Solar power represents one of the best, most reliable forms of renewable energy. Homeowners who install solar panels can harness the sun's energy and convert it to usable electric current. In the process, they can curb or even eliminate their dependence on utility companies, and dramatically scale back their ecological impact.
Solar energy tends to be most advantageous in states that get consistent sun exposure year-round, such as Utah. Naturally, communities throughout the Beehive State have shown an admirable commitment to solar power. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Utah installed the tenth-most solar of any state in 2020, and the ninth-most during the first quarter of 2021. But what are the top cities for solar in Utah? Let's investigate.
Top 10 Cities for Solar in Utah
When narrowing down the 10 cities leading Utah's charge toward clean energy, we looked at sources including solar power generation data from the Energy Information Administration, maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the latest Shining Cities report from Environment America.
Based on this data, the following are the top cities for solar in Utah:
- Salt Lake City
- Park City
- St. George
- Castle Valley
1. Salt Lake City
According to the Shining Cities report, Salt Lake City is one of the brightest "solar stars" in the nation. The report ranks the city No. 11 in the country for per-capita solar installation, or watts of DC current per person. It's also one of more than two dozen Utah municipalities that have pledged to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030.
Provo, south of Salt Lake City, is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the entire U.S. — and it's certainly a good place for solar enthusiasts. NREL maps show that consistent year-round sun exposure makes Provo well-suited for residential solar installation.
3. Park City
Park City is another municipality that has pledged to use 100% renewable energy by the year 2030, and it has a separate goal of using 100% renewable electricity for all city operations by 2022. To incentivize homeowners to go solar, the city has waived all building permit and site inspection fees for new solar installations.
4. St. George
Located close to the Arizona border, St. George is a city filled with sand dunes, desert vistas and, of course, plenty of sunlight to keep solar panels humming. In fact, the city gets an average of 255 sunny days per year — 50 more days than the average U.S. city.
This ski hub and outdoor mountain town is another municipality taking steps toward solar adoption. Ogden City Council recently voted to enter Utah's program to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Another snowy, ski-lovers paradise, Alta is also part of the pledge to use net-100% renewable energy by the year 2030. It has already installed nearly 100 solar panels on ski patrol structures, ski shops and government buildings.
7. Castle Valley
Castle Valley, just east of Utah's iconic Arches National Park, is another solar leader. In 2017, Castle Valley became the first city in the state to use 100% renewable energy, generating all of its electricity through solar panels and renewable energy credits from Rocky Mountain Power.
Orem is home to the corporate headquarters of Blue Raven Solar, one of the top solar companies not only in Utah, but in many other parts of the U.S. as well. As a municipality, it has also pledged to use 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The gateway to Zion National Park, Springdale is a more tourist-driven town. But it has signed on as a participant in Utah's program to transition to 100% renewables by 2030. Inside the park, photovoltaic panels have already been installed on the south-facing roof of the visitors center, and the Zion Lodge has a solar array and a thermal solar water heater installed as well.
Logan, located in the northern part of the state, has its own net metering program that residents are able to enroll in after installing solar panels. It also has a Green Power Program, which allows Logan City Light & Power customers to purchase "green blocks" of renewable energy at a rate of $2 per 100 kWh.
Where Solar Panels Work Best
There are a few factors that can make a city particularly well-suited for solar installation. Of course, the most important factor is the amount of sunlight the city gets from season to season. Utah's cities tend to fare pretty well in this regard, even the more mountainous and snowy locations.
Something else that makes a city well-suited for solar power is high energy costs. If a city has expensive electricity, then homeowners tend to save more money by switching to solar. By contrast, if utilities are already low, solar savings will be more modest.
Average Utah Electricity Costs
The average household monthly consumption of electricity is 727 kWh in Utah, while the average monthly residential electric bill is $75.63. This is by far the lowest rate of any state in the region, well behind neighboring states such as Arizona ($126.09 per month), Nevada ($106.83) and even New Mexico ($80.04).
Utah Solar Tax Incentives
Utah residents have a number of financial incentives for investing in solar power beyond their month-to-month utility savings. Specifically, Utah offers a residential solar tax credit. However, this credit is phasing out, which means the value of the credit isn't as high as it used to be.
For installations completed in 2021, the maximum tax credit will be $1,200. In the year to come, the tax credit will be capped at $800. In 2023, it will go down to $400. After that, unless the state's legislature extends the credit, the program will be phased out completely.
Also note that Utah offers net metering, which means that if your solar panels generate more electricity than you really need, you can feed it back into the power grid in exchange for credits.
Federal Solar Tax Credits
In Utah, as in the rest of the country, homeowners can also claim a 26% tax credit when they install a residential solar system. This credit exists to make solar installation more affordable and more widely accessible.
Utah Solar Regulations
Though Utah does not have a ton of solar regulations to be aware of, there are a couple that are worth noting:
- Senate Bill 154 limits the power of homeowners associations to restrict solar installations within their communities.
- Utah also has laws to protect solar easements, which are written agreements between property owners to protect long-term access to sunlight.
Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in Utah
Utah is a city leading the charge toward solar in the U.S., but there's always room for improvement. If your city didn't make our top list of solar stars in Utah, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile. These include:
- Installing a solar PV system on your own roof
- Educating your neighbors about the benefits of solar energy
- If your city has not already joined Utah's commitment to 100% renewable energy, contact your elected officials to urge for stricter goals
A recent study published in Science of the Total Environment has the answer for this question, at least in the Spanish city of Barcelona. It found that the environmental toll of bottled water was 1,400 to 3,500 times higher than that of tap water, while drinking only tap water would only take an average of two hours off a resident's life.
"Our findings suggest that the sustainability gain from consuming water from public supply relative to bottled water far exceeds the human health gain from consuming bottled water in Barcelona," the study authors wrote.
A Tale of Two Assessments
The study is notable for being the "first attempt" to integrate two kinds of assessment for evaluating the health and environmental impacts of drinking water choices, study co-author and postdoctoral research at the Technical University of Catalonia Marianna Garfi told EcoWatch in an email.
The first is a health impact assessment (HIA).
"HIA provides a framework and procedure for estimating the impact of an intervention on a selected environmental health issue for a defined population," Garfi explained.
In this case, the researchers considered the risk of exposure to trihalomethane (THM), a by-product of the water disinfection process that is present in tap water and has been linked to bladder cancer. They then calculated years of life lost, years lived with disability and disability adjusted life years based on this exposure.
The second assessment is a life cycle assessment (LCA), which identifies the environmental impacts of a product from manufacture to disposal. In this case, the researchers focused on materials and energy used and waste generated.
They then used these assessments to consider the health and environmental impacts of four scenarios:
- Current drinking water patterns in Barcelona.
- What would happen if everyone switched to tap water.
- What would happen if everyone switched to bottled water.
- What would happen if everyone switched to filtered tap water.
The researchers focused on Barcelona because they were based there and had the data available. It also has THM levels and bottled-water consumption habits that are similar to those of other countries in Europe, which makes it a useful point of comparison.
The results indicate that bottled water is much worse for the planet than tap water. As of 2016, bottled water was the primary source of drinking water for 60 percent of Barcelona's population. The current state of affairs costs the planet around $50 million in resource extraction and 0.852 species a year. If everyone in Barcelona were to shift to bottled water, these costs would jump to $83.9 million and 1.43 species per year. However, in the scenario in which everyone drank only tap water or filtered tap water, the environmental costs were negligible. When compared to the all tap-water scenario, the all-bottled water scenario had 1,400 times more impact on ecosystems and cost 3,500 times more in terms of resource extraction.
The all-bottled water scenario did have a slight advantage for the health of Barcelona residents only. Currently, about 93.9 years of life across the city are lost due to tap water consumption. In the all-tap water scenario, this would jump to 309 years total, which equates to two hours of life lost per person. It would fall to 35.6 years lost if the city switched exclusively to filtered water and even further to 2.2 years lost if everyone drank bottled water.
However, the health outlook changed when the researchers considered how bottled-water production would affect people living outside Barcelona.
"The production of bottled water to meet the drinking water needs of [the] Barcelona population was estimated to result in 625 DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) per year in the global population," the study authors wrote. "This burden would be reduced to 0.5 DALYs if only tap water, or filtered tap water were consumed."
The reason that bottled water is so costly for the environment, Garfi said, came down to the making of the bottles themselves.
"Indeed, raw materials and energy required for bottle manufacturing accounted for the majority of the impact of bottled water use," she said. It was responsible for as much as 90 percent of the bottles' impact.
