health

With the recent spread of the Zika virus and its link to microcephaly, proper mosquito control is something that people want and need to understand more than ever. The Aedes mosquito can carry Zika; this CDC map shows the areas that have reported active transmission of Zika so far. Some types of mosquitoes can also transmit malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, and other serious diseases in various regions of the world. (Other types of mosquitoes are also responsible for infecting dogs with heartworm.)

Climate change is almost certainly contributing to the increase in some tropical diseases such as Zika, due to higher temperatures and more precipitation in many areas, in the tropics and beyond.  [Source: The Guardian]

mosquitoUnfortunately, conventional tactics for killing mosquitoes are not always effective, and they tend to be toxic. Zika can harm the development of fetuses and can harm some adults; meanwhile, exposure to toxic insecticides can harm everyone (including fetuses). It doesn’t make sense for society to accept that we should have to suffer from the long-term effects of slow poisoning (e.g., chronic and fatal illnesses) from insecticides and pesticides when less-toxic, effective alternatives exist. We cannot just “fog” the world in a cloud of insecticides to try to avoid Zika. Furthermore, the use of insecticides often backfires and has unintended consequences, such as killing other insects and animals that eat mosquitoes.

header-logoHere are some key excerpts from a very helpful article from Beyond Pesticides, which references information from an article in The Guardian:

“Aerial and ground applications of pesticides have long been used for mosquito control, but many believe that these methods fail to sufficiently control mosquito populations, [and that they] promote resistance and kill other species that would have acted as a natural predator to mosquitoes.

Dino Martins, PhD, a Kenyan entomologist, in an interview with The Guardian said that while pesticides can reduce the population of flying adult mosquitoes that transmit the virus, they will fail to deal with the epidemic that threatens to become a global pandemic, and warns that spraying landscapes is extremely dangerous.  ‘It is a quick fix but you pay for it. You kill other species that would have predated on the mosquitoes. You also create a mosaic of sprayed and unsprayed low densities of chemicals that fosters the rapid evolution of resistance.’

Already there is emerging resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes. Additionally it is impossible to fumigate every corner of habitat where mosquitoes might breed.

According to Dr. Martins, the explosion of mosquitoes in urban areas, which is driving the Zika crisis, is caused by a lack of natural diversity that would otherwise keep mosquito populations under control, and the proliferation of waste and lack of disposal in some areas which provide artificial habitat for breeding mosquitoes.

The efficacy of adulticidal pesticide applications (aerial or ground spraying) has been called into question over the years. Further, the drifting spray impacts other non-target organisms like pollinators, birds, fish and amphibians. Commonly used mosquito pesticides like permethrin, resmethrin, naled and malathion are all associated with some measure of human and ecological health risks, especially among people with compromised immune systems, chemically sensitized people, pregnant women, and children with respiratory problems, such as asthma.

…Individuals can take action by eliminating standing water, introducing mosquito-eating fish, encouraging predators, such as bats, birds, dragonflies and frogs, and using least-toxic larvacides like bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt). Through education of proper cultural controls, and least-toxic and cost effective biological alternatives, the use of hazardous control methods, such as toxic pesticides, can be eliminated.

  • Clean-Up–Eliminate pooled or stagnant waters from debris, containers, drains, and anywhere that pools water. Watch out for [and fix] leaky faucets. Mosquitoes can breed in puddles the size of dimes, so keep a keen eye out for stagnant water!
  • Natural Predators– Use indigenous fish populations, like bluegills or minnows, to eat mosquito larvae in shallow waters and ornamental pools. Copepod crustaceans can also be used to eat mosquito larvae in ditches, pools and other areas of stagnant water. Don’t forget about bats either! One bat can consume 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and many bats are in trouble from a disease wiping out their population. Help conserve these important mammals while keeping the mosquito population down by installing a bat house!
  • Behavior Modification–Wear long sleeves and long pants/skirts, and use least-toxic mosquito repellent when outdoors. Try to avoid being outside at dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Attentive Monitoring– Check sources of water for signs of mosquito larvae often.
  • Least-toxic Pesticide Options– Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bt), a biological larvicide (“mosquito dunk”) that prevents mosquitoes from developing into breeding, biting adults in standing waters that cannot be drained.
  • Take Action–Let your local council members, mayor, or state delegates know that safer, more sustainable options exist. [Click here and scroll to the bottom of the article to] download our sample letter to send to public health officials in your area.

