tips

Regardless of what any polls might say, please don’t get complacent and assume this election will turn out the way you want or expect. (See: the Brexit vote.) Progressives can’t count on any state being a “safe state” where one can abstain from voting or can risk opting for a third-party vote that could end up helping the worst candidate get extra electoral votes and actually tip the outcome of the election, as it did in 2000 (when Nader votes that could have gone to Gore helped prevent Gore from winning Florida, New Hampshire, and almost Oregon, and Bush ended up winning the election by a very small margin). (The folly of voting for third-party candidates who can’t win in U.S. elections is a touchy subject that really deserves its own post, and I might write one later.) The survival of our very democracy—what remains of it—is at stake. I hope most people will remember and learn from history, rather than be doomed to repeat it.

statueoflibertyIn this election, many more states could serve as “swing” states than ever before, for a variety of reasons. This is not a normal election. It’s important to recognize that new voter suppression laws (including many restrictive ID laws and fewer voter protections, enabled by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act after the last election), voter intimidation efforts, voter database purges in some states, voter database hacking (database breaches were detected this year in Arizona and Illinois, and were attempted in at least 20 states), and other such forces are sure to have a very negative impact on this year’s elections, so we need to do everything possible to counteract all of these attempts to curtail people’s right to vote.  I feel an extra responsibility to vote, since so many people who should be able to vote will not be able to (some only because they’re seniors or students who haven’t been able to get the “correct” form of ID in time).

Here are very specific ways you can help—10 steps you can take right now, leading up to, and/or on election day—to try to ensure a high turnout and the best possible (i.e., least egregious) election outcomes:

1. Verify that you are still registered to vote (at your correct, current address): Go to 866OurVote.org or CanIVote.org and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office. Thousands of voters may have been (wrongly) purged from the voter rolls in several states. Make sure you aren’t one of them, well before you arrive at the polls on Election Day. Also send / post these links for your friends, and ask them to check and re-check their registration status before the election.  If you’ve moved since you last registered or you are not yet registered to vote, register or re-register right away, if you still can (many states’ deadlines have already passed in October).  You can pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or other government building) located in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com or 866OurVote.org, or better yet, go directly to your county’s election office to register.

The upcoming election is on Tuesday, November 8.  If there’s any chance that you won’t be able to get to your polling place before it closes on election day, fill out the absentee/mail-in ballot request form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. When you receive your ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required.

2. Sign up to help with voter registration drives, if the voter registration deadline hasn’t already passed in your state (check your Secretary of State’s website, or 866OURVOTE.org for the deadline), or help with a campaign’s Get Out the Vote efforts. You can help register voters or GOTV through your local Democratic Party office, among other groups. If you’re able to go to a “battleground” county or state, that’s great. NextGen Climate has a great web tool that makes it easy to text climate-voter millennials in swing states. Also, encourage students and young voters that you know (18+) to register to vote and to show up to vote. (Assist them in filling out their registration form completely, if they need help, and show them the state and county voting guides that explain what’s on their ballot.)

You can also help people figure out how to get the ID that they (might) need in order to vote in your state (see item #9 below), or drive them to the DMV to apply for their ID. In addition, though it is probably too late at this point (to qualify for this election), encourage and help anyone you know who has been wanting/trying to become a citizen to complete the naturalization process; you could even offer to help contribute to the steep citizenship exam fee.

3. Sign up to be an election worker at a polling place, through your County’s elections office or Secretary of State’s office, or volunteer as an official election observer or monitor, through groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, your local or state Democratic Party, or various civil rights groups. Alternatively, you could volunteer to help staff the Election Protection hotline to answer voting-related questions and to record and respond to reports of voting problems. (Lawyers and law students are especially wanted, but anyone can help.)

