Recycled Plastic Pot for Winter Greens

Two weeks ago, I bought some over-priced fresh herbs, from the token over-priced shop for foreigners in my neighbourhood. They’re sold in small plastic containers like this, and I always feel it’s such a waste to just put them in the recycling heap. I reuse the cling film they’re wrapped in, especially since they’re swaddled in layers of it. Buying herbs this way always makes me feel like my guacamole has come at a huge cost, though and I feel very guilty for the privilege.

But then it hit me – why not use them as planters, and move up my winter garden plants by a few months? I have rocket, pak choy and spinach leaves ready to plant, but wasn’t planning to start until the end of the month.

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Since the containers don’t have holes in them, the plants in them don’t need incessant watering, and thankfully rocket and spinach are quite resilient anyway.

I used a mixture of normal potting soil and used coffee grounds to line these containers about halfway, then sprinkled a good handful of seeds in, and covered them. I keep them damp, and on my window ledge where this little ‘recycled garden’ gets partial sunlight throughout the day. Since the containers are transparent I’ve been able to ensure the plants don’t get waterlogged. Two weeks later, the spinach has sprouted beautifully and I have to say, looks quite cute!

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I hope it grows steadily in the coming weeks and I can justify this use of plastic! What do you think?

 

Fair Trade and Millennials

I came across this article today, and was intrigued. It quotes this NPR piece from earlier this week, which (full disclosure) discusses the findings of a Hersheys-funded survey.

In essence, millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 1996) don’t practice what they preach when it comes to ethical consumption. This is interesting for many reasons, not least of all because of the social media onslaught we’re responsible for, talking about the importance of buying goods that are handmade, organic, ethical, eco-friendly, recycled, etc etc. As it turns out, we may care more about being seen to talk about it than actually putting all that concern into action.

Let me add here, this isn’t altogether surprising. I care deeply about the story behind the goods I consume, and it bothers me that our electronics still can’t be sourced ethically, without harm to or loss of life. But I can’t afford to put that care into all aspects of my life, either because of practicality – no one makes ethical computers – price, or availability. So I’m typing this on a MacBook, despite the fact Apple has been accused of exploiting child and bonded labour in their Asian factories. They’re working on it, but progress is slow.  

In a survey of participants ages 18 to 35, millennials reported caring about ethical issues like environmental sustainability and social responsibility in chocolate production. But when choosing chocolate privately, these self-proclaimed ethical shoppers were all chocolate bark and no bite. (Sorry.) Most showed little preference for labels advertising ethical sourcing and instead preferred labels with ingredients they recognized — items like “chocolate” and “butter,” rather than “tertiary butylhydroquinone.”

We can’t see the survey itself, so we can’t see the wording, but let’s not presume to think ours is the only generation that’s ever cared about environmental sustainability and social responsibility. If you believe in climate change and know that we are responsible for most of the increases in greenhouse gases in recent decades, and that our thirst for faster and cheaper goods has led to a significant drain on the livelihoods of other humans, it’s only natural you’ll want to turn to goods that try to counteract that.

(Tertiart butylhydroquinone, by the way, is a preservative used with unsaturated vegetable oil and animal fat. Thank you, Wiki.)

Young hypothesized that millennials also set aside ethical concerns when choosing to indulge, despite a reputation in the food industry for caring about responsibly sourced food.

With funding from The Hershey Co., Young set out to test his hunch. First, the researchers conducted eight focus groups, each consisting of eight to 10 millennials. They found that younger millennials ages 18 to 20 expressed little concern about anything other than taste in their chocolate preferences. But older millennials expressed concern about whether chocolate was organic, fair trade, GMO-free and environmentally sustainable.

I’m guessing the older millennials are more likely to be those who absorb global news more often, read more, travel more, and likely also work in the countries producing the goods we consume. Information is the first of many steps to being able to do something about a situation you find oppressive, so this again is no surprise. I’m not discriminating against these high school/university groups either. I remember what I was like at that age. In between essay deadlines, parties, MUN meetings and just enjoying being young, how many of us set aside the time to go into the backstory of all the goods we consumed, how they were produced and the rights of those who made them?