Beyond Pesticides’ Mosquito Management program page has a list of resources that can help you and your community safely manage mosquitoes, including least-toxic mosquito repellents, bed nets, and proper clothing that can be used to keep mosquitoes safely at bay.”

In addition to the behavior suggestions mentioned above, these are some other useful suggestions for keeping mosquitoes (and other bugs) away:

  • Make sure any windows that get opened have window screens, and repair/tape any tears in the screens.
  • Turn on a fan. Mosquitoes avoid strong wind.
  • Remove all standing and stagnant water from your yard. Don’t let excess water sit in plant pot dishes. Clear out debris from gutters. Remove water from birdbaths, any discarded tires, unused water troughs, etc. If you use rain barrels, make sure they have screens and that the screens are on tightly. If you have a compost pile, make sure it has drainage, is not soggy, is covered with a thick layer of leaves or grass clippings, and is not located right next to your living quarters. Running/moving water is generally OK, as mosquitoes larvae cannot grow there.
  • Cover up with loose, light-colored clothing. Wear shoes and socks instead of sandals. Change and wash your socks and clothing regularly, as mosquitoes are attracted to stinky feet and sweat.
  • Use mosquito netting over baby carriers, strollers, beds, etc.
  • Avoid drinking beer or eating/drinking dairy products when in a mosquito-prone environment. They seem to be attracted to beer and possibly also to lactic acid.
  • Methods and products that don’t work or don’t work well include: 1.) Ultrasonic devices. 2) Vitamin B patches. 2.) Repellent candles (e.g., citronella candles): They don’t work nearly as well as clothing or skin treatments, and 3) Bug zappers: They may actually attract more mosquitoes and other bugs to the area, and they can kill beneficial bugs.

Repellents

There’s no need to coat your skin or clothes with highly toxic chemicals to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Studies are finding that mosquito repellents that use oil of lemon-eucalyptus (with some PMD) are just about as effective as DEET, and they last longer. Picaridin (or icaridin, or KBR 3020) is a less-toxic synthetic repellent than DEET and it works almost as well. The EcoSmart organic insect repellent (which uses a variety of botanical ingredients) was also found to work well, but it needs to be reapplied frequently (every 2-3 hours).  [Sources: NPR and EWG]

Consumer Reports gave these three DEET-free repellents their top ratings: Sawyer—Fishermen’s Formula Picaridin;  Repel—Lemon Eucalyptus; and Natrapel 8-hour. [For more information on those three products, see this article.] A friend of mine, who runs a summer farm camp and has tried many repellents, swears by All Terrain’s Herbal Armor repellent (which is also DEET-free).

Avoid using permethrin-based repellents, even those used to treat clothing and not applied to skin. Also avoid products with more than 30% DEET. And don’t use “foggers.” Those are all very toxic. Also, don’t use any aerosol sprays (use lotions or pumps instead). Don’t use repellents on babies under 6 months, and don’t use lemon-eucaluptus/PMD on children under 3 years old.  [Source: EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika: Top Choices, and Do’s and Don’ts for Avoiding Bug Bites]

Other than lemon-eucalyptus oil, most botanical/plant-based repellents have not been found to be as effective as DEET or Picaridin-based repellents (especially for repelling the types of mosquitoes that can carry Zika). However, you could still experiment with rubbing a few of these bug-repelling plants on your skin or clothes (try a small area first, to make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction). Better yet, planting some of these herbs and plants in your yard could help reduce the mosquitoes (and also fleas and ticks) in the area around your house. (Always be sure to buy organic—or non-treated—plants or seeds, so that they don’t kill off pollinators and other beneficial bugs and creatures.)  Turning your yard into a thriving garden will also help create more much-needed habitat for beneficial bugs, birds, and other species that help keep the mosquito population under control.

