Mongolia’s sandstorms and eco-unfriendly fashion brands 

in June 2nd, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of June 2, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Coming off the heels of Global Accessibility Awareness Day last week, we’re celebrating Mississippi teen Alexis Roberts for becoming the first deaf player in the state to sign a Division 1 basketball scholarship. A 6-foot tall forward, she’s scored more than 1,000 career points and 500 rebounds. She’s now signed to play for the Jackson State Tigers, where her future coaches and teammates are being enrolled in sign language courses to learn how to communicate with their newest addition.


SANDSTORMS

Mongolia’s deadly sandstorms

Sat May 30

Mongolians are getting buried alive in the worst sandstorm season in a decade, affecting both Chinese and Mongolian regions bordering the Gobi Desert. The series of eight storms persisted over the past three months, leading to the deaths of nine herders and 1.6 million livestock so far, hundreds of cancelled flights, and pollution 20 times over the healthy limit, exacerbating respiratory issues. 

Though it’s not from a lack of foresight. Starting in 1978, China has planted 66 billion trees along its border with the Gobi in anticipation of future sandstorms. But this year's sandstorms were so severe that sand hurled well above the line of trees intended as a protective wall. These sandstorms are so massive because of:

  • Climate change, of course, as Mongolia not only experienced an unusually dry year, but temperatures have increased by about four degrees Fahrenheit in the last 70 years.
  • Overgrazing, as the number of livestock animals tripled over the last three decades. For example, the region’s goat population has grown from five to 27 million and produces 40% of the world’s cashmere, causing concern over the death tolls from these storms.
  • Environmental degradation from all sides. The aforementioned goats eat twice as much grass as sheep thereby destroying pastureland at an unsustainable rate. Meanwhile widespread mining of gold, coal, and copper has stripped vegetation and dried up water sources, accelerating desertification.

Experts worry that unless the situation can be brought under control, Mongolia could be entirely desert within the next 40 years. While efforts to prevent desertification have been ongoing for decades — such as subsidies to help herding families reduce livestock — the quality of life for many Mongolians leave little room for more sacrifice. 

Some additional resources...


ECO-UNFRIENDLY

Fashion brands might face stricter green regulation for misleading consumers 

Thu May 27

Eco-friendly packaging might just be a green disguise tricking buyers. Over the years, consumers have increasingly demanded more environmentally conscious practices. In response, companies began greenwashing, a tactic where more effort is put into promoting superficially green initiatives than actually becoming sustainable. Now consumers and agencies alike are catching on. 

A recent investigation even found that as much as 40% of environmental claims could be misleading consumers. Conducted by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), a global network representing over 65 countries, the finding unveils just one part of a complex problem that includes...

  • A complex global supply chain. Brands can source and assemble in a few countries and then sell in many others. With each country touting their own consumer protection standards, the labeling process can be complex and allow brands to even bypass some standards.
  • Vague terminology. Some brands use “eco,” “sustainable,” “recycled,” or “organic” even when the terms only somewhat apply. For example, a brand might label a product as “recycled” when only a small percentage of the product is made with recycled material.
  • Big brands dominate search results by buying up those same vague terms for search ads, making it difficult for brands genuinely committed to sustainability to compete in the space or be discovered by consumers.

So what’s actually being done about it? In the U.S., two genuinely eco-friendly brands have sent a joint letter to the Federal Trade Commission to review its Green Guides (which haven’t been updated since 2012) and apply guardrails to words such as “sustainability” and “organic.” Meanwhile in the U.K., the Competition and Market Authority plans to release new guidelines for making environmental claims on July 16th. And in the Netherlands, five rules of thumb for such claims were released last month.  

Some additional resources... 


ASCII OF THE WEEK
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Wow, that was sustainably made?!

Well, the box it came in was.

Art Credit: ascii.co.uk