“Toxic Textiles”: fast fashion and its effects on the environment

from West Chester Green Team, 7/29/19, by Paige Vermeulen

Green America, an environmental organization, conducted a report exploring environmental initiatives in leading clothing stores. The report looked at 14 major apparel companies to see if they were addressing issues like chemical use and waste from clothing production.

(+) means a company has a policy/goal, and metrics/plans in place; (/) means a company says it has a policy but doesn’t go into details; blank means a company does not talk about this policy. For chemicals, (•) means a company has an RSL but does not have an MRS; read full report for more details – greenamerica.org

Based on their investigations, they had four major findings:

  1. Many companies had large commitments without concrete plans, metrics, or timelines,
  2. Transparency is improving but mostly still lacking.
  3. Companies market token sustainability initiatives and brands.
  4. Overall, there are leaders and laggards.

The environment has been greatly impacted by “fast fashion”. Not too long ago, buying new clothes monthly was rare. Now, apparel stores have new clothes out every week – and American consumers purchase the clothes just as fast. Between 2000 and 2015, clothing production almost doubled! And consumers don’t hold on to their new purchases nearly as long as they used to. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that Americans throw away 70 pounds of clothes and other textiles every year. That is a massive amount of waste that is being produced – and 66% of it goes directly to landfills.

Green Team’s advice to you is to purchase new clothes only when absolutely necessary – and to use the clothes you already have as long as possible.

For more information and to read the full report, please visit the article at greenamerica.org

New Maps Show How Groundwater Affects Lakes and Rivers

100 years of pumping has reduced stream flows by 50 percent in some areas

by Jason Daley, Sierra magazine, 7/2/19

[N.b.: this is the bottom line of West Chester Green Team’s earlier article “Rain gardens / green infrastructure / Stream Protection Fee“: Our community, county and country need to see that water runoff goes back into the aquifer. Chester County does not have a problem right now, due to lots of rainfall; see much interesting data at Chester County Water Resources Authority. But the point is to be ready for any future droughts by getting our water recharging systems in place, as well as reducing excess runoff and toxic matter flowing into streams. And our municipalities do rely on the aquifer for water for human use, whether directly by pumping or indirectly by drawing water from streams.]

Photo by John_Brueske/iStock

On the surface, it’s pretty obvious how humans have altered lakes and rivers over the past century; dams have turned rivers into strings of reservoirs, the Mississippi River is more or less a concrete-lined sluice, and artificial ponds have proliferated by the thousands. Less apparent, but perhaps just as important, is how tapping into the groundwater systems that underlie the United States has impacted those streams and lakes as well. Now, a new detailed study in the journal Science Advances shows how much groundwater pumping has impacted those water bodies, in some cases reducing their flows by half. …

read more at Sierra magazine

Why Plastic is Bad


by Plastic-Free Please Action Group

1. Plastic does not go away. Only 9% of it is actually recycled (know your facts). Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, which will end up in our food.

2. Plastic negatively affects our health. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.

3. Plastic spoils our groundwater. There are thousands of landfills in the United States. Buried beneath each one of them, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.

4. Plastic attracts other pollutants. Chemicals in plastic which give them their rigidity or flexibility (flame retardants, bisphenols, phthalates and other harmful chemicals) are oily poisons that repel water and stick to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris. So, the toxic chemicals that leach out of plastics can accumulate on other plastics. This is a serious concern with increasing amounts of plastic debris accumulating in the world’s oceans.

5. Plastic threatens wildlife. Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, and it is found littered in even extremely remote areas of the Earth. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.

6. Plastic piles up in the environment. Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only 8% gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is burned or becomes litter.

7. Plastic poisons our food chain. Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their hazardous chemicals. The tiny, broken-down pieces of plastic are displacing the algae needed to sustain larger sea life that feed on them.

8. Plastic costs billions to abate. Everything suffers: tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds—because of plastic pollution. The financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable.

 

Chester County homes on display during solar tour

Daily Local News, 7/19/19

WEST CHESTER — Chester County Ready for 100 Percent Renewable Energy joins the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and hundreds of clean energy-savvy installers and grassroots organizations throughout America to showcase thousands of solar-powered homes, schools, houses of worship, non-profits and businesses ― in Chester County and across the region– for the 24th Annual National Solar Tour, the world’s largest grassroots solar event.