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Bayberry (shrub)
  • Calendula
  • Catnip and catmint
  • Chives
  • Cloves
  • Feverfew
  • Garlic
  • Geranium (especially citronella geranium)
  • Hyssop
  • Lantana
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon eucalyptus
  • Marigold
  • Mint, peppermint
  • Mugwort
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Southernwood
  • Sweet woodruff
  • Tansy
  • Thyme (especially lemon thyme)
  • Wormwood
  • Yarrow

[Sources: Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016; and “Repel Mosquitos with These Plants,” by Julie Fryer, Mother Earth News]

 

A company is currently working on developing Kite Patch and Kite Shield, technologies intended to prevent mosquitoes from detecting the CO2 that we emit, to make us virtually invisible to mosquitoes. Time will tell whether these technologies are effective. If they are, they are likely to become quite popular.

 

Unfortunately, many women who know that they got Zika during their pregnancy, or who live in areas where there are many Zika-carrying moquitoes, also happen to live in countries where contraception is not readily available or affordable, and/or where abortion is illegal and therefore unsafe.  Many such women are contacting organizations like Women on Waves for help.

 

Resources and references:

EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents in the Age of Zika (including tip sheets that you can print out), from Environmental Working Group

How to Repel Mosquitoes Safely, Beyond Pesticides

Mosquito Management and Insect-Borne Diseases, Beyond Pesticides

With Zika Virus, Widespread Pesticide Spraying Not the Long-Term Solution, says Entomologist,” Beyond Pesticides

Zika Virus: Pesticides are not a long-term solution says leading entomologist,” The Guardian

What’s the Best Way to Keep Mosquitoes from Biting?,” NPR

Three top-rated insect repellents that don’t contain DEET,” TreeHugger.com

Book: Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects, by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2016

Repel Mosquitoes with These Plants,” Mother Earth News

Mosquito Deterrents: The Good, The Bad, and the Potentially Effective,” Smithsonian Magazine

 

Related post:

Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pets

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June 29, 2016
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Ever since Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962 (sparking people’s awareness of health threats from chemicals, and leading to the ban on DDT 10 years later), an array of scientific studies have shown that various toxic chemicals and pollutants—in our air, water, soil, food, yards, indoor environments (homes, schools, and workplaces), and household and personal products—are causing or contributing to a myriad of public health problems. Such problems Basic RGBrange from asthma, allergies, headaches, and skin and respiratory conditions to serious reproductive/endocrine (hormone) problems, neurological problems (including learning disorders and lower IQ), birth defects, infertility, heart conditions, and many types of cancers. Recent studies have also linked chemical exposure to diabetes and obesity. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxins, including through pre-natal exposures. And people in certain occupations (such as janitors, farm workers, nail salon staff, and some factory workers)—who have jobs in which they are regularly exposed to a stew of toxic chemicals—suffer from higher rates of certain health conditions than the general population.

Unfortunately, many toxic chemicals remain virtually unregulated, and existing regulations are not adequately enforced. Most products and chemicals that are used in products are considered “innocent until proven guilty;” they are assumed to be safe until it’s proven that they’re dangerous. But even when there is strong scientific evidence of the toxicity and harmfulness of certain substances, they are not always banned—or it can take many years of battles to get them banned. Known, probable, and suspected carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are in products that we all use every day. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main chemical safety law in the U.S., but it is weak and outdated; it desperately needs to be updated and strengthened, but some members of Congress are currently trying to weaken it further, putting the profit interests of the chemical industry over public health.

A few of the most toxic chemicals/elements, many of which are still commonly found in products, CradletoCradleCertified-NoLevelinclude: mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride—dioxin is a by-product), phthalates (plasticizers), flame retardants (PBDEs, TDCP, TCEP), cadmium, chromium, hexane, PFCs, trichlorethylene (TCE), and asbestos. And there are many other toxic chemicals and ingredients. See the Cradle to Cradle product certification’s Banned Lists of Chemicals.

Bear in mind that chemicals and pollutants that have negative effects on human health usually have (even worse) negative effects on other species (pets, wildlife, fish, etc.) and on environmental health overall. Our air and water and soil are shared resources, and all living things depend on them for their survival and health. Some of the worst chemicals are classified as PBTs: Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic; these are toxic chemicals that are known to persist in the environment and bioaccumulate in people and/or wildlife (increasing in concentration as they go up the food chain).

All public health—and especially preventive health—efforts should start focusing on reducing environmental (and fetal) exposures to toxins, which means minimizing the production of toxins and pollutants at their source. The World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution alone causes 7 million premature deaths (of humans) each year. If something else were killing that many people, it would be considered a public health epidemic.

