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Community Fridges Don’t Just Fight Hunger. They’re Also a Climate Solution.

GRIST, Max Graham, January 22, 2024

In cities across the U.S., hundreds of refrigerators stocked with free food are reducing waste — and methane emissions. Food waste accounts for as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Dan Zauderer and his in-laws had eaten plenty of pizza one evening in early October, and they still had seven slices left. What to do? “Well, we could just chuck it,” Zauderer thought. Instead, he and his fiancée wrapped the slices in plastic wrap, slapped labels on them with the date, and walked the leftovers a little more than a block down the road to a refrigerator standing along 92nd Avenue in New York City’s Upper East Side.

That fridge is one among many “community fridges” across the country that volunteers stock with free food — prepared meals, leftovers, and you name it. Zauderer had helped set a network up in New York City during the pandemic as a way to reduce waste and fight hunger. The idea came about when he was a middle school teacher looking to provide short-term help to students whose families couldn’t afford food. He stationed the first fridge in the Bronx in September 2020. That one, the Mott Haven Fridge, was hugely popular, and it motivated Zauderer to expand. Since then, he has helped plug in seven more fridges in the Bronx and Manhattan, including the one where he dropped off his leftover pizza. 

“It just blossomed into way more than I ever could have expected,” said Zauderer, who now works full-time at Grassroots Grocery, a food-distribution nonprofit he co-founded in New York. 

It’s not just Zauderer’s project that has blossomed. Community fridges first cropped up a decade ago in a few isolated spots around the globe, then spread across the United States right after the pandemic started in 2020, when supply chains were crumbling, food prices were rising, and families across the country were struggling to find meals. At the time, the fridges were viewed as a creative response to an urgent need. But when the pandemic subsided, it became clear that the refrigerators — sometimes called freedges, friendly fridges, and love fridges — were more than a fad. Today, nonprofits and mutual aid groups are overseeing hundreds of fridges that bolster access to food in cities from Miami to Anchorage, Alaska.

The fridges also embody a straightforward solution to climate change. Each year, tens of billions of pounds of food, more than a third of what’s produced in the U.S., get tossed into trash bins. Most of those scraps end up in landfills, where they decompose and release methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas. The sheer quantity of the country’s combined waste makes it a major source of climate pollution: Food waste accounts for as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And more food is being thrown out than ever.

“There’s no solution to our climate problem that doesn’t also address food waste,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. 

There are many ways to keep food out of landfills and on dinner tables. Companies are developing apps to connect people with donated goods, and food banks have been around for decades. Experts say raising awareness and changing policy around things like expiration dates on food packaging, which can be arbitrary, would help, too. But fridges are especially effective when other solutions fall short. Though food banks are great for storing large amounts of shelf-stable items like canned vegetables, they’re not well-equipped to handle food that doesn’t last as long and turns up in small amounts— a pizza slice here, a sandwich there. Those remnants make up much of the country’s food waste, about 40 percent, and that’s where community fridges excel. “These are just a really elegant solution to that,” Broad Leib said. 

The fridges also offer a degree of anonymity for those in need that’s hard to find at more traditional food distribution centers, like food pantries. People don’t have to sign up or prove their eligibility to use them. “The whole point is dignified, anonymous access,” Zauderer said. “We’re not the arbiters of how much to take.”

In Chicago, an artist named Eric Von Haynes co-founded a fridge network called The Love Fridge in 2020. Today, he helps oversee more than 20 love fridges, each decorated with eye-popping colors and phrases like “Free food for all!” According to Von Haynes, the fridges are filled, cleaned, and maintained by hundreds of volunteers. He estimates that thousands of pounds of food move through them each month.

Read More: GRIST

Mayor Adams’ sanitation cuts soil major progress in cleaning up NYC streets

The Gothamist, Sophia Chang, Dec 21, 2023

Sweeping changes to the city’s sanitation laws are cleaning up New York City’s streets, but Mayor Eric Adams’ budget cuts could undo elements of one of his most substantive policy initiatives.

Adams’ sanitation programs have resulted in rat complaints declining, fewer mountains of smelly trash bags on sidewalks, and a dramatic surge in tickets for flouting sanitation rules. The mayor has vowed to rid New York of its “Trash City” nickname with a pilot program to examine how residential garbage could be put in shared containers, and has declared a “war on rats.”

