Biomass Industry Poses a Greater Threat Than the Coal Industry

Washington (GGM) Analysis | April 23, 2021 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Biomass sounds like a living blob slithering its way towards New York City in a bad sci-fi movie. The reality may be worse. Proponents of the biomass industry will call this fearmongering and argue biomasses are carbon neutral and “green.” But the biomass industry involves chopping down vast swaths of trees, turning them into pellets, and shipping them to Europe where they are burned for energy. In other words, it is deforestation on a massive scale, and anyone who knows anything about climate change knows deforestation is one of the major causes of climate change. So how can a practice which is so harmful to the planet — more harmful than the coal industry which releases less carbon than burning trees — be at the same time beneficial? It cannot be whatever anyone claims to the contrary. 

Heart of the Matter 

If the U.S. Congress and other international lawmakers are to be believed, then it is through a metamodernist suspension of disbelief because the notion that deforestation and burning a source of energy more pollutive than coal is somehow “green”  is an absurd notion. 

The biomass industry is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it hails mainly from the American South where twenty-three wood mills devoted to biomass exist. Trees are grown, ground up, turned into wood pellets, and shipped to Europe to be burned for fuel under the auspices that this power is as clean as solar and wind power, which is as ridiculous as it sounds. While proponents of the biomass industry claim they plant trees to replace the felled trees, those trees cannot make up for the mature trees lost, trees that have absorbed carbon dioxide for decades. This is especially true considering the Paris Climate Accord cites deforestation as a major driver of climate change and a barrier to the ambitious emissions targets for 2050. 

Proponents of the biomass industry also ignore the desolate landscapes it leaves and tons of “waste wood” (wood that is left behind and cannot be used). While they claim to replant trees, this is often not done, and the saplings are not nearly as useful as trees that are decades old. 

How This Impacts You Personally

Whether the issue is nuclear waste, toxic water from chemical leaks, or  toxic algae from phosphate deposits, the way this impacts you personally is it is bad for the environment. And that is bad for you. In this instance, trees reduce carbon dioxide, which makes the air more breathable, the planet less hot, and the world cleaner. All of these things benefit everyone regardless of what people believe.

What You Can Do

It is important to learn as much as possible about this topic as it is not going anywhere. A multibillion dollar industry based in the United States, which supplies energy for Europe will not go away gently. Climate activist Greta Thunberg certainly sees the problem:

Think about what paper products you use and how to reduce that consumption. Recycling is not the answer as very little of what is recycled is reused. It is more important to not use paper or fuel sources that are derived from burning trees. 

Next Steps

  • Reduce your consumption for paper and paper products;
  • Stop using plastic bottles and other plastics; 
  • Do not burn wood; 
  • Learn about and try to use solar and wind power;
  • Find out what companies use wood as a source of energy and do not use them;
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and tell them you oppose the biomass industry.

Energy is important for so many reasons, but there are better sources than the biomass industry. We need more —not less — trees in the world, and everything must be done to make sure the reckless and dangerous biomass industry does not continue. 

Adding composting worms to the soil in our yards will also improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

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Bigger Than a Texas-sized Mess: Can the EPA Recover From Trump?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 18, 2021 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Every American realizes, or should realize, Trump made every effort to destroy the environment during his infamous term as president. From Scott Pruitt, the first Administrator  of the EPA under Trump, who called withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, “courageous,” to Andrew Wheeler, second Administrator  of the EPA and former coal lobbyist, both wrought so much damage to the environment that the majority of new Administrator Michael Regan’s job will be cleaning up the damage done by the previous administration. In short, the Biden Administration’s priorities will be addressing massive pollution issues, working on climate change, and handling environmental justice issues.

Heart of the Matter. We need look no further than Texas to see the damage caused by climate change where millions are without power in frigid temperatures that have killed people. But this is just the most recent and obvious example. Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, cut regulations for polluters, allowed a myriad of environmental injustices to be perpetrated, and, as a result, created so many problems that the majority of the Biden Administration’s time will be assessing what happened and how to fix it.

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How does this impact you personally? If you breathe air, drink water, eat food, like heat and air conditioning, and do not want to die of being poisoned through pollution, you should care a great deal about the EPA’s agenda.

In reality, the EPA and what it does (or did not do under Trump) affects you, especially if you want to prevent another Flynt, Michigan, North Carolina coal ash, or Texas blizzard and blackout.

