California RULES Against Monsanto, Requiring Cancer Warning Label On Roundup

By Allison Waldbeser

Officials from Fresno, California have just proposed a rule that will require Monsanto to label its herbicide Roundup as a possible cancer threat. The main ingredient in this herbicide is glyphosate – but what exactly is glyphosate? According to glyphosate facts, it is “one of the world’s most widely used broad spectrum herbicides and accounts for around 25% of the global herbicide market.” The scariest part about this chemical is its likely contribution to the development of cancer. The World Health Organization’s International Cancer Agency states that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans”. Due to these findings, California is deciding to take action.

Monsanto Co. uses this herbicide as one of their main ingredients in their popular weed-killer spray “Roundup”. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that people avoid contact with fields for 12 hours after Roundup has been sprayed, while Monsanto maintains that the chemical poses no risk to consumers.

Despite the heavy use of Roundup in our communities, many are still unaware of the potential danger it poses. We think farmers and consumers have a right to know the risks of it so they can make informed decisions about what they’re eating and what goes into their bodies. #JustLabelIt!

Fortunately, it is alleviating to see the state of California taking precautions. In the meantime, California regulators and Monsanto continue to battle it out as the public awaits a formal court decision. 

What do you think – should California (and other states) require Monsanto to label Roundup as a possible cancer threat?

Continue Reading

Italy Just Passed Major Legislation to Stop Food Waste. Meanwhile the U.S. Tosses $161 Billion-Worth of Food a Year

By Elena Sheppard

Earlier this year, Italy passed new and much-needed legislation to help reduce the huge amount of food wasted by the country each year. According to the Italian government, the amount of food Italy wastes in a given years costs the nation approximately 12 billion euros annually. Looking more widely at Europe, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation says that, “the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people.” Turning toward the United States, the amount of food wasted yearly is just as staggering.  

According to information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s estimated that 30-40% of the American food supply is wasted in a given year. Economically, that settles in at around $165 billion in waste, and 133 billion pounds of food. With this amount of unconsumed food, we could be dramatically assisting the 48.1 million Americans who live in what are called “food insecure households.” This amount of food also does damage to our environment due to the large amount of methane that is emitted from food disposed of in landfills, rather than consumed or composted.  

It’s not just uneaten food in restaurants and households that lead to these high percentages of unconsumed food. Food waste also comes from unharvested crops, high aesthetic standards for food (i.e. people not wanting to buy a perfectly good but weirdly shaped peach), food wasted in grocery stores, distribution centers, and improperly disposed of.

We can do better, and America knows it. In 2013, the USDA along with the Environmental Protection Agency began the U.S. Food Waste Challenge to help grow  food waste reduction efforts. The country’s goal is to reduce food waste by 50% by the year 2030. The Challenge is approaching these efforts in three ways. 1. Reducing food waste — by promoting better storage developments, marketing initiatives, and shopping, ordering and cooking methods. 2. Recovering food — and distributing unconsumed food to hunger relief organizations. 3. Recycling food — by using it to feed animals, make fertilizer, and create compost and bioenergy. So far, initiatives have exceeded expectation.

On a global scale, roughly one third of the food produced annually goes to waste. To put that in other numerical context, that amounts to roughly $680 billion of waste in industrialized countries and $310 billion of waste in developing countries. Luckily, through legislation like that in Italy (and similar measures passed in France) as well as the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, there’s hope that those numbers will soon be far lower.

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22, and during this day events are held around the world to show support for environmental protection. After the disastrous 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970. It is now celebrated in more than 193 countries by more than a billion people every year.

Earth Day aims to raise public awareness about the environment and encourage people around the world to make earth-friendly changes to their behavior. Here are five small changes you can make to help our environment and reduce your ecological footprint!

 

1) Know your footprint

EcologicalFootprintEcoConsciousFriendlyEarthDayImpactOur ecological footprints reflect the amount of natural resources we consume through our daily habits and activities. Overall, humans are consuming natural resources at an alarmi
ng rate. For the past couple of decades we have consumed more resources annually than the Earth can replenish. Today humans consume the equivalent of 1.5 planets’ worth of resources every year and, unless something changes, we are expected to consume 2 planets’ worth of resources by 2050! If we don’t act now to reduce this unsustainable behavior, we threaten the living conditions of future generations.