While this particular study found less impacts in terms of plastic waste, Barcelona's drinking habits are already harming its beaches and coastline. César Sánchez, communications director of recycling organization Retoma told EcoWatch in an email. He said that plastic bottles of all types Portwest Workwear Mens Classic Work Jacket for 80 percent of the volume and 35 percent of the weight of litter gathered from the city's beaches. Farther out to sea, there are as many as nine million bits of waste floating per every square kilometer along the coast.
"Beyond that, in my personal experience sailing with fishermen of the area, I have had the chance of corroborat[ing] this situation," he said. "They say they already live in 2050 because they are getting more waste than fish out of the sea right now."
Both Sánchez and Garfi argued that the city of Barcelona should take steps to promote tap water over bottled water.
On a city-wide level, Garfi said that Barcelona could promote tap water through public information campaigns, as well as take steps to improve tap water quality and keep pollution out of local water sources. Sánchez further suggested setting up more public fountains and obliging bars and restaurants to offer free tap water to customers.
Individual consumers also have a role to play, Garfi said.
"Be aware of the impacts caused by the use of bottled water and try to find another solution," she advised, such as using a home filter to improve the taste of tap water.
Finally, to address the waste issue, Sánchez recommended a bottle deposit scheme.
"In all countries with deposit and return systems in Europe, more than 90% of beverage containers are reused or recycled, so it is the most effective tool to end... the littering problem," he said.
- Nearly 60 million Americans don't drink their tap water, research ... ›
- Report: 64% of Bottled Water Is Tap Water, Costs 2000x More ... ›
- California Officials Move to Stop Nestlé From Taking Millions of ... ›
A good backup generator can help you keep your home running smoothly, even in the event of a major power outage. And, when you choose a solar generator, you can power your home using clean, renewable energy from the sun. By contrast, gas and diesel generators burn fossil fuels, and are extremely loud and spew harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Here are the best solar power generators available today that can provide a cleaner alternative for home generators.
Our Picks for the Top Solar Generators
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Renogy Lycan Powerbox
- Best All-Purpose - Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
- Best for Camping - Jackery Explorer 1000
- Most Affordable - Westinghouse iGen600s
- Fastest Charging- EcoFlow DELTA
- Best for Appliances - MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
- Most Powerful - Point Zero Energy Titan
How We Reviewed the Best Solar Generators
There are a number of factors we considered when choosing which solar power generators to recommend, including:
- Battery capacity. Battery storage capacity is an important ranking factor. A greater battery capacity means the generator can store more energy, which ultimately means it will last longer without requiring a recharge. This is measured in watt-hours (Wh).
- Power output. When your generator is up and running, it will put out a certain amount of energy, measured in watts. It's important to select a generator that offers enough watts for you to power your essential home appliances.
- Inverter rating. The inverter is a critical part of any backup power generator. Basically, this is the component that turns solar energy into AC (alternating current) electricity. Inverter rating, along with battery capacity, determine how much power you can get from your home backup generator.
- Expandability. In order for your backup generator to function, you'll need some way of charging it. And if you plan to rely on solar energy, that means using solar panels. Expandability means that you can add solar panels to your generator as needed, making it easier to absorb more sunlight for energy.
- Number of outlets. How many devices or appliances do you need to charge? The functionality of your backup generator will be determined by how many outlets or ports are available.
- Price. Of course, as you look for the best home backup generator, one of the most crucial considerations of all is your budget. We've sought to emphasize generators that offer maximum value.
Based on these criteria, we've determined the solar backup generators that offer the most consumer value.Check out our complete list of recommendations below. You can also read our complete review of the best solar energy companies for rooftop home solar systems.
The Best Solar Energy Generators
Best Overall: Renogy Lycan Powerbox
Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the Lycan Powerbox, a solar power solution that's only a little bit bigger than a suitcase. It comes with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty wheels, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering 1200W of output, which is enough power for most electronic devices and some appliances.
Why buy: The Lycan Powerbox can provide 1075 watt-hours of continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It offers great portability and includes an LCD display and easy, intuitive controls that allow you to switch between DC power and AC power as needed, as well USB ports and 12 volt car charger ports.
Best All-Purpose: Goal Zero Yeti 6000X
The Yeti 6000X is actually a portable power station that can be used for off-grid camping or powering an RV. With 6,000 watt-hours and two 2000W AC charger ports, it will give you plenty of power for your home. With a home integration kit, it's easy to use the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X to power essential circuits.
Why buy: Though it isn't exactly cheap, the Yeti 6000X power station is a great all-purpose backup generator, including a top-of-the-line charge controller and two robust AC outlets that make it easy for you to keep your household essentials up and running. It can even power a full-size refrigerator or microwave.
Best for Camping: Jackery Explorer 1000
The Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station is one of the best all-around options, equally suited for outdoor activities and for emergency power readiness. Though it's rated for 1,000 watts, it can actually get closer to 2,000. The lithium battery pack offers a capacity of 1,200 watt-hours, and Jackery's professional MPPT technology makes it easy to get your unit fully charged in a relatively short span of time (usually just eight hours if you have two panels going).
Why buy: Jackery is one of the leading names in outdoor equipment and in clean energy products. This portable power station is a great pick for campers and can also be a very effective home backup power solution for small appliances and electronics thanks to its pure sine wave inverter AC outlets.
Most Affordable: Westinghouse iGen600s
Westinghouse Outdoor Power
Westinghouse is another company that specializes in solar powered generators, most of which are more ideally suited for camping trips. Their iGen600s portable generator, however, offers a wattage of up to 1,200 peak watts, which can certainly function as a decent emergency backup for certain household appliances and small devices.
Why buy: For a portable yet still very versatile solar generator, Westinghouse is a company to keep on your list. The iGen600 power system can run a mini fridge for up to 42 hours or a CPAP machine for up to 46 hours thanks to its lithium-ion battery that offers 592 Watt-hours of energy and a long battery life.
Fastest Charging: EcoFlow DELTA
The EcoFlow DELTA power station is a wonderfully rugged, dependable backup generator that can help meet your power needs during a blackout. For one thing, the charging time is incredible; you can potentially go from zero to 80 percent in under an hour with a wall outlet. Should you ever find yourself facing a power outage, this is an emergency energy solution you'll be really thankful for.
Why buy: The DELTA station from EcoFlow offers a lot of value and usability; in particular, it has one of the fastest recharging times of any solar generator, which may be reason enough for you to choose it over the competitors. The DELTA unit offers 13 ports, meaning it's compatible with pretty much any device or appliance you could ever need to charge.
Best for Appliances: MAXOAK Bluetti AC200P
For a heavy-duty emergency power solution, look no further than to MAXOAK, and particularly to a product called the Bluetti AC200P. With a 2000 Watt-hour capacity, this is one of the most robust solar generators you'll find anywhere.
Why buy: MAXOAK's Bluetti AC200P is the one you're going to want for really heavy-duty home energy backup. With massive AC inverters that offer up to 4800W surge capacity, it can provide more than enough power to fuel all your most critical home appliances, even some HVAC units. Also note the two-year warranty, a generous consumer protection.
Most Powerful: Point Zero Energy Titan Solar Generator
Point Zero Energy is one of the foremost names in disaster preparedness, and when you take a look at their product specs, you'll see why. Their Titan model solar generator offers almost twice the storage of similarly priced units with a high-capacity 2,000-watt-hour battery capacity and 3,000 watt high-efficiency inverter.
Why buy: On a purely technical level, this is the beefiest generator on our list, though of course, it's also one of the priciest. The unit is made with high-efficiency components, meaning it doesn't waste a lot of energy running the system; instead, it just supplies you with plenty of functional electricity when you need it the most.
How Does a Solar Generator Work?
Solar generators capture energy from the sun using photovoltaic solar panels, and store it in a built-in battery. Note that in order to absorb the sun's energy, your portable generator will need solar panels. These are typically sold separately, or as a package with the unit, so you'll need to factor in this additional cost. Solar panels contain solar cells, which are typically made of monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicone that acts as a semiconductor.
Once the sun's energy is stored in the battery, it is converted into AC energy. This happens via a component known as an inverter. AC power is required for most of your household appliances, as well as for charging devices like your phone, laptop, or tablet that normally require a wall charger or AC outlet.
Can a Solar Generator Power My Whole House?
