Beware “greenwashing” this Earth Day


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Watch out! Consumerism can be made to appear “green” (flickr). 

Julia Poska| April 22, 2019

“Earth Day deals to save money and help the planet,” one headline reads. “10 products that will help you buy less this Earth Day,” says another. Other articles advertise “clean” beauty products or “green” technology.

Don’t fall for it; buying anything, especially anything you don’t need, ultimately contributes to fossil fuel emissions, resource consumption and the planet’s pervasive trash problem.

“Greenwashing” occurs when an institution puts more resources and effort into marketing itself as eco-friendly than it does actually minimizing its environmental impact. This doesn’t only happen on Earth Day, of course. Many companies, public figures and organizations  feature “sustainability missions” on their websites year long,  making vague claims about their “zero-waste journey” or “environmental stewardship,” with little concrete information about the implementation or outcomes of such initiatives.

Rebecca Leber, an environmental reporter for Mother Jones, wrote today that she “hates” Earth Day, mostly because it has devolved from a day of protest and activism to a day when anyone can claim to care. Every April, her inbox floods with PR pitches promoting  Earth Day news from companies that she knows are less-than-sustainable 364 days of the year.

“Earth Day provides a fine opportunity to showcase how [a company’s] generally negligible corporate gestures demonstrate their commitment to ‘going green,'” she said.

Reducing consumption by fully utilizing what we already own or sharing with others is far better for the planet than consuming new products, even if those products are well-intended.  So think critically about the messages you come across. Use up all your shampoo before you invest in that more natural version, buy a used shirt instead of a brand new “organic” tee and forego using a straw at all over buying a metal one.

And if you want to absolutely minimize your carbon footprint today, Quartz writer Ephrat Livni makes the case for “sitting perfectly still” at home with the lights and air conditioning turned off, so that “ever-so-briefly you are not contributing to climate change.”

 

 

Celebrate Earth Day in Iowa!


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The Earth is worth celebrating! 

Julia Poska| April 18, 2019

On April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day, spending time cleaning, greening and appreciating the life-giving planet we too often take for granted.

Iowa, of course, will join in on the party. Read below about Earth Day events cities in Iowa will host next week, as well as some activities you can do individually to make a difference.

Des Moines: Festivities in the state capital will begin this weekend. On Friday, Des Moines Parks and Recreation will host an Earth Day Trash Bash, where registered teams will pick up trash around the city. Everyone is welcome to join in on the kick-off party and several other events hosted Friday and Saturday as part of the bash, including a Downtown Earth Day Tour through the science center, botanical garden and riverwalk. A number of other events  on Saturday and Monday include wildlife restoration, crafting and stream cleanup.

Cedar Rapids: The city’s 10th annual EcoFest will be on Saturday, April 20. The day’s events include performances, presentations, hands-on activities, tours, awards and more. Last year over 4,000 people attended!

Dubuque: The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium will participate in a nationwide Party for the Planet event Saturday. Visitors attend presentations, meet animals and do hands-on activities to learn about environmental conservation. Participation in the celebration will be included with general admission and free for children 3 and under.

Davenport: Visit the Freight House Farmer’s Market Saturday morning for speakers, demonstrations, music and activities to learn about problems facing the planet and how you can help fight them. 

Iowa City: You can celebrate for days on end in Iowa City! On Monday, compete in Earth Day Eco Trivia at the East Side Recycling Center. Tuesday, celebrate the 100 Grannies for a Livable Future 7th anniversary. Plant trees at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area Wednesday, and on Friday talk to UI scientists at the Sciences Library. Saturday join Parks and Rec for an Earth Day festival.

University of Iowa student organizations have been hosting Earth Month events for weeks, and still have more to come. Consider visiting the Student Garden Open House Saturday, April 27 for food and DIY Chia Pets with the UI Gardeners and attending an environmental benefit concert the following night with the UI Environmental Coalition.

If you’d like to celebrate on your own or with friends consider these activities:

  • Picking up trash in your neighborhood or at a local park
  • Planting something yummy
  • Starting a home compost pile
  • Going for a nature walk
  • Attempting to make zero-waste for one whole day
  • Cooking a plant-based meal

 

 

Earth Day Network encourages year-round environmental effort


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Plastic tangles with ocean vegetation on a beach near San Francisco. (Kevin Krejci/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | April 25, 2018

It seems that spring in Iowa finally arrived by this Sunday, April 22nd, which also happened to be Earth Day, and many celebrated by spending time outside.

