Chick-fil-A's Eco Contribution

Chick-fil-A is America’s favorite fast-food chain.

In the United States, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most popular fast-food establishment. As the apex predator for the third consecutive year, Chick-fil-A rose to the top of the food chain by delivering quality service, good sandwiches, and living their Judeo-Christian values.

Whether some may disagree with the values they preach or are just upset that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A has a rapport for garnering national attention to promote target messages that relate to their core principles. This led Waverly — an enthusiast for all things Chick-fil-A —to speculate more about another more subdued message.

“Is Chick-fil-A suggesting that eating chicken, as opposed to cows, is better for the environment?” —Waverly

Not only does the iconic Chick-fil-A mascot (read: cow) suggest that consumers “Eat more chikin”, but there is a lesser well-known environmental truth attached to those words. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences answered this particular question by stating “beef” was worse than “chicken” when considering the carbon emissions of greenhouse gases for the environment.

Further, the study focused on the environmental impact of chickens and cows on land, air, and sea. Specifically, the survey focused on greenhouse conditions — the same conditions oft-cited when discussing our planet — and the nitrogen burdens required in the United States. The study concluded that beef is 10x more damaging to the environment than any other types of meat, including chicken. However, the verdict is more difficult to uniformly apply since the mitigating factors are harder to calculate. Especially, when considering the agricultural industries carrying capacity to switch from beef to chicken or vice versa.

In addition to former Truett Cathy’s claims that he applied God’s principals to Chick-fil-A operations, Chick-fil-A still is working on improving their current environmental standards to diminish its environmental impact. So what’s the issue?

Questionable Chicken Ethics and Dicey Involvements with Factory Farmed Chickens Plague Chick-fil-A

In 2014, Chick-fil-A announced they would no longer use chickens that were raised with antibiotics. Their ambitious plan had a five year time frame. Historically, to place this plan into perspective, the firm created an annual 282 million sandwiches — equating to 141 million birds — in 2010. So the 2014 transition, truly, is a paradigm shift.

When considering the role of factory farming, however, these birds are kept in poor conditions even if antibiotic use was excluded. Dirty, cramped, and with little space are commonplace for these birds. As many of our readers may know, antibiotics are added to livestock to simultaneously prevent disease and increase growth. In the National Public Radio’s most recent broadcast, “Finite”, their was discussion that this practice of liberally injecting antibiotics into livestock is detrimental to bio-security for humans as pathogens become more resistant with each use. Lastly, in 2016, they announced their mission to source 100% of cage-free eggs in the next 10 years — another ambitious plan we will be sure to verify in 2026.

So How Successful Was Chick-fil-A?

After the five year mark for Chick-fil-A’s “No Antibiotics Ever” commitment, the firm proudly reported that upwards of 80% of their chicken supply is raised without antibiotics. A remarkable step in the right direction. By December of this year, Chick-fil-A will attempt to convert that figure to 100%.

While Truett Cathy has made bold claims in the past, maybe his words were not too far fetched? The firm has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable while still maintaining its ability to compete and succeed with near-peer competitors. When considering all the factors, it is impressive. After all, Chick-fil-A is a fast-food chain reliant on chicken.

Mor Than Chikin’

Chick-fil-A has a few other goals on the topic of environmental sustainability. Specifically, they primarily focus on the four areas listed below.

  1. Sustainable new restaurant development

  2. Reducing energy and water consumption in existing restaurants

  3. Sustainable supply chain

  4. Cup recycling

Right now, the firm is working towards the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard. This is an internationally recognized green building certification system and, notably, gold is the highest attainable certification. Presumably, the gold standard indicates that a building is actively consuming a fourth less energy and generates 34% less of greenhouse gas emissions than previously.

For Chick-fil-A, they are planning to launch their firm’s first test kitchen in Fort Worth, Texas! For other existing restaurants, the goal is to reduce energy usage and water consumption by reinstalling more efficient utilities — including lighting, refrigeration, and water faucet restrictors. Further, when considering the supply chain, the firm is working with suppliers to establish more green-friendly changes. Lastly, Chick-fil-A claims that its use of foam cups are recyclable, whereas some plastics are not. While one maybe the lesser of two evils, neither can be wholly acknowledged as “great”. Notably, foam has many documented challenges with recycling.

Chick-fil-A is not a perfect model for environmental sustainability. However, the changes that it and other fast food chains or companies are committing to making (and actually following through) are and will make a significant substantial impact. Kudos to the firm for working towards a better future.