Generally speaking, a rechargeable solar generator won't be able to power your entire house if you lose power. With that said, even a smaller generator can be used to power key devices or appliances, sometimes for days at a time depending on its power consumption. For instance, you can keep your refrigerator up and running, and/or ensure plenty of sustained use for medical devices, like CPAP machines.
With an especially robust generator, you may also be able to connect to core circuits, running multiple appliances at one time.
So, while having an emergency power supply from a solar generator may not mean that you can go about your life just like you would normally, you can at least keep the lights on at home, run your air conditioner, or ensure your perishable food items remain fresh until your electricity comes back on.
What are the Benefits of a Solar Generator?
There are a number of advantages you can anticipate from an emergency generator, especially when you choose to go solar. Consider:
You can minimize the disruption of a power outage.
Again, inclement weather can cause power outages that last for hours, sometimes even days. During that time, you can use a backup generator to keep your essential appliances and devices up and running. This level of preparedness can offer ample peace of mind.
Solar generators offer a clean alternative to other energy sources.
Most generators are powered by fossil fuels, which means they emit a lot of noxious emissions. If you want a clean power source and a minimal environmental footprint, these solar solutions are just the ticket. They are also much quieter than traditional gas or diesel generators.
They can be very cost-effective in the long run.
While the initial purchase price of a solar generator may seem steep, keep in mind that sunlight is free. You don't have to worry about buying fuel or any additional expenses associated with your solar unit.
Find the Solar Generator That's Best for You
Disaster preparedness begins by identifying a reliable power source, and if you want that power source to be clean and renewable, solar generators are ideal. Take a moment to explore the options and find the generator that's right for you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
- Find the Best Portable Solar Panels for Your Solar Generator ... ›
- Rooftop Solar Boom Underway - EcoWatch ›
- Is Rooftop Solar Cheaper Than Buying Electricity From the Grid ... ›
- The Best Portable Solar Generators of 2021 ›
- Most Efficient Solar Panels of 2021 Explained ›
- Best Solar Batteries for Energy Storage (2021) ›
- Electricity Rates by State | Where will you pay most? ›
- How Solar Panels Work: Solar Power Science Explained ›
- Buyer’s Guide: Best Solar-Powered AC Units of 2021 ›
- Buyers Guide: Best Solar Panels for Camping (2021) ›
- What’s the Best Solar Phone Charger in 2021? ›
The world's first ever battery-electric freight train was unveiled in Pittsburgh on Friday.
The train, known as the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, was built by rail-freight company Wabtec and showcased at Carnegie Mellon University as part of a bid by the two organizations to decarbonize rail freight transport in the U.S., The Guardian reported.
"A bolder, cleaner, more efficient transportation system is in our grasp," Wabtec chief executive Raphael Santana said, as The Guardian reported. "This is just the beginning."
In addition to partnering with Carnegie Mellon on this venture, Wabtec is also working with fellow freight company Genesee & Wyoming, according to Railway Age.
"This partnership with Carnegie Mellon University and Genesee & Wyoming further strengthens our efforts to decarbonize global rail transportation and will significantly increase freight rail utilization, efficiency, and safety throughout the rail network," Santana told Railway Age. "The transportation sector is at a critical inflection point. With technologies providing increased battery and hydrogen power capacity, we have the potential to eliminate up to 120 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year in North America."
The train completed a successful trial run in California earlier this year, traveling for three months and 13,000 miles between Barstow and Stockton and reducing fuel consumption for the journey by more than 11 percent.
However, Wabtec has plans to go further. The next model, which should be ready within two years, will be able to cut diesel fuel consumption by nearly a third, The Guardian reported. Eventually, the company wants to build a zero-emission train using hydrogen fuel cells, and believes it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 300 million tons a year if used worldwide and 120 million in the U.S. alone.
The ground transportation of goods is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, businesses prefer to use trucks over trains, which only move seven percent of the world's freight. In the U.S., medium and heavy-duty trucks contribute about a quarter of transportation emissions. The railway industry hopes that by reducing the use of diesel fuel for trains, it can position itself as a climate-friendly alternative.
"If we decarbonize all of the locomotives and decrease the number of trucks, we will get to where we need to be," Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec's chief technology officer, told The Guardian.
This is something U.S. politicians are actively working to promote. Also speaking at Friday's event were Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.-17), who have each introduced a bill to create a Freight Rail Innovation Institute to award a $600-million, five-year grant to projects like Wabtec's, as Railway Age reported.
Casey told 90.5 WESA that the bill was one of many ways to combat the climate crisis.
"If you haven't taken action by a certain date, the impact of climate change becomes substantially irreversible. That's what we have to be most concerned about," he said.
- Rail Travel Is Cleaner Than Driving or Flying, but Will Americans ... ›
- Cool Ideas to Clean Up Pollution From Cars, Trucks, Ships and ... ›
Los Angeles County supervisors on Wednesday voted to ban drilling in unincorporated areas and to phase out oil and gas drilling.
There are currently 1,046 active wells, 637 idle wells, and 2,731 abandoned wells in unincorporated areas of the nation's most populous county. according to a memo to the board dated June 3, 2021. County Supervisor Janice Hahn praised the plan as "a framework for how we transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy and make sure we bring our labor partners with us."
The Board also voted to create a program to ensure that wells are properly closed and cleaned up, and to expand the county's task force focused on a just transition for fossil fuel workers and communities.
A boy plays basketball in front of an oil well that is covered with large colorful flowers and is located next to Beverly Hills High School. Wells like this are hidden throughout Los Angeles. Sarah Craig / Faces of Fracking
As reported by The Associated Press:
Among the sites is the Inglewood Oil Field, one of the largest U.S. urban oil fields. The sprawling, 1,000-acre (405-hectare) site, owned and operated by Sentinel Peak Resources, contains over half the oil and gas wells in the county's unincorporated areas. The field produced 2.5 million to 3.1 million barrels of oil a year over the past decade, according to the company.
"The goal is to provide direction to county departments to begin addressing the variety of issues, environmental and climate impacts created by these active and inactive oil and gas wells," said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, who represents the district where most of the Inglewood Oil Field is located.
Mitchell, along with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, made the motion to phase out drilling in the county's unincorporated areas.
Inglewood Oil Field is adjacent to several Black communities, including Baldwin Hills, Ladera Heights and View Park, where residents have worried about the field's impact on their health and the local environment for at least a decade. Residents have complained of foul odors from the wells and say they have seen oil bubbling through sidewalk cracks in their neighborhoods.
"There are tens of thousands of people who live in very close proximity to oil wells, 73% of whom are people of color," Mitchell said in an interview before the vote. "So, for me, it really is an equity issue."
For a deeper dive:
- Study Links Childhood Leukemia With Living Near Oil and Gas ... ›
- Pipeline Spills Over 1,600 Gallons of Oil Near Los Angeles ... ›
When I stepped onto the tarmac in Durango, I was hit with a dry wall of air. The 4 p.m. sun felt like it was dialed up – brighter, hotter, and harsher. I blinked enough dust out of my eyes to scan the parking lot for the red Dodge pickup truck that had come to collect me.
That morning, I'd left my Brooklyn apartment, and a city recovering from 14 months of a pandemic. I'd flown to a two-gate airport in a state I'd never been to, to get picked up by a stranger who would drive me to his rural farm with no cell phone service to live in a trailer and work for free. The significance of the situation – and everything that could go wrong – didn't hit me until that gust of hot, dry air did.
I didn't know it would be one of the most important things I'd do with my life, or that I would begin advising everyone I met who found themselves in the situation I did – unemployed, unsure – to do the same.
~ ~ ~
It's hard to pinpoint when WWOOF first came to my attention; it seems like the kind of thing you always hear about in circles of young, unattached people – an opportunity for college kids looking to fill their summers or gap years, or a backburner activity for a hypothetical future when you have the time. When I, like many Americans, lost my job in early 2020, I started relying on short-term, freelance, and gig work; without a true full-time position, I found myself with rare, exhilarating, and daunting amount of freedom. It (finally) felt like the right time.
WWOOF – Worldwide Opportunities (formerly Willing Workers) on Organic Farms – is essentially a network of national organizations that each facilitate homestays on farms. One-hundred and thirty countries have their own, separate branches of WWOOF, all with the goal of supporting sustainable, ecological farming through an educational work exchange.