4. Find out whether your state and county’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable (i.e., have a paper trail that can be audited for accountability); most state and counties do use auditable systems with a paper trial, but some still don’t. For example, Georgia’s touchscreen voting systems do not currently employ best practices. Go to VerifiedVoting.org, which works for election integrity/preparedness, to learn more. While voter fraud (e.g., voter impersonation) is extremely rare and is not easy to get away with (so it not a cause for real concern), incidents of vote hacking (and voter registration hacking) could potentially occur in some states, counties, or precincts.

Contact your Secretary of State’s office and your County’s elections office to request that they take all precautions to prevent ballot hacking and tampering, and to provide secure and verifiable voting systems with an auditable paper trail.  Specifically, if you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic voting machines, ask if you can use a paper ballot instead. And every voter should make sure they get their ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified.

5. Research all of the issues, propositions, and national, state, and local candidates that will be on your ballot, so that you are as informed as possible. 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 and county’s official voter guides (which you should receive in the mail), 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, League of Women Voters, etc. Given the prevalence of lying and mis-information (especially online and on social media), it’s important to check the veracity of any wild claims or personal attacks/smears: search the fact-checks on Politifact, FactCheck.org, and Snopes. To get additional information on what is on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org.

In California, Illinois, and New York, Voter’s Edge provides a helpful, non-partisan voting guide to help you make sense of what’s on your ballot. In California, there is also the California Progressive Voter Guide, a chart that shows what a variety of organizations think about each Proposition on the ballot. Educate yourself as much as possible. But if you still do not really know about or fully understand what a particular ballot proposition is about when it comes time to vote, it’s best not to vote on that issue.

6. Donate to candidates and issue campaigns that you support, at local, state, and national levels, and/or to your local (county or state) Democratic Party, the DSCC, DCCC, and Democratic Governors Association.  Also consider donating to or volunteering for an election integrity or voting-related group, such as Election Protection, ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn, 350Action, or others (we provided an extensive list of organizations in one of our previous posts).

7. Make your voting preferences known to your good friends and family, via conversations or posts on social media, without resorting to inflammatory insults (no one will listen to you if you’re suggesting that they’re an idiot or worse). You probably have more influence than you think, especially among your peers and others who respect you. I know it takes some courage; when you stick your neck out on political matters, a few people might want to chop it off and might lash out in a rude or offensive manner. But if you set a civil and positive tone (and only post truthful, substantiated information) and mostly focus on reaching out to people who you know personally, you’ll get fewer reactionary or vitriolic responses. Avoid telling people who they “must” or “have to” vote for (no one likes to be be told what to do). Simply state what you will do and why, and why you think it’s important. Post links to helpful and trustworthy election information, such as links for finding polling location, hours, etc. (e.g., 866OurVote.org, or your Secretary of State or County elections site).  Consider sharing this blog post (and our other election posts) with your friends. And on or before voting day, remind your friends to vote.

8. Volunteer to drive people to the polls, through direct offers or via your local Democratic Party.

9. Make sure you know what the current ID requirements are for voting in your state, and bring the necessary identification document(s) with you. Many states have instituted more restrictive (discriminatory) ID requirements since the last election or since 2010: including AL, AZ, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MS, NC, NE, NH, OH, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WV. Go to 866OurVote.org, VoteRiders.org, or RockTheVote.com, call 866-OUR-VOTE, or contact your State or County’s elections offices to find out about your voter ID requirements.

 

10. And of course, on Election Day (or on an Early Voting day, if those are available where you are, or by mail-in ballot): PLEASE VOTE. Remind your friends to vote, and bring a friend with you.

If you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them to the Election Protection hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA) and to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; you could also report the problems to the DNC and to local media.

Also, make sure you get and keep your ballot receipt, and keep it for at least a couple weeks after the election, until the election is settled. Once all ballots have been counted, you should be able to confirm that your ballot was counted, by calling your County elections office or, in some places, you can check online.

Again, if you’ve opted to get a mail-in/absentee ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required. Keep your ballot receipt.

 

Vote not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, vulnerable populations, 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.

