The United States is one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. What can our country do for the good of the planet with this role?
One thing the U.S. federal government does every few years is engage hundreds of experts to evaluate the impacts of climate change, now and in the future. The resulting National Climate Assessment report, which was recently released, showed that America's current efforts to reduce carbon pollution are too little to avoid dangerous climate change. Last year President Obama announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks such as minivans and sport utility vehicles. Let’s build on this historic progress to limit carbon emissions. There are several ways that the president and federal government can make a real difference in the fight against global warming.
The Clean Air Act is a powerful tool that our nation’s leaders could be leveraging more fully. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with using the Clean Air Act to issue rules to reduce greenhouse pollution. This farsighted law has reduced damaging air pollution for forty years, saving many lives. The EPA has already used it to protect public health and welfare from six extensive and harmful pollutants including: ozone, particulate matter, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. Now is the time to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by setting a national pollution cap for greenhouse gases.
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has also proposed higher emission standards on coal-fired power plants. These standards need to be fortified, finalized and implemented posthaste. Why stop with power plants? There are other places where higher greenhouse gas emission standards can be successfully applied to help save our planet such as oil refineries, cement plants, and even the airline industry.
Another way to help the environment would be for President Obama and the State Department to decline approval on the Keystone XL pipeline, which proposes moving oil down from Canada through the western United States to refineries along the Gulf Coast. There are no guarantees that the pipeline won’t spring leaks. Furthermore, there is evidence that extracting oil from the sands are increasing levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes far beyond natural levels. Denying approval would show that America is committed to transitioning away from a dependence on fossil fuels.
Of course, it’s not all up to the federal government. We can all do our parts to speed the transition to a clean energy future. First we can encourage our elected officials to take the climate change actions recommended above. Second we can reduce our own carbon footprints. Consider lowering the heat or air conditioning depending on the season, using a clothesline, rake, hand mower and other manpowered devices, composting, forgoing meat at least one day a week and riding a bicycle. Lastly, we can all find simple ways to be part of the solution such as planting trees and offsetting remaining carbon emissions.
Producing environmentally-conscious clothing is a complicated and often vexing challenge for “green” clothing manufacturers. Certainly, conventionally-grown cotton has been clearly identified as one of the world’s “dirtiest” crops, consuming 10% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides, according to the Pesticide Action Network North America. Synthetic fabrics are, well, just that – synthetics, made from petro-chemicals, releasing large quantities of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, and producing toxic waste water, in their manufacturing processes, and are not biodegradable.
Despite “cleaner” fabric choices, clothing manufacturers face additional unavoidable carbon emissions in the growing, harvesting and refining of raw materials, the clothing manufacturing process, and the ultimate shipping and delivery of their products. Carbonfund.org’s emission neutralization strategies help environmentally-responsible producers to mitigate these operational emissions by supporting renewable energy development and carbon reduction projects around the world.
One of Carbonfund.org’s long-time CarbonFree® Business Partners, ONNO Textiles, produces its socially-responsible t-shirts using sustainable fibers from bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. Their website provides great information about the fabrics used to make their more sustainably produced shirts.
But ONNO Textiles recognized the harmful environmental impact of their overall production and delivery processes. They manufacture their apparel overseas, and move raw materials and finished product all over the globe. To balance the resulting environmental harm, ONNO Textiles has partnered with Carbonfund.org for the past five years to neutralize their operational emissions by supporting our renewable energy technology and carbon reduction initiatives around the world. This long-term commitment to carbon emissions mitigation through investment in clean air projects makes the CarbonFree® partnership between ONNO Textiles and Carbonfund.org a great example of true operational sustainability.