Then the researchers presented another group of 214 millennials with unbranded, unpriced labels varying in traits — such as ingredients used, fat content, and ethical endorsement (for example, a label indicating Rainforest Alliance certification). Each millennial was asked to choose between side-by-side label comparisons of varying chocolate products — roughly 400 times. Most participants consistently paid attention to whether or not they could pronounce the ingredients in a bar, but only a small, socially conscious group — representing 14 percent of participants — showed strong preference for ethical labels.

The findings “confirmed what I thought,” says corporate sustainability specialist Sandra Rousseau from the University of Leuven, Belgium, who was not involved in the research. She cautions that the study disproportionately sampled college students but says the findings make sense. “You interview young people, and they tend to be quite aware of social issues and environmental issues. But if you push a bit harder, it’s a lot of talk, but not always action.”

That’s not to say that millennials are secretly truffle-munching, Nietzsche-reading nihilists.

Young says millennials are likely more concerned about ethics when buying goods that aren’t as indulgent as chocolate. Millennials still care more, he says, about ethical food production than older generations, who grew up before many of these issues were mainstream concerns.

Time to also remind ourselves that these younger groups are less likely to be employed full-time (especially in the samples the survey used, in the US), which makes their disposable income that much smaller than people my age, who are more likely to have a full-time job, and who can afford to implement their philosophy in their everyday lives.

This is by no means a defense of my generation, or a condemnation. I firmly believe that anything anyone does to consider the sources of our consumption, or to even think about why we buy certain things from certain companies or countries, is a step forward and more progress than we were making 30-40 years ago.

We can’t all afford to buy organic coffee, but if yours is drunk at home and not out of a disposable cup, that’s one less plastic-coated paper cup that will end up in the throat of a sea turtle.

Growing your own herbs at home cuts down on the carbon footprint of importing them from distant countries, who may not pay their farmers adequately, transported in climate-controlled freights.

Buying second-hand or vintage clothes can help reduce our dependency on sweat-shop labour.

See what I mean? It’s not all about going to the organic aisle, or being seen to do something. Who knows what these younger millennials do in their non chocolate-eating time to care about other people, or the planet?

There is a very important fact to consider here. The first Fairtrade coffee landed on supermarket shelves over 30 years ago (in the Netherlands via Mexico) – a number that nicely fits in with the millennial generation (defined as people born 1980-1996).

This means that for millennials, the concept of fair trade has been on the radar their entire lives. They came of age with the organic and local movement. Ethical buying is not an add-on, it’s not a marketing ploy, it’s an expectation.  And for many of them, the travails of coffee farmers have been well-documented.

What’s important to note is that this study shows that the millennial generation cares more than others about the social and environmental implications of our consumption. You could argue that caring alone isn’t going to do anything, but I’d say it’s enough.

Young university students who care grow up to become young, informed people who have the power to do something. I’d always rather err on the side of optimism here, rather than dismissiveness. Every generation looks down on the one following, and I’m probably more likely than most my age to do this; but let’s not ignore the potential of awareness and information-sharing to translate into more responsible decisions.

 

World Recycle Week and H&M

There’s a lot being said about fast fashion and the negative impact of our big clothing brands. With the Fashion Revolution also making headlines this year, H&M’s World Recycle Week comes at an exciting time.

The idea is for people to take in their used and old clothes, accessories, shoes and fabrics to their nearest H&M store, for recycling instead of throwing it away. (The fact that people would throw away clothes rather than donate or recycle is in itself still shocking. Surely there’s enough information available about the impact of all of this waste? But that’s possibly a post for another time.)

The idea is to prevent the huge amount of waste the fashion industry generates. Almost all our clothing, footwear, etc can be recycled into something new, rather than going to a landfill as much of it does.

