Great news for those who want less waste and lower emissions! The Corrugated Packaging Alliance, an industry association that represents the many makers of paper packaging, released a study last week showing that the use of recyclable coated boxes for shipping wet-packed produce and protein has increased 600% since 2002.
Even more significant, the use of non-recyclable packaging has declined by 33%—which comes out to 6 billion square feet of packaging. According to our calculations, that means about 600,000 tons of cardboard material was more likely to be recycled than incinerated or landfilled. If all of those tons were recovered at the national recovery rate for cardboard (a whopping 91%, according to the US EPA), that reduced emissions by 1.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, the same as planting 43 million trees.
Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) has been working since 2008 to help accelerate the development of recyclable packaging for protein and produce, including hosting a series of pilots that have both demonstrated the strength and usability of the packaging as well as raising awareness concerning the many benefits of using recoverable packaging.
For a look back at the work of CoRR to encourage the use of recyclable coated packaging, check out this video of our produce farm pilots in 2012, and our work with the Mountaire Farms poultry packing facility in 2010.
Urban farming increases access to fresh produce and strengthens the connection between people and the sources of their nourishment. But moving from the bucolic idea of an urban farm to the reality of putting seeds in the ground often leads to a frustrating detour through a tangle of red tape.
In Youngstown, Ohio, Global Green USA assisted the City to create a clear regulatory pathway for the burgeoning urban farming movement. The standards and procedures for Youngstown are representative of current thinking about enabling urbanism and agricultural practices to be mutually supportive, rather than mutually exclusive.
Over the past century, farming evolved into a predominantly rural activity, as the result of several fundamental shifts in the urban landscape. First was the transition from animal-driven to mechanically driven transportation. As cars replaced carriages, there was a corresponding decrease in the presence of animals and the associated organic waste. To manage the livestock waste stream many cities reserved land for farming. Paris was actually a net exporter of agricultural products through the 19th Century. As the number of animals in the city dropped, these parcels were no longer needed and the farms were replaced with apartments, offices, and factories.
A second trend was the introduction of Euclidian zoning in the 1920s as a way to ensure compatibility among various types of land use. The dust, smells, and noise associated with farming were considered to be incompatible with the clean and orderly character that was desired for residential and commercial areas. It quickly became common practice to restrict agricultural zones to the outskirts of cities, often with requirements of twenty or forty acre minimum parcel sizes.
The result was the relegation of farming in cities to backyard vegetable gardens. The victory garden movement during World War II demonstrated that these small plots of land could be highly productive when carefully attended. But the movement withered in the face of post-war prosperity, the convenience of super markets, and the low prices of large scale farming practices. Prohibitions on keeping poultry or small animals or livestock such as rabbits, pigs, goats, sheep, or cows also meant that the gardens could only meet a portion of dietary needs.
While zoning restrictions created a more orderly city, they also erect significant regulatory barriers for the new generation of urban sustainability advocates. The land available in many post-industrial cities, including Cleveland, Detroit, and Youngstown, makes urban farming an enticing option for revitalization. But doing anything more than large vegetable garden or community garden is often outside the limits of the regulatory landscape.
In Youngstown, Global Green was able to integrate standards for urban farming with the update to the City’s 40-year-old zoning code. The code innovations include:
- creating new land use classes and definitions for urban agriculture and urban forestry;
- allowing these uses to occur in nearly all zoning districts without a special permit;
- providing a clearly defined protocol for soil evaluation; and
- establishing standards for agriculture-related activities such as sheds, fences, farm stands, and compost piles.
New definitions and standards were also put in place to allow for urban forestry restoration projects within neighborhoods. Also proposed were standards to allow Youngstown urban farmers to keep poultry and small livestock, such as rabbits, pigs, goats, and sheep and to conduct small-scale animal dressing operations. The City Council is still becoming comfortable with the idea of farming in the city and thus limited their approval to poultry only. As farming successes increase, the standards for livestock can be revisited in the future.
With the new standards in place, both current and emerging urban farmers can better contribute to the growth of a sustainable Youngstown.