The arrangement – at least for WWOOF-USA – is rather straightforward: WWOOFers (as participants are informally called) seek unpaid work on one of nearly 1,700 participating farms across the country in exchange for housing and meals. Beyond that, the details vary wildly. Some farms grow vegetables, while others produce herbs, fruit, flowers, mushrooms, or hemp. Some raise cows, chickens, and other livestock for milk, eggs, or meat. Many focus on value-added products like soap, medicinals, wine, maple syrup, and cheese. Some sites are large, established farms; some are community gardens or homesteads. Some seek WWOOFers for a few weeks of work; others for an entire growing season.
Anyone can search the website for host sites, but to see the names of the farms and contact them about a visit, users need to create an account for a $40 yearly fee. Potential volunteers then set up their profile, answering questions about their capabilities, interests, qualifications, etc.; hosts set up a similar profile, detailing all sorts of information about the farm and their expectations for workers.
Visitors are able to filter for hosts by all sorts of qualities: location, languages spoken by the farmers, farming methodologies, types of animals raised, type of housing offered, whether WWOOFers may bring children or pets, diets that can be accommodated, and preferred length of stay. Visitors can filter for only BIPOC or LGBTQ+-owned farms, or the maximum number of workers allowed at the site. During the pandemic, new filters were added, such as whether a host could accommodate folks working or schooling remotely.
Farmers can be contacted through the website, and, if it seems like a good match, the rest of the details – specific dates, transportation, etc. – are decided from there.
On the website's map of hosts, I zoomed in on Colorado. I found a farm that grew vegetables and raised chickens, sent a message showing my interest, and heard back from the farmer within a few days. We set up a time to chat, and he called me while driving home to Mancos from Durango, describing the scenery around him and what they were looking forward to on the farm this season. I packed two bags and took the cheapest flight out of Newark.
~ ~ ~
From my discussions with other folks who have WWOOFed, I've learned that it's futile to compare experiences; no two will share many similarities besides your purpose there being to farm. WWOOF as an organization has very little to do with the ordeal beyond facilitating that initial conversation between WWOOFer and farmer (although they can provide resources for emergent situations). Once you're on the farm, it's your relationship with the host that matters; your experience is entirely in your hands.
For the months of June and July, I lived and worked on a small market farm in Southwest Colorado. We grew vegetables on a few acres of land and in some small greenhouses, raised a couple hundred chickens and a handful of goats and pigs, and then sold the produce, eggs, and sausage at two weekly farmer's markets. Three Great Pyrenees theoretically kept the animals in check, but would often trot up to you in the fields with a smile on their face after, yet again, escaping from a rogue hole in the fence.
I lived in a trailer along the edge of a creek, downhill from the main house, accompanied by an old blue school bus, a few other stationary trailers, and a green VW van, all home to other farm folks and a few surprisingly friendly cats. We shared a firepit, some indoor-turned-outdoor furniture, and an open-air kitchen with a propane stove that would singe your eyebrows clean off if you weren't paying attention.
We started working after 7 a.m. – before the sun got too strong – and ended the day between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., or whenever the task at hand got done. During the early part of the season, we did a first pass at weeding all the beds that had already been planted, the greens and turnips in full swing and the onions and squashes just beginning to grow in earnest. There were raised beds and a new greenhouse to be built, eggs to collect and wash, compost to be spread, and crops to be harvested and cleaned and weighed for market on Thursdays and Fridays. As the summer carried on, harvest days became longer, and late-season crops were transplanted – and, of course, there was more weeding to be done.
While I retreated mid-afternoon to hike, or read, or cool off in the river, the farmer continued working; when we finished dinner in the evening, he went back into the fields with a headlamp. Work on a farm was never finished, I soon learned; it didn't happen between set hours, but all the time, until the work was done – which, of course, it never is.
When you search for a host on the WWOOF website, the farm profiles display photos of lush pasture, wicker baskets of cherry-red tomatoes, smiling goats and bins of freshly-harvested produce. It's true that the buckets of kale and lettuce looked almost suspiciously lush, and watching the sunset from the hill overlooking the farm and valley felt practically ethereal, but to live and work on a farm is to dispel a bit of that pure idealism – to learn the reality of a place that grows things without industrial machinery or pesticides that allow for such neat, uniform rows of crops.
You learn the reality of weeding the same acre for three months for two short weeks of harvesting; of black widows crawling from the piles of pulled bindweed and wild amaranth that you kneel on between the beds, and no-see-ums biting the tips of your ears until they swell. You learn how dry dirt gets into the crevices of your overalls and never seems to come out, and on the first day of monsoon season, you learn that your trailer isn't as watertight as you'd expected. Your body learns to wake up when the sun does, and go a little longer between showers than you'd prefer.
If you're lucky enough to WWOOF in Southwest Colorado – and if you're an east-coaster, like me – you'll learn for the first time what drought really feels like. The cracks in the ground were wide enough to drop quarters into. The creek running through the farm was hardly more than a trickle, the crawdads dragging themselves towards the last crevices of water, which became mere patches of mud as the weeks went on. Most of the Southwest has been in a chronic drought since 2000, and climate change is the unmistakable culprit; farmers in Colorado and the rest of the region have been forced to make painful changes, including major cutbacks on crops for lack of water.
Our days were almost entirely dictated by weather. A heatwave rolled through during my first week as we were erecting a new greenhouse; the temperature dial on the side of the tool shed had crept to nearly 100ºF before noon, and we retreated into the shade until the sun began to set and the temperature to drop before returning to the task. The irrigation water was shut off towards the middle of the summer, and all we could do was wait for monsoon season. Evidence has suggested that, even when the rains do come to offer some relief, climate change has made them less helpful. They came in late June, and I learned that the smell of it is different – stronger, and more metallic – and that the ground sucks it up within seconds, the dirt as dry as if rain had never come.
But you also learn about a different way of life.
WWOOFing – or any experience that takes you out of your own world, and what you view as the norm – opens a window into the everyday lives of other people; it allows you to see a world that exists outside of your own. I learned when it feels like to live in a town of 1,000 people and know the majority of those you pass on the street by name. I learned how jobs like farming aren't just careers, but an all-encompassing way of life. I learned about the culture and attitudes of people in a different part of the country. I learned how it feels to live in nature, away from the city that moves a million miles a minute, even during a global pandemic.
There are a lot of different lives to live, which we can't truly understand until we see them.
While every WWOOF experience will be different, they will all have this in common.
~ ~ ~
Like most life-changing, view-altering experiences, WWOOFing really is a giant leap of faith. You read the reviews, look at the pictures, zoom in on the closest town on Google Maps, talk to the farmer and ask all your questions – but you'll never know exactly what will happen. It could be a disaster, or it could be wonderful. It does take a great deal of courage, and a willingness to live in less-than-glamorous circumstances. It requires meeting entirely new people, doing physically and intellectually demanding work, and launching yourself into an entirely unknown situation.
I didn't really know what the next few months of my life would look like when I got off that plane and into that red pickup truck. I didn't know what people I would meet on the farm and in Mancos, or that they'd become such staples and joys in my everyday life. I didn't know that I'd go to a wedding of ex-WWOOFers on this very farm where they met, or learn (the hard way) that I'm a terrible mountain biker, or climb up to 13,500 feet on a mountainside of scree. I didn't know that I would learn how to properly throw a dart, or form unexpectedly meaningful relationships. I certainly didn't know that I would fall in love with farming, but that happened too.
You build a new life from the ground up – especially when you're planning to stay for a significant amount of time – that you eventually have to leave, which is far harder than all the rest.
Many WWOOFers – as I learned from other transient types in Colorado, and from the farmers who had a slow-moving, revolving door of WWOOFers come work for them – will set up a schedule for themselves, booking short, back-to-back visits on farms as they travel across the country. While taking advantage of this unique opportunity for housing and companionship is great, I advocate for the way I did it: staying in one place long enough to become a part of the community, and form some real, lasting relationships with the people there.
Another major consideration for many when choosing a host site is the number of WWOOFers housed at a given time; the difficulty of moving to a strange, faraway place is eased knowing that there will be others there to share it with. I had the experience of being both a lone WWOOFer and one of a group, my time split in half. Working alone with the farmer for my first month, I was able to get a lot of individual mentorship, learn about the things I was interested in, and form a closer relationship with him and others on the farm than I might have if I shared the time with lots of other workers.
As my second month rolled around, two other WWOOFers joined me, and besides the benefit of having more hands as the harvests got bigger, we formed a special kind of friendship: we shared a life experience together – one that no one could ever really understand besides each other. I have no doubt that they will remain a part of my life, even after going our separate ways.
