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Label Education: Furniture

Laying out what certifications to look for

Home isn't home without comfortable furniture. When it's time to find something new, we usually focus on what feels and looks good, and of course the price. But did you know that furniture can contain, and leak, various chemicals like flame retardants that aren't so good for us into your home? The good news is that there are more and more healthy options! You can read our article on choosing a healthy new couch.


When you get to considering individual pieces advertised as being "green" or "healthy," you'll probably come across various labels and certifications. Decoding them can be a bit of a maze. We've gathered all the important ones here so that you know what they mean and how to use them to find that perfect piece that you'll love.

Before you launch in, here's the quick dirty on the three general things to look out for: flame retardants, VOCs (volatile organic compounds, like formaldehyde) that leak into the air from various materials and contribute to poor air quality, and stain-resistance and waterproofing treatments.

1) Flame retardants

Thanks to a California flammability standard, TB 117-2013, furniture is commonly labeled with a tag containing the language below, which makes it easy to find pieces without chemical flame retardants. These still meet safety standards for flammability, so it's a win-win. There are also older tags that say TB 117 only, no year, and with no language on flame retardants. These are likely to contain flame retardants, so be sure to look for the TB 117-2013 tags, which always have the language below! Look for these tags under the cushions or on the bottom of the couch.

2) VOCs

These are generally found in synthetic materials, so there are two easy things you can do: 1) choose natural fillers like cotton, wool, or natural latex (this allows you to sidestep flame retardants too), and 2) choose solid wood over manufactured because the glues in things like particleboard and plywood are common sources of VOC emissions. If these aren't options for you, check out the certifications below to find the lowest-emitting synthetic products.

3) Stain-resistance and waterproofing treatments

These are pretty common, but can contain some not so good chemicals. It's worth asking retailers if they have any products that don't use them. If you find something that is untreated but are worried about cleaning stains, consider going with a darker or patterned material or getting a washable cover. The GOTS and Oeko-Tex certifications (details below) don't allow the use of these treatments (learn more about these PFAS chemicals).

Good luck. It might take a bit of time to find the perfect piece, but it's well worth it—for your comfort, your health, and the planet!

a) Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

What is it? Certifies the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading, and distribution of textiles, mattresses, and furniture components made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers. There are two label grades: 1) "organic," over 95% organic fibers, and 2) "made with X% organic materials," 70-95% organic content. Read details on standards and search the product database (select Retailing or Mail Order).

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills, natural latex foam

Environmental Health: Many toxic chemical restrictions, including any chemicals linked with cancer, reproductive problems, genetic defects, or organ damage, or harm to the environment. This is a way to avoid upholstery treated with chemicals of concern including PFAS (stain resistance treatments) and flame retardants.

b) Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)

What is it? Certifies latex foam and foam-based products containing at least 95% organic latex, with chemical restrictions for both the latex and non-latex parts. Read details on the standard.

Furniture Components Certified: natural latex foam, entire pieces of furniture

Environmental Health: Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted. Use of certain toxic flame retardants and other chemicals are banned. Cotton fills and coverings must be certified by GOTS (see above) or Organic Content Standard-100 (see below). Synthetic latex and other synthetic foams are not permitted. Synthetic fabrics and fibers are permitted in interiors of products.

c) Oeko-Tex Standard 100

What is it? Certifies that textiles, mattresses, and furniture components do not contain or release certain harmful chemicals. Read details on chemical standards and search the product database.

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery fabrics, fabric-based fills, foam fills (natural and synthetic)

Environmental Health: Many toxic chemical restrictions, including limits on emissions of total and specific VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Synthetic foams are allowed as long as they meet the chemical restrictions.

d) GREENGUARD and GREENGUARD Gold

What is it? Restricts emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from a wide range of consumer and commercial products. There are two labels: 1) GREENGUARD and 2) GREENGUARD Gold (previously called Greenguard Children & Schools Certification). Search the product database and read more details on the standard.

