Our Greatest Challenge and Awareness Issues?

Akin to war, humanity is on the precipice of the greatest challenge. That is, existence. The outcome, however, is unknown and continuous. Therefore, every decision even the seemingly innocuous ones have massive ramifications. Further, big questions, such as understanding how governmental institutions and private sector forces ought to allocate seemingly abundant resources like capital or labor are more than challenging. This begs questions like: How should incentives be structured? What behavior ought to be promoted? How do we know if the implementation of certain policies are effective? Why should we solve climate change when initial investments to curb greenhouses will generate more carbon to be released? What is the right balance between saving the world, our fellow humans, and not derigging the economy that would lead to mass unemployment reflective of the Great Depression?

While some questions will remain unanswered, every generation on this planet has the ability to adopt the “Greatest Generation” moniker. But, we must start today. To reiterate, we stress impact over ideology. Pragmatism over rigidity. To elaborate, from famous activists like Julia Hill (defended a California Redwood tree for two years) to corporate leaders like Howard Schultz (former Chairman and CEO of Starbucks from 1986-2000 and 2008-2017) to our beloved parents, every person is a stakeholder in the ecological preservation of our planet. Stereotypes from the ‘conservative climate change denying capitalist’ to the ‘liberal tree hugging environmental-socialist’ are infantile and, either, distractionary or, potentially, detrimental to real progress. Or, in other words, from the arid, dusty battlefields of Afghanistan to aisle seven at Walmart, the individuals and infrastructure of a nation-state ought to incentive ‘Green Economics’. But, how?

Well, in November 2009, the Council on Foreign Relations published a comprehensive report about the “Public Opinion on Global Issues”. Similar to any issue is understanding and accepting that a problem exists -- like the 12 step sequence by Alcohol Anonymous. In particular, the report described the results of various respected polling agencies and concluded the following:

“Perception of Climate Change as a Problem or Threat A majority in every country polled says that global warming is a problem or a threat and that governments should give it a high priority, while only small minorities say it is not a problem. Despite these numbers, people tend to underestimate how much other people are concerned about climate change. While the number of people concerned about climate change has been increasing for some years, recent polls indicate that it may be leveling out.”

    -Page 1, Chapter 5a: World Opinion on the Environment

Based upon the Council on Foreign Relations’ findings, the issue is predominately not the lack of awareness.


Esther Duflo and Impact over Ideology

“Part of me always wanted to do something useful in the world. It came from my mother. She is a pediatrician and she was active in a small NGO for the child victims of war.”

--Esther Duflo, Economics Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Every year, over 300,000 deaths are attributable to climate change related issues. Even worse, the infiltration of pollutants and other negative, third-order effects of consumerism have impacted every facet of our ecosystem. From various levels of degradation in our air quality to temperature-related deaths or illnesses, every person on the planet is a shareholder in the success of our environment’s health and, certainly, we are all liable for various failures.

Given the loss of human life related directly to climate change, it is important to challenge the presumption that climate change is a future problem. Rather, it is a present problem. Therefore, an examination surrounding climate change and the way we live must not be confined to the academic realm. Instead, a radical approach on the issue that incorporates morality, philosophy, and pragmatism must establish a framework to provide a logical basis of why sustainable thinking ought to be promoted. Ideally, this framework shift will further efforts to preserve the sanctity of life of our precious planet and the lives of our fellow humans.

Sadly, climate change is far from easy to solve and is exacerbated by other, pressing social needs. Around the world, problems heavily impede the development of countries south of the equator. A lack of clean water, a distrust of preventative medicines in urban and rural settings, and inadequate supply chains that unevenly distribute ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in our societies are only a few issues that draw attention away from environmental economic inclusion. Furthermore, this, of course, does not include the religious conflicts and sectarian violent outbreaks that further entangle implementation of policy solutions devised by academic, public policy professionals, and subject matter experts.