In the end, togetherness was the crucial piece to the puzzle. We all worked together, cooked together, ate together, took weekend hikes and swims and played Tuesday night bar trivia together. Of all the wonderful benefits of WWOOFing – working outdoors, exploring the mountains, traveling – the community you form is the most important part.
For many, WWOOFing is a way to support yourself on a shoestring budget, with your food and living expenses paid for. But it's also clear why the majority of participants are young, unattached people: without an income, making student loan, rent, or mortgage payments is extremely difficult, and only possible if you've been able to save money for some time beforehand. Most people can't just step away from their lives and dependents to move away and work for free. It's yet another example of how privilege factors into our ability to have certain experiences.
Our lives have changed a lot in the past year and a half – in ways that, hopefully, might make experiences like this possible for more people: student loans payments are on hold, remote work and school are prevalent phenomena, and for some – myself included – stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits have granted more financial freedom to pursue different kinds of work.
After losing my own job in 2020, I shuttled between temporary and part-time gigs, trying to find something that would stick. As COVID dragged on, I'd started to give up on finding passion and joy in anything. The days and months blurred together, and it felt like the "most important" years of my life were quietly slipping away. I lost all sense of what I wanted from my life, and found myself looking around, wondering how I got here.
During that time, when I needed something to hold on to – some hope for a pre-pandemic future – I pictured a different kind of life: working away from a screen, somewhere in nature, doing something with my hands. I didn't know what kind of life I wanted to live, but I needed to find out – and WWOOFing gave me the chance to.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.
By Tara Lohan
Summer in the Gulf of Mexico is a time to celebrate the region's bounty, including its prized shrimp, which are the star of local festivals. But shrimpers this summer found themselves contending with another, competing event — the annual measuring of the Gulf's "dead zone."
This one doesn't draw tourists, but instead scientists who calculate how large an area has become low enough in oxygen that it can kill fish and other marine life like shrimp.
This hypoxia stems from activities on land. When it rains, excess nutrients — mostly nitrogen and phosphorus from Midwest farm and livestock operations — wash into the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Those nutrients make their way to the Gulf, fueling an overgrowth of algae which deprive the waters of oxygen, driving away or killing marine life.
Over the past five years the average size of the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone has stretched to more than 5,400 square miles. But these hypoxic areas are also found in other parts of the United States and across the world. And climate change, experts predict, will cause them to get bigger and persist for longer.
Map of the measured Gulf of Mexico hypoxia zone, July-August 2020. LUMCON / NOAA
Efforts to curb excess nutrients in waterways have so far included reducing the use of fertilizers or animal waste applied to agricultural fields and planting cover crops to limit runoff.
Protecting wetlands can also help. They slow the flow of water running off fields, and the roots of the plants absorb nutrient pollutants.
But do these types of efforts work? In a recent study published in Nature, researchers from the University of Waterloo and the University of Illinois Chicago found that efforts to restore wetlands in the United States "are often carried out in an ad hoc manner," meaning they lack comprehensive strategy.
Most notably, they found that the areas where wetland restoration has been undertaken don't necessarily coincide with nitrogen hotspots.
That means we're not making the best use of these natural water purifiers.
If we were to target restoration efforts in these heavily farmed areas, however, we could greatly maximize the water quality benefits of wetlands. The researchers calculated that a 10% increase in wetlands in the United States focused in heavily farmed areas could remove up to 40 times more nitrogen.
That could go a long way in helping to achieve water quality goals. It would be especially helpful for areas that have high amounts of nitrogen, which they advise should get preferential placement. So, while they recommend a 10% increase across the country, some areas would see more wetlands restored. Under one their models, the Mississippi Basin, where nitrogen runoff is high, would actually see a 22% increase in wetlands, which in turn would provide about a "54% decrease in nitrogen loading to the Gulf of Mexico," the researchers found.
They estimate this nationwide 10% bump in targeted restoration would cost $3.3 billion annually, twice as much as restoration of non-agricultural lands, but the costs "are in line with current expenditures to achieve water quality goals," they wrote.
It could also go a long way to helping coastal economies. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that nitrogen loading from upstream agriculture has caused between $552 million and $2.4 billion annually in damages to Gulf of Mexico fisheries and the marine habitat.
There are other benefits, too. Wetlands provide ecosystem services such as flood prevention, carbon sequestration and critical habitat. And, after environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration, water quality is likely to be an even bigger concern.
As the researchers concluded, "These results provide critical context to discussions of wetland restoration and water quality that are especially important today when a new Clean Water Act rule is reducing protections offered to existing wetlands."
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
- Dead Zones Are a Global Water Pollution Challenge — But With ... ›
- A Few Heavy Storms Cause a Big Chunk of Nitrogen Pollution From ... ›
- Fossil Fuels Add to World's Marine Dead Zones - EcoWatch ›
By Andrea Germanos
A new analysis reveals a near total global failure of governments to have climate action and targets on track for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Released Wednesday by the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the assessment rated just one nation, The Gambia, as "1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible," and found the United States' overall climate action — despite a welcome "U-turn on climate change" since the Trump administration — to be "insufficient."
The analysis, which covered policies of 36 nations and the European Union, framed the widespread failings as particularly glaring given the "absolute urgency" of climate action made clear by the most recent IPCC report, a publication United Nations chief António Guterres declared "a code red for humanity."
CAT, a watchdog effort of Climate Analytics and NewClimate Institute, described a "2030 emissions gap" in projecting how governments' plans and current policies largely fall short of being on track to meet the 1.5˚C threshold of warming.
The analysis said "the IPCC is clear that getting onto a 1.5°C pathway means reducing emissions by 50% by 2030" and that meeting that goal "is no longer a matter of feasibility, but rather one of political will."
Such will appears to be lacking.
In a statement, Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute pointed to May, after U.S. President Joe Biden's "Leaders Summit on Climate" and the international Petersberg Climate Dialogue, when "we reported that there appeared to be good momentum with new climate action commitments, but governments then had only closed the emissions gap by up to 14%."
"But since then," said Höhne, "there has been little to no improvement: nothing is moving. Governments have now closed the gap by up to 15%, a minimal improvement since May. Anyone would think they have all the time in the world, when in fact the opposite is the case."
2/ The #emissionsgap is still enormous: with all pledges on the table we would be double the emissions in 2030 than… https://t.co/v3ujV5sJFf— ClimateActionTracker (@ClimateActionTracker)Leopard Print Unisex Adult Sturdy Sport Duffel Bag Large Capacit
This latest assessment from CAT includes new factors in its ratings systems, reflecting net zero targets as well as "an overall rating, the domestic target, policies and action, fair share, climate mitigation finance (either on providing mitigation finance, or detailing what international support is needed), and land use and forestry (where relevant)."
Based on overall ratings, the U.K. is the only G20 nation deemed "almost sufficient," a classification that covers six other countries including Nepal and Costa Rica.
Like the U.S., the EU, Germany, Norway, and Japan's overall climate plans were assessed as "insufficient." Canada joined Brazil, Australia, India, and UAE as countries whose plans were deemed "highly insufficient."
A small group of countries had overall climate plans classified "critically insufficient."
"Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Thailand perform so badly on climate action," the analysis found, "that if all governments were to adopt this approach, global warming would reach beyond 4°C."
To move in the right direction, the analysis urged developed nations "to further strengthen their targets to reduce emissions as fast as possible, to implement national policies to meet them, and to support more developing countries to make the transition."
In terms of energy sources, all governments should take advantage of the falling costs of renewables to boost such installations while also ditching plans for any continued coal and gas infrastructure, the analysis said.
Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, stressed the need for swift action to rein in emissions.
"The IPCC has given the world a 'code red' warning on the dangers of climate change reinforcing the urgent need for the world to halve emissions by 2030," he said in a statement. "An increasing number of people around the world are suffering from ever more severe and frequent impacts of climate change, yet government action continues to lag behind what is needed."
"While many governments have committed to net zero," he said that "without near-term action achieving net zero is virtually impossible."
The publication was released on the heels of a global study revealing widespread climate anxiety in young people, with 58% of the 10,000 16-25-year-olds surveyed feeling "betrayed" by government inaction on the climate emergency.
"This study shouldn't be a moment of pity," said German climate activist Luisa Neubauer. "The adequate answer to this study would be drastic climate action."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- New Coal Projects Declined by 76% Since Paris Agreement ... ›
- On Climate and Covid-19 Emergencies, G7 Judged a 'Colossal ... ›
Reading books about the environment can be a great way to not only stay informed about issues facing the natural world, but also to become inspired to take action in your community and make a positive contribution to the planet.
