The Truth About China Turning Away US Businesses

When it comes to recycling, most people have heard stories about China turning away US businesses. But most people don’t know the truth.

For years, China has taken waste from US businesses. Now they are saying enough is enough.

“Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association in the United Kingdom, said the ban is prompting more investment into recycling technologies.”  - CNN News

After a series of measures and even a recent Vox article, there is a lot of concern over what is going to happen to the recycling industry. In fact, many believe that the speculative future of recycling will lead to more US cities cancelling their recycling programs. Simply put, if costs increase, firms may be less likely to focus on environmentally-sourced products and go for options that cost the firm less (read: opportunity cost).

“U.S. consumers also face increased costs as refuse companies up their rates, because they are paying more to ship refuse to alternative countries, like India, and because they are spending more to clean and process the waste better to make it eligible for acceptance in foreign markets.” -NBC News

While these concepts are nothing new, there are several factors that account for China’s change in behavior. Primarily, there is an angle no one is talking about in the recycling sector. That is, China’s desire to become a more powerful nation. This idea stems from articles you may see talking about the ‘great power clashes’ that can manifest themselves in the form of South China Sea aggression.

For those unfamiliar with the contentious military exercises conducted in the Pacific Ocean near Japan, China, and Thailand — the root of it is China believes they have a legitimate claim to extend sovereignty because of a maritime law that allows ownership 10 miles from the coast and pretty much every Western nation disagrees.

Second, if China is viewed as the ‘garbage can’ for the world, they displace political capital. To elaborate, mothers often tell their daughters “you get the love you command/deserve based on how you are expecting to be treated” is just as applicable to geopolitics, as ever.

“He said that knowing the country would no longer be able to ship poor-quality recycling materials to China, its biggest buyer, meant the UK recycling industry had to start changing. Others will follow.” - CNN News

Thirdly, China is still accepting waste. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite what most believe, China has actually just lowered the threshold of contaminated waste that they are willing to accept. US Businesses, under these new guidelines, are unwilling to decontaminate the waste to the level requested. Therefore, whether consumers see a shrink in recyclable offered products, the reason could be US businesses just don’t want to do deal with the hassle.

What does this mean? Well, likely, the United States will ship waste to another developing nation in the Global South and business will continue. However, the growing tranches of the population that demand sustainable products is growing and savvy businesses would do well to capture the economic trends.

Katie Nation: Vegan Nation

Be Vegan AND a Foodie!

Why can’t vegan food satisfy those midnight-snack, craving, taste buds?

Meet Katie Nation, a 26 year old professional, who knows how to cook up a storm in the kitchen! Not only does she love good food, but she seeks to share her vegan recipes with her hungry followers. Her hungry followers include those who just begun or haven’t even started their journey with veganism to those who are fully immersed vegans with years of experience. Her content is great which is why she has amassed a strong follower.

“The future is vegan.”

When Counter Current interviewed Katie, she was adamant that veganism is not a cultural shift that will happen over night, but rather a slow transition. However, that transition has started. While most know that processed meats like bacon are not healthy, other types of meat may shock you. Like plain chicken breast? Katie can still recall how shocked she was when she learned more about the meat and dairy industry. Not only were these products not environmentally sustainable, but they were not as healthy as most people had assumed. Despite her past blindness, Katie is convinced that people are starting to catch on as veganism becomes less of a fringe issue and more mainstream. Unfortunately, the gradualness of this ‘enlightenment’ is too slow for her. She wants to help others realize how preconceived notions may not always be correct, especially when it comes to the meat and dairy industries.

“Since the meat and dairy industry does such a good job of masking the true ugliness of it, people don’t see it’s a very cruel industry. Profit rules all — profit to these companies is more important than your health, your safety, the environment, and the lives of innocent animals.”

After Katie made this claim, we did some research and we found that there is truth to her statement. Meat and dairy are linked to various chronic diseases such as inflammation, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and type-two diabetes. In particular, milk has been linked with the onset of dementia, conducted by one study. Further, animal agriculture is the leading cause for climate change, and this needs to be slowed down!

If the apparent negatives outweigh the positives, why do we continue to consume meat and dairy in such large volumes?

Habit patterns. We, as a society, have established cultural norms and whenever norms are established it is harder to shift away from them — even if they are wrong. For example, a majority of people in the 1700s may express slavery is wrong despite partaking in the system. Similarly, whenever a person makes a choice the person must consider the outcomes. Katie is helping us realize the consequences of our actions through sharing vegan recipes. Despite juggling her work in marketing and going back to school to become a nutritionist, she still finds time to live her values. This is a practice we encourage. To her, a successful life and life for her company is one dedicated to those values.

