Category: Green lifestyle

Meet an ecologist who works for God (and against lawns)

Read the full story in the New York Times.

A Long Island couple say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.

Offset emissions and save water by creating a circular water economy in your home

Read the full story from Michigan Tech.

In this guest blog, Michigan Tech researchers Shan Zhou and Daisuke Minakata explain how changes at the household level can create a more sustainable water use system.

Inside Clean Energy: Batteries got cheaper in 2021. So how close are we to EVs that cost less than gasoline vehicles?

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Despite inflation concerns, EVs remain on a path for price parity with gasoline models.

Buy Nothing groups offer an antidote to waste and isolation, with a world of free stuff

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

What started in 2013 as a hyperlocal network of “circular gift economies” in Bainbridge Island, Wash., has ballooned into a constellation of Buy Nothing groups with 4.3 million members in 44 countries. Members can request or offer any item or service as long as it’s legal; however buying, selling and bartering are prohibited. The groups are well-represented on social media, particularly Facebook, Reddit and Nextdoor. The Buy Nothing app, launched on Black Friday, has been downloaded more than 125,000 times.

For devotees, Buy Nothing is less a statement about consumerism than an antidote to some of the social ills and financial pressures of the moment. It’s a way to spend less at a time when inflation is near a 40-year high. It’s a means of reducing waste in one of the world’s most wasteful countries. And it’s a form of connection during a pandemic that has left many wrestling with isolation.

The grass isn’t always greener

Read the full story at Q Magazine.

America’s largest irrigated crop is not corn, soy, or anything else you might find in the commodity marketplace. It’s turf grass: the crop that American homeowners grow in pursuit of the dream of a lush, green, manicured lawn. According to NASA, the United States has around 40 million acres of turf grass, which is an area roughly equivalent to that of the state of Wisconsin. This makes turf grass our largest irrigated crop and one that has replaced scores of diverse habitats for wildlife. Turf grass helps lawn-owners achieve a long-cherished suburban fantasy, but it does not produce food or anything else useful for the environment. In fact, the dream of a pristine lawn comes at a high cost, requiring excessive inputs like water, gas, and chemicals. What might it take to reimagine the American lawn?  

Americans support climate change policies, especially those that give them incentives and clean up the energy supply

Incentives like rebates for insulation or allowing homeowners to sell energy from solar panels were more popular than taxing for excess energy use. Lourdes Balduque via Getty Images

Janet K. Swim, Penn State and Nathaniel Geiger, Indiana University

As the Biden administration tries to build support for new climate and energy policies, a set of studies offers some insights that could help them appeal to the widest audience.

We are social scientists who examine how people think about climate change solutions. In the studies, we explored how the public responds to different types of policies and why some are likely to be more popular than others.

For example, which is better: incentives to cut emissions, such as rebates for installing solar panels, or disincentives, like a carbon tax? Does it matter whether those policies target individuals or businesses? What about policies that would reduce energy use or change energy sources from fossil to renewable energy?

Overall, we found people support climate change policies, but they have preferences among different types based on the policies’ anticipated environmental, economic and social impacts.

The who, what and how of climate policy

We used two different measures in two separate studies to assess U.S. residents’ reactions to a set of climate and energy policy types. The 265 participants ranged in age from 18 to 80 and had an approximately equal likelihood of identifying themselves as Republican, Democrat or independent.

These policies varied in three crucial ways:

  1. How they promoted change – through incentives, such as grants or rebates to encourage low-carbon actions, or disincentives, such as fees or taxes to discourage high-carbon actions.
  2. Whom they targeted – businesses or individuals.
  3. What they targeted – energy supply, such as switching to renewable sources, or energy demand, such as promoting energy efficiency and conservation.

The participants shared their preferences, but they also estimated the environmental, economic and social effects they thought each policy would have. Understanding the influence those estimates have on the participants’ views could help policymakers make less-popular policies more palatable.

Lesson 1: Incentives over disincentives

We found that people preferred policies with incentives rather than punishments – especially when the policies applied to individuals, but also for businesses.

They said they thought incentives would be better for the environment and have more economic and social net benefits than disincentives would.

However, we found greater tolerance of disincentives when they applied to businesses than when they affected individuals.

This tolerance was not a result of impressions of effects on the economy – in both cases, the participants anticipated greater economic benefits from incentives than disincentives.

Instead, participants appeared to think that trying to change individuals’ behaviors – but not businesses’ practices – with disincentives would have less positive social impact and be less effective. For example, about one-third of the respondents thought the disincentives for individuals would have more social harms than benefits, while only about 10% thought the same for other policy options.

Lesson 2: Clean energy is better than less energy

People also preferred policies that would change the supply of energy by increasing renewable energy and decreasing fossil fuels more than policies that would decrease the amount of energy people use.

The study participants thought increasing renewable energy and decreasing fossil fuel use would have greater economic and social benefits than decreasing the amount of energy used. For example, 87% percent indicated there would be more economic benefits than harms from energy supply policies, while 77% indicated the same for energy reduction policies.

We found that the participants’ political leanings had surprisingly little effect on relative preferences among all eight policies.

Our previous research with University of Oklahoma postdoctoral fellow Lizbeth Benson also found that environmental benefits, and the anticipated economic consequences, considering both benefits and harms, affected which policies people support. Moreover, the anticipated human impact of climate policies – these could include health, food, safety and human well-being – was even more strongly associated with climate policy support.

The limitations of climate popularism

It may not always make sense for politicians to promote the climate policy with the greatest public support.

For example, enacting some policies that penalize individuals for actions that emit a lot of greenhouse gases may be necessary to reach the world’s climate goals, despite their relative unpopularity.

Of course, a climate policy that doesn’t pass will not reduce carbon emissions at all.

Our work also suggests a possible path forward for promoting less-popular policies, such as those with disincentives for individuals or that reduce energy use. We found that these policies are less popular because people tend to believe they will be less effective and have less of a positive social impact.

Changing policies to increase their positive social impact – a carbon tax that rebates the proceeds to citizens is an example – can help win public support.

Communication strategies can focus on successes to illustrate that people working together to reduce their energy can effectively reduce emissions. For instance, communities can learn from and be inspired by cities that have cut their emissions.

Janet K. Swim, Professor of Psychology, Penn State and Nathaniel Geiger, Assistant Professor of Communication Science, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A new ‘litter lotto’ helps keep communities clean

Read the full story at Springwise.

A new, free-to-enter monthly prize draw rewards people for binning litter. Using the free LitterLotto app, participants take a photo of every piece of rubbish they pick up and bin. Each photo equates to an entry into the monthly jackpot draw, along with a range of other, smaller prizes. The monthly jackpot in the UK was recently doubled to £10,000 per month.

The distilleries working to reduce the foodprint of spirits

Read the full story in Salon.

While “drink responsibly” is a common phrase, you rarely if ever are told to “drink eco-responsibly.”

Cocktail with a conscience: Understanding sustainability with cocktails

Read the full story at Outlook.

Sustainable cocktails are cocktails that are more in harmony with nature. It’s about minimising natural resources and conserving energy.

The hidden history of ancient artifacts

Read the full post from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

People have lived in DuPage County for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that some of the tools and objects they used are still being found in many DuPage forest preserves.

For decades curious people have searched for interesting things on the ground, often picking up objects and taking them home. But it is important to understand there are laws and considerations that apply to these objects.

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