Recycling just one t shirt saves 2,700 litres of water (the carbon footprint of producing a new one).

Watch this video to see what H&M plans to do with it:

I decided to try out this idea at my local H&M store – all of them are participating, which is great. The timing couldn’t be better for me, since I’m going through a huge spring clean, and also need a few work clothes.

For every bag of clothes you take in, the Hungarian branch gives you a 500 forint (roughly 1.5 Euros) discount voucher.

I have to add here that I haven’t bought new clothes in at least a year and a half. It just so happens that my beliefs in being a conscious consumer align well with my hatred of going into various shops, trying everything on in a small and badly-lit room, and lugging it around a mall. I would much rather pick something out online (in my PJs) or at most, while meandering around a nice vintage or second-hand shop.

So this in itself was an adventure, but an exciting one since it’s not a traditional shopping trip.

Do some preliminary digging into H&M’s ethos and you’ll definitely notice some red flags. We’ve all seen their ad campaigns for their Conscious Collection, and know they try to use organic cotton where possible. This is several steps ahead of many other cheaper brands out there, of course.

Their latest Sustainability Report shows a mixed bag of impact and results. The growth rates of their sustainable cotton use (out of their total cotton use), and the share of sustainably sourced materials (out of all their materials) has shown a strong rate of increase from 2011 and 2012, respectively. However, the rates themselves, when compared with the goal of 100%, is too weak for their impact to be significant enough in terms of their overall carbon footprint.

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

Source: H&M 2015 Sustainability Report

 

H&M’s carbon emissions for 2015 however, when compared to the previous year, show an impressive drop of 56% – and this compares to a tiny fall of 4% in 2014, and increases the two years before.

There’s a push for external certification of these credentials – all of H&M’s denim products are now scored well by Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measurement Tool – a software which helps brands increase the sustainability of their supply chain in denim.

On the other hand, various links in their supply chain show that while the group’s intentions may be good, their progress in the past few years (reports go back to 2009) has not been as strong as it could be – or as the group would like.

The progress in factory sustainability globally has risen by only 6% in four years, and the percentage of sustainable raw materials of their total raw materials is very low. Along their value chain, impact is mixed; where they have a low climate impact (12%), the social impact is high – as in the raw materials stage. Their fabric and yarn production, with a high social impact, shows one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome. H&M doesn’t work directly with the producers of their fabric, but through intermediaries such as the Natural Resources Defense Council to help improve performance. However, the environmental impact is still significantly high, with greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution in the production of cotton startlingly high, and largely unchanged (the group has had a 6% impact on their own water usage in 2015).

It’s important to also recognise that not enough high street brands care about their production enough to measure their impact and their value chain’s ethics. There’s certainly great room for progress and the fact that H&M still produce cotton instead of more conscious alternatives like hemp in their clothing, is an example of this. But as a whole, and measured against their competitors, H&M is still doing more to raise awareness of the industry’s carbon footprint. With World Recycling Week as well, buying new clothes at a time like this, from a company that at least tries to counter its harmful impact, is better than choosing other brands.

Reblog: What Happens When Fashion Becomes Fast, Disposable And Cheap?

I came across this article on NPR today and thought I’d share it with you – on the realities of our ‘fast’ and cheap clothing, and the cost behind what we pay for it.

When it comes to clothes these days, maybe you should ask: What’s your waste size?

You know you have those clothes sitting in your closet: That shirt you spent less than $10 on because it looked cool for a second, or that skirt you only wore once before it went out of fashion.

Fashion cycles are moving faster than ever. A Quartz article in December revealed how fashion brands like Zara, Gap and Adidas are churning out new styles more frequently, a trend dubbed “fast fashion” by many in the industry. The clothes that are mass-produced also become more affordable, thus attracting consumers to buy more.

“It used to be four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11 or 15 or more,” says Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design.

