How We're Greening America

Submitted by Mary Meade on

From the most recent issue of our magazine, Green American
where we update readers on the progress we've made over the last quarter on climate, finance, food, labor, social justice, and more.

Addressing the Climate Crisis

We are working to eliminate the major sources of greenhouse gases—from energy use to refrigerants. Our Cool It! Campaign urges supermarkets to upgrade their refrigerants, and to reduce leaks of highly polluting conventional hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, which are around 1,400 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide.

VICTORY! We pressured Trader Joe’s to announce that all of its new stores will use more climate-friendly refrigerants. The announcement came after more than 20,000 Green Americans urged Trader Joe’s to take action, and after the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Green America ally, ranked Trader Joe’s poorly on its Climate-Friendly Supermarkets Scorecard.

“Consumer awareness and concern about Trader Joe’s climate emissions is having an impact,” says Dan Howells, Green America’s climate campaigns director. “But Trader Joe’s has a long way to go to catch up with grocery chains like Aldi, Target, and Whole Foods on climate-friendly refrigerants. Trader Joe’s now needs to retrofit its 530 existing stores to use ultra-low Global Warming Potential refrigerants.”

Our campaign to urge the telecom sector to adopt clean energy and support energy justice got AT&T to support community solar and Verizon to add more wind power this year.  And, we mobilized 150,000 people to support a recently issued US EPA rule to slash methane emissions throughout the country.

WHAT’S NEXT: We’ll keep the pressure on Kroger, which operates more than 2,600 stores nationally, with only seven using refrigerants that are better for the planet. And we are expanding our “Hang Up on Fossil Fuels” campaign to get more major players in the communications sector to adopt renewable energy and energy justice. We’re also joining community groups to reduce the harmful impacts of biomass fuels that are destroying forests and damaging communities throughout the country.

Advancing Regenerative Agriculture

Conventional industrial agriculture drives climate change, while also destroying soil health, and depleting the nutrient density of our food. That’s why Green America is leading the way to expand regenerative agriculture practices and help farmers nationwide create healthy soil, sequester carbon, and produce more nutritious food.

VICTORY! This year, we enrolled farms representing a total of 126,000 acres under cultivation in our Soil Carbon Initiative (SCI), a commitment and verification program that supports farmers in restoring healthy, living soil on their land. Healthier soil grows healthier food, so this year we also launched our Nutrient Density Alliance. We’re working with food companies, nutritionists, and the medical community to drive demand for regenerative agriculture, so healthier food will be available in all communities.

Our Climate Victory Gardens (CVGs) Campaign empowers tens of thousands of people nationwide, by providing guidance and resources to new and experienced gardeners. The more than 21,000 CVGs registered on our website drew down 4,740 tons of carbon this year, eliminating emissions equal to 39 million miles driven!

WHAT’S NEXT: We’ll bring more brands on board with our regenerative agriculture work, partner with more farmers of color, and increase our work highlighting the increased nutrition that regeneratively grown crops provide. We’ll also go live with our Soil Carbon Initiative verification, and consumers will be able to see the new “Soil & Climate Health Initiative” label on products in stores.

And we’ll work to increase the number of registered Climate Victory Gardens to 25,000 and grow and expand community gardens throughout the US.

Protecting Workers from Toxic Chemicals

Exposure to toxic chemicals is one of the leading sources of worker injury in the world, and the electronics and apparel sectors are major offenders. Our Clean Electronic Production Network (CEPN)—a multi-stakeholder collaborative network including some of the largest tech companies—runs our “Toward Zero Exposure” Program, a commitment and verification program supporting companies in eliminating priority chemicals from factories, protecting millions of workers. This year, CEPN added 16 more toxic chemicals to the list of priority chemicals for elimination or substitution.

VICTORY! Our Toxic Textiles campaign convinced, one of the largest clothing retailers in the US, to announce its private label brands will comply with AFIRM’s Restricted Substance List (RSL) of toxic chemicals for apparel, accessories, and footwear products in North America, Europe, and Japan. The AFIRM RSL ensures that chemicals of concern are below certain thresholds in products sold to consumers. The move came after nearly 40,000 Green Americans urged Amazon to act quickly on dangerous chemicals.

WHAT’S NEXT: CEPN plans to launch a pilot program in Vietnam to help smaller suppliers (deep in the supply chain where other programs don’t reach), protect their workers from chemical exposure.

Our Toxic Textiles campaign will continue calling on to adopt an official Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) to reduce toxic-chemical exposure in all its supplier factories, and to join The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry.

“People spending their hard-earned money at Amazon shouldn’t have to worry whether they are exposing their family to toxic chemicals,” says Jean Tong, labor justice campaigns director. “No one wants workers harmed by making these products.”

Also in 2024, we will be releasing a major report on the toxic impacts to workers of leather and alternative leathers and putting pressure on companies that are laggards on leather.

Promoting Responsible Finance

For more than 30 years, Green America has educated the public about how to use the power of socially responsible investing (SRI) to push corporations to address climate, environmental, and social justice crises. Because SRI has been so effective, it is under attack in Congress and many states by protectors of corporate power. So this year, we ramped up our responsible investing work to protect the power of SRI.

VICTORY! In 2023, we successfully mobilized support to protect a US Labor Department rule allowing 401(k) plans to consider environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) factors. We published a series of blogs explaining federal and state-level attacks on responsible investing and the undisclosed funders of anti-ESG campaigns. We called out the opponents of SRI on social media and in op-eds, and we brought our message directly to Congress through letters for the record at anti-ESG hearings and support for the Sustainable Investment Caucus.

We continued our work to help people transition away from Wall Street banks and into community development banks and credit unions, providing guidance via our 2024 Guide to Socially Responsible Investing and Better Banking and Fossil-Free Investing Guide (with Green Century). And we issued our annual guidance for shareholders voting on key resolutions.

WHAT’S NEXT: We’ll continue to push back on attacks on responsible finance, while educating people on how they can take part. We are working with GreenFaith to develop a curriculum on “Aligning Your Money with Your Values,” covering banks, credit cards, insurance, and investing. We will update our popular “Find a Better Bank” database to include more community banks and credit unions. Together with the US Social Investment Forum, we will update a social investing “how to” course for individuals with useful resources, and we plan to create a directory of fossil-free community insurance companies.

From the Green America staff and Board: “All of us at Green America are excited to share the progress we made this past year, thanks to you—our members! From addressing the climate crisis, to changing the way we grow food, together, we are building a green economy for the future.”

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