Soy Crops and Subsidies

Soy is a core crop in our modern world.

Globally, soy is heavily subsidized by the government and consumed in vast amounts. When consumed in moderation, soy has a two-fold effect. It helps to spare animal lives and it also offers potential health benefits. (McCue & Shetty, 2004). In particular, vegans are huge fans because no animals are harmed or killed in the process of soy production. However, underlying these surface advantages, soy-lovers must face the hard truth of its severe environmental impact.

Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest

Soy is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. (Brown et al., 2005). The high demand for soy has led to an uptick in production. In other words, this drastic increase in consumer demand for soy is at the cost of the Amazon. Sadly, the Amazon is undergoing massive deforestation — at an astonishingly high rate — to make more land available for soy. Additionally, soy production has a negative impact on the biodiversity of the rainforest. (Fearnside, 2001).

Unfortunately for the Amazon, deforestation and depletion are embedded into its rich history. Interestingly, deforestation rates resulting from soy production are similar to deforestation rates resulting from cattle farming. One of the reasons for this is that soy is used to feed “pork, poultry, and dairy cows,” and is also used in the production of bio-diesel and vegetable oil. This finding is alarming for those who consider themselves plant-based foodies and, especially, if those plant-based foodies are seeking to make significant environmental change.

Adding onto the list of negatives, indigenous people are being displaced as a consequence of the Amazonian deforestation. Again, the consumer demand for the soy crop is in such a high demand, therefore, this causes deforestation to occur at a, simultaneously, high rate. To emphasize, this again leads to indigenous people being kicked off their lands at a high rate.

While it is intuitive that the food we buy (read: agricultural industries we support) have environmental implications, we do not often realize the humane implications as a result of our purchases — they are, truly, nothing short of eye-opening.

Plant-Based Diets?

When people choose to transition to a more plant-based diet, it is common for them to purchase meat alternatives to facilitate the diet change. Luckily, there are a large number of companies that produce meat alternatives to support vegans, vegetarians, or the occasional Meatless Monday practitioner. However, we must be wary of these alternatives as many of them are made with soy. One of the many reasons that people may choose to change their diet may be to reduce their impact on the environment. However, if individuals with this goal are doing so by consuming meat alternatives laden with environmentally-taxing soy protein, they are not achieving their goal!

As mentioned in an earlier post, eliminating animal products from our diets is a huge step towards sustainability. But, we must also be wary of the amount of soy that we use as replacements for the animal products that previously existed in our diets. So, instead of going to the store and purchasing the latest meat or cheese substitute--which is most likely made with soy--consider buying some sort of non-soy legume such as black beans, lentils, or chickpeas which will still provide protein without sacrificing the health of our planet.

Non-Digital Sources:

  1. Brown, J.C., Koeppe, M., Coles, B., Price, K.P. (2005). Soybean Production and Conversion of Tropical Forest in the Brazilian Amazon: The Case of Vilhena, Rondônia. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. 34 (6).

  2. Fearnside, P. (2001). Soybean cultivation as a threat to the environment in Brazil. Environmental Conservation,28 (1), 23-38.

  3. McCue, P., Shetty, K. (2004) Health Benefits of Soy Isoflavonoids and Strategies for Enhancement: A Review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 44:5, 361-367

Polar Society

If you love Polar Bears, you may want to check out the Polar Society.

Polar Society is an apparel company founded by Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong. When they first started, in 2008, the two conducted research and discovered that the polar bear was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) specifically because of the projected effects of climate change on their habitat. As you may recall in our earlier articles, there is significant precedent that climate change is real and environmental stewardship is a necessity.

“There needs to be a reduction of gas emissions in order to prevent the declines in polar bear population.”

—Geovana Flores & Joanne Wong of the Polar Society

Polar Society’s apparel brand is “not only fashion forward[,] but provides a means to improve the current natural habitat for polar bears and their preservation.” With every purchase, Polar Society donates a part of their profit or proceeds to organizations that “support polar bear conversation and habitat preservation.” Clearly, both Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong are inspired about how to be activists in a consumer-based economy. They are inspired, simply, by both preservation of the polar bears as climate change worsens and are concerned about the future generation.

Success for the duo is a work in progress. Each time the company is able to donate part of their profits to Polar Bears International is something they consider a success. In January 2019, the company donated $300 to the cause! This is fantastic! Further, the love and positive optimism they have received from customers or with their brand ambassadors is what helps them keep their focus, according to the owners.