Global Green Co-Sponsors Waste Sort for NYC’s Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge: Staff and Volunteers Get “Hands-On” with WasteOctober 24th, 2013 by Matt de la Houssaye No comments »
An important part of reducing waste is finding out exactly what it is that’s being wasted, and there’s no better way than to have a good old-fashioned waste sort.
As part of the New York City Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge, Global Green USA co-sponsored a waste sorting event earlier this month, along with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and Great Forest, to find out what’s in those trash bags coming out of NYC’s restaurants.
The waste sort is the latest step in a months-long collaborative process between Global Green USA and the NYC Mayor’s Office, during which Global Green staff helped to inform the structure and methodology for the Food Waste Challenge, as well as recruiting participant restaurants. But of all the many steps in this process, this was by far the smelliest.
The sort took place at Action Environmental Group’s new materials recovery facility (MRF) in the Bronx. Waste was collected from ten restaurants in NYC on Friday night and brought to the MRF. On Saturday, staff from participating organizations and volunteers came to the MRF and spent hours sorting the restaurants’ waste into various categories including food waste, recyclables, and trash. Each bag collected from the restaurants was weighed individually then put on a sorting table and ripped open. Volunteers then sorted the contents into various buckets for each category and weighed the contents of each bucket. The bins of compostable food waste were weighed then the contents were dumped on the ground so that volunteers could pull out any contaminants, which were weighed.
The data collected at the waste sort will be used by the Mayor’s Office to create a baseline waste characterization for restaurants participating in the Food Waste Challenge, and will provide valuable insight into what is in restaurants’ waste streams in NYC.
Louisiana’s 2012 State Master Plan mandates a wide range of restoration techniques. One of the more controversial techniques planned in Southeast Louisiana is sediment diversion. This method involves targeting sediment-rich spots in the Mississippi River and building channels to allow those resources to flow into the degraded wetlands to build new land.
There are a few diversions in full effect, notably the Caernarvon Freshwater Project, which aims to preserve 16,000 acres of marshlands in Breton Sound. The State Master Plan proposes to install ten more river diversions. While the technique has been praised by the State, some find diversions to be controversial. Fishermen and oyster farmers argue that diversions will decrease salinity and destroy fishing habitats that are vital for coastal economies. Beyond that, communities in the path of a diversion may be forced to move. Finally, some are concerned about the high level of pollutants from the Mississippi River entering the wetlands.
Global Green USA’s interest in diversions comes from a blue carbon perspective: Diversions are intended to create new wetlands where vegetation can be planted to capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Thus, creating new wetlands not only provides a buffer to coastal communities, but it also helps combat climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing it in the ground.
With a methodology for transacting wetland carbon credits recently approved by the American Carbon Registry, the captured carbon can be quantified and sold on the carbon market as a carbon offset. Carbon offsets may provide an economic incentive to landowners wishing to restore their properties—and ultimately enroll in larger-scale carbon markets—as well as help fund larger scale restoration projects, such as diversions, in coastal Louisiana.
A recent event weighed the costs and benefits of river diversions as a restoration technique. At the September 12, 2013 community forum in Lafourche Parish, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO) invited Global Green to present on its Louisiana Wetland Action Program (LWAP). Additionally, the forum featured presenters who support and who oppose diversions:
- Support: Bren Haas of the State’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) spoke in staunch support of diversions, labeling them a “cornerstone of the 2012 Master Plan.” While he admitted diversions are experimental, and there is “…still a lot that we don’t know,” he pointed out the increasingly urgent need to implement the Plan. The statistics Haas presented showed a potential loss of 1,750 square miles of the coast by 2060. Out of all the techniques in Louisiana’s restoration toolbox, he sees diversions as the most effective because they both maintain and re-build wetlands. A decaying marsh is refortified when new sediment and nutrients are allowed to enter, encouraging the growth of new vegetation. Mr. Haas argued that sediment diversions successfully counter the land loss resulting from subsidence and sea level rise, and are therefore worth implementing.
- Opposition: On the other side of the fence was Clint Guidry, President of the Louisiana Shrimp Association and a recognized advocate for fishermen across the Gulf. Mr. Guidry brands diversions as “the flaw in the Master Plan.” He acknowledged a need for action to counter subsidence, but stated that diversions are: (A) too dependent on a specific river area’s flow at a specific time to control successfully; (B) destabilizing to water quality in areas where fish gravitate to for mating activity; and (C) unlikely to create land that will hold up under increasing storm surges.