Moving forward, the best approach to tackling complex crises is to favor impact over ideology through framing environmental and economic successes as contextual rather than generalizable. Whether grand universal theories exist to unite our understanding is not the intended purpose of this book -- instead, ideally, our readers will further an understanding of how to shift their personal habits towards sustainable development and internalize the importance of environmental economics. Hopefully, ideas will align, naturally, with solutions.


BRIEF COMMENTARY: El Salvador, Elliot Abrams, and Rep. Omar

BRIEF COMMENTARY: The House Foreign Affairs Committee Looked Like an Episode of Reality TV, Yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is, again, in hot water. Yesterday, in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Omar attempted to take down Elliot Abrams. For those unfamiliar with Elliot Abrams, he is universally viewed as a neoconservative, foreign policy icon. Although, he was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, he has impressive credentials and serves as a Fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations which is notoriously difficult to obtain.

El Salvador was a particular focal point in the back-and-forth between the freshman congresswoman and the veteran foreign policy icon. While Rep. Omar’s line of questioning attempted to emphasize the failures of U.S. diplomacy, our team at Counter Current wanted to examine the biodiversity, climate, and geography. Has there been any improvement in the El Salvador’s environment since it became a ‘more free’ country?

Biodiversity, Climate, and Geography

El Salvador lacks a robust environmental policy to protect the biodiversity of its species. However, in 1997 and in 1999, the government established the ‘Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ and passed legislation that can most accurately be described as “general environmental framework law”. The path forward has precedent, but conservation efforts need vast improvement — from carbon tax regulation to wildlife efforts.

In terms of climate, El Salvador is exposed to a massive array of natural disasters because of its geography. Located near two Teutonic plates and given El Salvador’s proximity to the equator, the country is immensely susceptible to both cataclysmic weather events, volcanic activity, and earthquakes. The randomness of a flood destroying 80% of crops, like in 2001, makes El Salvador’s ability to act in an environmentally conscience manner more challenging. Further, the high poverty rates coupled with unfortunate geographical position of the country, ultimately, inhibits a sustainability focus as the country cannot move past Kuznet’s curve.

Why Germany Should Abandon Coal

On January 31st, Germany’s Coal Commission debuted its recommendations to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038. The plan, derided by some as "dumb" is hardly that. This plan is not perfect, but it confronts two important challenges: healthcare cost containment and greenhouse gas reduction.

Without equivocation, coal is harmful to society.  Between coal dust inhaled by miners that causes lung cancer to air pollutants released from coal-burning facilities, the economic calculus is clearly negative.  Containing healthcare costs requires a market-based solution and it starts with either capturing the negative consequences of an economic action or prohibitive legislation or both.

For example, Canada has employed a successful revenue-neutral carbon tax since 2008 in British Columbia.  The revenue-neutral carbon tax shifted the taxation burden from ‘desirables’ such as taxing income or sales to ‘undesirables’ such as greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, the policy was shown to have a negligible effect on economic growth and led to a 15% reduction on provincial emissions. Simply put, if Germany does not move forward with the precedent established by Energiewende (Ammendment to the EEG) and the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG or German Renewable Energy Act), the society will absorb the cost through increased healthcare taxes or less healthy citizens.  

Germany’s plan to address climate change, a critical threat to the environment, starts with the reduction of fossil fuel emissions.  It is universally well-known that climate change is linked, inextricably, to fossil fuel consumption. Emissions release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increase carbon dioxide levels, trap heat, and raise temperatures.  

Further, the failure to shift away from an archaic and inefficient energy source is speculated to lead to dire results.  In a U.N. report, higher temperatures are predicted to cause life-threatening heat waves, water shortages, coastal flooding, and mass migration. Germany is well-equipped to rely more in renewable energy resources. In 2018, 40% of Germany’s electricity mix came from renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. Coal-fired plants release more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than any other energy source, according to Green America, an energy advocacy group whose mission is to harness economic power to create a “socially just and environmentally sustainable society”.

Over the next 20 years, members of the Coal Commission, private sector, and other government officials will be able to curtail dependence on coal.  Chancellor Merkel would be wise to adopt the commission’s recommendations.