Biden’s climate change agenda is considered the most ambitious in U.S. history because he aims to make the country’s electricity carbon free by 2035. In other words, America will not be reliant on fossil fuels that damage the environment and contribute to climate change thereby driving absurd climate events such as Texas. Certainly, not renewing the Keystone Pipeline lease and dismantling the pipeline itself will help this.

Biden also created a White House climate advisory team that includes former Secretary of State, John Kerry, and former EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy.

The remedial work required under the new EPA is extensive. Under Trump, the EPA rolled back regulations such as the Obama-era Clean Water Act and Clean Water Rule as well as started dismantling portions of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.

 The EPA launched 30 percent fewer cases and levied 60 percent less in fines that under the Obama EPA, and it stayed quiet about polluters that failed to meet the agency’s standards. Pollution became worse; infrastructure crumbled; and climate change got a shot in the arm.

What can you do about this? People often wonder what one person can do when the problems feel so large, much bigger than one person. But these problems did not happen by themselves. Human behavior caused them. For example, Scott Pruitt, who was later asked to leave his position for rampant corruption, claimed the EPA was a “bastion of liberals.” This type of corrosive mindset infects many people, and it drives bad behavior and microaggressions such as littering that cumulatively have a massive impact on the environment.

People can modify their small, simple every day behavior, and it will make a difference, especially when the majority do it.

Embracing science makes a huge difference, too, because the science surrounding climate change is irrefutable and necessary.

Next Steps

  • Modify your behavior by recycling or using a bamboo toothbrush for example;
  • Learn about the science behind climate change; 
  • Speak up and educate others;
  • Call your elected officials because they listen.

President Biden cannot do it on his own. The sooner everyone buys into the agenda, the better off America and the world will be.

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Don’t Drink Poisonous Water | The Shocking Hack

Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 12, 2020 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

Drinking poisonous water leads to cancer and other things that will kill you. Everyone knows that, but what if you do not know you are drinking water contaminated with poison? Surely such a thing cannot happen. Laws and regulations exist, and the government protects people. Unless the government knew about the poisonous water and covered it up for decades. If you doubt this, then ask the possibly one-million people who drank the poisonous water surrounding the Camp LeJeune superfund site. Or at least you can ask the ones who were not killed.

Heart of the Matter. The Camp LeJeune superfund site is the worst water contamination site in United States history, and it has poisoned an estimated one million people. While water contamination cases become rather wonky with many jargony terms thrown around, from the 1950s through at least 1985, the water in and surrounding Camp LeJune tested between 240 and 3,400 times over what is permitted by safety standards. In fact, a 1980 handwritten report that showed the water was heavily contaminated was sent to Marine command at the base. They ignored it. 

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From that flowed a comedy of errors, lies, and conveniently omitted facts. For example, a 1984 report found the contamination rate to be 38 per billion, but it was really 380 parts per billion. Apparently, zeroes do not matter to the government when it suits them. While there were a dizzying number of chemicals involved, benzyne, one of the worst, which causes myeloid leukemia, was omitted altogether from a 1994 report. Quite frankly, the matter was not fully addressed legislatively until President Obama signed a 2012 law that allowed victims of the poisoning to recover their medical expenses. A federal court previously blocked many of the cases as barred by the statute of limitations, and it also halted the North Carolina General Assembly’s effort to extend the statute of limitations. 

How does this impact you personally? What if you live somewhere else far away from North Carolina? Why should you care? Ever read the book A Civil Action or seen the movie? That was a water contamination case that occurred in Massachusetts decades ago where people were poisoned and died. In other words, it can happen to anyone because we all need water, which is vulnerable to pollution. 

Just look at the so-called “water hack” that occurred in Florida earlier this week where a hacker broke into economical (cheap) remote software used to manage the local water supply. This is still being sorted out, but it shows how vulnerable the water system is and how cheap infrastructure endangers everyone in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

What can you do about this? Camp LeJeune’s water contamination rate of 380 parts per billion happened, but that does not mean it has to happen again. But it will continue to happen if people ignore the problem and stay ignorant. Read about the environment. Join groups dedicated to protecting the environment. Refuse to purchase products and services from businesses that do not use environmentally safe procedures and practices. Most importantly, vote for candidates who will help pass legislation that protects drinking water and the environment in general.

Next Steps

  • Read a book about water contamination (A Civil Action is a good one to start);
  • Learn about companies and nonprofits (especially those who advocate for planting trees) that are environmentally friendly;
  • Pay attention to stories and news about the environment; 
  • Only vote for people who value laws and regulations that protect the environment;
  • If something doesn’t look or taste right with your own tap water, report it to your town or county water facility immediately.