The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent per year over the last five years, topping the 6.8 percent of growth of traditional apparel companies, according to financial holding company CIT.

Fashion is big business. Estimates vary, but one report puts the global industry at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 million spent in the U.S. alone. In 2014, the average household spent an average $1,786 on apparel and related services.

More styles mean more purchases — and that leads to more waste created. Journalist Elizabeth Cline writes in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion that disposable clothing is damaging to the environment and the economy. We are more likely to dispose of cheaper, mass-produced fashion garments than pricier ones.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal,” Lewis says. “The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.

How To Deal With All This Textile Waste?

One way developed nations get rid of their excess clothing is by donating it to developing nations. According to the United Nations, the United States is thebiggest exporter of used clothes, and the top importing countries of used clothing are India, Russia and Pakistan.

But with the strong dollar and availability of cheap clothing from Asia, some are worried that demand for exports of secondhand clothing will decline — thus forcing developed nations to find new ways to deal with post-consumer textile waste.

Fast fashion and the disposable culture also hurt sorting companies that export second-hand clothing.

Adam Baruchowitz, founder of Wearable Collections in New York City, collects second-hand clothing collector and sells it to sorting companies. The companies then sort through the clothes, separating those that will be made into other low-grade fiber products and those that will be exported.

Baruchowitz says the most valuable part of a sorting company’s business is in selling reusable second-hand clothing. But if the quality is questionable, more of the garments collected might have to head to the shredding bin rather than the second-hand clothes market.

“It’s very damaging to the environment, this fast fashion culture, and it also affects the secondhand market because these clothes aren’t meant to be used for so long,” he says. “I can’t say for sure, but the secondhand H&Ms would probably be in less demand than a garment that was produced with more quality. I’m getting all this stuff from fast fashion and I’m hearing from clients that it’s hurting them.”

Do Retailers’ Recycling Programs Encourage Consumerism?

Several clothing retailers have announced take-back programs that collect used garments from customers to be recycled, sold or remade into other clothing. H&M, for example, has allowed customers to bring unwanted garments — which will be transformed to recycled textile fibers for new products — since 2013. The company aims to have “zero garments going to landfill.” Patagonia also recycles and sells used Patagonia products in its stores.

It plays into the concept of extended producer responsibility, which means the manufacturer has to take into consideration the product’s afterlife.

But does it actually encourage more consumerism? For many stores, customers can get store credit and vouchers for sending in used clothing.

“If you bring it back to the store and you see something new and you’re going to give me a discount, I’m having a buying moment I may not have had before because you’re having me back at your store. It’s very smart in terms of business,” Lewis says.

The concept, however, might encourage a different type of thinking: If manufacturers have to think about how they’re going to get the most out of the product after it has been worn, Lewis says, it might spur them to start designing products that can be taken apart easily, have better quality, or might be biodegradable, for example.

H&M introduced new garments made of recycled textile fibers two year ago.

Grassroots Efforts To Counter Fast Fashion

A year ago, a few users began uploading YouTube videos of themselves exchanging clothes with friends. It was either that, or they were showcasing how they made new styles out of their old, scrappy clothes.

“Today is fashion revolution day and I decided to take part in this movement by making a ‘Haulternative’ video,” says CutiePieMarza, a YouTuber from England, in her video. She was exchanging clothes with grav3yardgirl, a YouTuber from Texas.

“It’s part haul, part swap … she asked me about a month ago if I would be part of this awesome project,” says grav3yardgirl in her video. “I think it’s something mainly going on in the UK.”

“Haulternative” is an alternative to the traditional “haul” videos, where users post videos of themselves parading their latest buys.

It was an activity that was part of the larger Fashion Revolutionmovement started in the United Kingdom that aimed to bring awareness to the source of our garments — as well as the waste created by our consumerist habits.

“It’s an alternative haul. It’s looking at how people can do a different kind of haul, how people can refresh their wardrobe without having to buy new clothes,” says Carry Somers, co-founder of the movement. “It’s encouraging people to be more conscious when they’re shopping.”

