2019 has been a big year for both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola companies in regards to their commitment to sustainability.
In June 2019, PepsiCo announced that they will be phasing out plastic bottles, even for products such as still water, in favor of aluminum cans in the United States as early as next year. “Tackling plastic waste is one of my top priorities and I take this challenge personally,” PepsiCo(PEP) CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a statement captured by CNN.
Aluminum cans have a higher recycling rate (they are the most recycled material) and contain more recycled content than other packaging types such as glass or plastic. Aluminum is also far more valuable than glass or plastic, meaning municipal recycling programs can be financially viable and effectively subsidize the recycling of less valuable materials in the bin.
With all of these news reports and 60 second documentaries focused on the innovations surrounding the plastics industry, has anyone stopped to think that our attention is being pulled in the wrong direction? Plastics are our past, not our future and it’s clear that big companies like Pepsi and Coke are aware of the impact they can make by divesting in the plastics industry. But how did they get here and why?
The Plastics Lobby
According to reps from both PepsiCo and Coca Cola, the companies first joined the Plastics Industry Association to learn about material innovation. Which we have seen examples of, mediocre as they may be, being rolled out over the years, such as- smaller cap sizes, smaller labels, new designs using less plastic or the resurgence of recycled plastic bottles.
It is important to note that the Plastics Industry Association has direct ties to the American Progressive Bag Alliance. You may be thinking “progressive bags! I’m totally on board with that!” However, the name is woefully misleading. The American Progressive Bag Alliance encourages states to make plastic bag bans illegal. While companies like PepsiCo and Coca Cola do not participate in the policy advocacy work, they do acknowledge that this work is counter intuitive to their ultimate goal to achieve a circular economy for plastics.
All in all, most people agree that it was not the moral compass of these companies that led them to the decision to ditch the PIA. Greenpeace, Sierra Club, As You Sow, and many others were behind the campaign to urge companies to reject the Plastics Industry Association’s secretive lobbying against plastic bans.
For the month of June, I collected my waste- anything that would eventually end up in a landfill because there is a no more useful place for it to go. I kept it in a paper grocery bag from Trader Joes- one of the big ones- because I didn’t know how this was going to go exactly. For me, this month served as a transition, a period of adjusting my habits so that they better align with my beliefs and support momentum toward a world that is less destructive, more kind, more regenerative.
On the second official day of my “zero waste” challenge, I ran the Brooklyn Beach Half Marathon. I run 2-3 races per year and I had been training for over the last couple of months. I go up to the folding table labeled “Registration” and am immediately handed a race tank wrapped in cellophane and a wax-covered paper bib. And all of a sudden these were mine now- to put in my TJ’s bag. But that’s nothing compared to the next two hours which- from a waste management perspective- one might describe as utter chaos. They consisted of me kind of running and stopping to grab no less than fifteen different Dixie cups of water over the course of the race, all to be immediately emptied and discarded on the boardwalk. I started laughing on Mile 8 at the sixth water station as I stomped through mounds of discarded little waxed cups. Headlines started rolling through my mind: “Area Girl Lives Double Life as Environmental Activist and Avid Boardwalk Litterer” and “Idealistic Youth Snaps Under Pressure of Zero Waste and Joins Movement to Create Enormous Pile of Trash on Coney Island Beach, as Close to Ocean as Possible”.
Comfortingly, attention is growing around the issue of waste generation at races and other sporting events and there is a lot of exciting and creative work being done in this arena (haha). One of the hydration stations at the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon handed out the newly engineered Ooho! edible water sachets that are made from seaweed and do not contain packaging. The T-shirts and medals handed out at the Chicago Marathon are made entirely from recycled material. And for years now the Hartford Marathon has had a custom-designed “Bubbler” at its finish line- a forty-foot long drinking fountain that eliminates the need for disposable cups and single-use plastic bottles.
And there are still significant components to race day that still need greening. A majority of the environmental costs associated with these races are produced in the travel to and from the event. People fly from all over the world to attend large races like the New York City and Boston Marathons. After an environmental assessment, the Cape Town Marathon found that 97 percent of its emissions were produced from attendees travel. Some races have started to offer options to buy carbon offsets and make donations to environmental organizations during registration. These efforts are a step in the right direction and I think we can do a lot more to address the problem at its roots. Let’s encourage people to race locally. Can we design prestigious challenges to run X number of races within 100 miles of your home? Absolutely. Can we organize high-level race events that occur in several different locations at the same time and are connected using the sophisticated tracking and conferencing technology we now have available? Definitely. I’m really excited to continue thinking in that direction.