- Qualified Support: Kerry St. Pe, Executive Director of the Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program, and a long time coastal advocate, offered support for small, heavily monitored diversions, but dismissed large ones as avenues for floods. In his eyes, the Mississippi River is “no longer the friend it used to be”: He noted that since 1850, the amount of sediment carried by the river has declined by fifty to eighty percent, making large-scale diversions unnecessary hazards. Additionally, the natural water/land boundaries we would be striving towards with diversions were shaped before Louisiana was settled, and were altered by the centuries of construction that have enabled people to inhabit the state at all.
Despite the controversy surrounding diversions, the State’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority plans to move forward with the planned projects. The first diversion project that is planned is the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion with an implementation date sometime in late 2015. That diversion will undoubtedly be met with mixed reviews, but exploring both sides of the story is exactly what Global Green roots for: open conversations like BISCO’s community forum which fosters informed viewpoints on the issues affecting our coast and inspires the innovative thinking required to restore it.
Sophia Bush, Emmy Rossum, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr, and Helen Hunt were among the guests who joined our 9th Annual Pre-Oscar (R) Party earlier this year to celebrate our ongoing efforts to help the places, the people and the planet in need. At our event, H&M announced the impending launch of its global garment recycling program and featured an exclusive H&M Conscious lounge which highlighted the Swedish retailer’s sustainability initiatives including their fashionable Conscious clothing collections.
One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush wore a white evening suit from H&M’s Spring 2013 Conscious Exclusive collection on our green carpet and – just a few days later – Global Green USA ambassador Helen Hunt wore a H&M gown to the Oscars and voiced her support on the red carpet to a global media audience.
H&M is the first fashion company to launch a global garment-recycling initiative, allowing its customers to exchange used garments in all 269 H&M stores in the United States and in all 48 H&M markets worldwide. Sustainability is an important part of H&M’s culture, and the Swedish retailer strives to reduce the environmental impact of clothes throughout their life cycle.
Through this global initiative, H&M’s customers are helping save natural resources and contribute to reduced environmental impact by avoiding textile waste. Any piece of clothing, from any brand, and in any condition will be accepted. In return, the customer will receive a voucher for each bag of clothing donated for 15% off their next item purchased.
Global Green has a history in recycling initiatives dating back to the early 2000’s when we launched a coalition called Business and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (aka BEAR) to explore the economics of bottle recycling. Since 2008, Global Green has worked with the private sector through its Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) to conduct targeted, cutting edge pilots. Our work serves to transform commonly wasted materials into assets – including the school lunch tray, the produce box, and the coffee cup. (to learn more go to: thecorr.org)
“H&M is investing in this ground-breaking clothing recycling program and we are proud to partner with Global Green USA to launch this initiative, said H&M spokesperson Marybeth Schmitt. “We believe this program will really make an impact in reducing the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills all over the world and we are excited that, at the same time, we will raise funds for Global Green USA to continue their great work”.
Global Green USA is the sole U.S. beneficiary for the H&M garment recycling program and the funds raised through this program will go directly to supporting our on-going efforts to help the places, the people and the planet in need.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of the East Coast last year, it left a lasting impact on both the landscape and the psyche of residents of the region. While many of the physical structures have been repaired, it will take longer for people to recover emotionally.
Global Green USA has experience responding to the kind of damage wrought by Sandy. In 2005, we began executing a bold plan and mobilized resources – over $20 million in direct investment — to implement green rebuilding strategies after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In that process, Global Green also leveraged and impacted related investments (i.e., government, philanthropic, and private of at least $3 billion and likely much, much more), public conversation, and media coverage about climate change, green building, and energy.
With a focus on our most vulnerable communities, Global Green is taking a similar approach in New York and New Jersey to mitigate – and prepare for – the growing impacts of climate change, sea level rise, and weather variability.
Global Green is implementing 3 initial strategies in our Solar for Sandy initiative:
- Community Resiliency – installing 5 back-up, grid tied solar systems at community centers to provide both reliable power in emergencies and reduce ongoing electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Citizen Entrepreneurs (Citizens for Sandy) – identifying and supporting local citizens’ ideas for green rebuilding with micro-grants and technical assistance.