The first step to reducing your resource consumption is knowing how much you are currently using. Take a quiz online to find out how big your ecological footprint is.

2) Eat less meat

The meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Producing one calorie of meat requires almost 20 times the amount of energy as one plant calorie! It also requires a huge amount of water: An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef.

You can reduce your own ecological footprint just by changing your diet and eating less meat! It doesn’t mean you need to go vegetarian or vegan overnight, but try adopting small changes like Meatless Mondays to gradually cut back on your meat consumption.

Cutting back on meat can also save you money at the grocery store and improve your health! A plant-based diet, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients, while also lower in calories and fat. Switching to a plant-based diet can help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.

Ready to get started? Kick off your first Meatless Monday with one of our awesome vegetarian recipes.

VegetarianEatLessMeatPastaTomatoEarthDay

3) Cut back on car rides

Leave the car at home and walk or bike instead! Replacing car trips to school and work with walking or bicycling can reduce congestion and air-polluting emissions. Cars currently account for one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and they emit a variety of pollutants which are harmful to the community such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide. The more people walk, the better the air quality will become.

Not only does walking or biking reduce air pollution, but it’s also great for your health! Regular physical activity helps build strong bones, muscles and joints, and it decreases the risk of obesity. In contrast, insufficient physical activity can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. For weight management, studies suggest that you should aim for 10,000 steps a day.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day. Research suggests that physically active kids are more likely to become healthy, physically active adults, underscoring the importance of developing the habit of regular physical activity early.

 

4) Start a compost pile

Composting is a great way to decrease your food waste, reduce your impact on landfills, and lower your overall carbon footprint. By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you can limit the amount of food you waste and help reduce your impact on landfills. In fact, if you compost regularly, you could reduce your waste by as much as 25%!

Want to learn more about composting? Read our helpful tips on how to start and maintain your own pile.

CompostFoodWasteGreenEarth

5) Grow something

Earth Day has become a day of celebrating nature, showing appreciation for the planet, and doing good deeds for the environment. A great way to learn more about nature and show your love for the earth is to plant a garden at home! You can easily beautify your home and give your family the chance to see plants sprout and grow by planting your own flowers, herbs, or fruits and vegetables from seeds.

Our Garden-in-a-Can and Garden-in-a-Jar makes it easy to grow fresh herbs that are both pretty and practical. Harvest your own herbs to use in cooking to add freshness to your food while saving money at the grocery store. Give your family a hands-on gardening experience!
KidsGrowPlantsHerbsGardenInACan

Continue Reading

Top 5 Greenest Cities in the U.S.

GreenestAmericanCitiesEarthFriendly

Cities across America are taking initiative to improve green infrastructure and encourage residents to lead environmentally-conscious lifestyles, and some are truly leading the pack. To find the most earth-friendly cities in America, we turned to a variety of rankings, from Siemens to a study by NerdWallet, and noticed a few cities that kept popping up. Read on to see what consistently places these cities in the top rankings for greenest American cities.

 

WashingtonDCGreenCityEcoEarthFriendly

Washington, D.C.

It’s no surprise that the nation’s capital is also a leader in green initiatives, appearing in the top 10 of most rankings of eco-friendly American cities. The city is home to DC VegFest, an annual celebration for vegetarians and vegans; restaurants serving up organic and sustainable foods; and plenty of shops selling eco-friendly goods such as sustainable bamboo kitchenware.
Other reasons why Washington, D.C. is a leading green city:

  • efficiency of the Metro system and the relatively low use of wood and coal as energy sources
  • more than 230,000 acres of park space
  • ranked #1 in the country for green roofs – saw the installation of 1,207,115 square feet of green roofs in 2014
  • lowest carbon emissions per capita in the nation

 

PortlandOregonGreenCityEcoEarthFriendly

 Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has gained a reputation for being focused on reconnecting with nature and promoting sustainable eating, and with that, a reputation as one of the greenest cities in America. The city consistently receives high ratings for air and water quality, and in 2008, Portland recycled 56.8% of all waste generated.