I’ve run several distance races in the past few years. Currently, providing water in little throwaway cups is the standard, not the exception. Yet it’s still a factor I entirely glanced over in all my planning and organizing for the upcoming month. Theses unexpected situations are the most exciting part of my zero waste effort thus far. The act of tracking and collecting forces you to be more aware of all your actions, and all your consumption. You can plan quite a lot- I foresaw needing a compost bucket for food scraps and needing a to-go mug in my bag. But in just living your life- the typical days and the less typical days- with tangible and collectible consequences, you catch the rest of it. And then it’s on your radar. And then you design a solution. And next race I’ll have a bottle in my running belt.
Hello Altered Eco-ers! I am excited to introduce myself as a new writer here on the blog (thanks for having me, Regan!). My name is Madeline I’m a vegan long-distance runner with a passion for bubbly white wine, tortilla chips, and all things inspiring a hope-filled positive future for our planet. My professional background is in environmental communications. I work to organize civic engagement for environmental legislation- we educate the general public on local environmental health issues and give them the tools to take action (sign petitions, write to their representatives, etc.) Regan and I met working together on a campaign to block rollbacks to the federal EPA and she has served an incredible friend and inspiration to me ever since.
I spend a lot of my workday talking about solutions to environmental problems, encouraging people to be involved so that their actions reflect their values and align with the things they deem on paper as “important”. In the past year, I have become increasingly aware that in my own life there are gaping holes between the potential I have to carry out a low impact lifestyle and my actual daily behavior. Going zero waste and collecting my trash for the month of June was the start of my ongoing effort to reduce my impact and bring sustainable practices into as many different facets of my life as possible. As I continue to learn and tackle new challenges, I’m excited to share my experiences and the thoughts I have along the way. I am hoping this opportunity will connect me with other people who are making similar efforts, so please reach out, share, question- and thank you in advance for all of it!
Day 1 of Democratic primary debates has come and gone. Instead of focusing on each of the 10 candidates that stood on stage last night, I’d like to focus on who and what I want in the Oval Office in 2020.
What does the climate candidate look like?
I divide the climate candidate into 2 equally important pillars:
Just to name a few.
One of the questions last night asked the candidates how they felt about imposing a carbon tax. There’s an interesting article from the Washington Post that highlights how much we are paying currently in response to the climate crisis. They argue, we already are paying a carbon tax.
First I want to highlight some key factors of carbon pricing.
A carbon tax or carbon pricing is a policy used to effect systemic change. But as I’m sure you all know, I’m much more fascinated by social change. Although I would like to point out that I am not advocating for the burden of the climate crisis to fall on the consumer, I think it’s important for us to recognize our role and implement change where we can and while we can.
Last year for my birthday I celebrated by collecting every piece of trash I produced during the month of June and put it in a fancy 16oz pasta sauce jar (sans the sauce). This year, I upped the stakes and I traded in my 16oz jar for a 4oz jar that used to hold local honey. I also decided that I would give up meat for the month of June (and most likely forever) and I would give up alcohol for the month. I chose to go vegetarian for environmental and health reasons but the alcohol choice was a more personal one that I will address in a different post.
I was a week in to my zero waste month and wasn’t feeling as excited or energized as I had when I did it in 2018. Then I got a call from my friend Madeline.
Madeline and I met in 2017. I had just moved back to the DC area and was interviewing to work at an environmental non-profit. I was a little confused when I walked into the office wearing a blazer and fancy jewelry I have never worn again to this day, to find four casually dressed 20-somethings sitting on the floor like they owned the place. What I thought was going to be an office job turned out to be a canvassing gig. The interview went well and the next day I got a call from the Director. I was so excited when they invited me back to shadow one of their most experienced canvassers. That’s when I met Madeline.