This article was co-written by Matthew Minor and Ryan Harden.

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!

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!

The Eco Shed

The Eco Shed, a store based in England, sells environmentally-friendly household products.

After three months of successful sales in the Trinity Market, a young entrepreneur decided to take his business online. Based out of the fishing city Hull in East Yorkshire, England, Kallum wanted to share his love of the oceans with others. As the son of a fisherman, Kallum’s dad taught him about the importance of oceans from an early age. Coupled with the hit British TV Series, Blue Planet 2, his natural affinity for the environment was nurtured even further. The love imparted to him by his father and cinematographic productions was the basis for his inspiration to start The Eco Shed.

“I was brought up being told to look after the planet, especially the oceans.”

—Kallum

When we were in correspondence, our team asked Kallum how he defines success. To him, he quickly replied that “success to us is spreading the message about looking after the environment to our city and even further”. Clearly, Kallum wants and will make a global impact, but understands that actions start on a local level first. Further, he also believes that this success is achievable, but understands the constraints of only using social media. He has advocated for environmentally-friendly practices at schools, colleges, local groups, and talked on the radio. He is keen on getting the word out and explaining why the oceans matter to him.

Before starting The Eco Shed, Kallum researched what consumers wanted and reflected on his experience as a consumer. To him, he had the greatest issue with plastics — especially single-use plastics. Even more so, so many firms offer alternative products that an individual consumer can purchase that are better aligned with protecting the health of the planet.

Lastly, our team asked him how consumers should be modifying their behavior. How might an individual better respect the oceans? Kallum suggested that firms could provide “warnings on packaging very similar to cigarette warnings. I’ve heard on the grapevine that this may happen, but you never know!” Further, Kallum essentially advocated for having the environmental consequences of using single-use plastics be added into the price of a product. He mentioned firms could “always just cut out single use plastics in their stores and offer the alternatives without the option of single use plastics” for an additional 10 or 20 pence.

Finally, the Counter Current team would like to extend a massive thank you to The Eco Shed for allowing us to conduct our first interview!! We have two other fantastic interviews lined up, so be sure to check back later today and tomorrow!

If you wish to learn more about The Eco Shed, click here! If you wish to follow them on Twitter, they are @ecoshed. If you wish to follow them on Instagram, they are @theecoshed.

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!

Electric Vehicles

Buy an Electric Car, If You Can.

Seriously. Electric Vehicles (EV) are way better than their Gasoline Vehicle (GV) peers. While most of us could intuitively guess that an EV is better for the environment — we wanted to explain why and clear up any confusion. In fact, we looked into the manufacturing costs, a ten year time span, and the death of the vehicle.

Manufacturing

Electric Vehicles are more costly to the environment, but only during this stage. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the larger and longer-range EVs may emit up to 68% more in greenhouse gases. This sounds like a lot and it is, but the vehicle more than makes up for it when a consumer drives off the lot.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “EVs are powered by electricity, which is generally a cleaner energy source than gasoline. Battery electric cars make up for their higher manufacturing emissions within eighteen months of driving — shorter range models can offset the extra emissions within 6 months — and continue to outperform gasoline cars until the end of their lives.”

EVs charging in Vermont are estimated to produce the fewest emissions – oil and gas make up only 1.2% of the electricity sources in the state while cleaner sources such as nuclear, hydro, biomass, wind, and solar make up the rest.

Vehicles Technologies Office of the Department of Energy

Daily Life

In 2016, the Department of Energy published research on the typical “well-to-wheel” emissions of an EV. For those who have not heard the term before, well-to-wheel emissions are the upstream carbon emission costs to produce electricity that is compatible with powering EVs.

Further, energy sources like nuclear, hydro, biomass, wind or solar, generally, tend to also emit less air pollution compared to oil or gas. In nearly every scenario, the environmentally conscious consumer is helping both the environment and their wallets.