But as the Department of Sanitation implements a 3% cut to its $1.9 billion budget, some experts worry that this could undermine Adams’ progress.

“I think it would be a real shame for the city if some of these efforts that I think are very positive – and has happened under Mayor Adams – to be rolled back at this point during the fiscal challenges,” said Ana Champeny, vice president for research at the Citizens Budget Commission.

While the cuts’ effects continue to emerge, sanitation officials have already said they’ll gut funding to the city’s community compostprograms. The department will also delay the next rollout of the department’s curbside compost collection across the five boroughs, which Adams heralded as a step toward making New York a cleaner, greener city.

During a City Council hearing earlier this month, sanitation spokesperson Joshua Goodman testified that due to budget cuts, workers will remove some of the city’s 23,000 litter baskets from sidewalks in an effort to reduce costs of emptying them.

Read More; The Gothamist

Sunday Science: The Rays of the Sun

THE CRUCIAL YEARS, Bill McKibben, October 15, 2023

The sun keeps pumping out more or less the same amount of energy day in and day out. It’s what we do down here on earth that will decide whether it cooks us or saves us.

Amid the endless interesting details of the climate and energy fight, I find myself sometimes losing track of the basic outlines of our the dilemma. So let’s try to oversimplify it for a moment, just to make sure we’re at a place we can work from. The key, as always, is the sun.

Right now, thanks to our recklessness, the sun is overheating our planet. And by right now, I don’t mean in this century. I mean, in this month. The global temperature readings for September should have been the top story on every newscast in the world, because they were bonkers. June, July, and August were historically hot—we saw the hottest days recorded on the planet in 125,000 years. September wasn’t quite as hot, of course, because it’s fall. But in relative terms September was even more outrageous. It was, the scientists tell us, the most anomalous month we’ve ever seen, with temperatures so far beyond historical norms that the charts don’t even seem to make sense.

For instance, here’s the chart that the estimable Zeke Hausfather prepared using data from the Japanese Meterological Agency.


A Poorly Designed Boondoggle 

(CJ) Jonathan A. Lesser, March 7, 2023 

New York State’s scheme to reduce carbon emissions overreaches, removing any theoretical advantages.

Last December, New York’s Climate Action Council released its Final Scoping Plan, an all-encompassing proposal to cut the state’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050. The 400-page regulatory framework would introduce new, sweeping rules across the state, including one scheme that would particularly harm the state’s economy.

New York officials have announced several climate initiatives in recent years. The state already has banned the sale of new internal combustion cars and light trucks beginning in 2035. As governor, Andrew Cuomo mandated construction of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by that same year. New York City already has banned natural gas in new commercial buildings, while Governor Kathy Hochul has urged the legislature to enact a state-wide ban on the sale of residential fossil fuel space- and water-heating equipment beginning in 2025, as well as on the use of gas stoves in new construction.

New York also participates in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which regulates carbon emissions from electric generators in 12 participating eastern states. The basic idea is that the states establish a ceiling on carbon emissions, called allowances, that they can buy and sell in a marketplace as needed.

A cap-and-trade program theoretically reduces emissions at the lowest possible cost. Those who can reduce emissions cheaply will do so, then sell their “surplus” allowances to those for whom purchasing allowances is cheaper than reducing their own emissions. Several such programs within the Clean Air Act have effectively curtailed emissions of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen from power plants. Such initiatives have proved much less costly than command-and-control regulations that force individual power plants to reduce emissions of those pollutants, regardless of cost.

But New York’s “cap-and-invest” program, as proposed in the Scoping Plan, will go far beyond any established cap-and-trade scheme, removing these theoretical advantages. First, the governor intends to apply this approach to all sectors of the state’s economy, including, eventually, agriculture. That means that farmers will eventually have to pay for methane emissions from their livestock. The program will ratchet down the available allowances supposedly to zero by 2050, the year when the state is supposed to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Second, how much money will be collected from carbon-emitters—including gas and electric utilities, wholesale sellers of petroleum products, propane distributors, and cement manufacturers—will depend on the caps themselves. The more stringent the caps, the more money will be garnished from businesses that cannot meet them. Given the state’s overall annual carbon emissions of around 200 million metric tons, the amounts to be collected will almost certainly be in the billions of dollars each year.