“There is no trophy at the end of the finish line, so you have to focus on what feeds your soul and keeps you going.”

This year she plans to set up a blog website to further share these ideas across the world. So, go support Vegan Nation to help you make eco-conscious choices and eat yummy food! Thanks so much and it was fantastic to have you!

“With just a little knowledge we can make a world of difference…”

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of veganism, rather an informational interview meant to expose the reader to a different perspective.

Implications of Animal Consumption

The consumption of animal products is globally pervasive.

Whether a cultural cornerstone, a religious requirement, or simply because people like the taste of them, animal products are consumed in disturbingly high amounts worldwide. While the consumption of animal products is a widespread practice, it is important to internalize the stresses being placed on the environment by the animal agriculture industry.

Simply put, animal product consumption is taxing on the environment. Negative implications include large water footprints, significant greenhouse gas emissions, and various other agricultural requirements. To elaborate, in a study of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans, researchers found the greenhouse gas emissions of individuals adhering to a plant-based diet to be approximately three times less than those of individuals with a ‘high-meat diet’. In this study, the researchers defined a ‘high-meat diet’ as consumption of a minimum of 100 grams of meat per day. In other words, a ‘high-meat diet’ individual that eats a three ounce portion of meat is 85 grams of the way there. Or, another way of thinking about it, a three ounce portion of meat is roughly the same size as a deck of cards. So, as a threshold, this is fairly easy to surpass. Additionally, animal products account for roughly ⅓ of the water footprint of all agriculture worldwide. This is further magnified by the finding that the water footprint per calorie of beef is about 20 times larger than that for cereal and other starchy root vegetables. This analysis using ratios should be more than just thought-provoking for our readers — it’s an excessive and, generally, wasteful practice.

In the European Union, researchers modeled the environmental implications of a transition towards a more plant-based diet. They found that doing so would reduce nitrogen gas emissions by about 40% and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 25 and 40%. While this study simply used theoretical models, their is unequivocal certainty that the reduction in our society’s consumption of animal products would have profoundly positive effects on the environment.

Every action, every choice we make, is attached to an environmental consequence — including eating! Therefore, we should all strive to be aware of the foods we are putting into our body and know that they will not only have an effect on our health, but an effect on the health of our planet. By choosing which foods to consume, we are also choosing to either endorse foods that support the sustainability of the environment or foods that harm the environment. When we purchase more foods that harm the environment, we are sending the signal that we want those foods to be produced in higher quantities and that we support the industries that support those foods. To paraphrase a common saying, we are putting our money where our mouths are when we eat.

Which industries do you want to support? Those that strive for environmental sustainability or those that drain our limited resources and harm our planet?

How Alcohol Impacts Our Environment

In 2017, Americans spent $234,380 M on alcohol alone, and this is steadily rising.

Alcohol is a staple to the lives of many Americans, serving as one of the largest industry in the U.S. Therefore, it matters which alcohol we choose to drink and the resulting environmental impact.

Beer accounts for 80.5% of alcohol consumption by volume, but only emits 62% of alcohol emissions. Wine volume, on the other hand, accounts for 16% of the alcohol consumption, but has an emission contribution of over 27%. Spirits (including whiskey, vodka, tequila, rum, etc.) has a total volume consumption of 3.5% but an emission of 6.7%.

Tara Garnett, Co-author for the Food Climate Research Network.

However, different alcohol is consumed at different volumes (as describe in the Water Footprint article). The below charts show the interpretation of Tara Garnett’s research by accounting for serving sizes.

Screen Shot 2019-01-18 at 5.05.18 PM.png

As we can see from the chart above, based on serving size, alcohol emissions across the three types — beer, wine, and spirits — are about the same amount. However, major alcohol companies in the industries of beer, wine, whiskey, and vodka are beginning to make changes to reduce these emissions as well as correcting detrimental environmental effects from their companies.

Beer such as Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois created by Anheuser-Busch, CEO Carlos Brito, accounts for about 50% of the beer market in the U.S.

Because of its high influence in the beer market and significant usage of electricity, Anheuser-Busch has announced that their current $400 M expenditure on electricity will come from 100% renewable electricity by 2025. This initiative to expand recyclable content, improve water efficiently, and working directly with local farmers will reduce carbon emissions by a whopping 25%. What is especially important is that this market of affordable beers mostly effects working-class, white men in the mid-America, many of whom renounce human caused global warming. By impacting this specific market, Anheuser-Busch is drastically shaping middle America’s eco-consciousness.