The following organizations focus on health issues related to environmental exposures to toxins. Visit their websites to learn more about their efforts and ways that you can get involved:

Center for Environmental Health 

Collaborative on Health and the Environment logo-ewc2

EWG (Environmental Working Group)

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Silent Spring Institute

Coming Cleanschf_logo_site

Physicians for Social Responsibility

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX)

EPA’s Safer Choice product label

EPA’s Green Chemistry information

HealthyStuff.org

Union of Concerned Scientists

Several other broad-based sustainability organizations—including Earthjustice, EDF, Greenpeace, and NRDC—also address health and toxics issues, among other issues.

Among the many types of toxins that people are exposed to on a regular basis, some of the worst sources include:  power plant emissions, and other oil, coal, and gas industry inputs, by-products, and emissions (including fracking chemicals); nuclear radiation; pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (including atrazine and Roundup/glyphosate); building materials, finishes, furniture, and furnishings; electronics (manufacturing and disposal hazards); and personal care products (e.g., shampoo and other hair products, sunscreen, toothpaste, nail polish, etc.).

These groups are working to reduce harmful exposures to chemicals from the following, specific sources:

Pesticides / food:

Nuclear radiation:

Building materials:

Interior products (and building materials):

Electronics / tech:

Healthcare:

Cosmetics:

 

Books and Films

Living Downstream (book and film; book written by Sandra Steingraber)

No Family History (book and film; book written by Sabrina McCormick)

Other recent films on topics related to health, toxins, and the environment include: The Human Experiment, Unacceptable Levels, Toxic Hot Seat, The Atomic States of America, Hot Water, Blue Vinyl, and A Will for the Woods. You can find links to these and other films via the following posts:

 

Other health-related posts:

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March 16, 2015
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votetheenvironment-logo-300x276Vote as if the future depends on it. It does. Vote as if your life—or your child’s life—depends on it. It does, in a general if not a direct way. The future state of our climate, environment, health, and civilization—not only in the United States but around the world—will be greatly affected by who is in charge or in a position to obstruct progress (nationally and locally) over these next few years and beyond. It is critical that all of us environmentally-conscious voters vote in every election, including primaries as well as mid-term (non-presidential) elections, such as the 2014 U.S. election in November. Every election is important. Remember: Apathy is surrender. Please—don’t be (a)pathetic.

[Also see our newer, related post: 2016 Election and Voting Information]

The candidates and major parties are not “all the same” as each other, and it’s naïve, dangerous, and self-defeating to believe or say that they are. If Republicans take majority control of both houses of Congress (the Senate, as well as the House), pro-environmental legislation won’t stand a chance of being passed; and the Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they will actively try to dismantle existing environmental laws, regulations, and agencies—as they’ve tried to do many times via their House votes, though so far the Senate has been able to block most of their attempts because of the Democratic majority there. The health of the environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue (and it didn’t use to be, before the 1980s), but sadly, it is now.

logo_lcvIf you live in the United States and you would like to be represented by more elected officials who support environmental safeguards for our air, water, and land, take a good look at the resources provided by the League of Conservation Voters. LCV “is a national non-profit organization that works to turn environmental values into national priorities. To secure the environmental future of our planet, LCV advocates for sound environmental policies” and works to “elect pro-environment candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.”

LCV endorses pro-environment candidates (or at least candidates who are far more green-leaning than their viable opponents). See their list of current ENDORSEMENTS here. Senate candidates whom they’ve endorsed for the upcoming (2014) election include: Gary Peters (MI), Mark Udall (CO), Kay Hagan (NC), Cory Booker (NJ), Michelle Nunn (GA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bruce Braley (IA), Rick Weiland (SD), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Al Franken (MN), Jack Reed (RI), Dick Durbin (IL), and Dave Domina (NE). A few of the House candidates they’ve endorsed are: Brad Schneider (IL), Tammy Duckworth (IL), John Lewis (MT), Raul Grijalva (AZ); Michigan candidates Pam Byrnes, Jerry Cannon, and Dan Kildee; and California candidates Mike Honda, Julia Brownley, Scott Peters, John Garamendi, Ami Bera, Lois Capps, Pete Aguilar, and Raul Ruiz, among others. In the 2012 election, almost all of the LCV-endorsed candidates won their races; but keep in mind that that was a presidential election year, when far more voters (especially Democratic voters) usually show up to vote than they do for mid-term elections. [2014 post-election update: The majority of the candidates that LCV endorsed won their races: 11 out of 16 (69%) of the endorsed Senate candidates won their races, and to date it appears that 30 (57%) of the 53 endorsed House candidates have won, for a combined average of 59%. These endorsements were mostly given to candidates who were in very close races. Therefore, the results suggest that these pro-environmental endorsements, and/or these candidates’ pro-environment campaign platforms and records, gave them an edge. Future candidates should take note.]