 

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October 24, 2016
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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

 

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Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pets

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June 29, 2016
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“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”Anne Lappe

Here are a few ideas and suggestions for less materialistic, more beneficial and values-driven gift-giving—for the holidays or any other occasion:

  1. Think about some non-commercial or non-material things you would like, and think about or ask your family and friends what types of non-material things they would like. On sokind_logothe SoKind Registry, you and others can create your own wish lists, which can include anything (not just new stuff), such as experiences/activities, time/assistance or services, handmade/homemade or homegrown goods, donations to charities (see #2 below), etc.
  1. Donate to charitable organizations in honor of the people on your gift list. You could pick a cause that you know they support. Some of our previous posts list various environmentally and socially beneficial organizations, including: broad-based sustainability orgs, and other lesser-known environmental and non-environmental orgs. You can also go to our Links page, or scroll down this blog’s sidebar to see lists of additional non-profits. And here are some other types of organizations you might consider: a refugee rescue organization (such as the IRC or UNHCR), wildlife conservation/protection group, animal shelter or animal rescue group, food bank, homeless shelter, women’s shelter, foster child or other children’s organization, seniors support organization, Meals on Wheels, a tree-planting organization, or a public radio/TV station. You could also give the TisBest Charity Gift Card, which allows the recipient to spend the funds on a charity of their choice (among 300+ options).
  1. When buying products, buy from small, locally owned businesses, green businesses, and/or businesses that are certified B Corporations or benefit corporations. A few B Corps that sell consumer products include: Patagonia, The Honest Company, Indigenous Designs, W.S. Badger, Alter Eco, Atayne, Better World Books, Seventh Generation, Method, and Ben and Jerry’s. A couple of other socially and environmentally conscious companies include: PACT (apparel) and Newman’s Own Organics.
  1. 9780300206319Give the gift of information and inspiration: books! There are so many great books (and e-books) on sustainability topics. Here are a few recently published books you should check out:

Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes, by Bernie Krause (who also recently wrote The Great Animal Orchestra)

The Heart of Sustainability: Restoring Ecological Balance from the Inside Out, by Andres Edwards

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert9780865717626_p0_v2_s192x300

Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis

The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience, by Toby Hemenway

You can find a wide selection of other books on green topics from Chelsea Green Publishing and New Society Publishers and Island Press, among other publishers.

 

Whatever you give as gifts, do your best to avoid buying cheaply-made, sweatshop-manufactured (labor-exploiting), toxic, disposable, or wasteful products and packaging. Instead, consider alternatives to buying new Things, and when you do buy products, look for Fair Trade or locally made, well-made and durable (or consumable), efficient, non-toxic, and needed or at least useful goods made by ethical companies, using organic, recycled, or natural materials and minimal packaging, whenever possible.

To get off of mailing lists for unwanted catalogs and junk mail, check out CatalogChoice.

 

For some additional green-gift suggestions, see these posts:

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November 27, 2015
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The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support, through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Even if you don’t have any stock-based accounts of your own, there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment campaigns.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. At Fossil Free Funds, you can do a search to find out whether your retirement plan/mutual funds have fossil free stocks. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Balanced and Equity), Green Alpha FundsParnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundPortfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion (which most SRI funds do not yet meet), there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.) Note: It’s important that you look at each fund’s holdings and portfolio policies, as many SRI funds do include some companies that are widely seen as problematic (including oil and gas companies); some but not all of those funds explicitly try to influence and improve those companies’ policies through shareholder activism.

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at Vested.org. For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investment opportunities are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments: an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, e.g., through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transactions with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised go to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.

 

Other general resources for further information:

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources

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February 27, 2015
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The following are the posts on The Green Spotlight that provide information and links that are related to energy, power, fuel, and/or climate change—with a strong focus on solutions.

SLB102_Blk_LimeGrThese posts are the most directly related to such topics:

And these posts are also related to energy and climate issues, in ways that might be less obvious but are equally important:

In the near future, we will add posts on fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy investment; local power (local renewable electricity utilities, Community Choice Aggregation); reforestation and carbon sequestration initiatives; and other important efforts to slow/mitigate the progression (and severity) of climate change.