Water should not be poisonous, but some of it is. That does not mean, however, all water must be toxic. People can make a difference, and they must before it is too late.

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Superfund “Timebombs” Threaten to Explode

Washington (GGM) Analysis | January 29, 2021 by Attorney Michael WellsPodcast– Legal Fact and Fiction

All organic life requires air, water, a place to exist, and a food source. But all of these things must be clean or there cannot be life, at least not long term. Throughout the United States, thousands of ticking environmental “timebombs” called Superfund sites are ready to explode. The poisons and other pollutants contained in these sites threaten all organic life in the United States and throughout the Earth. 

Heart of the Matter. Superfund sites number about 4,000 and were created by federal legislation in 1980. Congress set up a trust fund to finance the cleanup of these hazardous sites; the fund used to be financed by a tax on petroleum, but Congress let the tax expire twenty-five years ago. The sites are deemed so contaminated that they require long term responses to clean up these messes. And they are not self-contained. Hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels, increased precipitation, and wildfires spread their pollution, and they pose serious problems to 945 sites according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study from 2019. 

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How does this impact you personally? The Trump administration ignored many of these sites and cut funding for the continued cleanup, which caused the sites to further deteriorate. Incoming Biden Administration Climate Change Czar Gina McCarthy certainly has her work cut out for her

Everyone should care about Superfund sites. On July 19, 2018, in Libby, California, a wildfire broke out and burned an asbestos site, which could have released millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into the groundwater and air if the fire had not been contained. It served as a cautionary tale, and it emphasizes the risk posed by Superfund sites that run along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and East Coast. All of these sites are vulnerable to floods, wildfires, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other climate change associated risks. And the risks will only increase with climate change. 

What can you do about this? The sites differ in their severity as well as the types of pollution, but people can do one key thing to improve the environment: plant trees. Although trees are vulnerable to pollution and are often destroyed by the toxins in the Superfund sites, trees are also part of the solution because they can help expel many of the harmful pollutants by producing healthier byproducts. In 2017, one study showed using bioaugmentation (certain kinds of bacteria) protected poplar trees and allowed them to suck up polluted groundwater and expel it in the form of healthier byproducts.

 In other words, the trees cleaned up the site more cheaply and in a more beneficial way for the environment. 

Next Steps

These are complex problems, but there are things we can all do to make it better:

  • Recognize that this is a problem that affects everyone
  • Plant trees
  • Learn more about solutions such as bioaugmentation
  • Learn about how people pose risks to the environment, and what you can do to minimize both your “carbon footprint” and other risks you pose individually
  • Most importantly, call your Congressperson or Senator and tell them you are terrified about the climate’s impact on the Superfund sites. If enough people call, they will listen

Yes, there are absolutely timebombs out there (just ask the residents of Flynt, Michigan), but this does not mean we must fail to act and do things to improve the situation. If we do not, then the world will be uninhabitable, perhaps in our lifetime, but more than likely in our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ lifetimes. 

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A Gift Worth Waiting For | Exciting Eco Projects For Students While Distance Learning

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 19, 2020 by Catherine Zacuto, M. A. Ed

Wandering through a wooded park or along a shady path, it’s easy to miss what’s right before our eyes. How often do we consider the gifts before us, planted long ago? The cool breeze and fresh fragrance are momentary experiences that began with the planting of seeds. No matter how the trees, shrubs, and understory got there, whether through nature or a particular person, you and I are the beneficiaries.

Thomas Jefferson understood this. His legacy of Monticello lies not only in its Neoclassical architecture but in its lush landscape. As a matter of course, school children learn the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Yet how often are they given the opportunity to uncover Jefferson’s other significant gift, the carbon-fighting greenery flourishing at Monticello and Jefferson’s beloved University of Virginia? His plans for Monticello included vegetable gardens, a vineyard, two orchards, and an 18-acre ornamental forest. Trees planted as early as the mid-19th Century still adorn the Academical Village at UVA. This life-giving vegetation continues to fight the greenhouse gasses humans add to the environment. Jefferson and other forward-thinking botanists gave us gifts centuries before we recognized them. We can pass on their legacy by teaching our children about the gift of trees – what we have received and how we can give.

This land was once James Monroe’s cornfield. But Thomas Jefferson bought it and said, “Let there be trees!”

