What Happened In Climate & Sustainability This March

What Happened In Climate & Sustainability This March

This is part of our ongoing series, called DTL (that stands for Down to Learn), where we take deep dives into the odd, nuanced and mysterious world of sustainability. Each article in our series should give you a good icebreaker for your next Zoom, or perhaps even inspire you. This piece is penned by Planet G contributor Jacqueline Parisi.


And we’re back with another roundup of the latest in climate policy, science, and innovation (ICYMI, here was the last one). The goal? Make it a whole lot easier to stay on top of the never-ending news cycle. Today, we’re breaking down what you need to know about the Line 3 pipeline debate (which the one and only Jane Fonda is weighing in on), the groundbreaking Environmental Justice for All Act, the effort to reinstate Obama-era climate rules, a new push by major brands to launch circularity programs, and more. 

So without further ado...      

  1. Jane Fonda traveled to northern Minnesota to protest the Line 3 tar sands pipeline project

First, some context. Spearheaded by the Canadian oil company Enbridge, the Line 3 pipeline is designed to carry 790,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day. Locals have been protesting its construction for the past seven years in an attempt to preserve territory where, according to an 1855 treaty, the Anishinaabe people retain the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wild rice. When the project kicked off this past December, trenches were dug through wetlands, waterways were disrupted, and vegetation was removed.

Earlier last month, Jane Fonda — the 83-year-old climate activist — traveled to Minnesota (post-vaccination) to lend some media attention to the cause. 

“I’m not from here, but I’m a citizen of the world,” Fonda told Heated’s Emily Atkin. “And one more pipeline of tar sands oil is going to make the climate crisis that much worse. It’s going to affect all of us. It’s not like the climate crisis is bordered by a state boundary or a national boundary. This is a global issue. So any place that fossil fuel is being developed, we have to go there, and we have to try to stop it.” 

The best thing people can do now, explained Fonda, is to send a letter to President Biden on StopLine3.org. After all, “public pressure is invaluable.”  

  1. Democrats are *cautiously optimistic* that the Environmental Justice for All Act will become law 

The bill, which has been in the works for over two years and was recently reintroduced on Capitol Hill, is designed to address environmental disparities across the country — specifically public health inequities that have disproportionately affected communities burdened by pollutants. It’s an incredibly comprehensive piece of legislation. Here are the highlights:

  • Directly engaging communities of color in government decision-making processes (e.g., transition to clean energy & development of climate resiliency plans)
  • Empowering citizens & organizations to pursue legal action when a federal program or policy has discriminatory effects 
  • Dedicating $75 million/year to research & development grants that reduce health disparities 
  • Imposing fees on oil, gas, & coal companies to support workers transitioning away from greenhouse gas-dependent jobs (under the Federal Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund) 

“With new leadership in Congress and the White House, we’re in a window of opportunity to save lives and establish environmental justice that the country can’t afford to miss,” explained Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva. “Today is the first step in pushing this bill and the principles behind it as far as they can go in our federal government.”

  1. For an example of renewable energy policy & leadership, look to cities 

According to the Renewables in Cities 2021 Global Status Report, more than 1 billion people live in a city with a renewable energy target and/or policy. That’s about 25% of our entire urban population, which isn’t too shabby considering the fact that cities are home to 55% of the global population and generate over 80% of our global GDB. And it’s only gotten better over time. In 2020, over 260 cities either established a renewable energy target or passed new policies. 

How exactly are cities making the transition? In the buildings sector, there are new municipal codes and mandates for renewable sources of electricity or heating (e.g., solar thermal). Transportation-wise, certain cities are considering “low-emission zones” and city-level bans on certain fuels and/or vehicles. 

Despite these efforts, the share of renewables still remains starkly low: 10% for heating/cooling and 3% for transportation. Combine that with the sobering prediction that the world is NOT, in fact, on track to meet Paris Agreement Goals, and these efforts take on increasingly heightened importance. 

“With their impact at scale, cities are our best bet to plan, develop, and build a renewable future,” explains Rana Adib, Executive DIrector of REN21. “But all too often their potential for transformation remains massively underused.” 

  1. Democrats are working to reinstate an Obama-era climate change rule 

Earlier in September, Trump finalized a rule that lifted controls on the release of methane — a potent, not-so-green greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide in its implications for climate change. (BTW, increased methane emissions are responsible for half of the observed rise in tropospheric ozone levels, one of the main ingredients in smog.)

Now, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is ready to invoke the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which allows any regulation finalized within 60 days of the end of a presidential term to be overturned with a majority vote in the Senate. If successful, it would immediately reinstate Obama’s methane rules. 

  1. More and more brands (Goldune included) are launching circularity programs

Here’s the deal with “circularity” at Goldune. Anything you buy that’s labeled as such can be shipped back to us if you decide you don’t want it anymore. This way, we can responsibly dispose of or upcycle it into new material. 

And turns out we’re in pretty good company! Rothy’s recently announced its commitment to reach full circularity (and zero waste) by 2023. Here are some new (and existing) things the brand is doing to get there: 

  • Developing an end-of-wear solution for every product 
  • Incorporating twice-recycled materials into new products 
  • Transforming single-use plastic water bottles into their signature thread used to craft all products
  • Using algae-based foam to construct the part of the shoe underneath the insole 
  • Knitting products to shape in order to minimize production waste 
  • Ensuring that the shoes are machine washable and durable (no fast fashion allowed)

Another shout-out goes to Ralph Lauren. The legacy brand is working to reduce water waste by re-thinking the dying process. The first phase will involve a novel textile treatment developed by Dow Inc., which will allow the material to absorb color more easily on the current machines, thus reducing water use by an expected 40%. Phase two will be all about new machinery and color-blending technology. 

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