Here are a few other online resources for good information related to climate change and climate solutions:

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September 21, 2014
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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.

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September 16, 2014
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Over the past few years, several of my posts on this blog have presented a selection of my favorite quotations. Here is an index of those posts, for anyone who enjoys reading good quotations for the wisdom, inspiration, or humor that they convey:

I have also prepared quotations-based posts that have been published on MotherEarthNews.com:

For a more comprehensive compilation of quotations, see our QUOTATIONS page.

Please share your own favorite quotations in the Comments!

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August 27, 2014
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If you want to avoid buying clothing that was made in sweatshops (characterized by unsafe conditions, unethical labor practices, and poor wages); and/or you want to buy clothing that is made from natural and organically grown fabrics, rather than from synthetic, petrochemical textiles or from fibers grown with toxic pesticides, you should probably—at least for the time being, until the industry shifts—avoid buying most of your clothing from major retailers, especially those that sell clothes for super-low prices. Those “fast fashion” clothes are not just cheap in price. In most cases, they’re also cheaply made (so they’re not durable), and the people who make them aren’t making a living wage. As President Benjamin Harrison said, “I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”

Furthermore, those workers work long hours in dangerous factories: facilities without proper health and safety standards, audits, or enforcement. (For example, in recent years, more than 1,800 garment factory workers have died on the job in Bangladesh, mostly due to unsafe buildings that collapsed on them. Some clothing retailers, such as Walmart and the Gap, have so far resisted signing onto a new building safety agreement, and instead have proposed weaker initiatives of their own.)

Look for well-made and durable, certified Fair Trade or domestically made (Made in the U.S.) clothes, made of certified organic, natural materials (such as organic cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo) or recycled materials, by ethical and sustainable brands [follow the links below to find some]; or buy clothes second-hand. And most importantly, don’t buy way more clothing than you need, and be sure to donate your unwanted/extra clothing.

Apparel Product Assessments and Vetted Brand Listings:

Check the Apparel section of GoodGuide (which also has a mobile app):

…and look for clothing labels that indicate certification with the Global Organic Textile Standard, as well as Fair Trade Certified,

…as well as clothing companies that are Certified B Corporations.

Also check out the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and its preliminary Higg Index, which aims to measure the environmental (and, in a later phase, also the social) performance of apparel products. In addition, there is Greenpeace’s international Detox fashion campaign, which has challenged major clothing brands to get their suppliers to make non-toxic clothes and to eliminate their release of hazardous chemicals, especially those that are contributing to water pollution.

Selected Companies/Brands:

These are a few brands that take the environmental and social impacts of their products more seriously than most other brands. Most of the following companies offer organic and/or Fair Trade clothes. Be sure to check out their “Sale” (or “Specials” or “Clearance”) pages to find discounted products.

  • Coyuchi  (see their pajamas and robes)

If you know of other relevant brands and you would recommend their products to others, please mention those brands in the Comments section.

 

For further information on this topic, you might want to read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth Cline. (Also check out the author’s Shopping Directory.)

 

Other recent posts on green products:

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October 31, 2013
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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, and you are welcome to comment on the posts and share your own recommended links. We’d like to get your feedback on the information we’re providing.

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

  • The Human Experiment film, narrated by Sean Penn
  • Union of Concerned Scientists’ paid internships
  • Sungevity’s zero-down solar leases
  • Climate Progress
  • Energy-saving tips
  • Wangari Maathai
  • “Ecocide is a Crime” campaign
  • Keystone XL and tar sands protests
  • Non-GMO Shopping Guide app
  • Americans Against Fracking
  • World Solar Challenge solar-powered cars
  • Dr. Vandana Shiva, and her organization Navdanya
  • Great quotations, graphics, photos, and cartoons
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September 30, 2013
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