Instead of constantly buying new clothes, the movement suggested people buy from vintage stores, make new clothes out of old ones or just swap clothes. Fashion Revolution Week will take place April 18-24 and participants are encouraged to upload their “haulternative” videos this year as well.

Some companies are experimenting with new ideas. Rent The Runway, for example, rents out branded clothes to customers who pay a monthly fee. Those concerned about the mounting waste hopped onto an opposing concept: Instead of buying cheap clothes, invest in slightly costly clothes with good quality that might last you longer. The 30-year-sweatshirt by Tom Cridland is an example.

San Francisco was aware of this problem in 2002 — and pledged a goal of reaching zero waste by 2020 by encouraging the recycling of clothes, shoes and linen.

“I think for clothing, because we’re a consumer culture, it’s hard for me to say don’t buy anything,” Lewis says. “We can probably slow down how much we buy.”

Guest Post: What Ethical Consumerism means to me

I’m thrilled to share my guest blog for ‘Hands Producing Hope’ on what ethical consumerism means to me, resources and ideas for thinking about our lifestyles in a more equitable way. I would love to hear your thoughts! ‘Hands Producing Hope’ is a great company which not only works with artisans to make beautiful products ethically, but also actively work to counter the poor conditions their artisans live in, to live healthy and full lives. Their aim is to bring about change in the lives of their producers not only through the sale of their products, but also through educating us as consumers about the need to make more ethical purchases and activate others to do the same.

They go beyond this responsibility to also provide social protection to their workers, some of whom have been rescued from being sex workers against their will. The program focusses on marginalised individuals, providing education to their children – and sometimes to the artisans themselves – and develop skills in the community which can be used in other trades, providing a sustainable livelihood.  Have a look at their incredible website and beautiful items! Without further ado, here’s my post:

It might sound glib, but one of the most powerful things we can do as humans is to decide how we want our world to look – whether that’s by voting, picketing, raising awareness, joining an NGO, etc – and one of the most interesting ways to do this is to choose how you spend your money and what you spend it on. There’s nothing particularly new about ethical or sustainable living, but what I love to see is the huge number of creative ways we can live with respect for others and our planet.

There is nothing special or unique about me – no,  I’m not fishing for compliments! I am an ordinary person with a normal life and income. I am not trying to preach about how to be a better consumer, because I’m still navigating through that myself. I’m in no real position to tell you how or what to buy, but I can share some ideas of where I look and how I started thinking my consumption. We are all capable of making ethical consumption choices – it’s not just for the fabulously wealthy, or for the hemp sandal-wearing, dreadlocked hippy. I’m wearing second-hand clothes as I type this and my tea comes from an organic plantation in southern India. But I’m writing on an Apple MacBook – don’t even get me started on their carbon footprint. It’s all a balancing act.

It’s important to stop and really think about whether you need the thing you’re lusting after (even if it’s the most beautiful scarf in the world). If you do, consider getting it second-hand, or repurpose an object for something else – I use chopsticks from takeaways as reed diffusers around the house – which may not directly benefit another person, but it reduces your carbon footprint and is one less set of items we need our planet’s finite set of resources to make.

If it has to be new, try thinking about who would have made it and under what conditions. If it’s likely to be mass produced in a factory by someone earning less than or just about minimum wage, I always have to think about whether it’s really necessary. For some items, like smartphones, it really can’t be helped. (There is a Fairphone, but the market is quite small and the phone itself is rather expensive – plus reviews are mixed.)

I’m also conscious of the cost of making a complete lifestyle change by buying solely Fair Trade-certified produce, or entirely handmade goods. I often tell people that we don’t need to completely envelop ourselves in a cocoon of ethically-produced goods, but it is important to try to make small changes, since they inevitably lead to bigger ones.

Simply switching to Fair Trade-certified coffee, or buying vegetables from a farmers market (or better yet, growing your own), can lead to larger leaps of changing the way we consume.