Furniture Components Certified: entire pieces of furniture, fabrics and glues used in furniture

Environmental Health: Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted. Read details on the emissions limits. GREENGUARD Gold has stricter restrictions.

e) CertiPUR-US

What is it? Certifies that polyurethane foam in furniture and mattresses meet standards for chemical ingredients, emissions of VOCs, and durability. Read about the chemical restrictions and view a list of companies selling products containing certified foam (including but not limited to furniture).

Furniture Components Certified: polyurethane foam

Environmental Health: Requires that polyurethane foam be made without heavy metals and without certain types of phthalates and flame retardants. (This does not mean the products are completely free of potentially harmful phthalates or flame retardants.) Emissions of total and specific VOCs are restricted.

f) Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard

What is it? Product standard which provides designers and manufacturers with sustainability and social criteria across five quality categories (material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness), awarded at five levels. Also has requirements for continually improving what products are made of and how they are made. Range of certified products including clothing, home textiles, building supplies, furniture, and cleaners. Search the product database.

Furniture Components Certified: upholstery textiles, office furniture

Environmental Health: Chemicals that accumulate in the environment or can lead to irreversible negative health effects are banned. View the banned list of chemicals.

g) California Phase 2 Compliant, California 93120 Compliant for Formaldehyde

What is it? California Air Resources Board's standard for restricted formaldehyde emissions from composite (manufactured) wood products. Right now the standard is only being implemented in California, but labeled products can be found outside of CA as well. EPA is planning to implement a similar national standard at the end of 2018. Read details from CARB and EPA.

Furniture Components Certified: entire pieces of furniture, hardwood plywood, particleboard, medium density fiberboard

Environmental Health: Sets strict emissions restrictions for formaldehyde. There are additional provisions for no-added formaldehyde (NAF) and ultra-low emitting formaldehyde (ULEF), which may also be stated on products or product packaging.

h) Organic Content Standard

What is it? Assures presence and amount of organic content. OCS 100 is for products that contains 95% or more organic material. OCS blended is for products that contain 5% minimum of organic material blended with conventional or synthetic raw materials. View a list of companies certified to the organic standard.

Furniture components certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills like cotton, wool, hemp, and linen

Environmental Health: Verifies that final products contain the stated amount of organic material. Chemicals added to raw materials during manufacturing (dyes, finishes, etc.) are not addressed.

i) USDA Certified Organic

What is it? USDA seal verifies that agricultural products are grown and processed per organic standards. "Certified organic" means at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. "Made with organic" means 70-94% of ingredients are organic. Only "certified organic" products can bear the seal.

Furniture components certified: upholstery fabrics, fiber-based fills like cotton, wool, hemp, and linen

Environmental Health: Fiber materials must be grown and processed per USDA Organic standards for food, without use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. GOTS and GOLS (see above) both meet USDA Organic standards. Note that USDA Organic does not address toxic chemicals that may be found in the non-organic components.

Spooky snacks are so fun, whether you're having a Halloween party or just want to make snack time special. But so many Halloween treats use artificial dyes and food colorings, are filled with refined sugars, and/or are highly processed with lots of unnecessary plastic packaging.

Today we're sharing our two favorite super easy Halloween spooky snacks. These healthier Halloween treats are really fun to make with kids or just because it's fun to get in the spooky spirit. Both of them use homemade edible googly eyes made from mini-marshmallows and mini chocolate chips. Try them out for your next snack time or for a fun holiday gathering!

Mummy Graham Crackers with Easy Googly Eyes

Ingredients

  • Graham Crackers
  • Hazelnut chocolate butter (like Nutella or Justin's) or sub almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter
  • Coconut strips
  • Mini-marshmallows
  • Mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Spread hazelnut chocolate butter on a graham cracker.
  2. Add two marshmallows near the top edge of the graham cracker.
  3. Squish an upside down mini chocolate chip in the middle of the marshmallow.
  4. Arrange coconut strips to make the rest of the cracker look like a mummy.