Benefits of Trees

  • Trees clean the air by trapping particulates on their leaves and branches.
  • Trees help prevent water pollution by collecting rainwater on their bark and leaves and depositing it in the ground below.
  • Trees provide economic opportunities for small businesses that provide food to local markets.
  • Exposure to trees helps relieve mental fatigue.

     Jefferson’s story and his gardens offer valuable lessons for young people. Planting a tree, caring for a sapling, waiting for growth all require patience and hard work. What better way to learn these important life skills? Planting trees with children engages them physically and gives them purposeful time outdoors. Watching and waiting for the first green sign of life teaches youngsters that growth takes time, just like their own development. The tree will need nurturing and thoughtful care including some hands on, “Let’s get messy” work. To generate interest in tree planting, you can begin with age-appropriate literature about trees and their care. Adolescents may be energized to learn about the difference trees make in the fight against global warming, or they may want to plant their tree to support a friend going through a difficult time. So, take a moment to enjoy a refreshing breeze and appreciate the clean scent of a forest. Then make a plan for the gift you will give, a gift someone is waiting for.

“Let there be trees,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Ways to Give Back

  • Plant a tree or shrub in your yard (and post a photo on social media)
  • Add Virginia Creeper to cover a fence
  • Learn more about trees and spread the word

Resources for Parents

Books:

Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-10)

Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words by Brandon Walden (ages 6-12)

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups by Gina Ingoglia (ages 8-12)

Websites:

Informative video for parents and kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abVvZLyZAIg

Tree Activities for Kids: https://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tree-activities-for-kids.html

Benefits of trees: https://canopy.org/tree-info/benefits-of-trees/urban-trees-and-climate-change/,

https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits


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Fairfax Ninth Grader Reveals NoVa Native Carbon Storage Champions

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 18, 2020 by Noreen Wise

The planet will keep revolving around the sun, no matter how destructive and irresponsible humans are. But we humans won’t. Humans are mammals. Mammals rely on our habitat to survive. And mammals eventually become extinct when our habitat disappears. Eighty mammals have gone extinct in the past five centuries.

Humans have escalated the destruction of our habitat for several centuries now. Leveling billions of trees. Replacing nature with concrete. We began waking up at the turn of the millennium. Al Gore traveled the globe with his megaphone, beating the drum, challenging us with his Inconvenient Truth. But did we rush into action, planting billions of trees and shrubs to restore our habitat?

No, sadly, we did not.

And now we have to face the fallout. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. A jarring reminder that haunts us as we finally begin racing to save our habitat by infusing as much nature into our local communities as possible, implementing an agenda to quickly catch up to a level we would already be at if we’d begun the campaign back at the turn of the millennium as Al Gore suggested.

The interesting phenomenon that nature graciously reminds us of, is that it can’t be rushed. We can’t force a tree to grow dramatically faster than it is predisposed to grow. With this reality staring us in the face, it’s imperative that we turn to shrubs to help with carbon storage, providing oxygen, filtering pollutants, stabilizing soil, increasing property values, and providing shade all while the young trees continue their upward climb.

At the end of October, Gallant Gold Media’s Hill Report ran a story about a W. T. Woodson High School ninth grader in Fairfax, Virginia, Julia Victor, and her science experiment for the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair . Julia was determined to find out if shrubs can hold as much carbon as trees. Today we are very eager to share Julia’s findings.

Julia’s original hypothesis: I am hypothesizing that the holly tree will grow to be the largest and will absorb the most carbon. I also think that shrubs might not be far behind. I am hoping to be able to come to the conclusion that shrubs and smaller plants are just as important to reversing climate change as large trees. 

The steps that Julia initially planned to implement to test her hypothesis:

  1. Remove the soil and weigh each plant. Record each plant’s bare root weight (without soil).
  2. If plants are not the same weight, trim each plant until they are approximately equal.
  3. Plant each plant in its new container with 1 gallon of soil each. Label each container with the plant species.
  4. Water each plant with 1 cup of water each. 
  5. Set up each plant’s light to a 12-hour timer to simulate the sun.
  6. Water each plant regularly with its recommended amount of water.
  7. After 25 days, remove all the soil from the bare roots from each plant and weigh.

The NoVa native species that Julia used in her experiment:

  • American Holly 
  • Strawberry bush
  • Spicebush
  • Arrowwood Viburnum
  • Black Chokeberry

I sent Julia a list of follow up questions, but its best to let her explain her findings in her own words.