E. & J. Gallo Winery, producer of Barefoot wine, the most popular wine brand in America, is also making great strides towards eco-friendliness.

Responsibility for energy and water consumption at E. & J. Gallo Winery became a priority since 2014. They won the Corporate Social Responsibility Award in recognition for their leading contributions towards water and energy sustainability. They reduced their energy consumption by 10%. Today, they are the leading force in the wine industry while maintaining their eco-cautiousness. In 2018 alone, E. & J. Gallo Winery sold $667 M worth of Barefoot wine in the U.S. and saved more than 11 M kilowatt hours of electricity since 2015.

Irish Distillers, producers of Jameson, the #1 whiskey brand in the U.S, are investing 20% of their funds to expand projects focused on using energy and water more efficiently.

They are requiring that the barley and malt used in their distillery meets the Irish Grain Assurance Scheme to promote environmental protection to safely grow and transport grain for their whiskey distilleries. In redesigning their Jameson bottles, they reduced the glass by 30% to save 435 tons of glass and reduce energy to produce them. Additionally, 98% of their bottles in Dublin are recycled at Dublin’s bottling plant. Through this amazing progress to reduce material waste and encourage recycling that waste, they won the Best Packaging Prevention Initiative in 2009.

However, some alcohol industries, like Tito’s Handmade Vodka, are not as progressive as Carlos Brito, E. & J. Gallo Winery, and Irish Distillers.

In fact, Tito’s, the first Mad in USA Certified alcohol brand, faced many convictions and settlements for their illegal disposal of industrial waste. In 2003, the company was convicted of a misdemeanor and paid a $50,000 fine for disposing of oil down a drain at their shop. In 2012, the company illegally drained production waste into a creek in Austin. Their settlement resulted in a $50,000 fine from the state, $11,728 restitution for damaged properties of landowners nearby, and $1,120 for state sampling analysis of the creek. After facing $300,000 fine for their daughter company, Heartland Automotive Inc, they decided to make a change. They company spent $235,000 to improve and handle their industrial waste and storm water disposal appropriately.

As of today, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is working towards supporting relief programs for California Wild Fires and Hurricane Michael, matching donations of up to $25,000, and has developed the Vodka for Dog Program to help protect dogs and provide them with better living conditions. They are beginning towards the right track of that of their peers!

What we decide to consume on a daily basis has greater ramifications than we perceive. When it comes to alcohol, it is worth the time to take a few minutes and conduct some research! As always, live your values by drinking responsibly and taking care of the environment at the same time! Cheers!

Water Footprint

What you eat, can save the environment.

Many vegan promoters on Youtube and elsewhere, advocate that our food choices could help save our environment. Although there is truth to their claim, the other side likes to argue how much water some fruits, vegetables, and nuts take in comparison to other meats and dairy.

Before switching out your beef for almonds blindly, take a minute to truly understand the eco-friendly nature of this transition. Beef requires 1,847 gal/lb. Almonds, on the other hand, take about 1,929 gal/lb. Additionally, chocolate takes a whopping 2,061 gal/lb.

water footprint.JPG

While many like to point to these facts to justify their meat and dairy consumption, no person honestly would have the same amount of almonds or chocolate as they would beef.

Waverly Harden, Chief Operating Officer of Counter Current

On average, a serving size of beef consists of 0.5 lbs (1,031 gallons of water) whereas a serving size of almonds is 14 grams (58 gallons of water) and chocolate is 25 grams (103 gallons of water). Based on serving size consumption, meat and dairy take about 10 fold the amount of water of fruits and vegetables.

Processed foods require even more water than their raw food counterparts. Meat consumption alone in the United States accounts for 30% of our entire nation’s water footprint. Granted beef is at the highest end of water consumption as are almonds and chocolate for vegan foods. But the proportions do not change much for lower water consuming meat and dairy to raw vegan foods. Thus, substituting to whole, plant-based foods really would help relieve the limited water supply. For those who have already made the switch, refining choices of nuts, oils, and other fruits and vegetables would help reduce our water footprint too.

What we eat has a big impact on our environment. Whether we look at water footprint or the production of greenhouse gases, we need to be conscientious consumers. If you are interested in your personal water footprint calculator, click here!