In the United States, the Federal government subsidizes the purchase by giving $2,500 to $7,500 in tax credits when a consumer buys an EV. This is supposed to stop once every car manufacturer has sold 200,000 units of ‘qualified EVs’, but this has not happened yet. For example, in Washington D.C., a Nissan Leaf consumer would be given a $5,000 tax credit on the sale of the vehicle.

Environmentally, the greenhouse gas emissions vary depending on how each state decides to produce electricity. In a state like Vermont, the “Annual Emissions per Vehicle (Pounds of CO2 Equivalent)” for using an EV was less than 1 pound. However, Vermont is an anomaly and the EV National Average is way higher.

Assuming a 10 year useful life, an average conventional car will spew out 66,000 pounds more carbon pollution than an average electric vehicle. That’s 33 tons, folks. 

Steve Hanley at Clean Technica, February 2018

The EV National Average of Emissions per Vehicle is 4,815 pounds of Carbon Dioxide — more than half of a gasoline vehicle (11,435 pounds). Even if we consider a state like West Virginia which relies heavily on coal for it’s electricity production — (95.7% of the production comes from coal) — the annual cost is 9,451 versus 11,435 pounds. Although the data is not available, it would be interesting to see if those who buy electric cars tend to be more eco-conscientous consumers and live in states more like Vermont than West Virginia.

After the Life Cycle Ends

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, disposing either type of car emits less than 1 ton of greenhouse gases. However, batteries of electric cars can be recycled or reused whereas a fuel-injected engine cannot in the same capacity.

Buy an electric car and look into tax credits!

Big Oil & Renewables

‘Big Oil’ invests more in renewable energies than any other industry.

Mistakenly, too many people listen to CNN or Fox News when it comes to the environment. Instead they should be reading articles directly from the sources in question. If a citizen wants to know what the unemployment rate is, they should not listen to the ‘ra ra’ nature of sensationalized media. Instead they should Google “unemployment rate bureau of labor statistics” and click on the link from the Department of Labor.

Similarly, for climate change they should read reputable sources from NASA to the reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite the loads of credible news sources that are readily available online, society has become increasingly partisan and closed off to facts.

To the Republicans, there is a stereotype that most Democrats are '“hippies” or “tree huggers”. To the Democrats, there is a stereotype that most Republicans are “capitalist pigs” or “climate change deniers”. Thankfully, the stereotypes are wrong.

Sixty-six percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents and 90 percent of Democrats said they believed in human-caused climate change and the utility of reducing greenhouse gases.

Shelly Leachman @ the University of California, Santa Barbara

Generally, the main disagreements are based upon blind ideological loyalty and not policy. Policy differs only slightly between the Republicans and Democrats. Republicans favor “revenue-neutral carbon taxes” while Democrats favor “cap-and-trade” policy.

Revenue-neutral carbon taxes are two-fold. Revenue-neutral means that every dollar increased with a carbon tax, there is another dollar decreased in some other aspect of government. These types of proposals take into account the negative external consequences of pollution, but offset government in another way. British Columbia in Canada was the first North American country to implement a measure.

Cap-and-trade policy is another good method of holding both consumers, firms, and government accountable. Firstly, there is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases that can be admitted. As time progresses, the cap becomes more strict which is aligned with the various climate change reports that argue we must be carbon negative in the future. Secondly, companies have the ability to buy and sell 'carbon allowances’ like any other type of market, but the higher prices incentive firms to creatively lower carbon emission.

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), which brings together 13 of the world’s top oil and gas companies, pledged earlier this year to slash emissions of a potent greenhouse gas by a fifth by 2025.

Ron Bousso from Reuters

Despite increasing pressure from governments, many are worried these multinational companies are duplicitous in blocking legislation that could help the environment. According to Jeanne Martin of campaign group ShareAction, she criticized the oil industry for “blocking climate initiatives and regulations, and [investments] in fossil fuel projects that have no place in a well-below 2 degrees Celsius world.

She could absolutely be right. However, the greatest thrust that drives companies is profit. Despite the variable renewable energy profit margins, they climbed as high as 10.21% in September 2018.

Consumers and firms must realign how they buy to change corporate culture.

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!