You can buy furniture from Ikea, but if the throw you use while watching TV was handmade for example, that’s fantastic – and the company you buy the throw from might have other ideas for your home that you like, so you slowly build up this habit of label- and background-checking.

I’ve learned that ethical living doesn’t mean you have to buy a lot and it doesn’t mean you have to surround yourself with ethical products either. Reducing consumption is often one of the best ways to start. You can live ethically by composting your food, growing your own herbs, recycling plastic bottles to make greenhouses, making some of your own furniture and breathing new life into everyday objects. Ethical living means not only keeping the needs of other people in mind, it also means living with respect for the planet which gives us so much already, while also forcing us to think honestly about our own needs. Look around you now and think honestly about what you could not live without – then think about creative or ethical ways you could have bought those things. I really like this flow chart:

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Since I spent some of my childhood in India, I have seen what poverty looks like and what it can do, to children my age, their families and the society around them. Seeing girls your own age drinking water from a puddle on the street, in tattered clothes, playing mother to their younger siblings instead of enjoying childhood the way I was able to, is not an easy image to shift. My own family was always aware of this imbalance and like many around us, we did what we could. My first experience of an ‘ethical business’ as such is an incredible shop called Fabindia, where my mother got many of her clothes. Fabindia use traditional methods to make their beautiful clothes, often using natural dyes, and also contribute financially to the communities they support.

There are plenty of documentaries, news stories and books about the cost of mass production on people – on children, vulnerable groups like the extreme poor, or even the working classes in seemingly far-away countries.

With the collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, many people started asking serious questions about where our clothes come from and why we need to constantly buy from the same companies known for exploiting sweatshop labour.

A great deal of much-needed publicity went to ethical companies like People Tree out of this horrible disaster. I would recommend reading some of these books or reports and watching some of the incredible documentaries available, since they will often have tips and ideas for being an ethical consumer without needing to break the bank or significantly alter your way of shopping or thinking. If you are a blogger, join this incredible Facebook group to share resources and information.

It’s because of our position as consumers with money, access to information and resources, that we have to cast this sort of vote for a more equitable future. Think about it this way – who else is going to do it? We shouldn’t ignore this moral requirement. We enjoy the lifestyles we do because someone else has worked around the clock in abysmal conditions to mine tungsten, copper and other minerals for our iPhones. Our responsibility to other people and to our planet extends beyond the money we pay for these goods. We need to go beyond that and think deeper about our power as consumers. Even if you don’t agree with the moral imperative of giving back when we take so much, we need to consider the effect of our cheap, exploitative lifestyles on the planet – it just isn’t sustainable.

But it isn’t all dismal news – there is a lot we can still do to correct the mistakes of this exploitation. I love how creative this journey has allowed me to become with regards to my lifestyle choices. Social media makes it so much easier. I started my blog in 2008, which introduced me to the marvelous wonderland of Pinterest, Etsy and Ravelry – and let’s not forget the power of a Facebook group to gather like-minded people. Even in Budapest, there are second-hand furniture groups, from which I got six hand-painted silk pillows for a steal, and met a fascinating Croatian woman.

We have recently moved into a much larger flat so I’m going a little Pinterest-mad with redecoration ideas – some of which can be bought and some of which are going to be hobby-work challenges for both of us. I stumbled upon a tutorial to make pillow covers and even though I’ve never come close to making one before, I found a fantastic fabric shop in Barcelona, got hypnotised by the owner’s stories of the hand-weavers and dyers they work with and now there’s a pile of fabric waiting to be turned into something beautiful. How exciting is that?!DSC_0092

So get creative – if you think you could start making some of the homewares you covet from Anthropologie, there is a wealth of information on the internet so just jump in and see how it goes. Blogs like this, and companies like Hands Producing Hope, are a great resource for starting this journey – and as you read and learn more, new and creative ways to live more responsibly, ethically and sustainably will come to you. Tap into social media networks too – we are all interested in this stuff and enjoy helping each other, so I hope to see you online!