Apple Monster Mouths with Easy Googly Eyes

Ingredients

  • Apple
  • Nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Mini-marshmallows
  • Mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Cut the apple into thick wedges. Then cut out a sliver on the outside of the slice for the mouth.
  2. Add nut butter into the cut out mouth.
  3. Arrange sunflower seeds to look like teeth.
  4. Add a dab of nut butter onto the sides of 2 marshmallow and slice on top of the slice for eyes
  5. Squish an upside down mini chocolate chip in the middle of the marshmallow.



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Artificial food colorings are everywhere in our daily lives. They show up in lots of foods that we eat daily, like cereals, and in lots of treats like candy and baked goods. You can even find them in places you wouldn't think to look, like tomato sauce, farmed salmon, and even pickles! They are found in so many of our foods, yet we do not think much about them. So what makes up these colors that stay bright even when heated and stored for long periods of time? Keep reading if you want to know more about what artificial food colorings (also known as artificial dyes) are made of and how they affect your health!

What are artificial food colorings and what are they made of?

First off, if we're not making a rainbow cake, why do we even need food coloring in the first place? Well, consumers prefer that the color of their food match its flavor. Sadly, a lot (up to 70%!!) of the foods Americans consume are highly processed and end up a different color than we'd expect them to be. A gray hotdog or khaki colored candy would throw us off and probably wouldn't be as appetizing, right?

While there are many natural food coloring options, many companies choose to go with artificial food colorings because they're cheaper. The FDA has approved seven artificial food colorings for consumption in the United States, but these colors can be mixed and matched to create many different shades. Here's the bad news: the majority of them are made out of petroleum and crude oil (1). Even though the final product is highly refined and is tested to not have any traces of petroleum, we really don't like the idea of consuming something made from crude oil!

Are artificial food colorings bad for my health?

The jury is still out. In 2008, the Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban artificial food colorings because of recent studies that found a small, but significant, negative effect of these substances on children's behavior (2). These substances were also found to be carcinogenic, cause hypersensitivity reactions, and instigate behavioral problems (3). These findings were largely controversial, and the FDA ruled that artificial food colorings could still be used in food products without the use of a warning label. But earlier this year, OEHHA published a study on the potential health effects of synthetic dyes in children and found that there is evidence that "indicates that synthetic food dyes are associated with adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children" (4). This information is not new to the European Union though. Six years ago, studies conducted by British government also found a link between adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in children and artificial dyes. This prompted the British government to urge food companies to stop using artificial food dyes in their products, and for the European Union to pass a new law "requiring that any food that contained [artificial] dyes ... would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity" (5). This law effectively made artificial food coloring impossible to find in foods made and sold in the EU.

Should you avoid artificial food colorings?

Even though more research needs to be done to reach conclusive findings, the current evidence is not looking good for artificial food coloring. While we wait for the results of these studies, we can take proactive steps in protecting our health. It's been established that the food we consume plays a large role in our health and unhealthy, highly processed foods are some of the biggest sources of artificial food colorings. By removing these products from your diet, you can improve your overall health and reduce the amount of artificial food colorings you consume.

What to use intsead

However, if you find yourself baking two dozen cupcakes the night before a big bake sale or you toddler has requested a rainbow cake for their birthday and you have to use food coloring, make sure to use natural food coloring. Common natural food coloring can come from beets, carrots, saffron, turmeric, spinach, blueberries, and blackberries and do not have any negative health consequences. Plus, natural food coloring is becoming increasingly popular and they're really easy to find in stores! Here are some of our favorites:


Plant-Based Food Color Variety Pack by Supernatural

India Tree Nature's Colors Decorating Set

Suncore Foods – Premium Pink Pitaya Supercolor Powder

Suncore Foods – Premium Blue Butterfly Pea Supercolor Powder

References

  1. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters/past-issues/2015-2016/october-2015/food-colorings.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
  3. https://cspinet.org/resource/food-dyes-rainbow-risks
  4. https://oehha.ca.gov/risk-assessment/report/health...
  5. https://www.nhpr.org/2014-03-28/why-m-ms-are-made-...
Food

Better for You Halloween Candy

Tasty treats without the harmful ingredients!