Parting Thoughts

When asked what are a few things that everyone should know, they said… eat less meat, use energy efficient light bulbs, turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, walk, ride bicycles or take public transportation whenever possible. Not only are there immense benefits to you health, but these simple ideas have benefits psychologically too! So, be sure to get out there and save the world with one small decision at a time!

If you want to learn more, check out their website or follow them on Instagram at @polarsociety!

Life as an EcoFellow: Morgan and Natasha

The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is way ahead of its time. 

In the last three short years — from 2016 to 2019 — of its 40 year establishment, the Center for EcoTechnology has made a massive impact on consumer practices. CET is projected to help approximately 95,000 people and businesses in three ways. Firstly, CET is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 391,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road for one year! Secondly, CET has helped to keep 80,000 tons of waste out of landfills. Thirdly, CET has saved the equivalent energy of powering 35,000 homes for a year. But, best yet, they have saved $70 million (that’s right million!) in lifetime savings for both individuals and businesses by “going green”.

Change-Agents Combating Climate Change.

This non-profit organization helps both individuals and businesses to “go green” by reducing energy and waste consumption. Their website has a fantastic step-by-step guidance system that discusses renewable energy incentives that are available at the local, state, and federal levels. Often these local, state, and federal initiatives work with Solar Access and are funded by both the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources.

These three organizations offer credibility to the Center for EcoTechnology’s mission. Between qualification, certification, and other forms of quality controls, CET clients are assured that “going green” can be profitable for both firms and individuals. Included in profitability metrics is also the inherent good generated by thoughtful, conscientious consumerism. In terms of the financial breakdown, the Federal government provides a 30% solar tax credit and Massachusetts also provides a 10% solar tax credit. These type of sensible policies are just one of many reasons why the solar industry is growing so rapidly!

Green Practices Galore!

Not only does CET focus heavily on waste reduction, but they also provide assistance on reduction guidance and how to optimize food donations, trash collections, which construction and demolition materials to use, and other topics on waste. Just like a for-profit organization that provides business to business (B2B) services, the non-profit matches people and businesses with recycling and redemption facilities. The Center for EcoTechnology truly maximizes ways to make recycling, reusing, and waste reducing easy. In Massachusetts, they rely on a partnership with RecyclingWorks to get the job done.

We at Counter Current love to write about the environment. Even more fun than writing about the environment is the ability to feature good people who are passionate about an environmentally-focused cause. Therefore, it was an absolute no-brainer getting the chance to interview a couple of recent college graduates, Morgan Laner and Natasha Nurjadin, who have delved deep in CET’s mission through their 11 month EcoFellowship Program

Morgan Laner

Morgan loves trash! While studying at Rollins College in Environmental Studies, she made the leap to study abroad her sophomore year in Australia. This decision is what sparked her passion about waste. While she was in Australia, Morgan attended a lecture. When she walked in and sat down, she initially thought it was just going to be like anything else — just a lecture. However, this one was different. The lecturer was enthusiastic about the material and discussed why the concepts of “zero waste” and “voluntary simplicity” matter in our society. Morgan recalled that it was at this moment when it all clicked. When Morgan returned to Rollins College, she increased her focus and became heavily involved in sustainability programs on campus. In particular, she focused her energies on reducing waste, increasing recycling practices, and she created the “plastic bag ban” at school.

Not only is Morgan an EcoFellow who focuses on Program Operations, but she also enjoys the challenge. Working at a nonprofit, the challenge she encountered was how to sell a free service. When she would cold call individuals, firms, and partake in other forms of outreach, she noticed most people aren’t used to hearing about free products. Her second love is crafting. In the EcoBuilding Bargains store, Morgan has demonstrated how waste can be diverted from landfills in creative and eco-friendly ways.

Another experience Morgan particularly enjoyed during her EcoFellowship was the opportunity to grow professionally. Such opportunities included shadowing other members of the CET team, talking with experts in fields she was interested in learning more about, and participating in a Career Day organized specifically for her and the other EcoFellows. For Morgan, she knows she wants to stay in the environmental sector and share her passion for waste reduction with others, so this opportunity was key toward reaching her future goals.

Natasha Nurjadin

Over the last 6 months, Natasha’s concern for the environment has really flourished! She credits the Center for EcoTechnology’s EcoFellowship Program as a key influence in developing her concern. Before her EcoFellowship, Natasha studied Earth & Environmental Science and History at Wesleyan University and was involved in the University Sustainability Office, accidentally. Her intent was to work in the Administration Office, but Natasha quickly shifted gears towards sustainability when a spot opened up.

