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How We Can Fight Climate Change One Building at a Time | Jim Newman

There is irrefutable evidence that our planet is undergoing rapid climate change transcending all social, economic, political, and geographical boundaries. The repercussions could be catastrophic if society does not take decisive action. Jim Newman, Managing Partner of Newman Consulting Group, has dedicated his life to helping businesses become more sustainable and resilient to the effects of global warming.

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Amazon Threatened to Fire Employees who Spoke Out on Climate Change, Complaint Alleges

The activist group Amazon Employees For Climate Justice has alleged that the company has threatened to fire employees who are outspoken about climate change. According to a statement released by the group on Thursday, Amazon’s human resources and legal departments targeted four employees who spoke out about the issue. Two of these employees were threatened with firings via email, according to the group. In response, the group sharply criticized Amazon’s behavior, accusing the company of attempting to suppress activism related to environmental policy. Maren Costa, an Amazon employee, said that her employment was threatened after she spoke with The Washington Post about climate change, and in a statement remarked that “this is not the time to shoot the messengers … this is not the time to silence those who are speaking out.” Members of the activist group have pressured their employer to take a more meaningful stance against climate change, including urging the company’s leaders to cease working with the oil and gas industry. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020 by investing in reforestation efforts and electric delivery vehicles, the group nonetheless believes their employer is taking insufficient action on climate.

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In response to the complaint, Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, said that the company’s policy of prohibiting communications with external organizations is nothing new, and that employees should work within their teams and internally with the company to raise their concerns and suggest improvements. Employee activism within the tech sector has been on the rise in recent years, as several Google employees protested against the search giant’s cooperation with the Pentagon, and Microsoft employees complained that their company was cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even after news broke of migrants being detained in poor conditions. Last year, Amazon Employees For Climate Justice introduced a shareholder resolution, in a letter signed by thousands of employees, asking the company to release information about how it plans to mitigate its contribution to climate change. This suggestion was rejected by shareholders in May, but a few months later Bezos announced a climate plan that met many, but not all, of the protestors’ demands. Additionally, the company lessened restrictions on allowing employees to speak with the media after a planned employee strike in September, though employees now have to ask the company for permission before discussing Amazon in any public forum.

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Though it does not fully satisfy every employee, Amazon’s planned changes to its operations to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions are substantial, as the company intends to lead the world in the fight against climate change. The plan, called The Climate Pledge, aims to achieve the goals established at the 2016 Paris Climate Summit ten years early by encouraging other companies to match Amazon’s environmental efforts. Those who signed the pledge agree to regularly release reports on their own greenhouse gas emissions, implement “decarbonization strategies” to reduce carbon emissions, and invest in technologies to neutralize any remaining carbon emissions. The goal of the pledge is to create a carbon-neutral economy by 2040, which is an ambitious goal, but one that scientists agree is essential for avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Bezos hopes that by leading the pack when it comes to climate change, he will encourage other companies to follow suit. In order to reach this goal, Bezos announced the company would spend $100 million on reforestation and order 100,000 electric vans to replace Amazon’s existing network of diesel vehicles. The company also intends to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030; currently, 40% of the energy Amazon uses comes from renewable sources. 


The 3 Best Sustainable Sneaker Brands

When it comes to emerging lifestyle brands, the importance of sustainability has become a key element of the design and marketing of many popular products as the consumer base grows increasingly aware of the environmental impact of clothing and other goods. As such, entire industries are reimagining their production pipelines to accommodate environmentally-friendly business, leveraging innovations in engineering and design to reduce their carbon footprints and  material waste. 

While they are often more expensive than their competitors, environmentally-friendly products are generally more aesthetically pleasing and durable, as rarely-utilized environmentally-friendly materials offer unique benefits. When it comes to shoes, for example, traditional materials including leather and plastic are environmentally-dubious at best and destructive at worst, as most leather is tied to the notoriously inefficient cattle industry and plastic takes centuries, if not millennia, to degrade. Recently, a number of brands have introduced shoes that are not only comfortable and stylish, but are manufactured using environmentally-friendly materials and processes, giving their customers confidence that they are dealing with ethically-sound businesses.

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Allbirds, for instance, is a brand of footwear that has exploded in popularity recently due to its unique approach to manufacturing. Instead of materials such as leather, plastic, and polyester, Allbirds sells shoes made from wool harvested from sheep in New Zealand and “responsibly harvested eucalyptus tree fibers,” among other options. Additionally, the company’s disposable packaging is made from recycled cardboard, and the shoes’ plastic laces are made from recycled bottles. 

Thanks to this choice of materials, Allbirds shoes boast properties that are unique in the industry. TIME magazine declared Allbirds’ flagship wool runners to be “the world’s most comfortable shoes,” and as they are mostly made from wool, Allbirds shoes can be thrown in the washing machine and dryer. Wool shoes keep the wearer’s feet cool in the summer and warm in winter, and due to wool’s moisture-wicking properties, you don’t necessarily need to wear socks with these shoes, though of course it doesn’t hurt. Allbirds is dedicated to being a 100% carbon neutral company, as what little carbon the company does emit is offset by a self-imposed carbon tax.