- Green planning for rebuilding of neighborhoods – providing assistance to communities via policies, financing, communications, and community engagement tactics.
The selected community centers will get the financial benefit of an on grid solar electric system, which means these community centers will be able to redirect their utility operations expenses to community benefit throughout the year for 20+ years. Additionally, these centers will be “disaster ready” with back-up power generation to provide lighting, refrigeration for food and medicine, mobile charging capacity, and basic heating and cooling. In exchange, each center selected commits to ongoing community education and outreach on climate change and disaster readiness, and commits to serve their community in times of disaster.
CITIZEN ENTREPRENEURS (CITIZENS FOR SANDY)
When Global Green launched our national Citizen Entrepreneur initiative, we wanted to call upon individuals to take responsibility for a corner of their world. In our first citizen entrepreneur search, we wanted to find and support local green heroes by offering a $1,000 micro grant to one winner. In the end, we received more than 130 nominations, and received an outpouring of public support – more than 4,000 people voting for their favorites – during the voting phase. We are currently executing a search for a “Citizen Sandy” green hero who is making a difference in the region affected by the hurricane. To apply, go to Citizen Sandy Search.
GREEN PLANNING FOR REBUILDING OF NEIGHBORHOODS
Global Green is working in New York and New Jersey communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy by modifying the Sustainable Neighborhood Assessment approach to focus on ways to increase resiliency and climate change adaptation. Green Urbanism Program staff visited Richmond Terrace on the North Shore of Staten Island, where the objective was to protect historical maritime businesses while also addressing a shortage of parks and history of industrial impact on nearby residences. One concept that emerged is to interweave the maritime uses with a series of pocket parks that can absorb storm water during future rain events. The second community was the southeastern portion of Hoboken, New Jersey. This neighborhood experiences frequent small scale flooding during heavy rain events and has a number of historic townhouses with basement apartments. Some of the ideas put forward are to remodel the basement units with water resistant materials and to add landscaped parkways, swales, and rain gardens whenever possible to improve water management during both small and large storm events. The final reports and recommendations will be completed by early October and shared with the communities, and staff from the EPA, FEMA, and HUD involved in Sandy rebuilding and climate adaptation.
To help us rebuild green in the NY/NJ region go to Solar for Sandy support.
The accession of Syria on September 14, 2013 to the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a major step forward to universalizing the abolition regime which, for the first time in history, bans a whole class of weapons of mass destruction. CWC is an arms control agreement that outlaws the production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer and use of chemical weapons and their precursors. And today’s United Nations release of its inspection report on the possible use of nerve agents in Syria on August 21st only underlines the importance of this historic move.
Dr. Paul Walker, Director of the Environmental Security and Sustainability Program of Green Cross International and Global Green USA, stated: “United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s condemnation this morning of the use of deadly sarin nerve agent in Syria almost a month ago is very important to deter any further use of such inhumane and indiscriminate weapons. The UN Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic has now shown that sarin agent was used in very large quantities against innocent civilians as they slept in their beds, and was delivered by rocket attack from northwest Damascus, a region under control of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.”
The Environmental Security and Sustainability Program has worked for almost twenty years now to help bring every country under the CWC and to strengthen the multilateral regime’s inspection and verification operations so that no chemical weapons capabilities remain, and so that chemical weapons never reemerge in international affairs. Walker added: “Syria’s accession to the treaty regime makes it the 190th country to join, with only six more remaining outside the regime – Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea, and South Sudan. Assad must now complete his declaration to the CWC implementing agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and allow the OPCW inspectors full and unfettered access to his whole chemical weapons program so that it can be locked down and destroyed, under the watchful eye of inspectors, in the coming months and years.”
Global Green USA applauds the leadership of both the United States and Russia for helping bring this historic event about and further urges Syria’s neighboring states, Israel and Egypt, to follow in the footsteps of Syria in joining the CWC and helping to build a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological.