Upon becoming an EcoFellow, Natasha found herself on the “Lifestyle Talk Shows” on Mass Appeal TV every Thursday morning. On the local station, Natasha had a platform to share her ideas with 1,000s of viewers. This platform exposed Natasha to become more comfortable with advocacy and public speaking. However, Natasha is still committed to finding a quantitative way through data management to provide an eco-friendly perspective to individual consumers and firms!

Natasha’s involvement on Building Science and Solar Access has led her to combining several atypical skills. In particular, she has learned how to incorporate urban planning with energy efficiency — not a practice most recent college graduates are familiar with! In the future, Natasha plans to continue her education in graduate school through an environmental program ranging from sustainability to urban planning. Her interests are expansive, but mesh together nicely!

In just half a year, these amazing women have done so much for the environment!

If you liked reading about Morgan and Natasha and want to meet more people like them, check out CET’s website! Further, if you want to be like Morgan or Natasha, then mark your calendars! The EcoFellowship Program Application is open and available until February 17. Follow them also on Twitter, @CETOnline!

The Conservative Case for Conservation

Believing in climate change and being a conservative are not mutually exclusive values. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Failure to support the scientific link that climate change is caused by human activity is ideologically incongruent with conservatism.

Historically, conservatives have supported climate change initiatives. President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, President Ronald Reagan signed the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1986, President George H.W. Bush commissioned the National Climate Assessment by passing the Global Change Research Act of 1990, and, then, his son rejected his predecessors by failing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.  

President Trump, with this established precedent, then exited from the non-binding Paris Agreement and cemented a party of skeptics. According to Yale University as of 2018, “only 40% of conservative Republicans,” believe climate change is real and “only 26%” believe it is the result of human activity. Make no mistake, this is a rejection of conservative principles.

Conservative ideology is predicated upon two key concepts: self-determination and traditionalism. Self-determination, more or less, is the ability to make decisions about one’s life while traditionalism is how an aggregate of individuals ought to live in society.  

Conservative beliefs stem from how the relationship of these ideas interact. Well-known positions, albeit misnomers, like small government or free markets, advance self-determination within a framework of traditionalism. For example, no rational citizen wants smog so bad that highways close, like in China, which is a clear example of how sensible environmental regulation must be balanced with appropriate market incentives for firms and individual freedoms to drive.  

Honestly, these misnomers have replaced the analytical framework for some conservatives, which is why federal actions to expand executive, judicial, or legislative powers are met with reactionary criticism. Some of this criticism is valid, while other criticism isn’t.

There is a requisite amount of federal expansion that must happen. In other words, conservatives and liberals are all born into a social contract. As citizens, certain freedoms are traded for safety. For example, if we want to have a formidable military, we must have non-zero taxation. The question, then, is what do we fund? Or, more accurately, what do we value?

When it comes to taxes, less is more. Unless a project is capital intensive or involves a common good, we do not necessarily need government involvement. From social security to public education to healthcare initiatives, these programs are plagued with fraudwaste, and abuse from misaligned incentives and short-sighted policy goals. Of course that list is not exhaustive and both the military and private sector are liable for similar failures.  

Matthew Kotchen of Yale University argues that a common good is both non-rival and non-excludable. The environment is an example of a common good. Roads, schools, public parks, and community services are all ideas built on a physical foundation— the environment.  Essentially, citizens are stakeholders of common goods through taxation. Naturally, citizens must also derive benefits from taxation. Otherwise, why bother paying taxes?   

Environmental stewardship may be nonpartisan, but application is not. Simply put, the problem starts with the intellectually dishonest denial and blatantly uninformed skepticism by many on the right. Failure to acknowledge how air pollutants are hurtful, regardless of greenhouse gas emissions, should be intuitive. These negative externalities only exacerbate the unnecessary gridlock that makes fixing flawed cap-and-trade policies or revenue-neutral carbon taxes harder. Hell, even Mattis believes that climate change negatively impacts our national security.  

Conservatives know the Environmental Protection Agency is flawed. However, the Republican Party’s first reactions are to shut it down instead of meaningful reform— denial over integration of environmental practices in classrooms, and not advocacy for community driven solutions at an individual consumer level.

To elaborate, reducing greenhouse gases have made our soldiers more lethal and decreased air pollutants allows us to live longer. Community solutions are inherently a conservative trait as the mantle of responsibility resides with ‘the’ individual. Further, youth organizations, like the Girl Scouts, teach environmental stewardship at an early age and the benefits of private sector sales.