Sure, Halloween costumes and decorations are fun, but we're really just after that tasty candy. Those perfectly portioned Halloween candy packages make a perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up! But a lot of candy, especially in America, contain harmful ingredients like artificial colors, artificial flavors, and just odd chemicals like titanium dioxide (yes, the same titanium dioxide you see in sunscreen). That's why we found our favorite, better-for-you, Halloween candy! Yes, no candy is truly good for you (so much sugar...) but our picks only contain natural ingredients and colors, and taste amazing! Try some today!


Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears Candy

Unreal, Candy Coated Chocolate Crispy Quinoa Gems Bag

SMASHMALLOW Individually Wrapped Assorted Flavors

Little Secrets Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt Crispy Wafers

REESE'S Organic Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups


Annie's Bunnies and Bats Fruit Snacks


Yum Earth Halloween Organic Candy Corn

Justin's Nut Butter Organic Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

It feels like there's an endless list of things that parents need to do... all the daily stuff like meals and getting ready for school, and then there's the bigger stuff like making sure that your kids are nice to others and can cope with negative feelings. Have you ever wondered if talking to your kids about climate change is another thing we need to add to the list? As a parent, only you can make the decision about when you think it's appropriate to introduce the topic to your kids, but once you've made that decision, how do you talk about it? Where do you even begin, and what's age appropriate? Stick with us for a guide on how to talk to your kids about climate change and a list of the best resources for each age group.

Why Talk about Climate Change

According to the latest IPCC climate change report (1), the effects of climate change are already here. Even if we make drastic changes to our carbon emissions now, climate change will have negative impacts over the next several decades. Many families might already be feeling the impacts of climate change (fire season, hurricane season, and all the rest), and talking about climate change will help kids process what they are already experiencing. And for many other parents, they might want to introduce the topic before their kids hear about it from friends, at school, or in the media or news. Whenever you decide that you want to bring up the topic of climate change, it's important to try to explain the facts and remember that this is probably going to be an ongoing discussion and not just one conversation.

Age Appropriate Answers to the Question: "What is Climate Change?"

Our kids absorb much more than we often are aware of. They're basically little sponges! Even thought it may seem like kids wouldn't understand the nuanced details about something as complex as climate change, kids generally get a lot out of these conversations.

Our first tip is to stick to age appropriate facts with as little jargon as possible. If you don't know where to start, we drafted these sample scripts for different age groups that you can use below. You can alter the sample scripts below to your child's interest, level of understanding and curiosity, and add or subtract other concepts you'd like to introduce.

Ages 2-4: Just like we depend on the Earth for food and water, the way that we treat the Earth also matters. We are all connected. Some things that humans do can even cause the Earth to heat up. We call that climate change. Scientists are learning so much about it and what we can do to be nice to the Earth.

Ages 5-7: People's activities, like driving cars that use gasoline, or burning coal for energy to heat buildings, increase something called greenhouse gases in the sky. These act like a warm blanket between our planet and space. Over time scientists have shown that it is leading to the Earth's temperature getting warmer. This matters because the temperature affects our oceans, land, air, plants, animals, and humans. We all have an effect on one another. We can all make better choices to help take care of our earth by using less fossil fuels and by using only what we need.

Ages 8-12: The Earth's climate is warming up and scientists know that human activities that use fossil fuels like gasoline for cars or burning coal to heat our homes is contributing to climate change. When these fossil fuels are burned they create greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that trap in heat from the sun and create a sort of blanket around our earth, making it warmer. Scientists believe that these warmer temperatures are contributing to more bad weather, which can affect our crops, businesses, health, water resources, and wildlife. People can make better choices to help take care of our Earth by using less fossil fuels and by conserving or using only what we need.

Ages 13+: The Earth's climate changes over time. Sometimes it's hotter to times and it's colder. But changes from natural causes are usually gradual. Some human activities, like burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal, are speeding things up. Burning fossil fuels increases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap more heat. As a result, the global climate is becoming warmer. Scientists believe that with global warming, we can expect more bad weather, like hurricanes, wildfires, drought, and floods. These bad weather patterns can affect our crops, economy, health, water resources, and wildlife. We can all work together, as a family and as a community to make better choices and decisions to fight climate change.