First question: Julia, were you able to follow her exact procedure. She replied:

I followed my original procedure except for step two. Some of the plants had very different starting weights so I would have to trim the plants quite a bit. If I had trimmed them all to be the same weight, some plants would have very little leaf coverage which would affect their ability to absorb carbon. That step was originally included to make conclusions easier for me, but I didn’t want to alter my results even though it would make it easier. 

What was the most challenging part of the experiment?

The most challenging part of the process was weighing the plants at the beginning and end of the experiment. I took three measurements for each plant, which led to 150 measurements. The process of unplanting, bare-rooting, weighing, and replanting took all day, but I was excited to start my experiment and to see my results. 

What were your findings?

The species all reacted differently to the same conditions. Some plants showed a surprising amount of change over only 24 days, but others lost leaves and lost weight. Even within species, each plant had variance. I started the experiment expecting that each plant would be different and be able to process carbon differently. Using a t-test, I determined that on average, plants that started out larger (30+ grams) grew substantially more than the smaller plants. This is consistent with research I did before starting my experiment. The larger plants were in a different stage of life and can sequester more carbon. 

Which species stored the most carbon?

On average the American Holly sequestered the most carbon, but the individual plant that gained the most weight was a Black Chokeberry. Not all plants gained weight due to leaves falling and certain plants entering their winter stage, but on average every species gained weight. Some species gained less weight because they had more intense winter stages or because the species processes carbon slower. By looking at the data, I can say that the shrubs are important to carbon sequestration. The trees (American Hollies) did absorb more carbon than the shrubs, but Black Chokeberry was very close behind. 

Will you be planting any nature this spring?

This spring, I will be planting all 25 shrubs that were in my experiment at my school. I originally planned to plant them in my yard, but many of them will grow to be fairly large and my yard does not have enough space. My science teacher was happy to plant them at Woodson.


Julia’s work and her findings are significant. I’m cheering this exciting outcome and personally look forward to planting black chokeberry this spring. I can’t wait to promote planting NoVa native trees and shrubs as well. Gallant Gold Media will be sending Julia’s work to Al Gore to see what he has to say about a young Fairfax, Virginia ninth grader taking action to address an Inconvenient Truth. Stay tuned for more information.

Thank you, Julia Victor! Northern Virginia, and I’m sure the entire state of Virginia, appreciates your hard work for our betterment.

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Chopping Down Trees Creates Legal Liability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 16, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Trees provide everything from oxygen to habitats for animals, yet they are chopped down with impunity. The damage to the environment is incalculable. To put it into perspective, however, half the number of trees exist now than those in existence when humans first evolved; fifteen billion trees are cut down annually; and ten percent of climate change is attributable to chopping down trees. Environmental carnage aside, legal liability and criminal liability exist for cutting down trees that do not belong to the harvester.

The legal terms most closely associated with cutting down and removing trees that do not belong to the harvester are “timber trespass” (mistakenly harvesting trees from another’s property) and “timber theft” (stealing trees from someone’s property). Timber trespass deals more with the civil end whereas timber theft can involve civil and criminal penalties. It varies from state to state. Nevertheless, lawsuits are filed for large sums of money over taking timber that does not belong to the harvester. 

In South Carolina, as of 2016 one-hundred cases per year are investigated and pursued with a value of between $500,000 and $600,000. A man in North Carolina illegally cut timber near Asheville, the value of the trees owned by a conservancy assessed at $1,000, but the mill rights to the timber of $25,000-$30,000. 

Illegal tree harvesting tends to be less of a problem in North Carolina, which has a larger population, than it is in Maine, which has a smaller population and vast swaths of uninhabited forests. Maine has over one-thousand complaints of timber theft each year.

The damage to the environment cannot be separated from the legal issues that arise from stealing trees, which are property, but they are far more than that to every living thing. In the most basic sense, illegal harvest of trees contributes to the problem of deforestation:

Over half the world’s land-based plants and animals live in forests, and three quarters of the world’s birds live in and around forests. It does not take a science PhD or intricate knowledge of environmental science or ecology to understand that the more trees that are cut, the more environmental problems that will follow.  

And it is a problem all over the world from the rainforests in South America to the United States to even Ireland:

All of it is interconnected, and every time a tree is cut down (regardless if it is replaced), the owner of the tree is impacted as is the rest of the planet. While planting new trees can certainly mitigate the problem, it cannot recapture what is lost every time a tree is cut down. Sadly, the only way to stop harvesting of trees may be filing lawsuits because people and corporations tend to respond the most when their money is on the line. 

