The rise of eco-friendly “No Buy” groups

Plus, a coal miners’ union will trade sustainability for jobs

Apr 23, 2021 | Current events | Spending Habits
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Go green to save green

Sure, we celebrate Earth Day, but we Americans still like our trash. Despite being only 4% of the global population, Americans create 30% of the world’s waste. The rising popularity of “No Buy” groups could help us cut back — in more ways than one. No Buy groups are hyper-local gifting communities (usually Facebook groups) where members can offer up items they no longer use or ask the group for items they need. It’s like Craigslist, but everything is free. The movement thinks we can all help the planet and each other if we share. Instead of buying a drill, you can borrow one. Got some home decor that’s gathering dust? Someone in the group will pick it up. No Buy predates the pandemic, but when donation centers halted operations and many lost their jobs, interest in sharing communities exploded. Nextdoor saw an 80% spike in for-sale listings while free listings doubled. One popular No-Buy group, the Buy Nothing Project, now has over 3 million members across 5,500 groups in 44 countries.

Coal, but make it clean

The nation’s largest coal miners’ union, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), backed Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure package in exchange for a "true energy transition." An industry in free-fall, coal lost 15% of its workforce just last year due to falling sales, bankruptcies, and massive job loss. UMWA's president wants to ensure employment and preserve communities for displaced miners as the country moves toward renewable energy. And the union has a plan to make it happen. Their proposal seeks hiring preferences for dislocated miners, investing in carbon capture and storage, and program funding to plug old oil and gas wells. Biden's plan sets aside $16 billion to address these concerns, but Congress is divided on how to pay for it. With Republicans labeling it as a "Trojan horse" for tax hikes and moderate Democrats unwilling to play ball, the bill has a long road ahead before coal fully goes clean.

Mother Earth’s got beef with beef

Even if you’re not vegan, you’ve probably heard about it: plant-based meat that looks and tastes like the real thing. Plant-based meat makes up only 2.7% of total packaged meat sales, but the global market is projected to reach 25% by 2040, potentially raking in a whopping $450 billion. And the industry saw a staggering 264% surge in sales during the first few months of lockdown. The leader is Beyond Meat, ahead of Impossible in US restaurants (42K to 30K), international markets (80 to 5), and frozen and refrigerated meat substitutes (22% to 9%). So, what’s the harm in eating beef? Grazing animals account for 40% of global methane emissions, a natural gas 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And the cattle industry is the main culprit behind the deforestation of the Amazon. You know it’s serious when Bill Gates is calling for “all rich countries” to move to 100% synthetic beef and even fast food companies are making a change.

Speaking of cows

Leather alternatives made from materials like cactus or mushrooms could reduce emissions in another not-so-sustainable industry: fashion. The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, and that ranking could end up hurting brands’ bottom lines. Why? Eighty-eight percent of consumers want companies to help them shop more sustainably. For fashion brands, moving the needle on climate change is no longer just good PR. It could be good for business. Allbirds — famous for open-sourcing its Plant Leather — just open-sourced its proprietary Carbon Footprint Calculator to help brands put a number to their impact. For its part, H&M is pushing against its fast-fashion rap by launching a free suit-rental program to help job seekers look the part without breaking the bank or harming the planet.