How To Continue the Conversation

After the initial explanation of what climate change is, there are several ways to continue the conversation. One of the first follow up conversations should focus on local impacts to make it relevant to your lives. Try something like, "Do you remember how there were some days where it was really really hot this summer that it was almost too hot to go outside?" or "Can you remember the last time it rained?"

The second way to continue the conversation is by spending time as a family outside. You don't have to go far! Even on a walk around the block, you can spend time noticing insects, plants, and the weather. Spending time outside with your kids and engaging their natural curiosity is a great way to learn about your local ecosystem. It is also a great way to learn about how people are dependent on nature and in turn, how people impact the environment. By cultivating a love of being outdoors in nature, it gives your kids a greater reason to want to take care of their environment.

Another important way to continue the conversation on climate change is to put the focus on people. It's very easy to talk about polar bears and other far off places, but it's just as important to start exploring concepts of equity and justice. The impacts of climate change exacerbate existing health and social inequities, so low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected (2). Putting the focus on people, friends, communities, and our interconnectedness is a great lens for inspiring much needed action.

Lastly, it's important to find a support network to help continue the conversation. This can be friends and other family members, neighbors, a community group, or your schools. Whether it's a nature walk with friends or learning how to compost with your neighbors, getting your kids involved is a great way to increase their understanding about climate change. You can also look up local and state environmental groups and get involved locally. This is a great way to find other families with similar interests. And lastly, ask your schools about how they integrate climate change into their curriculum. There are a lot of resources listed below that you can forward to your kids' educators.

Resources for How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change


References

  1. https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/
  2. https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/topics/clim...
Life

Shopping For Costumes? Keep an Eye Out for These Toxics in Kids Costumes

When it comes to a kid's dress up, costumes can disguise more than a child!

Imagination is a huge part of a child's development and dressing up in costumes can help foster creativity. Whether it's Halloween or year round dinosaur or princess costume, kids love costumes! However, before you purchase your next costume, you might want to know about some harmful materials that are often present in commercially available costumes. You might be wondering how toxic substances are even allowed in kids costumes, or already thinking about what to look for instead. We've got you covered from which toxic substances to avoid, to costume ideas that won't spoil the fun but will keep your kids safe!
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Food

Canned Coffee is Convenient, But What About BPA?

Why they should be a treat instead of part of your daily routine

Now that we're all working from home, it's easy to get bored of our everyday homemade coffee routine. Sometimes we just want something different to wake us up in the morning or even a quick pick me up in the afternoon! That's where canned coffee comes into play. It's quick, convenient, and comes in a ton of flavors. But that convenience might come at a cost; there's been concerns surrounding the use of BPA in the lining of canned products. So, does canned coffee pose a risk to health? We looked at the research to find out.

The Problem With BPA in Cans

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a synthetic chemical that acts like estrogen in our bodies and it has been known to screw with important hormones like testosterone and thyroid hormones. Some of the common health problems associated with BPA include breast cancer, reduced sperm production, obesity, reproductive issues, disruption of brain development and function, and damaging effects to the liver (1). To make matters worse, there is more and more scientific evidence that even very low doses of BPA exposure can be harmful, especially for pregnant women and babies. Low doses of BPA exposure have been tied to abnormal liver function, chronic inflammation of the prostate, cysts on the thyroid and pituitary gland, and many more serious health effects during the early stages of life (5).

Even though BPA is definitely not a chemical we want to be exposed to, it's found basically everywhere, including our food. One common place to find BPA is the internal lining of canned foods or beverages. BPA can help prevent corrosion between the metal and the food or drink inside a can, but over time (or if stored under the wrong conditions like high temperatures), it can start to leach out and get into the food or drink (2). Even cans that say BPA free can have nasty BPA alternatives that have been shown to have similar hormone disrupting effects (7).