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Compost & Carbon Sink | Climate Action

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 10, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Compost is a big deal in the calculus for increasing carbon sink in our soil. It provides one of the most effective methods for the US public to assist with cutting carbon as deeply and swiftly as possible.

Peat is a compost. It looks very much like soil, but is simply partially decade vegetation rich in nutrients. These nutrients are what enable the increased absorption of carbon. Peatlands are only 3% of our global lands, yet they store approximately “30% of the earths soil organic carbon.” In light of our extreme #ClimateCrisis, peat should never be removed from its environment to be sold to consumers for profit.

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The ever increasing carbon levels as the global population continues to grow, demands that we each do our own part in every way possible to curb carbon, especially in light of the fact of how simple and easy this actually is.

As we hurry to build infrastructure to support solar energy and EV autos, it makes sense to simultaneously rush to improve our natural carbon storing assets, which will further the lowering of CO2 in our atmosphere.

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Creating compost bins wherever possible can provide the much needed extra compost for forests, home gardens, public gardens and parks. It was exciting to see a “Compost” bin at the restaurant where I ate today. It was lined up with the other options at the recycling and garbage hub. I always feel so hopeful when a business “gets it” and does it’s little part. The care and maintenance of a compost bin in a restaurant is minor, but the benefit to society is huge. It pretty much follows the same ratio mentioned at the top of the page: 3% / 30% .

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We can do this!


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Portugal Ascending in the Age of Sustainability | Cork Element

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 9, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Portugal is ascending. Sustainability is the the critical path forward in our effort to curb global warming and become carbon neutral. For ambitious overachievers, sustainability will ride us all the way to carbon negative. Successful sustainability is about adjusting every single one of our everyday small choices and shifting to sustainable options. What food do we eat? How is it packaged? Do we drive an EV, or walk, ride a bike? Are we using a bamboo toothbrush, refusing plastic straws? Do we have a vegan leather cork bag?

Yes, that’s right. A luxurious, sustainable, vegan leather cork bag? The new vegan leather that shines a glowing spotlight on the green horizons of the $32 billion women’s accessories industry. In fact, according to Infinium Global Research, by the year 2025, the vegan leather industry alone will be a massive, thriving $89.5 billion industry.

Cork stands out amongst other vegan leather alternatives. The cork comes from cork trees, native to Portugal, which according to Cycling Centuries, produces approximately 50 percent of the world’s supply of commercial cork, and 70 percent of cork’s world trade. These evergreen oaks cover the the Alentejo region of southwest Portugal, with their knotted forms quickly catching the eye of passersby. Many of the trunks are marked for harvesting the cork, or have the outer bark of their lower trunks already peeled off, exposing the reddish wood underneath. 

Thankfully, peeling the cork from the evergreen oak trunk causes no harm. These mighty beauties live approximately 200 years; their cork bark is harvested every nine years. I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the vital importance of high quality cork in preserving our favorite wines, with some of these cork plugs protecting the quality of standout rare wines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thus, consumers should have full confidence in cork’s durability in serving as the ideal leather alternative.

With sustainability becoming such a huge global issue following the 2015 Paris Agreement, innovative solutions have sprung up everywhere. Enter three creative Portuguese trailblazers — Joao Guimaraes Paiva, Hugo Diaz and Debasmita Bhattacharjee — who knew all about cork and were excited to step into this maximumly competitive ring and introduce their handmade line of vegan leather cork bags to global consumers. It was exactly a year ago, in November 2019, that they founded Cork Element.

It’s exhilarating to see such a beautiful collection of luxurious handmade bags crafted by a brand new company and founded for the sole purpose of delivering sustainable vegan leather bags to meet the goal of lowering our global atmospheric carbon level. Many of the top fashion designers now have cork bags as an alternative to their animal leather products. However, I personally feel it’s much more gratifying to purchase a cork bag from an ethical innovator that doesn’t believe in killing animals for profit and doesn’t simultaneously sell such products alongside their cork leather line. 

Cork Element bags are all manufactured in Portugal. The team outlined the process for manufacturing their high quality handmade products as follows:

  • the cork is harvested and stripped from the trees
  • it arrives at the factory and is boiled in water, which expands the cells and makes the cork more pliable 
  • no toxic chemicals are used
  • the cork is shaved down into thin sheets the same thickness as tissue paper
  • cork is naturally water and dust resistant, but Cork Element seals the cork sheet with a non-toxic sealant to keep it from getting dirty
  • cork can get wet, but leather cannot; in fact, cork leather can even be washed in the machine

Cork Element: “Cork fabric is durable as leather and as versatile as fabric. This material is environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic, water resistant and stain resistant as well as easily cleaned and long lasting.”