The Sierra Club also makes many endorsements. And a newer organization, Climate Hawks Vote, has endorsed: Gary Peters and Paul Clements in Michigan, Scott Peters (and several other House candidates) in California, Shenna Bellows in Maine, Tom Udall in New Mexico, Rick Weiland in South Dakota, Jeff Merkley in Oregon, and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. [2014 post-election update:  The majority of candidates endorsed by Climate Hawks Vote won their races: 11 out of the 17 endorsed candidates (65%) won. Only some of their endorsements overlapped with LCV’s endorsements.]

State Governors races are also very important, although these national enviro groups haven’t weighed in on them with endorsements. More than 30 states now have their own state-level LCVs, which hold Governors and other state elected officials accountable on various environmental issues. Click on the map at that link to find the website for your state’s LCV and learn about your state and local candidates.

One of LCV’s flagship reports is its annual National Environmental Scorecard, which shows how each congressperson voted on every environmentally relevant piece of legislation. You can search the Scorecard by state, zip code, a congressperson’s name, or by year. Or you can download a PDF of the entire Scorecard.  LCV’s website also features several petitions and actions that people can participate in.  Some other ways to get involved with and support the League of Conservation Voters are to: join their Facebook page or follow their Twitter feed; share their videos; sign up to be on their mailing list; or donate to LCV or to specific pro-environment candidates.

Other important links for the upcoming election:

Make sure you are able to vote:

  • Verify that you are still registered to vote: Go to CanIVote.org and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office.  Thousands of voters have been purged from the voter rolls in several states. Make sure you aren’t one of them.
  • Register to vote, or re-register to vote (if you’ve moved or changed your name or been wrongfully purged from the registration system): Pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or government building) in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com, or 866OurVote.org, or to your county’s election office to register. Be sure to register before the deadline for your state, which is often sometime during the month before the election. And if there’s a chance you won’t be able to get to the polls before they close on election day (the upcoming national election is Tuesday, November 4), fill out the absentee ballot form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. Help get other people registered to vote by participating in voter registration drives or sending these registration links to people you know, especially to college students and other young (18+) voters who have never registered before.
  • Research the issues, propositions, and candidates that will be on your ballot. Don’t base your decisions on campaigns’ (often deceptive) TV and radio ads or the (often corporate-funded) propaganda flyers you receive in the mail. Read the information that’s provided in your state/county’s voter guide, as well as newspaper editorials and articles written by trustworthy, non-dogmatic analysts or journalists, and information provided by trusted organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters (National Environmental Scorecard, etc.). To get information on what will be on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org.
  • Get info on your polling location and hours, as well as voting requirements in your area (e.g., voter ID requirements), and report any voting problems: Go to Election Protection’s 866OurVote.org website, or call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, or email help@866ourvote.org.

electionprotection

  • Find out whether your state’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable: Go to VerifiedVoting.org: working for election integrity/preparedness, i.e., reducing the odds of electronic and physical vote tampering, to try to ensure and verify that every vote is counted as cast.
  • And last but not least: please vote—not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, other species, and the environment, atmosphere, and climate that we all share and depend on for life.  Vote as if everyone’s future depends on it; it does.  Thank you.

progress-graphic-small

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September 16, 2014
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You can find fresh, daily morsels of information and inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. Anyone can view the page, even if you don’t have a Facebook account. But if you do have an account, we hope you’ll click on the Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” the page).