Essentially, consumers drive our markets, our wars, and our environment’s health.  Let’s not punish bartenders with ridiculous straw ban penalties of imprisonment, but the cost of sourcing green consumer products is a more pure form of capitalism because the life-cycle pollution costs are taken into account.  

Conservatives will define crucial moments in history. As the champions of emancipation, of stewardship, and of nuclear disarmament, there is a choice.  We can be a skeptic, a believer, or deny the impact of human activity on greenhouse gases.  However, we owe it to our predecessors to understand what we value as conservatives.  

Thanks for reading. This article was originally published on Lone Conservative.

Disclaimer:  All views are my own.  None of my positions represent the Department of Defense, the U.S. Air Force, or any stance of the U.S. Government.

Kier Mellour: Eco Bikini Girl

Be Glam and Give a Damn.

Kier Mellour is the hottest environmental fashion, beauty, and travel blogger to hit the L.A. scene. Her wildly successful “classy, sassy, over-the-top style” fashionista blog is emblematic of the true Kier Couture image. However, at first glance, many wouldn’t know that Kier Mellour lives a not-so-secret, double life. Just like Christian Bale was the best Batman of our generation, Kier Mellour is unequivocally the best “Eco Bikini Girl” of our generation. She demonstrates on a daily basis that it is possible to both take care of our planet and remain ever-so fashionable. Or, in her words, you can “be glam and give a damn'.

Boy Scouts, Water Taste Test, and An Instagram Friend

Kier’s life — like all great stories — starts in the outskirts of a small town. Growing up as a regular kid in the Pacific Northwest, she learned to foster a great love and respect for nature, animals, and the earth. She credits her father and his former experience as a Boy Scout for nurturing her love for the wild. Whether she was camping in the summer, growing their own food, or reading books inside when it rained, Kier learned what it meant to incorporate sustainable practices into daily life. For example, she would mend clothes and fix toys instead of tossing them or buying new. This lifestyle made her that friend who would talk about how to live an eco-friendly life in a consumer-based society. That’s a good thing. You want to be that friend because environmental causes are not fringe issues, they are universal common goods that impact the lives of everyone.

Q: “After your first photo and beach clean-up, what happened?” —Ryan

A: “I began to talk more about plastic and easy swaps people could make in my stories and I realize that my audience was really interested in hearing more… They started to ask questions and I started to get messages about how much I had inspired them to make changes in their life which just encouraged me further.” —Kier

In 2017, Kier wanted to create more videos for her Youtube channel. The idea was to conduct a blind taste test of water bottles in California. Oddly enough, California was also experiencing a severe drought, even though Kier was buying most of her water bottles from the state. How was the private sector able to sell water that originated from a state that, supposedly, was lacking water sources? After extensive research, she discovered how terrible bottle water was for the environment. She thought about what she learned until one fateful day at the beach. Kier could absolutely not just relax in the sun or lie in the sand, as plastics had washed ashore and were scattered around the formerly, pristine beach. Therefore, she took action. She spent the day cleaning up the beach and at the end, she had her picture taken. Nearly immediately, the photo spread like wildfire and her flame for the environment was ignited even more.

Eco Bikini Girl represents that “women can be intelligent, conscious, and compassionate as well as stylish, sexy, and beautiful.”

Following the first beach clean-up, Kier started to participate in clean-ups once or twice a month. She also began following an Instagram account @CleanOurSeas and quickly became friends with the account manager, Natalie. After several Direct Messages (DM) and with the goal to spread as much awareness as possible, Kier began to write “#CleanOurSeas” on Instagram posts to encourage others to cleanup the environment. Naturally, Natalie loved Kier’s work and featured the post on the @CleanOurSeas account. Unfortunately, a male — unnamed for this article — derisively degraded the purpose of Kier’s actions. He insinuated that she had only participated in these clean-ups for Instagram “likes” and not because she cared for the environment. At that moment, the “Eco Bikini Girl” was born and she hasn’t looked back.

Thoughts on Consumer Behavior and Environmental Stewardship

With respect to consumer behavior, there are two great options that Kier recommends. The first is re-homing products and the second is to buy secondhand. As a consumer-based society, the value of our dollar is important. In fact, we have the ability to vote for the society we want based upon the products we sell. Therefore, it is necessary to practice a certain level of mindfulness when browsing Amazon or shopping in L.A.