Where will the money go? For decades, New York leaders have directed money to their political allies, and the temptation toward cronyism has not gone away. The plan states that at least 35 percent of the funds collected will be distributed to “disadvantaged communities,” though the characteristics of such communities remain undefined. It also proposes to direct various subsidies to energy-intensive businesses that might otherwise leave the state because of higher costs for energy and other inputs, but it doesn’t explain how it will demarcate energy-intensive industries.

How will the state treat imports? If a business purchases heating oil from a New York company, the cost of carbon allowances will be embedded in the sale price. But if the business purchases heating oil from a Pennsylvania company, attempting to levy a carbon tax on such imports will raise constitutional issues regarding interstate commerce. And other imports, such as goods manufactured outside the state using fossil-fuel energy, may pose issues as well.

Read More: City Journal

Another dead whale spotted in Far Rockaway, as ‘unusual mortality event’ continues on East Coast

(Gothamist) Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky, February 19, 2023

Another dead whale has washed ashore, this time in Far Rockaway. The 25-foot adult female minke whale was spotted Friday morning on the sand near Beach 29th Street.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say it’s the 12th whale to come ashore on New York and New Jersey beaches since Dec. 1. Another whale was spotted just days ago in New Jersey on Feb. 14.

The whale appears to have died from a vessel strike, said Allison Ferreira of the NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.

“The animal had several broken bones and cut wounds across its body that appear to have occurred prior to death,” she said in a written statement. “There was additional evidence of blunt-force trauma.”

At the beach on Friday, staff from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation were on the scene. The area around the dead whale had been cordoned off with emergency tape. The juvenile was lying on its belly in the surf and had several deep gouges across its body.

“We mourn the loss of this awe-inspiring creature,” said Izzy Verdery, press officer for the parks department. Verdery added that the agency was working with NOAA, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to investigate and dispose of the whale’s corpse.

Read More: Gothamist

Dumping 1M gallons of radioactive water in Hudson is ‘best option,’ per Indian Point nuclear plant owner

Gothamist, Rosemary Misdary, February 19, 2023

The owner of the defunct Indian Point nuclear facility says it’s planning to dump about 1 million gallons of radioactive water into the Hudson River. The move, which the company describes as the “best option” for the waste, could happen as early as August.

A Feb. 2 meeting of the Indian Point Decommissioning Oversight Board heated up when the plant’s owner Holtec International disclosed the plan as part of its lengthy closure process. The contaminated water could just naturally — and safely — decay in storage onsite.

Environmental groups and residents are also concerned this could harm their community, as the Hudson River is already a federally designated toxic Superfund site. Rich Burroni, Holtec’s site vice president for Indian Point, agreed to give the community at least a month’s notice before any radioactive discharge into the Hudson River begins.

But Holtec is well within its legal rights and permits to discharge waste at the same rate as it did when operating, and it does not need federal, state or local approval to dump the contaminated water. This practice is standard for nuclear plants.

Nearly two years have passed since Indian Point shut down its third and final reactor in the village of Buchanan, located on the Hudson’s east bank about 30 miles north of Midtown. Toward the end of its 59-year lifespan, the plant had more than a 2,000 megawatt capacity — providing electricity to more than 2 million homes, or 13% of the state’s power demand.

Holtec received about $2.4 billion in funds, shouldered by ratepayers, to decommission the plant. And it wants to do so in 12 years, which is in accordance with town’s wishes to repurpose the site. But Holtec and the surrounding community are still debating what to do with Indian Point’s radioactive remnants.

Read More: Gothamist

Cause found in Keystone Pipeline’s massive oil leak

(ABC) Bill Hutchinson, February 10, 2023

The leak was detected on Dec. 7 in Washington County Kansas.

A spill of more than 500,000-gallons of crude oil from the Keystone Pipeline in December in Kansas was caused by a combination of a faulty weld and “bending stress fatigue” on the pipe, the conduit’s operator announced Thursday.

TC Energy, the pipeline’s Canadian operator, said the cause was determined by an independent lab analysis on the failed section of the 2,687-mile conduit.

“Although welding inspection and testing were conducted within applicable codes and standards, the weld flaw led to a crack that propagated over time as a result of bending stress fatigue, eventually leading to an instantaneous rupture,” TC Energy said in a statement.