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the wide variety of topics that it covers. You are welcome to comment on the posts and we hope you’ll share some of our links. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

Here’s a sampling of topics that we’ve highlighted on the page over the last month or so:

  • Navajo teen wins award for building solar ovens
  • Tesla makes its patents open-source
  • Solar Impulse 2 airplane
  • Warka water tower gets water from the air
  • Best ways to protect homes from wildfires
  • Climate Confidential
  • Natural mosquito control
  • EWG’s guide to safe, effective sunscreens
  • Ways to reduce breast cancer risk
  • Cowboy and Indian Alliance
  • Films: Triple Divide, DamNation
  • Wendell Berry poem
  • Quotations, cartoons, photos, videos, etc.
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June 18, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000 [starting this year, it has been increased to $175,000], the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of this international prize. And this year, for the first time ever, the Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony will be broadcast LIVE on the Goldman Prize YouTube channel.

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Helen Slottje (NY, USA) — Helping towns across New York defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking
  • Desmond D’Sa (South Africa) — Rallied south Durban’s diverse and disenfranchised communities to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing nearby residents to dangerous chemicals
  • Ruth Buendía (Peru) — United the Asháninka people in a powerful campaign against large-scale dams that would have once again uprooted indigenous communities
  • Ramesh Agrawal (India) — Organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh
  • Suren Gazaryan (Russia) — Led multiple campaigns exposing government corruption and illegal use of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast
  • Rudi Putra (Indonesia) — Dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the video about Helen Slottje, who has provided pro-bono legal assistance to help towns across New York (including Dryden) defend themselves from oil and gas companies by passing local bans on fracking, using a clause in the state constitution that gives municipalities the right to make local land use decisions.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 28, 2014
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This is a listing of some of the green-themed films that came out in the last couple of years. Click on each of the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film.  Update: Also check out our newer listing of green-themed films of 2015.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a list of some green film festivals; those websites provide information on more films, including some brand new ones that haven’t been shown widely yet.

Energy / Power

 

Health / Toxic Chemicals

(Note: Many of the films in the Energy section above also relate to health issues, especially Hot Water, Gasland II, and the Atomic States of America)

 

Food / Agriculture

  • Bringing It Home: Industrial hemp, healthy houses, and a greener future for America (2013)

 

Animal Sentience / Animal Rights

 

Water (Oceans, Rivers, Glaciers)

 

Environmental Movement / Activism

  • Green Gold (2012) – Entire film is available to watch online

 

Related posts (more films):

If there are other relevant, recent films that you’ve seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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March 25, 2014
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.”

This year’s six prize recipients (one from each of the six inhabited continental regions) are:

  • Kimberly Wasserman (Chicago, IL, USA) — Fought to get local, polluting, coal power plants shut down; leading community greening projects
  • Jonathan Deal (South Africa) — Fighting against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) gas extraction
  • Azzam Alwash (Iraq) — Restoring marshes and protecting water resources
  • Nohra Padilla (Colombia) — Instituting recycling and waste management programs
  • Rosanno Ercolini (Italy) — Fighting toxics from incinerators and spearheading a Zero Waste movement
  • Aleta Baun (Indonesia) — Protecting sacred forestland from marble mining

Click on each recipient’s name to read—or watch a brief, well-made video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Here’s the three-minute video about Kimberly Wasserman, who “led local residents in a successful campaign to shut down two of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants — and is now transforming Chicago’s old industrial sites into parks and multi-use spaces:” 

Last year’s recipient from the U.S. was Caroline Cannon, who has brought “the voice and perspective of her Inupiat community in Point Hope, Alaska to the battle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.”

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 15, 2013
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Some people might call me a chocolate enthusiast…or, a chocoholic. I crave chocolate. And I usually indulge this craving, because after all, high-quality dark chocolate has been proven to have a slew of health (physical and mental/mood) benefits.

I have a little bit of chocolate almost every day. Not a lot on any given day, mind you…but since my cumulative consumption of chocolate is considerable, I’ve been very pleased to find that many of my favorite chocolate bars are made by companies that address the social and environmental issues related to the production of chocolate.

The following chocolates are a few of my favorites; and they are all made with organic ingredients and/or their cacao has been sourced through fair-trade arrangements. Some of them also support other types of sustainability or conservation programs and practices, which are noted below. I am not being paid to recommend any of these companies or products.