“Literally, I’ve posted “free clothes hangers” and had a friend come and pick them up within an hour. There is so much stuff already out there, but you could use this tactic in reverse, as well…”Does anybody have a blow up mattress I could borrow for a week” will not only save you money, but it might reconnect you with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. [Facebook] prohibits you from buying something that you might not need forever.” —Kier on Consumerism

Further, Facebook and other social media platforms are great tools when connecting with others. It’s more than possible and should be encouraged to reach out to friends and family when it comes to products you may need for only a short amount of time. Whether it is borrowing a blow-up mattress or giving away hangers, there is not a need to constantly “buy”. However, thoughtful exchange could revolutionize the way we interact with others by furthering friendships and protecting our planet at the same time.

Thoughts on Defining Success and Environmental Stewardship

Success occurs on an individual level for Kier. Whenever there is a shift in thinking from someone who did not recycle and now they recycle, refuse, reuse, and practice conscious green consumerism — that is a win. She definitely feels successful in proactively reaching out to others, but her greater goal is to curb cigarette waste. Cigarette brands ought to switch to compost-able, natural filters. As many readers may know, cigarette butts are the number one most littered item, so if there was a shift from cigarette firms (either through legislation or profitability metrics) that would be a huge success. The implementation is the difficult part.

Thoughts on Politics and Environmental Stewardship

As a libertarian, Kier often finds herself arguing with both sides and, generally, thinks government should stay out of a person’s life. However, as an environmentalist and as a libertarian that possesses a strong belief in limited government, she is very torn on the best method to decrease nonessential plastics. Taxes on nonessential plastics or incentives in the form of tax credits or subsidies often come to mind — however, she is conflicted.

In Oregon, the cash redemption value machines have had astonishing success — it would be excellent if programs like these could be implemented nationwide. Witnessing the “success of common sense laws” that allow for cashback or discounts help any person on a budget. Further, it keeps plastic, glass, and metal containers in a circular economy for longer without needing to be placed in a landfill or dumped into an ocean. Anecdotally, California could be massively improved by implementing machines that are more visible, in higher frequency, and socially encouraged. However, often times these machines are swarmed with homeless people which typically makes it less than appealing to most people — this is another social problem that ought to be addressed.

“We can’t trust the government to protect us — we need to be the change we see.”

On the flip side, our government is incredibly wasteful — “I don’t think they know anything about how to be sustainable!” If sustainability was a greater focus, recycling and redemption facilities would be more frequent and self-education on the topic would be less necessary. Similar to the idea of including the true environmental cost when taxing a company for using plastic, it is not that rough of a thought to consider plastic as hazardous waste. This term would require companies who produce it to be responsible for disposal and cleanup. This is a realignment of our consumer-based economy, again, to reflect the true environmental costs.

Clearly, any policy change would need bipartisan support. The easiest way to make a change now is to convince others to “vote with their dollar” and not buy plastic. Companies want to be profitable. Companies will realign their strategic vision and operations to what the consumer wants and that’s why the “consumer truly holds the most power”. Changing our actions on a personal level are a lot easier than changing laws that have undercurrent agendas.

Counter Current Parting Thoughts

This article is dedicated to Vivian. Vivian is Kier’s chihuahua who was laid to rest on January 30th. For the last 13 years, Vivian is the one who showed the world that “you can be small and make a huge difference.” Nothing will replace you Vivian and you are forever treasured in the hearts of so many. We love you.

If you liked what you read, be sure to subscribe to Kier’s YouTube channel, follow her Instagram, and pray for Vivian. All links are in the article.

Guilt-Free Ice Cream!

Hate Mondays?

Imagine getting ice cream after a long, dreadful Monday. Imagine it being vegan Haagen Dazs ice cream. You know the kind that tastes even better than the rich, melt-in-your mouth, yummy tasting normal ice cream we all crave and love? Better yet, imagine the Haagen Dazs ice cream in a reusable stainless-steel container delivered straight to your house! With that kind of service, who would ever dare to leave the house?

Well, folks, this dream can become a reality in New York City or Paris. By this spring, Loop has teamed up with major consumer product companies such as Tide, Crest, Nestle (producers of Haagen Dazs), The Body Shop, and others to begin one of the largest zero-waste initiatives ever. While recycling is great, it is impossible to keep up with how many times people throw away single-use items.