In this article, we'll introduce you to some of the best books about climate change and other eco-issues, including pollution, the use of fossil fuels, and environmental policy. We'll also give you a few recommendations for children's books about climate change, ocean plastics, plants and more.
6 Best Books About the Environment for Adults
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best New Release: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
- Best Book About Climate Change: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
- Best Book About Activism: ADV Tennis Vibration Dampener - Set of 3 - Ultimate Shock Absorb by Greta Thunberg
- Best Book About Pollution: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- Best Book About Social Impacts: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
- Best Book About Food: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Best New Release: All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson
"All We Can Save" is a thought-provoking compilation of essays, poetry and art from dozens of women working to solve climate change in the U.S., from scientists and lawyers to farmers and teachers. The collection's editors, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson, focus on representation within the book, making sure to include voices from all walks of life in the conversation.
Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with about 500 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: This Los Angeles Times bestseller book will leave you feeling hopeful and armed with ideas for how to tackle climate change independently, whether it's supporting climate journalists, marching in the streets or simply talking about the issue with your loved ones and neighbors.
Best Book About Climate Change: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
To get up to speed on global warming and the ensuing ecological crisis, we recommend checking out David Wallace-Wells's "The Uninhabitable Earth." The book presents both the latest research on a variety of climate-related topics and an informed look into how the crisis may play out to affect global politics and capitalism, incite food shortages and climate wars, and change the trajectory of humanity.
Reader Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: It's not exactly light reading, but this New York Times No. 1 bestseller is well-researched (and well-cited), presenting thought-provoking information about the future of our planet in an accessible way.
Best Book About Activism: MEIYIN Baby Knee Pads Socks Set Safety Crawling Protective Infan by Greta Thunberg
If you're looking for something to get you inspired, check out Greta Thunberg's "No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference." The book is a collection of speeches that Thunberg, a teen activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has given about the climate crisis to leaders at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill, as well as to fellow youth activists at climate marches and Fridays For Future gatherings across the globe.
Reader Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 800 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: Thunberg's unflinching voice and profound calls for action will leave you brimming with a mix of frustration and hope for the next generation of climate leaders — plus a healthy urge to pen strongly worded letters to your elected officials.
Best Book About Pollution: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson is widely accepted as a key figure in the history of environmentalism, as her 1964 book "Silent Spring" sparked revolutionary policy changes that protected natural resources from air to land to water.
The book alerted the public to how widely used chemicals and pesticides including DDT negatively affected not only human health, but also posed grave threats to natural spaces. As such, it inspired a new generation of activists and continues to be "required reading" for environmentalists today.
Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratingsWhy It's a Must-Read: While it follows the journey of chemicals circulating through ecosystems and provides historical context for environmental issues we're still facing today, "Silent Spring" is written with exceptional prose that holds up decades after its initial publication.
Best Book About Social Impacts: Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
In "Rising," journalist Elizabeth Rush explores how climate change is taking a toll on wildlife and how people in low-lying coastal areas are already being forced to flee to higher ground or risk their lives weathering intensifying storms and sea-level rise.
Rush weaves together insightful interviews with climate scientists and compelling stories from coastal communities across the U.S. The result is a haunting look at one of the initial social impacts of climate change that's sure to worsen with time.
Reader Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: "Rising" interlays science and personal narratives to create an impactful illustration of how sea-level rise is threatening our coastlines and what's in store as the environmental crisis continues.
Best Book About Food: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" explores how our diets affect the world around us, delving into the U.S. agricultural industry and the politics around what we eat. It's an eye-opening look at food that touches on policy, economics, and the revolution of our relationship with the natural world.
Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 3,100 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: "The Omnivore's Dilemma" will make you consider not only how what you eat affects your body, but also the bigger impacts of the American diet and how you may be able to live more sustainably by changing your food choices.
5 Best Children's Books About The Environment
It's never too early to teach your children about environmental stewardship and the importance of protecting the natural world. These five fiction books touch on critical environmental topics in informational yet entertaining ways that kids can relate to:
- Best Children's Book About the Environment: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
- Best Children's Book About Climate Change: VEVOR Stainless Steel Electric Pizza Dough Roller, Max 12'' Pizz by Khoa Le
- Best Children's Book About Ocean Plastics: Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon
- Best Children's Book About Ecology: The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green
- Best Children's Book About Activism: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Best Children's Book About the Environment: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
A classic work of Dr. Seuss, "The Lorax" is an excellent introduction to the dangers of environmental degradation and the importance of speaking up when it counts. In the story, unique and beautiful Truffula Trees are clear-cut until all that's left of the species is a single seed. The last remaining Truffula seed is entrusted to a child who can go on to save the forest, proving that even young kids can make a positive impact on the environment.
Reading Ages: 3 to 7 years old
Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 7,700 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: Told in Dr. Seuss's signature rhymes and imaginative illustrations, the story of the Lorax is one that still rings true 50 years after it was originally printed.
Best Children's Book About Climate Change: Magnus Home Products Iola Vitreous China Pedestal Bathroom Sink, by Khoa Le
Climate change can be tough for kids to wrap their heads around, but "The Lonely Polar Bear" serves as a subtle introduction to the topic. In the book, a polar bear wakes up after an Arctic storm to find himself all alone, his mother and brother nowhere to be found. He soon makes friends with a little girl and wanders across the Arctic to find his family, meeting other animals that are dependent on the shrinking polar environment including elk, wolves, whales and puffins.
Reading Ages: 6 to 12 years old
Reader Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 100 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: Along with teaching about climate change and the melting Arctic, "The Last Polar Bear" explores the biodiversity of polar wildlife and the importance of friendship.
Best Children's Book About Ocean Plastics: Rocket Says Clean Up! by Nathan Bryon
"Rocket Says Clean Up!" tells the story of Rocket, a science-loving kid who is visiting her grandparents at the beach. Rocket's plans to surf all vacation are thwarted when she finds a baby sea turtle tangled in plastic and decides to do something about all of the trash polluting the coast. Through educating fellow beachgoers and organizing a cleanup, Rocket clears the beaches and allows the little turtle to safely return to its home.
Reading Ages: 3 to 7 years old
Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 600 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: This inclusive children's book shows young kids that our beaches are in trouble but that we can still turn the tide on ocean plastics. It also includes a section on sustainability and how readers can take action and clean up their own communities.
Best Children's Book About Ecology: The Magic and Mystery of Trees by Jen Green
In a way that's easy for kids to understand, Jen Green's "The Magic and Mystery of Trees" explains the intricacies of these organisms, from their web of roots that tangles underground to how they communicate with one another. The book even has sections that address the threats against trees and how we can help them thrive, bringing kids into the conversation around conservation.
Reading Age: 3 to 9 years old
Reader Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: "The Magic and Mystery of Trees" eases kids into the subject of ecology and will leave your children filled with wonder at the natural world.
Best Children's Book About Activism: Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
In "Hoot," a teen and his friends attempt to stop the construction of a new restaurant that would destroy an endangered burrowing owl habitat. A Newbery Honor winner and No. 1 New York Times bestseller, "Hoot" is a classic environmental book that proves anyone can make a difference by standing up for a cause they believe in.
Reading Age: 9 to 12 years old
Reader Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 2,500 Amazon ratings
Why It's a Must-Read: Although it's written with young teens in mind, Carl Hiaasen's representation of Florida's wild spaces and its colorful inhabitants — both human and animal — will give parents just as much enjoyment out of reading this book.
The slaughter of a record 1,428 dolphins in the Faroe Islands is prompting outrage from environmental organizations and even local residents.
"For such a hunt to take place in 2021 in a very wealthy European island community just 230 miles from the UK with no need or use for such a vast quantity of contaminated meat is outrageous," Sea Shepherd UK COO Rob Read said in a statement.
On Sunday night a super-pod of 1428 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins was driven for many hours and for around 45 km by… https://t.co/39WffMIFOE— Sea Shepherd (@Sea Shepherd)1631631692.0
The incident is part of a Faroe Islands tradition known as the Grind, in which marine mammals, particularly whales, are hunted, BBC News explained. Supporters say it is sustainable and an important part of the cultural heritage of the autonomous Danish territory. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that it is unnecessarily cruel to the animals hunted.
Sunday's hunt, however, was exceptional for several reasons. Faroese marine biologist Bjarni Mikkelsen agreed with Sea Shepherd that it was a record hunt. The previous record was set in 1940, when 1,200 animals were killed. In general, government figures say that an average of 600 pilot whales a year are caught, but the number of dolphins is usually much lower. It stood at 35 in 2020 and 10 in 2019.
