7 Topics to Tackle This Earth Day – And Every Day

April 22nd, 2014 by Global Green USA Leave a reply »

1. Food Access

Global Green USA Food Access Food Deserts(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Food Desert: A low-income census tract where a significant number of residents live more than one mile from the nearest supermarket.

23.5 million Americans live in food deserts—areas that are often inundated with liquor stores and fast food restaurants, but offer little or no access to fresh produce.

Urban agriculture presents an opportunity to take food access issues into the hands of residents. From home gardens to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban farming can be an effective method of bringing fresh and healthy produce into food deserts.

Global Green’s role:

Ever noticed those barren patches of land in the planter strips in front of houses? Our Green Urbanism team saw them all over urban areas, and reimagined the dead space as productive areas for growing fresh food. This Saturday, we’ll be out in Elmhurst, a neighborhood in East Oakland, building planter boxes in these spaces.

The planter boxes are all designed to fit in these spaces and be low-cost and easy to assemble. This pilot project is part of a larger effort to develop a series of pre-cut planter kits that can be quickly installed by residents of food deserts.

Take action:

Take matters into your own hands and build your own planter boxes! The designs presented here are all made with 2x4s, 4x4s and untreated plywood, and they can easily be customized to fit your location’s constraints. Be sure that the structure does not encroach on the sidewalk or impede pedestrian access. The square foot gardening method is a proven, effective method of food production in urban situations.

PlanterBox Global Green(click image to englarge)

2. Food Waste

Global Green Food Waste Infographic(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Food Scrap Emissions: Every year, Americans send 34 million tons of food scraps to the landfill – 95% of all the food scraps produced. According to EPA data, diverting those food scraps from the landfill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to shutting down seven coal-fired power plants with no loss of energy.

After construction and demolition debris, food scraps are the largest municipal waste stream in the country, typically accounting for 30-50% of a city’s landfilled waste. When food scraps go to the landfill, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than CO2.

Composting not only diverts food scraps from landfills, but also returns nutrients to soil and helps soils, especially sandy soils, retain water.

Global Green’s role:

To help increase food scrap recovery, Global Green USA assisted the NYC Mayor’s Office with the Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge and hosted an influential workshop session with several NYC city officials to discuss the nearby Massachusetts DEP and the Connecticut DEQ food scrap landfill bans, which require major generators of food scraps to implement recovery programs.  Less than a year later, NYC passed a citywide food scrap landfill ban.

Currently, we’re working with city agencies to implement composting in multi-unit residences in the San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles areas. Get in touch if you live in any of these cities, and you would like your residential building to be included in the pilot!

Take action:

Beginner:

  • Start composting your food scraps at your home or business!
  • If your city provides curbside food scrap collection, review what is accepted and make sure you are composting as much as possible (and not putting anything in that doesn’t belong).
  • If you aren’t sure if composting is available in your town, call your waste hauler and find out if they can offer it to your home or business.
  • If you live in a multi-family building, tell your building managers you would like them to implement composting.
  • When you go out to your favorite restaurants and grocery stores, ask them if they are composting. Customer feedback can make a huge difference!

Intermediate

  • Wherever you work, it’s likely that you are generating some waste. Explore ways to increase waste diversion at your workplace, or ways to purchase more recyclable or compostable materials for use by your customers.
  • If you have a yard, consider composting in your backyard or with a worm bin.
  • Ask at your kids’ schools and find out if they compost in the cafeteria, and if they are using compostable/recyclable lunch trays.

Advanced

  • If you live in a multi-unit building, volunteer to be the composting coordinator and help your fellow residents divert their food scraps.
  • If your city doesn’t have composting now, call your local policymakers and tell them that you want to see your food scraps turned into energy and soil.

3. Bike Share

Global Green USA Bike Share For All (click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Bike share programs encourage more bicycling and promote a healthy lifestyle by engaging users in an enjoyable, low-impact and active form of physical activity. 

Bike share is an innovative transportation option that enhances urban mobility through the shared use of bikes. It’s a concept that has been deployed in over 500 cities across the world, and has been a successful way to get people out of their cars and address the problems of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green has been working closely with the City of Santa Monica over the past two years to develop a bike share program. In the past year, there has been a growing interest in creating a regional bike share system that is integrated throughout Los Angeles County.  Metro Los Angeles (MTA) is currently undertaking a feasibility study to better understand how a regional system could be implemented in a sprawling county with 88 municipalities.

We will continue to work with the City of Santa Monica, and with the County and City of Los Angeles and MTA, to help create an integrated, equitable, and successful program for Southern California. Follow fun news and updates on Twitter #BikeShareForAll.

Take Action:

Find out where bike share programs exist. If your city has one, go use it! If you’ve got a bike at home, pull it out of the garage and use it to replace one car trip today.

Ready to take it step further? Commit to going car-free at least one day per week, and explore what alternative transportation options your city has to offer!

4. Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency

Global Green Renewable Energy Efficiency(click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

Shifting to a cleaner, more efficient energy economy is crucial in the fight against climate change.

Climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green is working across the county to support programs and policy that promote clean energy and energy efficiency.