Studies have shown that canned soft drinks, beers, and energy drinks all had small traces of BPA in them. Beer was found with the highest concentration of BPA, followed by energy drinks. Soft drinks were found to have the lowest concentration of BPA. In order to find out where BPA in these drinks was coming from, researchers compared the canned drinks to the same drinks packaged in glass bottles. They found very little to no traces of BPA in the glass bottled drinks, which means that the source of BPA in the canned drinks was definitely coming from the cans themselves (2,3,4).

Even if there are only small traces of leachable BPA, it can still be harmful if we are consuming canned products on a regular basis.

Is Canned Coffee Safe?

With the recent increase in popularity of cold brew and other canned coffee drinks, there have not been extensive studies on BPA levels in canned coffee. However, one study of canned coffee drinks in Asia, where they have been popular for longer, did find that BPA was leaching into the coffee from the can. Interestingly, they also found that the more caffeine was in the coffee, the more BPA leached from the can into the drink. Meaning the more caffeine, the more BPA! (4,6) Now before you think you can get away with only drinking decaf canned coffee, keep in mind that caffeine only increases the leaching from the can, but it can still happen without it (6).

Even though the levels of BPA found in canned coffee were relatively small, because BPA is all around us in so many common products, we should try to limit our exposure as much as we can. This means that it's probably okay to drink a canned coffee every once in a while, but best practice is to not drink them every day. But if you're in the middle of a road trip and are desperate for some energy, don't get too stressed about grabbing a canned coffee!

Canned Coffee Alternatives

If you're starting to get worried about what coffee to buy when you're out and about or when you want something more than just plain coffee, don't stress! We thought of some easy and fun alternatives for your canned coffee fix that might make you forget all about it!

  1. Swap out the canned coffee for coffee in a glass bottle or tetrapaks whenever possible.
  2. Find some fun new ways to make coffee at home like using a Chemex or a nice French press!
  3. Go get a coffee at your local coffee shop. Support small businesses if you can!
  4. If you like canned coffee because of the flavors, try making your own caramel or mocha sauce at home. It's pretty easy and it saves money! For something icy and refreshing, we are partial to muddling some fresh mint with some cold brew.


References

vom Saal, F. S., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2021). Update on the Health Effects of Bisphenol A: Overwhelming Evidence of Harm. Endocrinology, 162(bqaa171). https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa171 (1)

Cao, X.-L., Corriveau, J., & Popovic, S. (2010). Sources of Low Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Canned Beverage Products. Journal of Food Protection, 73(8), 1548–1551. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X-73.8.1548 (2)

Determination of BPA, BPB, BPF, BADGE and BFDGE in canned energy drinks by molecularly imprinted polymer cleaning up and UPLC with fluorescence detection. (2017). Food Chemistry, 220, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.10.005 (3)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (4)

Prins, G. S., Patisaul, H. B., Belcher, S. M., & Vandenberg, L. N. (2019). CLARITY-BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low-dose Bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systems. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 125(S3), 14–31. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcpt.13125 (5)

Kang, J.-H., & Kondo, F. (2002). Bisphenol A migration from cans containing coffee and caffeine. Food Additives and Contaminants, 19(9), 886–890. https://doi.org/10.1080/02652030210147278 (6)

Pelch, K., Wignall, J. A., Goldstone, A. E., Ross, P. K., Blain, R. B., Shapiro, A. J., Holmgren, S. D., Hsieh, J.-H., Svoboda, D., Auerbach, S. S., Parham, F. M., Masten, S. A., Walker, V., Rooney, A., & Thayer, K. A. (2019). A scoping review of the health and toxicological activity of bisphenol A (BPA) structural analogues and functional alternatives. Toxicology, 424, 152235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tox.2019.06.006 (7)

Life

What is Climate Justice?

Everything you need to know

We know that the effects of climate change are happening, but we often don't see these effects in our own country. Or when something does impact us, our country has the wealth and resources to fix the problem. However, climate change usually impacts poor and marginalized countries with more frequency and with greater impact.

This is where the climate justice movement comes in - read on for more information about this important topic and for ways you can help!

What does climate justice mean?

You may have come across the term when you were reading about climate change, or when you heard a speech from Greta Thunberg, or even when you were learning how to speak to your children about climate change.