Loop’s zero-waste solution is to deliver a large range of products that are less harmful to the environment. From toothpaste to cleaning supplies to laundry detergent to ice cream, the Loop will have it covered. Just like Amazon, the items you purchased will be delivered to your doorstep by UPS. However, instead of cardboard boxes, engineers are designing reusable tote bags that are designed for durability. Once you have used up the products, just send it back and Loop will automatically replenish whatever you used. Loop also uses stainless steel containers in the process that are cleaned, sterilized, and then reused for the next customer.

This innovative packaging will have a 50-75% better impact than other conventional alternatives.

"We need foundational changes. Our version of the foundational change is: How do we solve for disposability at the root cause…”

Tom Szaky, CEO and co-founder of TerraCycle

This analysis is conducted by TerraCycle, a major recycling company that works with Loop’s supply chain to find sustainable and cost effective ways of reducing costs and pollution. This first step will create monumental change away from a disposable consumer society to a more eco-conscientious one. Simply put, by Tom Szaky, Loop and other corporate partners are changing the world from “disposable to durable”.

By 2050, plastic will outweigh the fish in our oceans.

Between TerraCycle and Loop’s zero-waste initiative, the top 10 largest plastic polluters are working to transition towards a zero-waste environment by 2025. This is reminiscent of the 1900s when milk bottles were deliver to the doorsteps. Why not go back to a similarly effective model? With Loop, they have designed it in an effective way for the modern world. Profitability and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive.

Not only are the 21st century environmental stewardship practices for corporations more targeted and have the ability to be better than ever, but your delicious Haagen Dazs ice cream will stay colder for longer. Be sure to thank that stainless steel double layered container and enjoy! 

Go ahead and reserve a spot to be apart of this growing, guilt-free trend! Get your spoons ready because I know I am! Mmm.

RecyProcity: Get Paid to Recycle

RecyProcity, a New York based firm, will pay you to recycle.

Yes, you read that right. RecyProcity is one-of-a-kind and absolutely revolutionary. Founded by Chris and Gennine Hauser in Walden, New York, this husband and wife duo are passionate about recycling. As avid bottle and can redeemers, they witnessed how difficult it was to recycle. Whether it was the long lines, broken machines or some other trite issue, it was an overall frustrating experience. However, they were still amazed at the money they had saved by recycling.

To them, recycling was common sense. However, they couldn’t understand why only a small percentage of people recycle. Well, in addition to the issues above, they uncovered that an inaccurate social stigma existed around redeeming recyclable materials like bottles and cans. Essentially, they found many believed it “isn’t worth the time and effort”. However, with the extra money in their wallets, they knew this wasn’t true and felt an obligation to get every individual imaginable to participate in the redemption process.

Over the next two years, they did loads of research. Ultimately, they concluded that motivation to separate recyclables stemmed from a reward. The Hauser family decided to take matters into their own hands by aligning the financial incentives with the work. This effort was mean to streamline and improve an inefficient process. This inspired them to create RecyProcity.

“Every school in bottle redemption states can raise THOUSANDS of dollars a year by using RecyProcity. Money for books, field trips, supplies and so much more can be raised, all while teaching our children the importance of caring for the environment.”

While the RecyProcity app will be completed later this spring, functionally, the app does two main things. Firstly, it has a “Drop & Go” function that allows users to drop pre-tallied and labeled bags of recyclable materials at redemption facilities. After the redemption facilities verify and itemize each drop-off, the customers are then paid via direct deposit to a linked account. No machines. No lines. No Waiting. Secondly, an “Exchange” is set-up to allow users to bid on recyclable material or waste with an asking price or a request for a donation. Think about it as the eBay of recyclables. Others on the “Exchange” can then view and negotiate times to pickup the materials and collect the cash from the “Drop & Go” system. Simply put, before anything is thrown away, there is a better chance that recyclables or waste will be re-purposed for a greater social benefit. This saves users of the app both time and money.

In terms of funding, the Hauser family has invested over $250,000 into RecyProcity. They truly believe in the functionality of the app and, honestly, it is hard to not be totally in love with the idea. The duo hired a team of 8 programmers from AppyPie LLC to build the app. With a long list of over 200 redemption and recycling facilities, to include various private sector companies, the will be ready to be front-runners in this emerging market. Within 2 years, RecyProcity will be a household name for those in the multi-billion dollar redemption business. However, their greatest obstacle, they believe, will be the democratization of the industry from the redemption facilities to the hands of the private citizens. They have the “drive and desire to make this happen,” but it is not an easy process — but, it is a worthwhile one.

“We hope to change that and get the households that have never even thought of participating in this… and monetary gain is likely going to do it.”