I asked the Cork Element team what official statement they’d like to make to American and Canadian consumers about their fabulous cork leather collections:

Cork is an extremely good alternative to leather and it’s a much better material than leather. Cork is water resistant, stain resistant and a durable material. As we are fighting for animal rights every day, cork is a material with a cause. Cork Oak trees provide home to biodiversity around Portugal and Mediterranean regions. It’s a very simple material with no chemical processes unlike leather. If you love animals and like leather, America and Canada should definitely try out this beautiful tree leather.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, what better way to celebrate a new US president, as well as our renewed commitment to curb global warming by rejoinig the Paris Agreement, than by purchasing a cork bag for all the women in your life.

Cork Element bags are currently available:

We hope many more US & Canadian retailers and online marketplaces will pick up the Cork Element brand and offer these beautiful handmade collections to their animal loving, eco-friendly, suitability focused customers!

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Trees for Love | 247 Seedlings Planted to Remember Those We’ve Lost to Covid

Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 7, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Gallant Gold Media is excited to share the wonderful news that 247 free redbud and button bush seedlings were distributed to Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents to plant in remembrance of those lost to Covid in our communities. Fairfax ReLeaf supplied the free seedlings, which Gallant Gold Media distributed through George Mason University’s parking Lot P on Saturday, October 24, 2020. The Fairfax Tree Commission was the essential liaison that made this all possible, enabling the free seedling distribution to come to fruition by connecting these various organizations. 

It takes a village.

Apparently, the Trees for Love campaign is the largest community tree planting success in the state of Virginia during 2020. The Burke Centre Conservancy was the largest group of planters, distributing 146 Fairfax ReLeaf free seedlings to their Clusters and residences. The rest of the redbud and button bush seedlings were claimed by Northern Virginia residents, many of whom were moved by friends and family who’d been lost to covid and were searching to find a meaningful way to honor their memory.

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Burke Centre Conservancy are big tree planters, here’s a photo from 2019

One such resident was Dawn Zimmerman. Dawn, a Virginia State licensed professional counselor, operating her solo practice Imago Dei Counseling in Fairfax City, attributes her love of nature and gardening and the outdoors to her grandfather, a midwest farmer, as well as spending her childhood in Thailand. Although born in metro Washington DC, Dawn’s father was a State Department Foreign Service Officer. From a young age Dawn seems to have become well-acquainted with the understanding of how important it is to connect with others in our community and let them know we care, especially during a crisis.

Whether it’s Dawn’s close connection to the State Department, her career as a counselor, or her passion for nature, Dawn felt compelled to enrich Northern Virginia with multiple Virginia Native redbuds and button bushes to honor the five family and friends she’s lost to Covid. Dawn wanted us to know more than just their names though, she was eager to share their stories.

Ron Ontko: Dawn’s honorary uncle, passed away from Covid related complications on April 2, 2020 in Hendersonville, NC. He was 89 years old. Ron and his wife Carol, met in Wisconsin, and after college, while in a young couples group at Grace Lutheran Church in Washington, DC,  became good friends with Dawn’s parents. The two couples went on to become lifelong friends. Ron was an avid photographer and devoted ‘Skins fan, but his career was spent in public service. After graduating high school, Ron served in the United States Air Force, before he returned to school. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from the University of Wisconsin and then his master’s degree in international law from George Washington University. From there, Ron worked for the NSA, the United States Senate, and the US State Department, which is quite a remarkable resume. Ron Ontko was a Freemason and a Shiner, participating in fundraising for numerous children’s charities. He is survived by his wife Carol of 62 years, as well as his son, Andrew, and daughter, Julie.

Jack “Zeke” Zimmerman: Zeke is Dawn’s uncle, who was lost to Covid related pneumonia on October 21, 2020 at aged 86 in Frederick, MD. Survived by wife Lynn, sons Steve (Andrea) and grandsons Eric and Mark of Memphis, TN; Paul of Wilmington, DE and was predeceased by son John, Silver Spring, MD.  Also survived by Mary Lee Zimmerman, the mother of their three sons; Daughter-in-Law Christie (widow of John) and grandchildren John Paul “JP” and Maria. 

