Questionably regulated pesticides and not so eco-friendly fashion

in July 16th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of July 16, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Did you know some companies introduced expiration dates on food labels as a marketing tool to make food appear fresh and flavorful? But more recent studies show these dates aren’t an actual reflection of when food goes bad and instead lead to excessive food waste. In the U.S. alone, a 2013 report found that American families throw out somewhere between $1,365 and $2,275 every year. With food shortages sweeping the country, food prices rising due to a pandemic-struck market, and over 40 million people living with food insecurity and hunger, we thought these insights served as a critical reminder to do our best to avoid food waste.


PESTICIDES

The growing threat of pesticides in the U.S. that keeps getting ignored

Thu Jul 8

The Biden administration’s position on pesticides isn’t as different from Trump’s as he made it seem. The former administration approved a number of environmental policies that experts proved kills bees, harms children, and jeopardizes 1,284 endangered species. In response, Biden (on his very first day in office) promised to review these decisions with a pledge to limit exposure. Instead, his administration is defending at least five of Trump’s policies as they stand, including the approval of a highly toxic pesticide that is known to harm humans and already banned in 100+ countries by international treaty.

That said, it’s tough to expect any administration to make sweeping changes considering the long, intertwined history between chemical companies and the EPA’s pesticide office.

  • In 1947, a law was passed prioritizing economic advantages over environmental ones. Still serving as the main guide for pesticide oversight today, the law was written to make approvals of new pesticide products easy — not protect human health. This has made it easy for regulation problems to persist through changing presidential administrations.
  • Between 2011 and 2018 the EPA’s pesticide office granted 89% of requests to waive toxicity tests. Over 90% of these waived tests look for developmental neurotoxicity, chronic cancer, or harm to the immune system. Forgoing the tests saved the companies a total of $300M (since they pay for them).
  • In recent years, pesticide companies have also been investing more in lobbying their products while some even donated millions to Trump’s team. In fact, EPA employees who side with them often see faster career advancement.

And with warming temperatures due to climate change, the pesticide problem will only worsen. Pests thrive in hotter climates, requiring farmers to protect their crops, even at risk to their own health, by increasing the use of pesticides — which could further worsen climate problems. Some states have attempted local legislation to help ban the use of the harmful pesticides, but it’s clear federal guidance is still needed for full protection of people and the planet. 

Some additional resources...


FASHION

Renting clothes might not be as eco-friendly as we think

Tue Jul 6

With the fashion industry generating 5% of global emissions, it’s no surprise companies are promoting greener alternatives. But a new study finds that renting products — celebrated as one of the biggest solutions to the problem — is actually less green than just owning and disposing. How?

  • It starts with the circular economy, a system where garments are “circulated” for maximum use until returned safely to the biosphere at the end of their lifecycle. The term dates back to the 1970s but more recently started trending in fashion.
  • The latest study explores the circulation of a pair of jeans through five different models, ultimately finding that renting resulted in the highest climate impact due to the increased use of dry cleaning (considered harmful to the environment) and constant transportation between warehouses and renters.
  • Researchers also found that many major rental brands use the termcircular economy to greenwash, a tactic where more effort is put into promoting superficially green initiatives than actually becoming sustainable.
  • Skeptics, though, point out that the study assumes the jeans are worn at least 200 times (which some argue is idealistic and not reality).

Overall, the number of times a garment is worn has decreased 36% even though global fashion production has roughly doubled in the past 15 years. And though the greenest thing to do is simply get more use out of a product for longer, motivating that behavior through policy can be also be tougher. To that end, the E.U. is working on legislation to incentivize textile reuse or recycling — though the study warns the circulation of materials, such as using recycled plastics to create new plastics, can require more energy than producing virgin materials. The ideas in motion include assurances that products are durable and rid of hazardous chemicals, accountability in the textile industry for product lifecycle (purchase to disposal), and extension of the right to repair garments. If you’re a business that trades in the E.U., there’s still time to contribute your thoughts on what the bill should include. 

Some additional resources... 


ASCII OF THE WEEK
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I don’t care what the label says, I think you’re in egg-cellent condition!

Art Credit: Joan Stark

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