How We're Greening America

Submitted by Mary Meade on
A refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s in Kirkland, Washington. Photo by Colleen Michaels.

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

Telecoms Need to Do More on Climate Justice

Green America’s newest report, “Calling for a Clean, Just Transition,” is our next step in pushing the big three telecoms giants—AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon—toward 100% renewable energy.

Since 2018, Green America and our members have urged telecoms to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2025. We’ve scored major victories along the way. As a result of our members’ actions, all three companies have made several of the largest corporate purchases of renewable energy. Still, they have much more to do.

Not only are we asking telecoms to put new wind and solar power on the grid, but to ensure that renewable energy purchases further energy justice.

Our findings in “Calling for a Clean, Just Transition” show uneven progress in adopting renewable energy:

  • T-Mobile committed to 100% renewable energy by 2021 and announced it had achieved that. We’d like to see T-Mobile up their game to reaching this goal with 100% new renewable energy. Currently, about 50% of this renewable energy is from renewable energy “credits” (RECS), which do not guarantee new solar or wind installations.
  • Verizon committed to 50% renewable energy by 2025 and purchasing clean energy to reach that goal.
  • AT&T does not have a clean energy goal, but has entered clean energy contracts that may get the company to about 25% renewable energy.

“It is not enough to purchase renewable energy. Large purchasers like telecoms also need to commit to and ensure that their energy purchases support energy justice,”says Dan Howells, Green America’s climate campaigns director. “Renewable energy purchases should benefit communities and workers most harmed by fossil fuels and incorporate these communities and workers into the process of finding sites for clean energy installations and making construction decisions.”

In particular, he says, these companies should have diverse workforces, with greater representation of women, other marginalized genders, and people from Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, who have traditionally been excluded from energy-sector jobs.

“Based on our research, we did not find evidence that any telecom is prioritizing energy justice in their contracts for renewable energy,” says Green America’s executive co-director Todd Larsen. “Each has, at best, a mixed record in supporting energy justice so far. T-Mobile is the best of the three, and still has more to do.”

In the coming year, Green America and our members will be calling on the telecoms giants to get to 100% renewable energy that puts new solar or wind on the grid by 2025 and to prioritize energy justice in these purchases.

Amazon Takes an Important First Step on Chemicals in Clothing

Amazon, the largest clothing seller in the US, lags in its protection of consumers and workers from the toxic chemicals often found in apparel. It’s making progress, thanks to activism by Green Americans.

For two years, Green America’s Toxic Textiles campaign called on Amazon to address toxic chemicals in all the apparel it sells. Nearly 40,000 Green Americans urged Amazon to act quickly on dangerous chemicals in the tens of thousands of pieces of clothing, footwear, and accessories sold on its website. Green America also engaged activists online through videos and social media.

In response, Amazon announced that its private label brands will comply with AFIRM’s Restricted Substance List (RSL) for apparel, accessories, and footwear products in North America, Europe, and Japan. AFIRM is a membership organization for the apparel and footwear sector that works to address chemical management. The AFIRM RSL ensures that chemicals of concern are below certain thresholds in products sold to consumers.

This is an important first step toward eliminating toxic chemicals that Amazon sells—and a victory in the long-term battle for worker, consumer, and environmental protection. In theory, this first-step would mean that when customers purchase products from Amazon’s private labels, including Amazon Essentials, Mae, Goodthreads, 206 Collective, and Core 10, they should be protected from exposure to some of the most toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Advocates and experts, including Green America’s labor campaigns director Jean Tong, are concerned this does not go far enough to protect consumers and workers.

For workers in particular, Green America is pushing Amazon to adopt a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) to reduce exposures to toxic chemicals in all its supplier factories, not just what is on the clothes at the time of sale. Since the vast majority of apparel sold on is from third-party companies, it needs to ensure all the clothing it is selling protects consumers and workers.

In addition to the MRSL, Amazon should take the meaningful step to join The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, which is a “legally binding agreement between more than 180 garment brands/retailers and global trade unions to make textile and garment factories safe.”

“Green America and our allies are calling on Amazon to do the right thing and go further,” says Tong. “When people spend their hard-earned money on Amazon, they shouldn’t have to worry whether they are exposing their family to toxic chemicals. And, no one wants workers and communities harmed in the making of these products. It’s time Amazon put consumers and workers’ concerns before profit by adopting the International Accord and a MRSL.”

Trader Joe’s Acts on Climate Change

Trader Joe’s has long ranked low among supermarkets in terms of refrigerant management, which is a major driver of climate change. In 2016, the grocery chain settled a lawsuit with the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency because of its significant leaks of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCS), which violated the Clean Air Act, and have thousands of times the global warming potential of CO2.

In January 2023, Trader Joe’s finally announced that all its new stores will use, counterintuitively, CO2 refrigerants, which are much better for the planet than conventional HFC coolants. The announcement comes after over 20,000 Green Americans urged Trader Joe’s to do better, and after the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Green America ally, ranked Trader Joe’s poorly on its Climate-Friendly Supermarkets Scorecard.

“This is a credit to Green Americans taking action to pressure Trader Joe’s to clean up its act,” 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.”

In 2023, Green America will call on our members to take further action to urge Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and other major grocers to end their use of refrigerants that are a significant driver of climate change in all of their stores.

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