By contrast, Sunday's hunt saw a pod of nearly 1,500 white-sided dolphins driven by motor boats and jet skis for several hours into Skálabotnur beach, where every one of them was killed, Sea Shepherd reported.
Locals told Sea Shepherd that the incident violated Grind laws in three ways:
- It was not called by the properly authorized Grind foreman.
- Several of the hunters involved did not have a license, which means they were not trained in how to properly kill the animals.
- Several of the dolphins were run over by motorboats, leading to a slow and painful death.
The exceptional numbers and cruelty of the incident sparked outrage among locals as well as activists. One lamented the waste to Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, according to Sea Shepherd.
"My guess is that most of the dolphins will be thrown in the trash or in a hole in the ground," said one.
Even proponents of the tradition said Sunday's killings were a mistake.
"I'm appalled at what happened," Heri Petersen, who chairs the hunting association where the incident occured, told the local In.fo news site, as The Guardian reported. "The dolphins lay on the beach writhing for far too long before they were killed."
A poll taken after the killings suggest that most people on the islands want the dolphin killings to end.
"We did a quick poll yesterday asking whether we should continue to kill these dolphins. Just over 50% said no, and just over 30% said yes," Trondur Olsen, a journalist for Faroese public broadcaster Kringvarp Foroya, told BBC News.
However, 80 percent of respondents to a different survey said they wanted to continue the Grind for pilot whales.
SEE GRIND VIDEO BELOW ON YOUTUBE (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)
GRAPHIC IMAGES! Whalers on the Faroe Islands kill 1428 dolphins in a single day! youtu.be
After Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans and its remnants struck New Jersey and New York, rescue efforts took place via boats and kayaks and people were often forced to walk through standing water. Some the standing water continues in flooded basements. It raises questions about the hazardous materials, such as wood planks, nails, random metal objects, as well as the less visible toxins, such as bacteria and fertilizers, which could be in the water.
When it rains, stormwater runs over land and lawn, sidewalks and streets, pavements and parking lots collecting whatever is in its way. The water gathers fertilizers, pesticides, phosphates, gasoline, heavy metals, litter, plastic and more.
In most of New York City, storm runoff, sewage and wastewater from industries flow through the same pipes. (Queens and Staten Island are the exception: they have separate systems for sewage and stormwater.) The water is funneled to the city's fourteen wastewater treatment plants.
During intensely wet weather, however, the water is not conveyed to the treatment plants, since it would exceed their capacity. Instead, "during such overflow periods, a portion of the sanitary sewage entering, or already in, the combined sewers discharges untreated into the waterway along with stormwater and debris washed from streets," according to the New York City Environmental Quality Review Technical Manual. Specially, "during storms, if a greater amount of combined flow reaches the regulator, the excess is directed to outfalls into the nearest waterway (e.g., the Hudson River, East River)."
All it takes to exceed the capacity is rains of a tenth of an inch per hour. And according to the National Weather Service, it rained over three inches an hour when Ida measured at its most intense in Central Park.
This untreated overflow is called Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). It is discharged out of 460 sites located around New York City. The overflow could contain anything from gasoline to pollutants from industrial facilities to untreated sewage.
Untreated sewage, in turn, might lead to bacteria in the water. Among bacteria, total coliform are widespread in nature, found in soil, water and animal and human waste. Fecal coliform, a subset of total coliform, are present in the gut and specifically in the feces of warm-blooded animals.
A species of fecal coliform is Escherichia coli or E. coli, which can be found in livestock such as cattle, chickens, pigs and sheep. While coliform typically does not cause disease, some strands of E.coli are harmful. Undercooked meat and contaminated water can be sources. The water can become contaminated by leaking septic tanks or sewage pipes; by the fecal matter of birds, humans, livestock and pets; or by the aforementioned untreated sewage. Typically, whether the water is safe cannot be determined by look, smell or taste. Instead the water must be tested.
Other common pollutants carried in stormwater include fertilizers, heavy metals, nitrates, PCBs, pesticides, phosphates and plastic particles — whatever chemicals the water flows over. Unlike water that goes down the drain at home, stormwater that goes down a drain on a street corner is untreated. Carrying its accumulated pollutants with it, it dispels them into waterways, creating not only an environmental hazard but also a health risk.
New York City's water system is 150 years old. It badly needs an update to separate the sewage and stormwater systems. That said, even if the sewage were no longer to flow out the CSOs, the toxicity of the stormwater would remain, as would the risk of flooding.
In Queens, eleven of the thirteen fatalities were a result of flooded basement apartments. The areas that flooded and where eleven people drowned overlapped with a floodmap that the city issued in May 2021. According to The City, "the interactive map [was] released in conjunction with Mayor Bill de Blasio's stormwater resiliency plan and required by a 2018 City Council law."
Two days after five feet of water flooded Ivette Mayo's home in Woodside, she began to feel ill. By Monday, she nee… https://t.co/JCAWNS4Cl3— Gothamist (@Gothamist)1631142241.0
Flooding can destroy a home and its electrical systems. It can create problems for the foundation and lead to structural issues. Mold is a big risk resulting from flooding, which can create health problems. Basements were not only more damaged but are also harder to dry out.
The cleanup can also be a challenge. The repairs can lead to exposure to asbestos, lead and other toxins found in homes. Of course, many products used to clean up also contain chemicals. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises that for floods at the workplace, "cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, and search and rescue, should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience." Similar advice is prudent for floods at home to avoid the health risks.
Yet hiring professionals to carry out these cleanups costs money. And many of those living in basement apartments were living in them precisely because they tend to be cheaper in price.
So what to do? Having the floodmaps in place is great but action must also be taken based on them to ensure that those most at risk are protected. It means that developers should not be allowed to build in flood zones. The mayor's office estimates that there are at least 50,000 basement apartments in NYC with at least 100,000 residents. Basement apartments raise the issue of the need for housing to be more affordable in New York City or for wages to be commensurate with the cost of living in New York City.
Action is key because as the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina and Ida and now Nicholas, of Houston after Harvey and of New York City after Ida has shown, the threat of flooding is becoming less than a once a century risk. In New York City an estimated 2.5 million residents are already living in storm surge inundation zones.
The Netherlands — literally named the nether lands because about one third of the country lies below sea level — and other countries have been at the forefront of adapting to inundation. Coastal zones prone to flooding could be restored as wetlands. New York City currently has only "one percent of its historic freshwater wetlands and ten percent of its historic wetlands, namely in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island," according to the Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. It never ceases to amaze how a map of historical wetlands compares with a map of current flood zones.
Tidelands of the New York New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Regional Plan Association
Storm surge inundation zones and depths. NHC, USACE
Existing wetlands could be protected and opportunities for expanding protection and restoration could be pursued. Wetlands help control floods by absorbing floodwater and stabilizing shorelines. Wetlands also help improve water quality by filtering stormwater runoff.
Myriad other strategies exist for reducing flooding and runoff. Rooftop gardens could gather rain and also, unlike tar, cool, and provide food. It might sound like a small thing but if expanded to the scale of the city, it would add up. Playgrounds and below ground parking garages could be constructing to double manner as catchment for water. More green along streets could harvest water. Since 2007, NYC has required permeable pavement for lots with more than 18 spaces of larger than 6000 square feet. Porous pavement is also being implemented. Both could be scaled up. Buzzwords to avoid floods in the new era: permeable and porous. Is it time for the return of cobblestones?
Floodwater can contain anything from sewage and sharp objects to downed power lines. Stay away from flood waters wh… https://t.co/mSiymxBIIY— CDC Environment (@CDC Environment)1631718120.0
Tina Gerhardt is an environmental journalist. She covers international climate negotiations, energy policy, sea level rise and related direct actions. Her work has been published by Grist, The Progressive, The Nation, Sierra and the Washington Monthly.
- Homes Are Flooding Outside FEMA's 100-Year Flood Zones ... ›
- Restoring Our Water Systems Should Be Top Priority for Biden ... ›
We often hear about foods that can boost our immune systems, but did you know there are dietary choices that can actually weaken your body's ability to fight off infections? Studies show that ultra-processed foods, and those full of empty calories without nutrients can be detrimental to your health.
Our immune systems exist to protect us from bacteria and other microbes like viruses and parasites, and with a healthy diet, they have a better chance of thwarting those diseases and pathogens. A balanced diet is one that includes a plethora of vitamins and minerals, in addition to the calories we need to burn to survive.