About Sanjukta: 

 

Sanjukta was born in India and grew up in Europe and the UK. She has been involved in political activism since her teenage years and is passionate about fostering a global culture of respect for each other and our planet. She has been blogging since she was an angry undergrad and would love to connect via Pinterest, Etsy or Instagram!

Earth Day 2015

In honour of Earth Day, here’s a video showing the beauty in our natural world. Incredible!

Greenpeace released this important and moving video about what we truly ‘need’ – clean air, safe water, protected rainforests and biodiversity. Take a look:

This is also another important video from the Gaia Foundation, about how our modern consumption is taking a severe toll on the sustainability of this incredible planet.

Earth Day is a special occasion for us to stop and think about the beauty of the natural world, take it all in and to think long and hard about how we can preserve it for future generations. Small everyday acts of kindness towards our planet, each other and to the millions of species we co-exist with can help us preserve scenes like the ones we’ve just seen for generations to come. There are thousands of ways to take part in Earth Day and adopt new lifestyle practices. Have a look at the Earth Day Network’s page for some inspiration. Greenpeace is also a great resource. I’m going to enjoy the beautiful sunshine in Budapest today and take time to appreciate the natural beauty around me. Happy Earth Day!

I also came across this excellent article on HuffPost, about new ways to mitigate against climate change, and the new voices in the debate:

Training a Global Force of Climate Visionaries

Global climate disruption caused by human-generated carbon pollution is among the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, full stop. Now, more than ever, the global community is beginning to recognize the scope and scale of the climate crisis. And while the vastness of the problem can be daunting, the good news is that the solutions to solve it are right in front of us, in the form of the people we interact with every day.

To be clear, reaching a strong international emissions reductions agreement at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year is a critical step forward in halting global climate change. But the truth is that the power to act isn’t an exclusive right reserved by world leaders. People all over the world — in different countries, with different political ideologies and occupying different places in society — are realizing their power and taking action designed to change the politics of climate change and to support the transition to a clean-energy economy.

At the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, we seek to find these great leaders and make them exceptional, transforming them into agents of change with the knowledge, tools and drive to communicate effectively around climate-change impacts and solutions. Our Climate Reality Leaders range from teachers to businesspeople to pastors, but they share a common understanding of the urgency of climate action and a desire to become warriors on the front lines of the fight against climate change. Their work is evident everywhere, from family dinners to international summits.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps — a dynamic group of thousands of world-changers shaping the climate conversation — began humbly: in 2006, former U.S. Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore invited 50 people to join him in the Tennessee countryside to learn how best to explain global warming to their friends, colleagues, and peers. Since then, Climate Reality has honed and refined the model for larger international audiences; today, trainings are intensive two- or three-day programs all over the world that feature a blend of educational presentations, collaborative workshops, and ample networking time for attendees to get to know each other.

To date, Climate Reality has held 27 trainings around the world, training a global network of more than 7,500 activists from 125 countries. Each training focuses on the issues and solutions most relevant to the region: in Rio de Janeiro, indigenous leader Mayalú Kokometi Waurá Txucarramãe shared the devastating effects of deforestation, while in New Delhi, Sanjit Bunker Roy talked about his Barefoot College program, which trains illiterate rural grandmothers to install solar panels. At the upcoming training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, speakers will delve into the impacts of climate change on the U.S. agricultural economy and the public-health implications of climate change, all in the context of the state’s significance in U.S. politics.

Climate Reality Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, with as many reasons for taking action. Former engineer Terry Gallagher — who will be a Climate Reality Mentor at our upcoming Iowa training — is now an ordained minister focused on faith-based social-justice action, advocacy and education, who uses his ministry as a forum for helping people engage in responding to climate change. Carol LeBlanc, an IT manager who works with the U.S. federal government, recognized the immediacy of climate change when her former Colorado Springs neighborhood was swallowed by wildfires in 2012.