Madeline is a smiler. She maintains direct eye contact throughout any and all conversations. She presents herself as agreeable in even the most contentious debates. These are important traits for any person but if you’ve never canvassed before, let me tell you- these are extremely important traits while knocking on doors. I, however, tend to come across as argumentative and prideful. That next week of shadowing Madeline changed my life forever.
Canvassing isn’t for everyone. The number of doors slammed in your face is only rivaled by the number of mosquito bites covering your legs and arms. But Madeline showed me that it takes one person, one door, one contact to make the entire day worth it. I remember those people fondly to this day; I even keep in touch with a few of the super stars that I met, holding a clipboard on their front stoop in the rain. Some of them are even my neighbors now.
I can credit Madeline for my transition into zero waste. She taught me that one person, one act, no matter how small can send ripples of change into the universe. And she believed in me and my capacity to engage people in the conversation. We may not be canvassing anymore (full-time, that is) but the value of sharing, educating and engaging with our community is greater than ever.
So back to that phone call I got a week into my zero waste month 2019- After a couple questions about menstrual cups and bidets, Madeline let me know that she’s decided to collect her waste for the month of June too. And just like that, I didn’t feel alone or lethargic. I felt invigorated, like my tribe just doubled in size (because it did)!
Thank you Madeline! You can catch her journey with zero waste on the blog this month and hopefully many more to come 😊
My spell check is telling me that “greenwashing” is not a word. So naturally I went online and double-checked that, it is, in fact referred to as “greenwashing”, one word. What I just did is a fancy thing millennials like to call “fact checking”. This will be your best asset in your fight to determine which brands to trust and which brands to drop.
Greenwashing or “green sheen” refers to the act of portraying an organization’s product or services as environmentally friendly only for the sake of marketing. There are two main types of greenwashing:
Environmental Imagery: elaborate designs, excessive printing, and overtly “green” labeling is highly unlikely if the company is actually environmentally responsible.
Misleading Labels: a label simply reading “Certified” or “100% Organic” or “Eco-Friendly” without any supporting information is most likely not a green company. These classifications don’t mean anything if they’re not supported. Some labels may look like a third-party endorsement but in reality… the third party doesn’t even exist. Look for supporting information, google the company, or simply choose products you know.
Hidden Trade-Offs: a good example of this is in the fashion industry. Some companies use “natural” or “recycled” materials which is great, but the trade off is how they obtained those materials. A company looking to be truly transparent will identify as socially and ethically responsible.
Irrelevant Claims: you may have seen labels that boast “free from ‘insert already banned chemical here’!!” A socially and environmentally responsible company will boast what they do do… not what they don’t. Another example of this is when a company highlights a very minute green initiative without acknowledging all of the other harmful behavior or consequences associated with it.
Lesser of Two Evils: example: organic cigarettes. The company’s claim is true but a greater risk or environmental impact prevails.
2. Kauai Coffee Pods- single serve compostable k-cup alternatives!
3. SeaWorld- killer whale shows
These are just a few of the many many companies that exercise greenwashing in their marketing. Heck, it’s much easier to watch a sacred ocean beast jump for mackerel when we’re told that this is somehow “helping” the species. Organizations like the National Advertising Division and the Federal Trade Commission are doing their part to crack down on companies that are cashing in on the environmental wave. But I beg you, that is not enough. It’s up to consumers to educate themselves and vote with their dollar. Keep those warning signs in mind and choose to be an informed consumer!!
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED provides a framework that project teams can apply to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. A LEED certified building can be newly constructed or renovated. To date there are approximately 65 convention centers and over 200 hotels in the U.S that have attained some level of LEED certification, and the list is growing.
What buildings can be LEED certified?
All spaces and buildings can be LEED certified. Some projects that can be LEED certified include but are not limited to:
There are 4 LEED certification categories:
Buildings can earn points across several categories including:
It matters because it shows that a property or facility has made a serious commitment to the health of their patrons and of the environment. That is not to say that other buildings that are not LEED certified don’t meet the requirements. Many building owners have yet to make the investment to get LEED certified. A LEED certification makes your job of picking a venue easier because the USGBC has already done all the hard work for you!
One year ago today I started writing about bamboo toothbrushes. No one really asked me to and I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to go down that very specific rabbit hole-but I’m sure glad I did.
