You Don’t Have to Be a Rockefeller

It’s not often at Green America that we highlight members of the 1% as an example to follow, but recent action by the Rockefeller family now serves as a model for many Americans. The Rockefellers have instructed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to divest its holdings of fossil fuels, joining a growing list of foundations that are taking this stand against irresponsible fossil-fuel polluters. Since the family’s wealth — much of which is now in charities — was made from Standard Oil (now Exxon), the move is particularly meaningful.

The divestment decision comes after years of the Rockefellers engaging with Exxon and trying to encourage the company to be more sustainable, without much success (for 10 years Green America and its members also put direct pressure on Exxon). Exxon and the other major fossil fuel multinationals have made it clear that they plan to pursue a strategy of increasing the production of fossil fuels for decades. That means increased drilling in fragile ecosystems, with the inevitable major spills on land and seas. That means more fracking and more tar sands fields. It also means pumping way more carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet to levels it hasn’t experienced in millions of years, creating massive disruptions to civilization as we know it, and speeding the extinction of thousands of species.

ThatFossil Free’s why more and more philanthropies, universities, houses of worship, and individuals are saying “enough is enough” and moving their money out of fossil fuels and reinvesting in a green economy.

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to take part. Here’s four steps to take action with your money:

  1. Divest from climate polluters and reinvest in clean energy. 
    Green America’s Fossil Free Investment campaign has the most complete resources available.
  2. Break up with your megabank.
    Megabanks continue to invest billions in coal and other fossil fuels, even after pledging to go carbon free.  Green America’s Break Up With Your Megabank Campaign has all the resources you need to move your money to banks and credit unions that invest in local communities and green companies.
  3. Take the Divest/Invest Pledge.
    The Divest/Invest coalition is asking people to take their pledge to divest to demonstrate the growing numbers of individual investors who are saying no to fossil fuels in their portfolios.
  4. Share this information widely.
    Encourage family, friends, your house of worship, school, etc. to divest their money from fossil fuels as well.  The faster the movement grows, the more pressure there will be on polluters.

The People’s Climate March – 400,000 strong – demonstrated that Americans are willing to take action for climate change and are not going to wait for Washington or all Street to take action. We can all take action with our money for the climate. In the 1980’s the divestment movement made a huge impact on ending Apartheid in South Africa. Now, it’s our turn to divest our money from fossil fuels and invest in the clean energy economy we need.

Take action today!

Bitter Seeds: The Human Toll of GMOs

Every 30 minutes, a farmer commits suicide in India, a phenomenon that has been steadily rising since the 1970s. Documentary filmmaker Micha X. Peled took his cameras to the vibrant farming community of Telung Takli in the state of Maharashtra—which sits at the heart of the crisis— to find out why.

Peled’s 2011 film Bitter Seeds starts out with brief scenes from the funeral of a farmer who has just committed suicide. It swiftly cuts away to follow the story of Ram Krishna Kopulwar, who has been farming cotton on the same three acres since he was seven, as he plants genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton seeds for the first time. The question at the heart of the film is whether or not this gentle family man will join the list of farmers who have given Maharashtra and a handful of neighboring states the nickname of “India’s Suicide Belt.” Continue reading “Bitter Seeds: The Human Toll of GMOs”

Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings

This article, by Andrew Schein and Kara Turtinen, originally appeared in the September/October 2011 issue of the Green American.    Visit the Green America Web site to subscribe to the Green American.

When Tim O’Neil approached fellow Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association member Stephanie Stewart in 2009 about starting a solar buying cooperative in their suburban Portland community, she loved the idea.

“Literally within a couple of days, Stephanie had created a Web site and a logo,” says O’Neil.

Then O’Neil and Stewart turned to Lizzie Rubado of the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon to help them put together workshops on installing solar panels. Originally, the new team expected to sign up 50 or so people, and they hoped that about 10-20 would go through with the installation. After all, 2008 saw only 38 solar panel installations across the entire city of Portland, Rubado says.

To their surprise, about 300 people signed up for what would become the Solarize Portland solar buying co-op. One-hundred and twenty homeowners installed solar panels that year.

Continue reading “Solar Co-ops: Neighborhood “Solar Support Groups” Reap Big Savings”

Plastic Monday: Bag the bags.

When I started researching plastic bag laws for the “Plastics Challenge” issue of our Green American, I thought I was already aware of how wasteful and polluting plastic bags really are.  After all, I’ve carried my reusable organic cotton shopping bags to the grocery store for as long as I’ve been old enough to do my own cooking.  Aesthetically and practically, I simply prefer a roomy tote bag with a comfy shoulder strap to a fist full of flimsy plastic handles any day, so it’s always been an easy green choice to make.

But looking into the recycling statistics for plastic bags made me think even more about all the other plastic bags in my life – the plastic bags that I sometimes place into into those smugly green organic cotton totes (frozen veggies, or bulk grains, for example).   The plastics industry certainly thinks of them all the same, grouping them together in a category known as “postconsumer film,” which includes other waste like newspaper bags, food bags, pallet wrap, and plastic product wrappers.

This collapsing of the category makes it tricky to suss out a statistic on how many plastic shopping bags get recycled in this country.  The EPA’s most recent figure for the bags – 1 percent being recycled – dates to 2005, with all subsequent statistics addressing recycling rates for the overall “film” category.   And in 2009 (the most recent year for which we have the stats), the film category was ENORMOUS.   The American Chemical Council reports that the plastics industry produces about 854 million pounds of “film” annually, with amounts increasing every year. Of this category, the EPA reports that we recycle 9 percent.  Together these two statistics don’t tell a pretty story:  That’s more than 770 million pounds of packaging trash that was created to be used once, temporarily, to transport something, and then dumped onto our planet.  That’s insane!

Continue reading “Plastic Monday: Bag the bags.”

9 Toxins to Keep Off Your Body

Do you know what “fragrance” means when you see it on the label of a personal care product? Neither do we! That’s because all sorts of chemicals used to scent products can be clumped under the vague term “fragrance” – and they don’t have to be disclosed. Found in everything from shampoo to deodorant, a single product’s secret fragrance mixture can contain potentially hundreds of toxic volatile organic compounds.

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 would require companies to separate out the components of the “fragrance” used in their product, but for now, this obfuscating term sits on our list as the “number two” ingredient to avoid in personal care products.

Our article “Is it Poison?” lists  the top nine ingredients to avoid (known carcinogens, hormone disruptors,  neurotoxins, and more), and links to a downloadable PDF you can print out to keep at home.

9 Toxins to Keep Off Your Body »