The event, slated for Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019 will showcase the solar, geothermal and energy efficiency technologies your neighbors are using to drastically reduce monthly energy bills, reduce health harming emissions, and enjoy tax credits and cash incentives as they improve their property values. And Chester County ranks second in solar installations in the state.

“Our Chester County Clean Energy Tour is putting out a call for community leaders to show families and businesses real-life examples of the transition to clean renewable energy,” said Kara Thorpe, a recent West Chester University graduate and Chester County resident who is coordinating the Clean Energy Tour. “We are putting out a call to businesses large and small, schools and houses of worship to showcase what we can do in our own community to harness free energy from the sun to generate electricity, warm and cool our buildings, heat water and slash monthly utility bills,” she said….

Read more at Daily Local News. See more on the Chester County solar tour here.

West Chester stands up to the state by passing a single-use plastic bag and straw ban

by Paige Vermeulen, West Chester Green Team, 7/22/19

In late June, PA Governor Wolf signed a state budget to which the General Assembly added an amendment that blocks municipalities from passing plastic bans. But West Chester became the first municipality to stand up against this legislation by passing a ban anyway — because the plastic crisis can’t wait any longer.

From “West Chester Passes Ban of Single-Use Plastic Bags and Straws,” by Justin Heinze, West Chester Patch, 7/19/10:

WEST CHESTER, PA — Before a packed crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, West Chester made history, voting to become the latest Pennsylvania municipality to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags and straws. It comes as local governments spar with the conservative state legislature that has sought to make such ordinances illegal.

West Chester’s borough council voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance. The vote comes less than a year after nearby Narberth became the first municipality in all of Pennsylvania to pass a similar measure. And it passed despite concerns expressed by council members early in the meeting that the measure defied state law.

“It is incumbent upon council to resist and if you’re going to resist, resist completely,” State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) told the gathering. “This is a clear overreach of local control.” …

Plastics ban meeting

Please read the full article HERE at Patch.com.

Prepared statement by Prof. Ashlie B. Delshad for the Plastics Ordinance hearing, West Chester, 7/17/19… and more info

from West Chester Green Team, 7/17/19

Borough Council approved the ordinance at an exciting and even dramatic hearing! Many thanks to the huge number of citizens who turned out to support the ordinance! Download the text of the ordinance here: https://wcgreenteam.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/plastic-bag-and-straw-ordinance-wc-for-7-17-19.pdf. One change was made: the effective date was moved from January 1 to July 2, 2020 (the day after the reports stipulated by the state government’s would-be delaying action are due). See background and the summary and text in which the General Assembly tried to block the ordinance in our post. “Harrisburg vs. West Chester.” Although Professor Delshad did not get a chance to be among those who spoke at the hearing, we are posting her eloquent prepared statement as one more piece of evidence why the ordinance needed to be passed:

In 2015, 73% of West Chester voters cast their ballots in favor of our Community Bill of Rights, which includes the following language:

“We the people of West Chester Borough, Pennsylvania, find that our current system of government fails to recognize our self-governing authority because corporations may assert their “rights” to override our laws; our local government and elected representatives can be preempted by the state or federal government even when our elected representatives act to protect our community’s health, safety, and welfare; and our local government is banned from adopting and enforcing laws that have not been authorized by the state…

Read more and see further links at West Chester Green Team

“Recycling is supposed to be the last resort” – Why our recycling system is broken

by Paige Vermeulen, West Chester Green Team, 7/6/19

The US Recycling System Is Garbage (Sierra Magazine, 6/26/19, by Edward Humes) details the many issues in the US’s current recycling system. Most of what you put in the bin doesn’t actually get recycled, and recycling is now coming as a cost to our economy – and it’s all because China stopped accepting our dirty plastics.

Since about 1992, the US has been selling our plastic waste to Asia, namely China, because it is easier and less costly than processing it here. Then, the plastic would be processed under lax environmental conditions, along with much of it being dumped into rivers.

Prior to this offshoring, the US actually had a fairly healthy recycling system. In the ’70s and ’80s, US consumers would clean their recyclables and separate the materials. After we started shipping away this waste, the system deteriorated, as we no longer had to deal with the problem. Nowadays, consumers will throw anything into the recycling bin – from dirty food containers to old furniture. …

read more at West Chester Green Team,