion Resources. First off, the businesses are concerned about the lack of due diligence on the part of FERC, noting that a full Environmental Impact Statement has not been conducted for this project—despite the many dangers to human and environmental health associated with this project. The facility would harm regional air and water quality, further incentivize fracking for natural gas, and worsen the climate crisis. Businesses also understand that exporting gas will also drive up energy costs here in the United States. As business leaders, they realize that their long-term economic success will best be achieved through a transition to renewable energy, not through increased reliance on fossil fuels.

Their conclusion? The Cove Point liquefied natural gas plant needs to be rejected.

If, however, FERC fist wishes to conduct a solid Environmental Impact Statement, businesses believe the Statement would need to:

• Assess the broader consequences of the Cove Point plant on expansion of fracking and of the gas industry;

• Evaluate the cumulative, lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that Cove Point would cause, from fracking wells to pipelines to tanker ships to smoke stacks;

• Include an independent, quantitative risk assessment of explosions that could affect neighborhoods in the plant’s vicinity. It is not credible for FERC to rely solely on data from Dominion.

Stop Gas ExportsSmall businesses, community organizations, environmental groups, health professionals, and others are stepping forward to oppose gas exports. What do they want instead? Increased investment in our nation’s renewable energy sectors and in energy efficiency. Smart businesses and smart policy makers know that building a clean energy economy is our best course of action. Thousands will be gathering on July 13 in Washington, DC to deliver this message to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the President. Join us!

June 10, 2014 / Elizabeth

Lisa Jackson: Take a stand for the workers that make iPhones!

Image

Credit: Eric Vance, EPA photographer

Today Green America and more than 80 allies, including environmental and human rights organizations, socially responsible investment firms, and occupational health professionals, sent a letter to Lisa Jackson, VP of Environmental Affairs at Apple.

Jackson is the former administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. At the EPA, Jackson monitored benzene levels in the water and air to ensure no one was exposed to dangerous levels of this known human carcinogen and championed toxins-reduction in the environment. Our letter calls on Jackson to use her expertise and influence within Apple to make worker health and safety a priority in her second year at Apple.

You can read the full text of our letter and view all signers here>> 

To send your own message to Apple executives, use our new mock “app”: Want to end smartphone sweatshops? Here’s the App for that!

June 9, 2014 / Sam Catherman

EPA Proposes New Rules for Existing Power Plants

On Monday, June 2nd, the EPA released a set of proposed regulations that would decrease CO2 emissions levels by 30% from 2005 levels. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the proposal this week, representing a broad spectrum of opinions. While reducing carbon pollution in the air is undeniably a good thing, by just how much will our emissions as a nation be reduced? What will become of our current access to cheap, abundant electricity? Will it be enough to avoid adverse effects from climate change? These are all important questions that can be difficult to discern from news headlines and opinion articles. Hopefully, this post will help to contextualize the rules, explain what they mean, and how they will affect our economy and global climate in the coming years.

www.freefoto.com 13-35-67 Ian Britton 2007What do the rules say?

The EPA has proposed a rate-based (lbs CO2 per MwH produced) cap on carbon emissions from existing power plants across the U.S. You can think of a rate-based limit as the gas mileage on a car – if your vehicle doesn’t drive a certain number of miles per gallon of fuel used, then it will not meet its emissions standards. The purpose of a rate-based limit as opposed to an absolute limit is to allow states flexibility in meeting their target. In states where coal power is more heavily-used, for example, emissions targets can still be met by offsetting the CO2 produced by older, dirtier power plants with the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind, or by creating an emissions trading scheme to ensure that the net amount of emissions for the state are below the permissible amount. As long as your state is able to reduce its carbon emissions by 30% of 2005 levels by 2030, it doesn’t necessarily matter how you do it.  Giving states flexibility, however, does not mean the end of dirty coal as we know it. As long as coal states are able to offset their emissions through other means, they can continue to put peoples’ health at risk by producing soot and coal ash along with their electricity.

How will they affect the economy?

Cries from conservative organizations over the proposed rules claim that ratepayers will bear the majority of the burden of meeting the regulations, that the entire economies of coal-dependent states like West Virginia or Wyoming will crumble, and that hundreds of thousands of American jobs will be lost to overseas competition. There are a few good reasons why these things likely won’t happen. First, the projected increase in average electric bills doesn’t amount to more than a few extra dollars a month. More importantly, however, are the employment opportunities this proposal creates. Retrofitting old power plants and installing clean energy technology, essentially “rewiring” the country to run on clean power, will create many more jobs than continuing to use dirty sources of energy will preserve. Finally, burning coal costs the US hundreds of billions of dollars per year in costs from health impacts, missed work days due to health incidents, and environmental damage (and its impacts on the economy).  Switching to clean sources of energy will reduce these costs dramatically.

How will they affect the climate?

Here is where the EPA still has room for improvement. Although a 30% reduction sounds like a lot, it’s important to note that since 2005, we have already cut our CO2 emissions by about 15%. That’s already halfway towards meeting our goal. By leaving ourselves 16 years to achieve this level, we leave an awful lot of time to continue burning fossil fuels as we do today. Additionally, growing economies like China and India currently have no such plan to reduce their emissions, and they are in no position to slow down their growth rates any time soon. China has indicated it is more open to reducing carbon emissions since the release of the EPA’s rules, but developing countries would be more likely to adopt rigorous targets if the U.S. acts as a strong leader. While the proposed rules are a meaningful step in the right direction, the EPA could undoubtedly implement stronger guidelines to reducing CO2 emissions from the nation’s electric power sector. It is our hope that we as a nation and a global community can continue to strive towards the common goal of cutting greenhouse gases from our energy diet – if not for our own sake, then for the generations that follow.

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