The faulty weld in a fitting girth connecting two sections of pipe “was completed at a fabrication facility,” TC Energy said.

Read More: ABC

‘Workers Know the Truth’ About the Derailment Disaster – Why Are They Being Ignored?

(Work-Bites) Bob Hennelly, February 9, 2023

Throughout the recent hazardous chemical freight train derailment in Ohio and the four-day ordeal that followed while the flaming wreck was stabilized, the one perspective that was consistently missing from the reporting was that of the union railroad workers. It didn’t matter if it was the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Associated Press , the reporting relied on interviews with local, state and federal officials as well as statements from the Norfolk Southern, the rail carrier but not the perspective of their union workers.

It was as if robots and AI were already driving the train. The entire narrative of the cataclysm was framed by officials and the corporation whose malfunctioning train was now putting workers and the community in life-threatening jeopardy. The derailment played out in the rural borderland of Ohio and Pennsylvania requiring both states to activate an emergency evacuation response.

On Friday evening, the tranquility of East Palestine, Ohio, with a population of 4,761 people, was upended when a Norfolk Southern train with 150 cars in tow, derailed sparking a conflagration that inundated the area with toxic smoke. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 20 of the cars in train were carrying hazardous materials. 

The U.S. EPA had to start monitoring the air for carbon monoxide, oxygen hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride. Throughout the weekend, firefighters did their best to keep the disabled tanker cars cool as some of the hazardous cargo burned off. The local fire chief told reporters he was concerned about the presence of  vinyl chloride, a colorless, toxic, and flammable gas.

“If you are in this red zone that is on the map and you refuse to evacuate, you are risking death,” Pennsylvania’s Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) warned. “If you are within the orange area on this map, you risk permanent lung damage within a matter of hours or days.”           

Read More: Work-bites

Air pollution cancer breakthrough will rewrite the rules

(CNN) James Gallagher, September 11, 2022

Researchers say they have cracked how air pollution leads to cancer, in a discovery that completely transforms our understanding of how tumours arise.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute in London showed that rather than causing damage, air pollution was waking up old damaged cells.

One of the world’s leading experts, Prof Charles Swanton, said the breakthrough marked a “new era”.

And it may now be possible to develop drugs that stop cancers forming.

The findings could explain how hundreds of cancer-causing substances act on the body.

The classical view of cancer starts with a healthy cell. It acquires more and more mutations in its genetic code, or DNA, until it reaches a tipping point. Then it becomes a cancer and grows uncontrollably.

But there are problems with this idea: cancerous mutations are found in seemingly healthy tissue, and many substances known to cause cancer – including air pollution – don’t seem to damage people’s DNA.

So what is going on?

The researchers have produced evidence of a different idea. The damage is already there in our cell’s DNA, picked up as we grow and age, but something needs to pull the trigger that actually makes it cancerous.

The discovery came from exploring why non-smokers get lung cancer. The overwhelming majority of lung cancers are caused by smoking but still, one in 10 cases in the UK is down to air pollution.

The Crick scientists focused on a form of pollution called particulate matter 2.5 (known as PM2.5), which is far smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Source: BBC News

Can an urban agriculture plan cultivate NYC’s community gardens?

(CURBED NEW YORK) Caroline Spivack, January 30, 2022

nOn a recent Saturday afternoon, Iyeshima Harris surveyed the bounty of an urban farm on a Brooklyn block with more greenery than buildings: rows of Swiss chard and collard greens, trellises wrapped with long bean vines, and fig trees drooping with fruit. 

Harris is the project director of East New York Farms, which operates three urban farms and a garden, along with nurturing a network of 40 community gardens in the neighborhood. Several of its growers sell produce at the organization’s market just outside of one of its plots, dubbed UCC Youth Farm (after United Community Centers, the nonprofit that operates ENYF⁠), which is the only place in East New York where residents can find local and organic produce. The half-acre grow space on Schenck Avenue produced 7,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables last year, much of which went back into the farmers market.

“We’re a neighborhood that doesn’t have a lot of access to healthy, fresh food, so the community tries to fend for themselves with the gardens,” Harris says. She grew up in Jamaica, but has lived in New York City for much of her life, and has spent that time teaching her neighbors how to grow produce.

Source: Curbed New York