It’s been one year and I’ve covered topics like…
I’ve learned that zero waste is less about product purchasing habits and much much more about human behavior. I’ve learned that simply being willing to have the conversation is half of the battle. But above all, I’ve learned that individual actions and individual voices are the foundation on which movements are built.
To the three people who have followed me since day one, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me as I figure this whole blogging thing out.
To my friends and family who listened to my ramblings and adopted sustainable practices for themselves, thank you for believing in me and for letting me share your stories and experiences.
And to everyone who has chosen to follow me since May 9, 2018- THANK YOU!!! Whenever I have a tough day where I’d rather get Chikfila than put in the effort to pack my own lunch- you all remind me that it’s worth it.
Here’s to many more years of sharing our voices!!!
You’ve probably been hearing the term “fast fashion” buzzing around your social media and news outlets lately but what is it and why is it harmful?
One of my favorite blogs, The Good Trade, states that “Fast fashion utilizes trend replication, rapid production, and low quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public.” These tenants of fast fashion are equally harmful to both the environment and the people involved in its production. Check out what The Good Trade has to say about the industry here!
I live in the DC area and have spent the better part of the last year exploring all the thrift, consignment and secondhand stores the District has to offer! I’ll try to focus on just a few stores today that are totally worth the trip in (or out!) of the city!
This consignment store is one of my favorites in DC. First of all, its in an amazing location nestled on 14th street and surrounded by other interesting shops and bars. The store may be small but oh is it mighty! They have a great selection of bags and shoes, as well as a great mix of retro tees, upcycled garments, and rare vintage finds. If I’m looking to add a little spunk to my wardrobe this is the first place I would go!
Current Boutique has locations in DC, Arlington and Alexandria. I live in Old Town and have been consistently consigning with CB for over a year. Their staff is friendly, helpful and extremely well dressed (duh). They have a wonderful mix of high-end items and everyday work clothes. I would say that the prices range anywhere from $10-$200 depending on what you’re looking for. I have found jeans, dresses, work shirts, and even ball gowns just at their Alexandria location. Current Boutique has also ramped up their online presence and many of their items can be seen on their website!
Georgetown is one of the best places to go shopping in the DC area… if you have the money! I… do not have the money. But I stumbled across this consignment store a few months ago and have made my way back multiple times since! First thing to note: they have an amazing greeting dog at the front counter so make sure to stop by and say hi before you start paroozing. This is a great place to go if you want designer brands that have been well-cared for but without the designer price tag. You can find all sorts of brand name items (especially jewelry!) but at a fraction of the price.
Maryland is flooded with awesome secondhand stores. If you’re fro Maryland or venturing that way- check out Community Forklift, they don’t sell clothes (hence why they aren’t included in this list) but I can guarantee you won’t regret it! Okay, back to clothes! Remix Recycling Co. is located in Bethesda, MD and was previously named Mustard Seed. This store is a little smaller than some of the others but it makes the list for it’s insanely reasonable pricing. If you want to consign with them then you’ll have to call and make an appointment first!
Located in Mount Pleasant (North of Adams Morgan) this shop boasts great prices and a wide variety of styles. If you find yourself at the National Zoo this summer then you should definitely make time to swing by this unique store. They frequently have unbeatable sales and the staff is very friendly. This is a great place to go if you need a new work outfit or if you want to re-vamp your staples.
Anna Sanders is behind this wonderful event that took place in DC April 6th. The Crawl combines food, drinks and what they call “dope vibes” but what I call “dope finds”! Yes, you are right- April 6th has already passed us- BUT- Anna hopes to host more events in the future so be sure to follow them on Facebook & Instagram, stay up to date with the newest trends and hottest deals on the DC thrift scene.
Now hold up! This is an inclusive blog that encourages people to take small steps in an effort to live more sustainably, what’s with the Onion-esque article title?
Hear me out- have you ever been so focused on your end goal that you forgot what steps were necessary to get there? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a huge project that even starting it seemed futile? One thing I am constantly repeating to the kids I coach, my friends and my intimate partner is “never sacrifice your path for your goal”. The path you walk is just as righteous as the end goal.
Climate change is the buzzword of my generation. More and more companies are altering their infrastructure and operating systems to accommodate a more environmentally conscious consumer. This is fantastic and should be encouraged! More than anything else, this shows that big businesses are listening!! But I want you to be more than a environmentally conscious consumer.
