Clean Power Plan

Announced by President Obama on Monday, the Clean Power Plan aims to lower carbon emissions for the first time ever.

Power plants are responsible for one third of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions. Power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. States have until 2018 to devise a plan, which must be implemented in 2022 (although they get incentives to start earlier). The plan is part of the Clean Air Act which was implemented in 1963.

The plan was not released solely as a way to slow global warming, but also as a public health initiative. Asthma has more than doubled in the past thirty years, and other health risks and natural disasters can be linked to high carbon emissions. The plan will cost about $8.4 billion, but the plan will save much more. It is estimated that the average annual family electric bill will have decreased $85 by 2030.

While politicians such as Hillary Clinton approve of the plan, many do not. A group of attorney generals are preparing to file a lawsuit against the plan they feel will hurt the economy. The public face of the lawsuit is Patrick Morrisey, attorney general of West Virginia. Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush are all against the Clean Power Plan. Half a dozen states, including Texas and Oklahoma, are refusing to follow the plan.

However, other states are preparing to put plans in place. Many view this as a good measure to reduce our carbon footprint and to stand as a role model to other countries in our global fight against pollution and climate change.


Big Stores Turn Organic

This year, it’s been announced that Costco has passed Whole Foods in organic food sales. Whole Foods sells approximately $3.6 billion worth of organics each year, whereas Costco exceeded $4 billion. In percentages, this is not much of Costco’s $114 billion in sales, but it shows that customers are relying on other stores to provide them with organic produce. With the US selling $36 billion worth of organic food each year, one out of ten dollars spent on organic food is spent at Costco.

A shopper pushes a cart outside Costco Wholesale in Danvers, Mass. Wednesday, May 27, 2009. Costco Wholesale Corp. said Thursday that its fiscal third-quarter profit fell 29 percent, partly because of a charge, as sales of bigger-ticket discretionary items continued to soften. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Between 2013 and 2014, the market for organics has increased 12%. Now organic foods account for over 4% of US food sales. Stores not associated with organics are starting to jump on the bandwagon.

Most controversial has been Walmart’s announcement of a relaunching of the Wild Oats brand in April of 2014. The prices of Wild Oats are intended to compete with conventional food, giving customers affordable organic food and also driving down the prices of other organic foods.

There are mixed feelings about Walmart going organic. Initially, it seems like good news, but Walmart’s reputation has others anxious about the move. In 2006, Walmart’s Horizon organic milk was accused of not providing cows enough pasture and adding illegal additives to the milk. The same year, Walmart was also caught hanging organic food signs in non-organic food sections of their stores. Now that Walmart is trying to profit on the organic food market, we wonder if they might compromise the organic label. Stores tend to keep food suppliers as a trade secret. The secret locations may not be producing food according to organic standards, and the consumer would never know. The lack of farmland in the US also means that much of our organic food is grown overseas, making the label even less transparent. While we hope Wild Oats and Walmart will join the organic market honorably, we will have to wait and see.


Other big stores have been joining the organic bandwagon. Over half of the country’s Kroger’s have a store within a store called Nature’s Market, which is devoted solely to natural foods. Kroger’s also has its own natural food line – Simple Truth. Target has its own natural brands: Archer Farms, Market Pantry, and Simply Balanced. Shaw’s and Star Market has Wild Harvest. Hannaford has Nature’s Place.

While not all big supermarkets have jumped on the organic train, we are seeing more and more organics under the fluorescent lighting of American supermarkets, which will draw more attention to the organic movement, inspire more farmers to grow organically, and ultimately drive prices down until we can all afford to eat organically.


EcoVillage at Ithaca


The EcoVillage in Ithaca was co-founded by Joan Bokaer and Liz Walker. It is 175 acres, houses 160 residents, and focuses on community. The village is constructed to maximize community interaction. Cars are parked on the outskirts of the property so children can play safely and people can walk from house to house. There are a few communal meals every week. Resources, tools, and appliances are shared, to conserve money and resources.

The village also works to produce its own food. There are two farms: a ten-acre organic vegetable and fruit farm, and a five-acre berry farm. There is also a village root cellar.

Community members are expected to volunteer a couple of hours a week for maintenance, cooking, finances, and other such tasks that help the community as a whole.

The EcoVillage also has green buildings. The people in the village use 40% less energy than other middle class American households. They have low-flow toilets and faucets, shared heating systems between houses, and solar panels that are newly purchased and should pay off in fifteen years. Their environmental footprint is 70% less than the average American.

The people at the EcoVillage show that when we work together, we can make bigger changes. By sharing utilities, they can reduce energy costs. By focusing on building community instead of roads and strip malls, there is a safe, welcoming environment to raise children. They conserve money and resources by sharing, such as by having clothing swaps and cooking meals for the village to share. Their community shows us that while individually we are small, together we can make something great.


Ohio’s Trash: Marion Aiming for Zero Waste

In July 2013, the Ohio State University at Marion started a program to attempt to achieve zero waste. They created a partnership between their campus, Marion Technical College, Marion Correctional Institution Recycling Processing Center, and Sims Brothers Recycling. Sims Brothers collects solid waste and sorts out anything that can be recycled. Other waste is composted.

The goal was to recycle or compost 90% of the campus’ waste. By September, they were already diverting 82% of waste from landfills. Their program keeps 90 tons of waste from landfills each year, and saves $5100 per year for the campus.


How Can You Reduce Your Waste?

  • Use reusable water bottles and grocery bags.
  • Use reusable rags instead of paper towels, and cloths or bandanas instead of napkins.
  • Use reusable containers instead of Ziplocs.
  • Compost.
  • Collect shower water while it’s heating up, and use it for watering plants.
  • Buy in bulk to use less packaging.
  • Print double-sided.
  • Sign up for electronic bills.
  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.