Exactly because of their diversity of backgrounds, Climate Reality Leaders find the trainings to be highly personal experiences. This is reinforced in part because trainees work closely with Climate Reality Mentors throughout the process — people who have been through the trainings and use what they have learned to guide the next batch of Climate Reality Leaders.

Learning in this way — through intensive, hands-on experiences that can then be shared — not only encompasses the philosophy of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, it also offers a model for broad and systemic societal change, which is critical to solving the global climate crisis.

This post is part of a Huffington Post What’s Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference — whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.

Reblog: Limiting Climate change would have huge economic benefits, study finds

While this is definitely stating the bleeding obvious, I hope more such articles convince the skeptics of the benefits of adaptation and mitigation to climate change.

Limiting climate change could have huge economic benefits, study finds

Stopping global warming at two degrees would create nearly half a million jobs in Europe and save over a million lives in China, analysis of emissions pledges says

China solar power
A commitment by China to limit a rise to 2C would create 2m jobs, the analysis says. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

Major economies would boost their prosperity, employment levels and health prospects if they took actions that limited global warming to 2c, according to the first analysis of emissions pledges made before the UN climate summit in Paris later this year.

Europe has promised a 40% emissions cut by 2030, compared to 1990 levels – and the report says this will bring real benefits, including 70,000 full-time jobs, the prevention of around 6,000 pollution-related deaths, and a €33bn cut in fossil fuel imports.

But if emissions were slashed by around 55% – the study’s proposed route for holding global warming to two degrees – those benefits would multiply to $173bn fuel savings, 420,000 full-time clean energy jobs and 46,000 lives saved, its authors say.

31 March is the deadline for developed countries to submit their climate pledges for the conference (so called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDCs), but few have yet done so and nations such as Canada and Japan are expected to miss the bell.

“This report adds to the growing body of evidence that greater climate ambition means better health,” said Anne Stauffer, the deputy director of the Health and Environment Alliance.

“The massive health benefits expected from mitigation action not only include premature deaths avoided but also reduced healthcare costs and increased productivity. This should be welcome news for European decision-makers.”

In other parts of the world, the effects of increased climate ambition would be even more dramatic, according to the New Climate Institute’s (NCI) analysis which uses data from the International Energy Agency.

Putting China on course for a world warmed only by two degrees would save over a million lives and create almost 2m jobs – compared to the 100,000 lives and 500,000 jobs set out in its climate deal with the US.

Comparable figures in the US for a 2C pathway would see 650,000 new jobs created and 27,000 deaths avoided.

“Despite the major achievements of the INDCs, this study has shown that the potential co-benefits of strengthening INDCs to meet a 2C compatible trajectory are many times higher than those already achieved,” the paper says.

Global temperatures have already risen by 0.85 degrees since 1880, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As the warming effect of CO2 emissions is thought to take a decade to materialise, we may already be committed to over one degree of warming.

In the long term, that is likely to risk the future of coastal cities such as New York, Shanghai and Calcutta, according to scientists at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research.

If the planet warms by 2C by 2100, the Royal Society expects to see a third of the world’s currently-cultivated agricultural land disappear, the bleaching of all coral reefs, and an increase in water stress for 410m people.

At a rise of 4C, the limits for human and environmental adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, a 2010 paper by the Society said. It envisaged around half of the world’s current agricultural land becoming unusable, sea level rises of up to two metres, and the extinction of about 40% of the world’s species, as droughts and wildfires ravaged the globe.

“The ecosystem services upon which human livelihoods depend would not be preserved,” the study found.

“Our industries must face the challenge of massive decarbonisation,” said Sharan Burrow, the International Trade Union Confederation’s secretary-general.

“We have the technology and there are millions of jobs possible from the necessary investment and millions more saved if we avoid the devastation of extreme climate change. There are no jobs on a dead planet.”