I want you to be a mindful consumer.
No, better yet, I want you to be mindful first, and consume second.
So here are my 5 steps to being more mindful, because at the end of the day it’s not the planet we’re working so hard to save, it’s humanity. The earth doesn’t need us, we need the earth.
Bring mindfulness into your daily routine. Turn your brain on when you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hair, mowing the grass, making your bed, etc. I can’t meditate to save my life- I’ve tried. Turning my brain off is just not an option for me. If you can do that then more power to you! If you can’t, then bringing mindfulness into your daily routine could be extremely helpful for you. Some of my best ideas have come to me while brushing my teeth and wondering why and how this routine has stuck around for so long and what we did before toothbrushes and toothpaste. One day I was taking a shower and as I watched the water go down the drain it occurred to me that I could put a bin under my shower head and try to rescue some of that unused run-off. I decided to use that water to water my plants. So, by being mindful in the shower, I not only rescued unused water, but I started a pattern of watering my plants more regularly and sustainably! Which brings me to my next point-
Get creative- then create! Being present and thinking critically spurs heightened awareness and consciousness. When we stop focusing on the end goal and instead set our sights on the process, we are more free to explore our creative subconscious. So pick your favorite creative activity, whether that’s baking, painting, gardening, singing in the shower, writing poetry, or D&D- jump into it! I found peace and creativity in my garden. Mind you, I do not have a green thumb by any means, I just enjoy it! Recently it feels like my roommates and I have been breaking a bunch of mugs and plates (not sure what’s going on there but…) and I couldn’t bring myself to just throw them away. Last Tuesday when I decided to re-pot all of my indoor plants in celebration of spring, I used the broken bits of ceramic to act as a layer of rocks at the bottom of each of the pots. Save $$, save the planet, save face.
Indulge your creative brain, let your guard down and create! As you get into the flow of things you’ll notice that your thoughts begin to quiet as your mind engages fully with the task at hand.
Breathe. Just breathe. Calming your breath is the key to calming your mind. This is the foundation of all mindfulness. So you can’t meditate? That’s fine, I bet you breathe every. single. day. Take a minute as you read this on your phone or in your office and breathe with me.
Did you do it? I noticed that my posture improved and I sat in a more balanced position. I also noticed that my jaw had been clenched the whole time I’ve been writing this!
Put your phone down and go outside. Do you start your day scrolling through your newsfeed or checking your email? Do you end your day by scrolling through your newsfeed or checking your email? I’m no tech-saint and am willing to admit that I have definitely done this before. Some of you may have a demanding job where this is just not an option, but for me, it was. We have all been at a table when we noticed that every single person sitting down was on their phone. It doesn’t feel good and to be frank, it’s sad. Make a pact with yourself to leave the phone in your room while you’re at the dinner table. My roommate makes a point to leave her phone when she takes her dog out for a walk (feel free to bring it with you for safety, just don’t use it!). If you’re walking to the metro, put your phone down and keep your head up, make eye contact with people. Be present and connect with the people who share your morning commute. The most mindful people I know have healthy boundaries with their tech devices and you can do it too!
Feel yourself, and I mean reallllyyyyy feel you. Life is tough and to quote literally everyone ever: the struggle is real. I’m going to get honest with you guys because if you’re this far into this article then you must be one awesome person. My brother died when he was 13. And you wanna know what? It’s been 20 years and I am still not okay. I don’t think I will ever be “okay” but I work every day to find happiness. Happiness to me is practicing mindful gratitude for the moments themselves. I learned that something happens when you experience death at such a young age- you start to live relatively. Every moment of sadness, anger or pain is compared to the moment you lost everything. I noticed this in high school. Things that were earth-shattering to my friends just didn’t seem to strike the same chord with me. That’s because I was constantly comparing my emotions to the relativity of the greatest trauma of my life. That, my friends, is not a mindful existence. Life isn’t a competition and each moment should not be held to the same standards as the moment before. So the next time you feel disconnected or are overwhelmed by happiness or have an internal conflict or feel stagnant or can’t contain your excitement- please take a breath, put your phone down, go outside and feel it all. Roll around in it. Because you are alive and these feelings mean you’re living.