In short, "climate justice" is a term with an associated social campaign that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. These at-risk underprivileged populations (and nations) are not as equipped as wealthier populations (and nations) to adapt to the rapidly changing climate and the catastrophic events it brings.

The movement aims to frame the climate crisis through a social, human rights lens. The ultimate goal is to shift the discourse from greenhouse gas emissions, numeric temperatures, and melted ice caps to that of a civil rights movement. Once you look for it, connecting the dots between civil rights and climate change are easy to see.

The climate justice movement shines light on the notion that the worst impacts of climate change will not be shouldered equally or fairly. There are specific communities and populations that are likely at the highest risk, and it is often these communities that are the least able to adapt to the environmental change. The way to do this is through what's known as a "just transition"

The just transition is "a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy (1)." The just transition means managing both the positive and negative social and employment implications of climate action across the whole economy. It means thinking ahead and involving both developed and developing countries, and focusing attention on the decentralization of energy systems, and the need to prioritize marginalised communities.

Which populations will be hit the hardest?

As a United Nations article describes it: "The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations (2)."

For certain communities and populations, the climate crisis will exacerbate inequitable social conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • Communities of color are at more risk for air pollution. Many toxic facilities, like coal-fire plansIn the United States, race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities hit by climate change (3,4).
  • Senior citizens and those with disabilities may have a difficult time living through periods of severe heat (and would be at a disadvantage evacuating from major storms or fires) (5).
  • Women are more vulnerable than men globally due to economic, social, and cultural disparities (6). Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women, including in many communities dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. And worse, women in these populations are less involved in decision-making at the community level, which means they are unable to voice their needs to adapt to the hardships that climate change brings.
  • The economically disadvantaged are at extreme risk:
    • Those living in subsidized housing may have more trouble with floods as the subsidized housing is often located in a flood plain (7).
    • It has also been shown that inequality can grow in the aftermath of hurricanes, disregarding the poor and powerless communities (8).
  • Globally, the warming of the planet by 2˚C (we're above 1˚C already) would put communities around the world that depend who depend on agriculture, fishing, forestry and conservation - which includes over half of Africa's population - at risk of undernourishment (9).

The Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch quantifies the impacts of extreme weather events – both in terms of the fatalities as well as the economic losses that occurred. Eight out of the ten countries most affected by the quantified impacts of extreme weather events in 2019 belong to the low- to lower-middle income category (10).

So, what can we do to help?

Organizations working on solutions to these issues

The first way to help is to spread the word. Educating yourself on these issues and talking to others about them can go a long way.

Another simple way to help is by donating (money or your volunteer time) to some of the fantastic organizations working for climate justice solution:

  1. The Climate Justice Alliance works to bring race, gender, and class considerations to the center of the climate action discussion. You can join them in many different ways: donate, host a party or dinner to support them, volunteer time, or even find a career with them!
  2. The NAACP is working to fight environmental injustice as well. You can donate or roll up your sleeves and join a local NAACP unit.
  3. Climate Generation is a nonprofit dedicated to climate change education and innovative climate change solutions through youth leadership and community engagement. You can donate, host a workshop, teach students about climate change, or attend one of their fundraising events.
  4. Solar Sister invests in women's clean energy businesses in off-grid communities in Africa. You can donate to them as a monthly supporter, invest in a specific entrepreneur, or even join the team.
  5. Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future organization seeks to combat the lack of action on the climate crisis in general. You can connect with other climate activists throughout the world to join those striking for climate action.


References

  1. https://climatejusticealliance.org/just-transition/
  2. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/
  3. https://naacp.org/know-issues/environmental-climate-justice
  4. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities
  5. https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/09/how-extreme-weather-threatens-people-with-disabilities/
  6. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/womenin-shadow-climate-change
  7. https://furmancenter.org/files/NYUFurmanCenter_HousingInTheFloodplain_May2017.pdf
  8. https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/how-inequality-grows-in-the-aftermath-of-hurricanes/
  9. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/
  10. https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202021_1.pdf
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