But what was the 48th Earth Day all about, if not only outdoor picnics and joyous winter-is-finally-over selfies? According to the Earth Day Network, the aim for 2018 is to End Plastic Pollution. A noble cause indeed; more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year worldwide. About fifty percent of that is used just one time and thrown away. Plastic Oceans, a non-profit dedicated to reducing plastic use and pollution, estimates that more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually. Much of this plastic ends up in the Pacific Ocean. More than 6,000 pounds of the stuff was removed during an Earth Day clean up on Hong Kong’s beaches this year, and the effort barely made a dent in the local pollution problem.

The Earth Day Network points out that April 22nd has been a day for civic engagement and political activism since 1970, when millions of Americans marched to call attention to the environmental degradation that had been caused by more than a century of unchecked industrial development. With carbon dioxide levels at their highest level in 650,000 years, there is a strong case to live as though every day is Earth Day. Officials from the Earth Day Network have several suggestions for how to do so. From using nontoxic cleaning products to changing vehicle air filters regularly to reading documents online rather than printing them, small changes made by many people can make a big difference.

Individuals interested in learning more about plastic pollution and how to reduce the amount of plastic they consume can also join the End Plastic Pollution campaign. Participants can calculate their own plastic consumption and create a Personal Plastic Plan to reduce consumption and keep track of progress online.

Climate change evangelist Katherine Hayhoe to lecture at ISU for Earth Day


Katherine Hayhoe will discuss ways that Iowa farmers and businesses can combat climate change during a lecture at Iowa State University on April 22. (Ashely Rodgers/Texas Tech University)

Nick Fetty | April 21, 2015

Atmospheric scientist and a climate change evangelist Katherine Hayhoe will present “Climate Urgency & How Iowa Farmers and Businesses Can Take the Lead” at Iowa State University as part of an Earth Day commemoration on April 22.

Hayhoe is an an Associate Professor in the Public Administration program at Texas Tech University and also directs the school’s Climate Science Center. She serves as the science adviser for Showtime’s Emmy award-winning documentary series “The Years of Living Dangerously” and has also been featured on the PBS’s “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.”

In 2014, Time magazine named Hayhoe one of The 100 Most Influential People particularly because of her work as a climate change evangelist which allows her to combine her Christian faith with her passion for educating the world about climate change.

“There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting,” wrote actor Don Cheadle for a profile in Time. “It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is.”

The event is schedule to begin at 7 p.m. and will take place in Great Hall at the Memorial Union. The lecture will also be live streamed online.

Cosponsors for this event include: the Climate Science Program, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council, the Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, NSF EPSCoR, and the Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB).

Happy Earth Day!


Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.
Photo by Cornelia Kopp; Flickr.

How are you celebrating Earth Day 2014?

Apple is flaunting a new video, “Better,” that emphasizes the company’s commitment to going green. The video introduces a new electronic recycling program, where customers can take any old Apple product to any Apple store (or send it in the mail) and the company will either give money back  to you or properly recycle the product to keep it out of landfills.

In the Des Moines Register’s Iowa View, Tom Brooks suggests making the switch to biofuels. Biofuels are renewable, sustainable, and are produced locally as well for a great way to promote Iowa jobs as well as our environment.

Or, take your plastic bags to the Iowa City Ped Mall between noon and 4 p.m. for the Reusable Bag Campaign, by the UI Environmental Coalition. Reusable bags will be handed out in exchange!

For more information on Earth Day and how you can participate, click here.

Iowa City recycling center to open on Earth Day


Photo by holisticgeek, Flickr.

Iowa City officials overseeing the final construction stages of the city’s East Side Recycling Center say they hope to officially open the facility’s doors on April 22, Earth Day.

“It’s come together and we’re in the last little bit and I’m really hoping we can get it open for Earth Day,” said Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jordan. “It would be wonderful.”

In addition to collecting the usual recyclables, the recycling center will also offering quarterly events for residents to dispose of hazardous materials.

The building itself strives for a LEED Platinum accreditation – the highest available from LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

For more information, read the full article at the Press-Citizen.