In conclusion, the demographic that the Hauser family is trying to target are not the “hardcore recyclers” and the “environmental activists” because they will always be proactive when considering environmental implications. Rather, they want to target the average household and show them that their time and efforts are valued.

To learn more, please visit their website by clicking here. Their Twitter account is @apprecyprocity, and their Facebook page is here, and their Instagram is here. We hope you check them out because they will revolutionize this space!

Julia Hill

Julia is an environmental hero for protecting the California Redwoods.

In the last 20 years, Julia Lorraine Hill has emerged as a 20th “eco-celebrity” for her dedication to protecting the California redwoods from Pacific Lumber Company. For over 738 days, she lived in a tree called Luna and endured sickness, isolation, freezing temperatures, and innumerable challenges. For her actions, Julia Hill saved not only Luna, but also all the trees within a 200 foot radius from being cut down.

“…[W]hen you see someone in a tree trying to protect it, you know that every level of our society have failed , the consumers have failed, the companies have failed, the government has failed.”

Julia Butterfly Hill, The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods

Her story received national press and she has used that platform for good. From writing books to staying active in the environmental community — she has modeled a noble path that others have been inspired to follow.

Unfortunately, it can be dangerous to stand up for the environment. Not only do the local indigenous people face an imbalanced eco-system, that they have lived in harmony with for thousands of years, but activists are often killed.

In addition to individual killings, 2017 saw more massacres of defenders than any other year. In at least seven cases, more than four defenders were killed at a single time, which shows that perpetrators are feeling more emboldened, Leather says. In the past, killings have rarely been prosecuted.

National Geographic, Why 2017 Was the Deadliest Year for Environmental Activists

Over 207 people were killed in 2017. This number is likely lower, according to Global Witness, as certain countries that like true freedom of the press (Russia, China, Colombia, etc.) do not disclose this information. Even more upsetting is the fact that most of these deaths do not result in any prosecution of the company or of the people who commit murder.

Change starts with us. When you consume products, understand how and where companies source their goods. If the consumer doesn’t buy the products, those forests won’t be cut down.

Photo credits.

Global Security

Environmental security is global security.

Global security assurances are not partisan issues. In fact, without the integrity of our ecosystem and biosphere all the life on this planet would face great issues. For example, rising sea levels in the next few decades could displace millions of people who live in New York’s marine counties.

If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic and national-security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine.

Senator John McCain on the Senate Floor in 2007

While long term change is harder to conceptualize on a daily basis, short term change is not as hard.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed Tyndall Air Force Base. Tyndall Air Force Base is nestled in the pan handle of Florida and home to the F-22 Raptor. It was estimated that Hurricane Michael not only damaged several aircraft left at the base, but caused more than $8 Billion in damages.

The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. Hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

National Climate Assessment

According to the National Climate Assessment’s projections, hurricanes will only become more frequent, more intense, and way more destructive. Clearly, the economic cost and national strategic loss of Tyndall Air Force Base is of greater concern than lots of insurgent attacks that take place around the world. Natural disasters have the power to impact more people.

Stayed tuned to more posts on our ocean waters, marine biology, and sea beds!

Market Failures

The market is not perfectly efficient.

No matter how much one may argue, the greatest social welfare cannot come from perfectly de-regulated industries. The role of the government has a greater need to create ‘fair markets’, rather than ‘free markets’. Similarly, this is why the U.S. Government has a Consumer Financial Protection Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, and various other entities. These government entities are trying to help level the proverbial playing field by creating rules that allow for markets that have an easier access to information, have time-consistent preferences for consumers, and minimize principal-agent impact.

A market failure occurs when the market does not allocate scarce resources to generate the greatest social welfare. A wedge exists between what a private person does given market prices and what society might want him or her to do to protect the environment. Such a wedge implies wastefulness or economic inefficiency; resources can be reallocated to make at least one person better off without making anyone else worse off.

Environmental Economics by Hanley, Shogren, and White (2007)

According to the definition used by Hanley, Shogren, and White, there are hundreds of thousands of economic inefficiencies that occur in the market place. Some examples of market failures can range from externalities to public goods like the ocean or atmosphere. However, this doesn’t mean that the US Government can subsidize and tax the consumer or firms to create perfectly efficient markets — the market is much more complicated than that.

If you liked this article, expect to see more updated weekly on Counter Current. We plan to write short articles for readers to stay informed, but not to take up too much of your time! Check in regularly for fresh content!