In New Orleans, we developed the NOLA Wise energy efficiency program as a method of helping homeowners finance home energy efficiency retrofits, and our Holy Cross Project serves as a practical demonstration of the benefits of utilizing clean energy (solar and geothermal) and energy efficiency.

In California, we’re working to implement the first statewide energy efficiency upgrade program in existing buildings through AB 758. In Los Angeles, we’re pushing the city to support a comprehensive clean energy policy. So far, we’ve helped the city implement the nation’s largest feed-in-tariff program at 100 MW, which is on track to displace 2.7 million tons of GHG emissions from the environment annually.

Take action:

  • Install Energy Star appliances in your home; they use 10-50% less energy and water than normal appliances.
  • Consider switching to renewable energy. See which tax credits/incentives you qualify for that may make renewables such as solar PV more affordable for you.
  • Change your behavior:  Reprogram your thermostat, turn off your lights when you leave the room, unplug electronics that aren’t being used and more.

5. Outdoor Water Use

Global Green Water wise (click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

30% of water consumption in households is devoted to outdoor water use, and as much as 50% is wasted due to poor watering methods.

Shortening showers and installing low-flow fixtures definitely helps conserve water, but shifting your focus outdoors can also make a big difference! Upgrading watering and irrigation systems or installing water catchments is a great place to start.

Global Green’s role:

Global Green has developed the Water Wise program in New Orleans as a means to address water management. Our team hosts community Water Wise workshops to showcase ‘do-it-yourself’ rainwater management practices. The Holy Cross Project model sustainable village also uses serves as a practical example by employing native vegetation as a means to reduce water needed for irrigation and collecting rainwater in a rain barrel to be used for outdoor watering.

Take action:

Irrigation

  • Detect and repair all leaks in irrigation systems and other watering methods.
  • Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best).
  • Set sprinklers to water only the lawn or garden – not the street, house, or sidewalk.
  • Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.
  • Collect rain water and use it to water your garden.

Vegetation

  • Next time you add or replace any vegetation in your yard, choose a native plant that 
thrives with the area’s natural water cycles.
  • Keep shrubs, trees, and garden plants mulched to reduce evapotranspiration from soil surface and reduce pests and weeks. Pine straw mulch is best; avoid cypress mulch.

Miscellaneous

  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks, and steps rather than hosing them off.
  • Cover your spa or pool to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Never leave hoses or faucets running.

6. Food Choices

Global Green Food Choices Infographic(click image to enlarge)

The big picture: 

Livestock contributes 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Food Emissions: A “high consumption diet” (33% animal products) can be responsible for about 3x more greenhouse gas emissions than a “low consumption diet” (10% animal products).  Learn more.

Food Water Footprint: Fruits, veggies, and grains have a relatively low water footprint when compared to meat. Check out these numbers – as reported by Treehugger:

  • Beef: 2,500-5,000 gallons
  • Pork: 1,630 gallons
  • Chicken: 815 gallons
  • Rice: 403 gallons
  • Tofu: 244 gallons
  • Avocado: 220 gallons
  • Wheat Bread: 154 gallons
  • Corn: 107 gallons
  • Bananas: 102 gallons
  • Apples: 83 gallons
  • Cucumber: 28 gallons
  • Tomatoes: 22 gallons
  • Lettuce: 15 gallons

Global Green’s role:

To help spread awareness about the environmental benefits of vegetarian and plant-based eating, Global Green served organic, vegetarian cuisine at our high-profile Pre-Oscar Party and featured renown artist and vegan Moby.

Take action:

Eat local and vegetarian on Earth Day, and make a concerted effort to reduce your meat consumption throughout the year. One great way to stay on track is by choosing one – or more – days a week to go meat-free! Meatless Monday is a popular one, but here’s a bigger challenge: Try a “flextarian diet” and only eat meat on the weekends or special occasions!

7. Green Schools & Education

Green Schools Infographic Global Green(click image to enlarge)

The big picture:

We spend more money on energy costs for schools in the United States than we do on textbooks and computers combined. 

Green schools offer natural daylightling, better ventilation, improved acoustics, and healthier building and cleaning materials. They also reduce utility costs by 20% on average—and that means a big reduction in carbon emissions as well. What’s more, green schools help students learn first-hand the value of living in a sustainable environment.

Global Green’s role:

We have been working on greening schools for more than a decade, helping more than 55,000 students and teachers thrive in high-performance schools that save money and improve test scores. In California and New Orleans, we have created model green schools, and our annual Green School Makeover Competition is helping more schools make green upgrades.

In addition, we partnered with EnergySmart to pilot an in-class education program that provides a kit with energy efficient fixtures for practical demonstrations on saving energy. As part of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Schools Challenge, Global Green also partnered with Hynes Charter School in New Orleans to teach a class of third graders to become ‘Recycling Rangers’ and help their school improve its recycling program.

Take action:

Get to work greening your school and incorporating green living fundamentals into your day-to-day home routines.

Check out our checklists:

 

Want more? Check out our new Pinterest boards for ideas and inspiration.  Join the Earth Day conversation online and tell us how you #domoregreen!

Help us continue to tackle these issues year-round: Give to Global Green.

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