1. TCHO

  • Organic (certified by CCOF)
  • Fair trade (certified by Fair Trade USA)
  • Started the TCHOSource program “to obtain the best beans in the world while enabling the producers of those beans to earn a better living.” They “partner with growers and coops and transfer knowledge about growing and fermentation to enable farmers to escape commodity production and become premium producers and to create a relationship of mutual self-interest that goes beyond Fair Trade.”
  • They also “raise consciousness about the reality of modern slavery in our industry and in the world, and set an example by refusing to use cacao produced by slaves.”
  • Manufactured in San Francisco

 

I recently tried TCHO’s SeriousMilk Milk Chocolate “Cacao” bar (with 53% cacao), and I think this has now become my #1 favorite chocolate bar.  It’s the perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate. I look forward to trying their other bars, as well.

 

2. Newman’s Own Organics

  • 100% organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified, which “guarantees that the cocoa in our Signature Series was grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities.”
  • “We have confirmed in writing that the cocoa products we purchase have been produced on farms that treat their workers fairly, and pay them a fair wage. Our suppliers do not and will not support any farms or plantations that mistreat children and adults or engage in Slave Trade Practices.”

My favorite Newman’s Own Organics bar is: Dark Chocolate (54% cocoa), which is a light/creamy dark chocolate.

 

3. Endangered Species Chocolate

  • Some of their bars are organic (certified by Oregon Tilth)
  • “10% of net profits donated to charitable organizations supporting species and habitat conservation in harmony with humanity”
  • “100% ethically traded: Cacao used to create our All-Natural and Organic chocolate products is grown on farm co-ops that foster responsible labor practices, community enrichment and sustainable farming… On-the-ground endeavors, like Project Ecuador are helping empower communities in cacao growing regions.”
  • “All of our chocolate is shade-grown.  Shade-grown chocolate supports lush forests and the species that thrive there promoting biodiversity, providing shelter for migratory birds, and combating global warming.”
  • Information about an endangered species is provided inside each wrapper.

My favorite Endangered Species Chocolate bar (that I’ve tried so far) is: Dark chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds.

 

4. Seeds of Change

  • Organic (certified by QAI)
  • “Directly contributes 1% of its net sales to sustainable organic farming initiatives worldwide.”

I’ve had their Milk Chocolate, and Milk Chocolate with Puffed Grains, and they were really tasty. I haven’t tried their various dark chocolate products yet, though I plan to. (One point against this company’s chocolates: I don’t love that they put 3 small, individually wrapped bars inside of the larger package. Though the smaller serving sizes are good for portion control and for keeping the unopened chocolate fresh, using that extra wrapping material seems a bit wasteful.)

 

You can find many of these chocolates at most Whole Foods stores and other natural foods stores. There are a number of other companies that make organic chocolate and/or fair trade chocolate (e.g., ALTER ECO, Equal Exchange, Amy’s, Theo, Angell, and Divine, to name just a few; commenters have also recommended Taza and Green & Black’s). I haven’t gotten around to trying all of them yet, but I surely will in the near future…

P.S. Fine chocolate makes a great last-minute gift for any chocolate lovers you know!

What’s your favorite kind of organic or “ethical” chocolate?

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December 16, 2011
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The following is a partial list of environmental non-profit organizations that have a national (U.S.) or international scope and that take a broad approach to sustainability. These 15 groups address a wide spectrum of environmental issues; they are not single-issue organizations. Due to their holistic perspective, many of these groups do work that—directly or indirectly—promotes greater social and economic equity, as well as environmental sustainability, as all of these issues and conditions are inextricably connected to each other.

Please click on the links to learn more about the work that each of these groups is doing.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of sustainability-minded organizations.  For a longer list, see this set of links.

In addition, there are many single-issue environmental organizations (and local, state, and community-level organizations) that do good and important work in their respective areas and issues. I have highlighted such groups in past posts (e.g., organizations focused on green schools, environmental education, green affordable housing, green building, sustainable communities/planning, etc.), and will highlight other types of green groups in the future. (Update: Our newer posts provide lists of organizations related to health/toxics; resilience; sustainable agriculture/farming/food; green business; divestment/investment; and climate issues.)

If you have a favorite green organization that you’d like people to know about, please share that in the Comments.

* Full disclosure: I have worked on projects for the organizations that are marked with an asterisk.

Related Post: Lesser Known Organizations that are Worthy of Support  [added Dec. 2012]

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November 3, 2011
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