Here are a few more reasons why Portland is one of the first cities that spring to mind at the mention of “green city”.

  • uses 20 percent more renewable energy than the national average
  • was one of the first cities to ban plastic bags
  • 25% of the city’s workforce commutes to work by bike, carpool, or public transportation

 

SanFranciscoSFGreenCityEcoEarthFriendly

 San Francisco, CA

San Francisco has long been at the forefront for green initiatives among large U.S. cities. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require that all residents and businesses separate waste and compost material from normal trash. The city was the first in America to ban plastic bags.

  • 80% recycling rate is the highest in the U.S.
  • 1/10 of the city’s commuters walk to work
  • 13.8 of every 10,000 homes rely on solar energy–more than double the national average

 

New YorkNYGreenCityEcoEarthFriendly

 New York City, NY

With nearly 30,000 people per square mile, New York City is by far the most densely populated city in the U.S., and probably not the average person’s first thought associated with “eco-friendly city”. But population density and smart use of space lends itself to many environmentally friendly advantages, such as heavy use of mass transit, energy and water efficiency, and limited waste – all coming together to lower the average New Yorker’s carbon footprint.

  • 56 percent of commuters use its vast public transit network
  • 2nd lowest carbon emissions per capita, right after Washington, D.C.
  • has goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent by 2030
  • underwater turbines in East River harness river current for hydropower energy

 

SeattleWAGreenCityEcoEarthFriendly

Seattle, WA

Also known as the “Emerald City,” Seattle lives up to this name by setting the bar for green buildings and energy efficiency. Seattle’s publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light, was the first electric utility in the nation to become carbon neutral, and the city has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Seattle is home to the world’s greenest commercial building, the Bullit Center, and more than 20 other certified green buildings.

  • hydropower supplies 92 percent of Seattle’s electricity
  • 59% increase in cyclists and 27% increase in pedestrians since 2011
  • Volunteers with the Green Seattle Partnership are restoring more than 1,000 acres of parkland in the city
Continue Reading

Most Earth-Friendly College Campuses

It’s Earth Week, and we’re highlighting college campuses across the country that have been recognized for their green efforts! With more than 20 million people attending college in the U.S., these institutions have the potential to make a huge impact – or reduce their impact – on the environment. We admire their commitment to sustainability as they move toward renewable energy, zero waste, and reducing their carbon footprints. Read on to find out what these colleges are doing to earn reputations as the most earth-friendly in the nation.

 

1. UC Santa Barbara | Santa Barbara, CA

UCSB Santa Barbara Green College Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • Was the first University of California (UC) to establish a Green Initiative Fund (known as TGIF) as well as a Renewable Energy Initiative Fund, and initiated the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference (CHESC).
  • 47% of academic departments offer some sort of sustainability focus in their curriculum, for a total of 321 “green” classes.
  • 94% of students at UCSB bike, walk or take the bus to campus, which offers 10,000 bike parking spaces and 10 miles of bike paths.
  • Over 200 faculty members at UCSB take part in eco-research in an effort to lead the way in sustainability education and breakthroughs.
  • 44 of the buildings at Santa Barbara are LEED certified, and more than 2,000 photovoltaic solar panels have helped the college cut their electrical usage by one-third.

2. Lewis & Clark College | Portland, OR

Lewis and Clark College Oregon Green College Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • Lewis & Clark College has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 percent over the last nine years.
  • In 2015, the Princeton Review ranked Lewis and Clark College as the #1 greenest college. Lewis & Clark Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law program is ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Has four buildings certified under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. All future new buildings on campus are required to meet LEED Gold standards or higher.
  • Partnership with Energy Trust of Oregon has resulted in energy- saving projects that have reduced the college’s carbon footprint and saved over $800,000 annually in electricity and natural gas costs. Recent projects include the addition of LEDs and solar panels.
  • Lewis & Clark encourages green transportation options by offering a free eco shuttle between campus and downtown, a campus car-share program, electric vehicle charging stations, bike-friendly facilities, and more.