So, we know what helps us, but what hurts us?
1. Sugary Foods
When we think of sugary foods, baked goods, candy, chocolate, and other processed sweets come to mind. But even dried or canned fruits or juices contain a lot of added sugar which can put your system out of whack. The microbiome living in our guts keep harmful bacteria in check, but the glucose and fructose in sweetened foods feed those unhealthy microbes, making it harder to fight infection. In addition, sugar begets craving more sugar, as the yeast and other sugar-loving microbes in your system get used to the added sugar in your body.
In addition, adding too much sugar to your diet can raise your blood sugar, which increases inflammatory proteins — particularly in those with diabetes whose blood sugar stays higher for longer. High sugar levels could also inhibit immune cells that protect the body against infection.
2. Salty Foods
Salt makes food taste so much better. It brings out natural flavor, and spices bland dishes up. But it's bad for you. It can stop immune functions from working normally, alter your gut bacteria and increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. Preliminary research indicates that the Western world's rate of autoimmune diseases. It also can exacerbate existing autoimmune diseases like colitis, Crohn's disease and lupus. One small 2016 study showed that men on a high salt diet had higher levels of monocytes and inflammatory markers, which indicates an excessive immune response.
3. Processed Meats
The meats also have advanced glycation end products which are harmful compounds that form when fat and protein mix with sugar in the blood. Most AGEs come from the foods we eat, and if we have too many, we cannot regulate them out, and they cause oxidative stress and inflammation. Fried bacon, hot dogs, roasted chicken thighs and steak have high levels of AGEs.
4. Fast Food
Everyone knows fast food isn't great for you, but sometimes the convenience and deliciousness overcome those facts. Still, fast food isn't just bad for your weight, it can actually harm your immune system. It's bad for your gut biome, and can increase inflammation. In addition to holding a lot of that salt we just talked about, it has added chemicals, sometimes from the plastic or Styrofoam packaging, which mess up hormone production in humans, weaken immune responses and even cause dysfunction.
5. Foods with Additives
The more processed a food is, the more additives it contains — to improve texture, taste, preservation and the like. These additives, particularly emulsifiers and carrageenan, can cause immune dysregulation by altering gut bacteria and increasing inflammation. Studies have linked these additives to immune dysfunction in rodents. What foods are highly processed? In addition to lunch meats and bacon, canned soups, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, snack foods and anything else with a long shelf life.
6. Certain Fatty Foods
Michael Rheault / Moment / Getty Images
There are some fats that are good for us, but saturated fats are bad for the immune system. They can activate pathways for inflammation, which inhibits immune response, and they suppress white blood cell function which can increase risk of infection. Studies in rodents have shown a high-fat diet could even damage intestinal lining, which increases susceptibility to disease.
Western diets tend to include many omega-6 fats and far fewer omega-3s. The omega-6 fats have been shown to promote inflammatory proteins that weaken our immune systems. Studies also show that omega-6 fats possibly increase the risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis.
7. Artificially Sweetened Foods
It's not just sugar that can harm your immune system. The sweeteners we use when we are trying to avoid sugar can be just as harmful if not more. They are connected to altered gut bacteria, more inflammation and a slower immune response. Sucralose and saccharin in particular can cause gut biome imbalance. It could even push forward the progression of autoimmune disease.
8. Fried Food
Fried foods compete with fast foods and processed meats for AGE content. Remember, these end products increase risk of cell damage and inflammation. They also drain your body of antioxidant mechanisms, disrupt gut bacteria and introduce cell dysfunction. All this could lead to increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and even malaria. So, as much as we would love to kick back and enjoy some fried deliciousness, lay off the fries, potato chips, fried chicken, bacon and fish and chips for a healthier germ-fighting response.
9. Caffeine and Alcohol
Caffeine in and of itself won't hurt your immune system, but lack of sleep will, and if you consume caffeine anywhere close to bedtime, you may find yourself awake in the wee hours. We're not talking just coffee. Certain types of teas, chocolate, even protein bars can contain the stuff.
If you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink a night for best results. Consider replacing the drinks with fruit-infused water or teas (without caffeine).
10. Refined Carbohydrates
Not all carbohydrates are bad for you; they do give you a long-term energy boost, especially the whole grain varieties. But refined carbs, like white bread, pasta, bleached flour, and, of course, sugar, can cause imbalance in gut bacteria which will compromise your immune system. They are also high glycemic foods, which cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, which could result in free radicals and inflammatory proteins roaming the body.
It's not just diet that impacts our immune health. Other factors include age (the older we are the less efficient our organs become at producing immune cells), environment (if you are a smoker or live in an area with increased air pollution), weight (heavier people have more issues with chronic inflammation, which taxes the immune system), chronic physical or mental diseases like autoimmune diseases or prolonged heightened stress levels, and lack of sleep.
For true immune health, we need to live a balanced life with conscientious dietary, exercise, and self-care decisions.
Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.
- Sultan Medallion Black Oriental Area Rug Persian Formal Traditio
- The 11 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians - EcoWatch ›
- 6 Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms - EcoWatch ›
Animal Agriculture Responsible for 57% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Food Production, Study Finds
By Brett Wilkins
Global food production accounts for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, with meat and dairy responsible for twice as much planet-heating carbon pollution as plant-based foods, according to the results of a major study published Monday.
According to research published in Nature Food, 35% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to food production, "of which 57% corresponds to the production of animal-based food," including livestock feed.
"The global population has quadrupled over the last century," the study notes. "Demographic growth and associated economic growth have increased global food demand and caused dietary changes, such as eating more animal-based products. The United Nations projects that food production from plants and animals will need to increase 70% by 2050, compared to 2009, to meet increasing food demand."
"Increased food production," the paper continues, "may accelerate land-use changes (LUCs) for agriculture, resulting in greater greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduced carbon sequestration, and further climate change."
Beef production — which according to the study contributes 25% of all food-based greenhouse gas emissions — is by far the biggest culprit, followed by cow's milk, pork, and chicken. Among plant-based foods, rice production is responsible for 12% of food-based emissions.
The publication notes that the provision of adequate grazing land and food for livestock fuels deforestation, while the animals also produce tremendous quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas found to be up to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
"Global GHG emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods." A new study @NatureFoodJnl es… https://t.co/u5A8XdOv1H— Leila Niamir (@Leila Niamir)1631568176.0
"To produce more meat you need to feed the animals more, which then generates more emissions," University of Illinois researcher and study lead author Xiaoming Xu told The Guardian. "You need more biomass to feed animals in order to get the same amount of calories. It isn't very efficient."
The paper notes that while it only takes 2.5 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions to produce one kilogram of wheat, producing the same quantity of beef emits 70 kilograms of emissions.
"I'm a strict vegetarian and part of the motivation for this study was to find out my own carbon footprint, but it's not our intention to force people to change their diets," study co-author Atul Jain told The Guardian. "A lot of this comes down to personal choice. You can't just impose your views on others. But if people are concerned about climate change, they should seriously consider changing their dietary habits."
Jain added that "this study shows the entire cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions."
20 meat and dairy firms emit more greenhouse gas than Germany, Britain or France. These emissions make up 56 to 58… https://t.co/jGwwpemIkp— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace)Foto4easy 130ft/40m Underwater Waterproof Camera Housing for DSL
The new study's findings closely mirror those of separate research published last week by Friends of the Earth Europe, its German arm Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz, and the Berlin-based Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, which concluded that worldwide food production accounts for up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with animal agriculture responsible for more than half of that amount.
Noting that "industrialized meat and dairy production are killing the planet, poisoning rural communities, and hurting independent farmers," the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said Monday that the Farm System Reform Act — legislation reintroduced in July by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) — "would end some of the worst practices and begin building a just food system for people and the planet."
Industrialized meat and dairy production are killing the planet, poisoning rural communities and hurting independen… https://t.co/gXfWyAUOIo— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1631539803.0
"Meat and dairy production in the United States is based on heavily subsidized factory farming — a leading contributor to climate change, pollution, pesticide use, biodiversity loss, wildlife killings, and worker exploitation," CBD explains in a petition supporting the proposed legislation, which is endorsed by more than 300 diverse advocacy groups. "This broken system is the result of the unequal power that multinational meat corporations wield over federal farm policy."
Reposed with permission from Common Dreams.
- Top 5 Meat and Dairy Companies Match Exxon in Greenhouse Gas ... ›
- Greenhouse Gas Emission Giants: Why Tyson Foods Rivals Exxon ... ›