Allbirds, of course, is not the only sustainable footwear brand. Shoes made by Veja feature soles created from wild rubber harvested from the Amazon rainforest via a process that doesn’t damage the ecosystem. While Allbirds takes advantage of a minimalist, utilitarian design philosophy, Veja’s shoes are more conspicuous, with most of the company’s offerings featuring a brightly colored V symbol along the sides of the shoes. Nonetheless, Veja incorporates environmentally-friendly materials throughout the production process, including recycled fabrics and plastic as well as synthetic suede. Veja is committed not only to environmentalism, but also economic justice, as the company prioritizes treating employees with dignity and respect over cost-cutting measures. Despite the use of more expensive materials, Veja is able to sell their shoes at competitive prices because they don’t advertise.

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A third brand to consider if you’re looking for environmentally-friendly and ethically-produced footwear is Wado. Wado’s ethical pledge is similar to others in this article; the company uses sustainable materials extensively, manufactures shoes in Europe instead of Asian countries that provide cheap but unethical labor, and contributes to reforestation efforts. Wado’s style is nostalgic yet attractive, as many of their sneakers appear as though they were designed in the 1980’s, featuring thick soles and air holes for ventilation. Nonetheless, the shoes are constructed from innovative materials, like organic cotton, recycled foam and wood chips, and so-called “vegan leather.”

Sustainable brands, of course, are not limited to footwear but can be found in nearly every category of lifestyle products, whether that be clothing, accessories, or homeware. While you may have to pay a little bit extra for sustainable products like these, the knowledge that you’re helping to preserve the environment coupled with the enhanced durability and design of these items can offset the financial concern for many customers.

Climate Change Protest

TIME Special Report Emphasizes Threat of Climate Change

TIME magazine this week took the unusual step of devoting an entire issue to the subject of climate change, with every story printed in the magazine offering a different take on the subject. The issue, entitled “2050: The Fight for Earth,” recognizes the 30th anniversary of when TIME recognized the endangered Earth instead of their usual person of the year in 1989. The climate-focused edition of the magazine imagines a planet roughly thirty years in the future, exploring various outcomes depending on humanity’s reaction to the crisis through interviews with activists, celebrities, and experts. The editors of TIME suggest that while humanity has woken up to the reality of the crisis, we are ill-equipped to handle it, and hope that devoting an issue to the subject will prompt further discussion and action about reducing the causes of climate change and adapting to its effects.

TIME hopes to bring further attention to the subject with the use of digital media. The magazine’s website hosts a page devoted to the issue, offering links to the stories present in the issue and a link to download an app which grants smartphone users an immersive 3D journey through the Amazon rainforest, including areas which have been destroyed by wildfires, narrated by Jane Goodall. Called TIME Immersive, the app includes a new section devoted to visualizing the Amazon rainforest, and uses augmented reality technology to superimpose models of the rainforest onto real-world environments, allowing the user to view the models from different angles in real-time. As the user explores these virtual environments, Jane Goodall describes the extent and scope of environmental destruction, its various causes, and potential solutions. As the app is free and available for both iOS and Android, it’s worth checking out.

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In one of the issue’s featured articles, Bill McKibben, an author and environmental expert, imagines a future in which humanity has survived the worst effects of climate change, but life on Earth is dramatically different. In the article, McKibben predicts that while humanity has witnessed the destruction of forests in California due to wildfires and other extreme weather events, engineers have succeeded in developing cheap renewable energy in the form of solar panels and wind turbines, which have reduced carbon emissions dramatically. McKibben imagines that the threat of climate change becomes a decisive factor in ensuring a victory for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, especially among women, who are disproportionately displaced by climate change worldwide, and young people, who turn out to vote in record numbers. This candidate, McKibben asserts, removes the filibuster in order to pass sweeping, unprecedented legislation to end subsidies for oil and gas companies, tax carbon emissions, and invest in green energy.

The cost of adapting to the effects of climate change is massive

Despite this optimistic view, however, McKibben asserts that the worst effects of delaying action on climate change for several decades are unavoidable and yet to come, and the runaway effect will accelerate global warming and sea level rise. As a result, extreme weather events continue to displace millions of people, creating an unprecedented humanitarian and political crisis, and ancient carcasses will be released from melting ice sheets, releasing germs and diseases once thought extinct. The cost of adapting to the effects of climate change, which includes constructing massive seawalls to deal with sea level rise and building infrastructure to protect against hurricanes and other weather events, is massive, and the overall mood of humanity is changed: though we are thankful we survived climate change, we have a different outlook on man’s dominion over nature and the threat of natural forces.

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Another climate activist, Andrew Blum, gives a different take. Blum, a journalist, describes the various technological innovations that will be necessary for tackling the climate crisis. While continuing to invest in solar and wind is necessary, Blum argues that other approaches must be explored as well. Improving the electricity grid to allow for more interconnection and storage of energy is essential, Blum claims, as is innovating with safer and cleaner nuclear energy options and managing carbon in the atmosphere with sequestration.

As the major stories featured in this week’s issue are available for free online, they are worth taking a look at. TIME’s dedication of an entire issue to climate change reflects the urgency and importance of the problem; and as the climate crisis continues, more and more outlets are likely to follow suit.