 

3. Middlebury College | Middlebury, VT

Middlebury College Vermont Green College Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • Middlebury aims to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2016. Compost and recycling efforts have diverted more than 60% of the waste on campus.
  • Committed to having 30 percent “real food” in the dining halls by 2016; “real food” is defined as grown locally within 150 miles, raised humanely, grown using ecological practices, and/or fair trade.  
  • Has two LEED-certified buildings, and all construction on new buildings must be LEED certified.
  • The school has incorporated sustainable tech such as groundwater exchange air-conditioning, low-flow faucets and toilets and solar panels.

4. University of Colorado at Boulder | Boulder, CO

CU Boulder Colorado Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • 18 CU-Boulder facilities have received LEED certifications, including five LEED platinum and 11 LEED gold ratings.
  • CU-Boulder is nearly at a 45 percent recycling rate — halfway to its goal of a 90 percent recycling rate by 2020. A new recycling center on main campus just opened. Coupled with expanded recycling efforts such as compost collections in all campus facilities, CU-Boulder expects to attain zero-waste — or near it — by 2020.
  • CU-Boulder’s emission of global greenhouse gases (GHG) has flattened despite a nearly 19 percent growth in campus facilities since 2005. CU-Boulder expects to attain its goal of a 20 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2020.
  • In 2012, all student government buildings at CU-Boulder achieved carbon neutrality.
  • Founded in 1970 as the Eco-Center, the school’s CU Environmental Center remains the nation’s largest on-campus and student-led environmental organization.

 

5. Oregon State University | Corvallis, OR

OSU Oregon State Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • Oregon offers nationally recognized programs in sustainability studies like forestry, wildlife management, zoology, conservation biology, agricultural science and nuclear engineering.
  • 22 exercise machines are connected to the power grid at OSU. When in use, these machines feed into the grid that helps to provide energy to the university’s services and facilities. Since 2007, efforts like these have cut the energy usage by two-thirds.
  • The campus won the national 2015 RecycleMania competition by cutting its waste by 40%. They were also awarded the Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA in 2008.
  • The university has promised to achieve climate neutrality by 2025 and has a collaborative student initiative working to achieve this goal.

6. Green Mountain College | Poultney, VT

Green Mountain College Vermont Green University Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • First college to reach climate neutrality through an innovative blend of efficiency, clean energy, and local carbon offsets; committed to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2020.
  • First in the nation to be named an EPA Energy Star campus, and earned a Gold Rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
  • Biomass facility generates 85% of the heat used on campus, has solar array and windmill conceived and strategized by students and recent graduates.
  • Recognized in 2015 by the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Wild Guide for efforts to protect wildlife and restore habitats through native species landscaping and invasive species removal, a process students involving student volunteers.

7. Arizona State University | Tempe, AZ

ASU Arizona State Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • ASU has one of the country’s largest distributed solar systems, providing the university with more than 24 MW of power.
  • It has a LEED-Silver minimum construction mandate, offers “green bins” where students can deposit compostable food waste, reuses 12 tons of compost materials from its landscaping and has one of the most profitable campus Farmers Markets.
  • The college’s entire Tempe campus is a nationally-recognized Arboretum – home to more than 900 species of flourishing plant life from around the world.
  • Nearly 100% of graduates from ASU’s School of Sustainability are gainfully employed or enrolled in advanced studies.

8. University of Massachusetts – Amherst | Amherst, MA

UMass Amherst Massachusetts Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment East Coast

  • One of the only public universities in the U.S. to install permaculture gardens on-campus, which educate students about sustainable farming practices, while also supplying the campus with fresh, organic produce.
  • UMass is rated the 25th most efficient among top-rated national universities by U.S. News & World Report and has been recognized for its commitment to leadership in sustainability, value and excellence in education.
  • Amherst is committed to achieving total carbon neutrality by the year 2050.
  • Climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are national leaders in their field.