While September marks the start of a new year for schools across the nation, it marks the end of the legislative year for California’s state government. September 13 proved to be the day of reckoning, as each 2012-2013 bill either died in its respective house, or was approved by both houses and sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signature. Governor Brown now has until mid October to decide if he will sign a bill into law or veto it. Global Green took action on a number of important bills this session, some of which could help set policy nationwide. Unfortunately, it proved to be a tough year for environmental bills, with few true victories.
SB 217, authored by Assembly Member Steven Bradford and Senator Kevin De Leon and otherwise known as the Equitable Access to Solar Energy bill, was adopted by the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s approval. Global Green supported this bill, as it builds off Global Green’s prior leadership in creating the statewide solar in affordable housing program. AB 217 continues the low-income solar rebate program through 2021, and ensures that the benefits of solar continue to reach lowincome families and communities that most need the energy cost savings and jobs.
AB 327, authored by Assembly Member Henry Perea, was adopted by the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature; Global Green OPPOSED this bill, and will support efforts to educate the Governor on why this bill should not be chaptered into law. This bill allows California’s three biggest electricity provides to add up to $10 per month to every customer’s bill, regardless of how much electricity a customer uses. This bill would automatically increase the payback period for rooftop solar systems or efficiency retrofits, thereby creating a disincentive for people to invest in either.
SB 37, authored by Senator De Leon, was the second attempt to give the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) the authority to establish an on-bill repayment (OBR) program. Global Green supported this bill, yet the bill unfortunately failed. Otherwise known as the Clean Energy Access Act, this bill would have expanded access to clean energy by allowing consumers to attain low cost financing for energy efficiency and repay the loan through their utility bill. Paying for clean energy loans or leases on one’s utility bill would allow consumers to see the direct energy savings from their investments. This idea continues to generate discussion and enthusiasm among environmental and other advocates, and we expect it to emerge once again in future legislative sessions.
We’ll continue to work with our environmental partners to reassess our approach and targets for the 2013-2014 legislative year.
Holy Cross Project Multifamily Building Continues Fight for Affordable Housing in Lower 9th Ward of New OrleansSeptember 20th, 2013 by Michelle Pyne No comments »
In the more than eight years since Hurricane Katrina, not one affordable rental housing development has been built in the Lower Ninth Ward. On Wednesday, September 11, 2013, the Louisiana Housing Corporation, formerly the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, yanked approval from the only project proposed for the Lower Ninth Ward. Families, elected officials and advocates are fighting back!
The proposed affordable multifamily project represents the third phase of Global Green’s Holy Cross Project, and includes a 20-unit affordable multifamily building, adjacent to the 5 completed single family homes, and Community Development and Climate Action Center under construction. This development will offer affordable rents, low utility bills due to solar power, healthy indoor air quality, and most importantly a home for former Lower 9th Ward residents who still wish to return to their community after Hurricane Katrina.
Global Green USA, in partnership with Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, Councilmember Stacy Head, community leaders and residents joined together for a press conference at the site of the Holy Cross Project to stand our ground for affordable housing in the Lower 9th Ward.
Linda Stone, Director of the Global Green USA New Orleans office, offered opening remarks detailing Global Green’s commitment to building back the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans as a more sustainable and resilient community. James Perry, Executive Director of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, told the crowd of community members that it is unacceptable to deny this neighborhood the affordable housing it so desperately needs.
JW Tatum, Board Member for the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, shared his experience of gathering friends in his home under candle light after Hurricane Katrina, to make plans to rebuild his Lower 9th Ward community. While John K. said this was one of the first projects worked on after Hurricane Katrina, and it brought hope to the community– the community wants to see it through to completion.
Additional support was voiced by Kim Ford, Vice President of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, and Mack McClendon, Founder of Lower Ninth Ward Village.
New Orleans City Councilmember At-Large Stacy Head told reporters that she has seen first-hand what well built, well maintained housing developments can do for a neighborhood, citing the Muses project built in Central City bringing new investment into the area. Councilmember Head urged the Louisiana Housing Corporation to fix their mistake and reconsider this project in the Lower 9th Ward.
A big thank you to everyone who came out to support the Lower 9th Ward, fair housing, and sustainable development today! Thanks to the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, you can read tweets sent from the press conference @GNOFairHousing. Stay tuned for updates on the Louisiana Housing Corporation’s decision.