The following is a loving tribute written by Zeke’s grandson, Mark Zimmerman:
Zeke Zimmerman was known to many as the “Godfather of DC Metropolitan Area Sandlot Basketball.”  GrandJack lived his life around basketball. He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and fielded basketball teams. He formed teams from players that he would recruit from across the country. Around 1950, having teams with multiple races was unprecedented. My grandfather did not judge a player based on his skin color, but on his basketball ability. Jack was known as Zeke Zimmerman in the D.C. area. He formed a team called “Zeke’s All-Stars.” This was the first team that had both black and white players in the D.C. area. Because my grandfather did not judge a player based on his race, many black basketball players were able to go to college for basketball or even the NBA. A couple of years ago, he gave me a jersey from the 1950 Zeke’s All-Stars team. This jersey is a symbol of my family’s value of inclusion. It did not matter which race wore this specific jersey. The only thing that mattered was that my grandfather saw talent in that young man, and he wanted to help. My family still holds the values of inclusion and equality in our everyday lives, as we do not judge people based on their skin tone, but on their personality.

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Redbud and button bush seedlings planted to remember Zeke Zimerman and Ron Ontko

The following is a State Department obituary with a few extra details provided by Dawn:
Patrick “David” Husar, 67, died May 9, in Arlington, VA. David was born in Lorain, Ohio located on Lake Erie and 30 miles West of Cleveland. At University of Kentucky, where David majored in history, one of his professors encouraged him to consider a career with the Foreign Service. Joining in 1976, Husar served as a consular officer at posts in Pakistan, India, and the Philippines before transitioning to Civil Service. He retired in 2016 and enjoyed long walks around the Washington area, was an avid reader, and was dedicated to his faith. He is survived by his wife, Jonahlyn; a brother Michael; and extended family in the Philippines.

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Button bush seedling planted to remember David Husar

Daniel Lee: Spending a few minutes on Google images to view the architectural designs that Daniel Lee graced upon all of us here in the United States, is sure to inspire. And inspiration is certainly the impulse Mr. Lee appears to have been striving for when he graduated from the Mississippi School of Architecture in 1981 and began his career in classical architecture as an intern with Allen Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg is one of the premier classical architects of the twenty-first century. The son of Protestant missionaries, Mr. Lee’s love of classical architecture sprung from his childhood in Paris, France, surrounded by neoclassical landmarks erected during the reign of Louis XIV and that continued all the way through Louis XVI. Many of us here in Virginia are endowed with an inherent appreciation for classical architecture, which dates back to the founding of our most historic cities. So it’s with great sadness that we lost Mr. Lee to Covid on August 17, 2020, at age 64. Mr. Lee is survived by his wife of 40 years, Leonor Lee, his two sons, Stephen and Christopher, and two daughters, Susanne and Katherine.

Redbud seedling planted to remember Daniel Lee

There’s an additional friend of the family. In Dawn’s own words:
Pat Purcell died from Covid related complications on May 11th, 2020 in Fairfax, VA. Pat resided in the same Senior living community as my mom and was the elderly mother of Ann Lawrence, a friend of my parents from their local Lutheran Church. Mom and Pat became friends but lived on different floors and in different areas of the building. Interestingly, Pat was actually a member of a local Baptist Church but was adopted by the Lutheran pastor, Rev Sandy Kessinger who made regular visits to their Continuing Care Community. 

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Redbud seedlings planted to remember Pat Purcell

Dawn spent 10 years working at the State Department before starting her counseling firm. After buying her townhouse, she became involved with her HOA replanting project, which she finds life affirming. During the first five years she hand-dug holes, which is quite a feat, and planted five trees, as well as a slew of shrubs and perennials. Dawn was sidelined from her gardening last year following two minor car accidents which required physical therapy. But thankfully, she returned with all her passion and began removing hundreds of “small, weedy Rose of Sharon saplings and bush honeysuckle” that were rapidly spreading in the HOA areas. She’d learned about the importance of growing Virginia Natives and was determined to correct the situation.

Dawn’s Virginia Native Trees for Love redbud and buttonbush seedlings are planted in three HOA areas in Dawn’s Northern Virginia townhouse community. Dawn received a note from one family member who expressed, “That’s perfect; thank you. Not just words but heartfelt, tears flowing, gratitude.”

When I asked Dawn for one final thought on the importance of planting trees, she responded with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“When we plant a tree, we are doing what we can to make our planet a more wholesome and happier dwelling-place for those who come after us if not for ourselves.”

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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