9. University of New Hampshire
| Durham, NH

UNH New Hampshire Durham Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment East Coast

  • Campus-wide green initiatives include revolving energy efficiency fund, a cogeneration plant powered by landfill gas, solar panel installation, and a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
  • Study abroad programs at UNH that combine sustainability and an international experience include the EcoQuest program in New Zealand that focuses on interdisciplinary sustainability studies, and the EcoGastronomy study abroad programs in Italy and France.
  • Fruits and vegetables grown on campus farms are often used in campus dining halls, all food waste from the dining hall is pulped and composted on campus, and UNH Dining hosts a community-wide Local Harvest Feast every fall of exclusively local foods.
  • UNH’s EcoLine, completed in 2009, is the nation’s first major university to create a landfill gas-to-energy project. The school is the first to use landfill gas as its primary fuel source, which will power up to 85 percent of the campus’s electricity and heat.

10. UC Irvine | Irvine, CA

UCI Irvine Green College University Campus Eco Friendly Environment

  • In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal.
  • The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.
  • Has three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam;
  • Pledged an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020; committed to going carbon neutral by 2025.
Continue Reading

Bring Old News to Life, Literally.

garden brown green compost nature soil

Back to the Roots was born from the simple idea that mushrooms could be grown on recycled coffee waste. While the company has evolved to take on more than just mushrooms, core to our mission to Undo Food™ is still our focus on reducing our waste. Organizations we love like Food Shift are devoted to reducing food waste, but there’s a simple way to do this yourself right from your kitchen…compost! Composting is turning organic matter (like your food scraps) into rich soil.

According to the Environmental Protection Agencyfood scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away.

Composting your food scraps instead helps reduce waste and keeps them out of landfills where they can release methane and take up room. 

Composting may sound like a big commitment but, in reality, nature does most of the work! As long as you do some prep work and can manage a bit of maintenance, you can help save the planet one eggshell or apple core at a time. Some towns and cities have compost bins that the city or state trash service will pick up, but compost also makes a great soil supplement that you can toss in  your garden!

CompostFoodWasteGreenEarth

Step 1: Know What You Can Compost

Many things can be composted, but it’s important to know what can and cannot be added to your bin. 

A few things on the compost-friendly list include items such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Shredded Newspaper
  • Cotton and wool rags

A few things not to compost:

  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps*

Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s full list of “What To Compost“and “What Not To Compost and Why on their website.

Step 2: Start A Bin

kitchen compost bin cute gardening

Despite common public opinion, composting can be cute! Look around your house and yard for a fun container that you can recycle and transform into your kitchen compost. Make sure it’s small so you remember to empty it often, and so it doesn’t start to smell. Empty the small bin into an outdoor pile where heat, worms, and bacteria will turn it into soil. There are a few options for piles: you can buy a container, a stand-alone mound, or you can build a more sophisticated bin with a small fence or barrier. If animals such as deer frequent your backyard, a container might be a good investment!

 

Step 3: Get Your Browns and Your Greens

It’s important to have a combination of “browns” (materials such as dead leaves, pine needles, hay, cardboard, and twigs) and “greens” (grass, weeds, kitchen waste) for composting.  A compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of “browns” to “greens”.  Shredding or chopping these piles will help them decompose faster. The third ingredient in your compost recipe is water. The pile needs to remain moist to keep breaking down, so put your pile or bin somewhere near a water source.

Step 4: Care For Your Pile

Like most things, your compost pile needs to be shown a little love to get moving. “Turning” your pile will help it decompose more quickly. A tool called a “turning” fork will help you stir ingredients more easily, though you can do this with a shovel, too. Too much work? Look into a tumbling composter to help mix your compost for you!.

If your pile is a free-standing mound, layer the greens and browns with soil or compost that is already finished. Your pile should be three to four feet tall. Make sure to wet any dry materials that are added. Adding a tarp on top can also help keep it from drying out.  

 

Step 5: Patience, Composting Grasshopper!

Composting doesn’t happen overnight. It can take two months to two years for a pile of compost to turn into ready-to-use soil.  Make sure to turn your pile every week or two to expedite the process!

Find more composting tips and tricks here.

Continue Reading