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American Retirement Funds said to contribute to Deforestation



Deforestation by crustmania via Flickr

A new transparency tool, “Deforestation Free Funds,” shows which global mutual funds contain palm-oil-related holdings, the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction today.


Friends of the Earth and As You Sow created this free online database to allow individual investors, for the first time ever, to determine their links to tropical deforestation and land grabs. The tool then empowers investors to demand deforestation-free investment options and responsible policies from workplace retirement plan managers and major fund families.

The search platform, which currently encompasses 6,500 global mutual funds, will be expanded in the future to include all market drivers of deforestation. Currently, some 10 percent of the global palm oil industry is financed by equity investors, including many mutual funds. As of June 2016, U.S. mutual funds had a net investment of more than $5 billion dollars in palm oil producers.

Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, said, “Investments in palm oil are embedded in our pension funds, IRAs, and 401(k)s but most of us are not even aware of it. This web tool empowers investors to know exactly what they own so that they can pressure fund managers to implement sustainable investment policies and find investment options that support a forest-friendly future.”

Investments in palm oil are embedded in our pension funds, IRAs, and 401(k)s but most of us are not even aware of it.

new report by Friends of the Earth, which accompanies the database, names the top 10 U.S. asset managers invested in palm oil production, including BlackRock, Vanguard, CalPERS, TIAA-CREF and Dimensional Fund Advisors. The report also shows that none of these firms have clear criteria for disclosing or avoiding risks related to deforestation and land rights. “Are You Invested in Exploitation?” outlines ways that these institutions can take greater responsibility for the social and environmental impacts of their investments.

Jeff Conant, senior international forests program manager at Friends of the Earth, said, “When Americans put their hard-earned money in savings and retirement accounts, they believe they are preparing for a better future. But large asset managers undermine that very future, globally speaking, by putting this money into destructive agribusiness firms,  generally through complex investment chains and failures in due diligence. Financial managers must stop investing in companies that grab land from subsistence farmers and Indigenous people in order to install massive plantations with dangerous, low-wage labor.”

The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations across the tropics has caused social conflict and human rights abuses in countries like Indonesia, Liberia, Nigeria, Guatemala and Malaysia. Destruction of native rainforests is driving orangutans, Sumatran tigers and other endangered species to the edge of extinction. Processed palm oil is used ubiquitously in over half of the packaged consumer products on shelves today, including lotions, shampoo, toothpaste, cookies, breakfast bars, instant noodles and donuts. It can be very challenging for consumers to avoid palm oil; this joint effort focuses on shareholder advocacy as an avenue to greater tropical forest protections.

In the past few years, thanks to public pressure, dozens of consumer brands and palm oil traders have promised to stop burning and destroying forests, grabbing land, and abusing human rights. But promises have been slow to materialize, and the finance industry has yet to address its role in driving destructive palm oil expansion. Furthermore, as “Are You Invested in Exploitation?” argues, the palm oil sector has concentrated tremendous wealth and power in countries with weak democracies and poor human rights records. These conditions enable corruption–something that investors should studiously avoid.

The tool highlights socially responsible funds that carefully consider issues like the environment and human rights. Some of these funds invest in companies specifically to gain a voice at the table, engage management and create real improvements in the company’s behavior. If individuals look up their investments and aren’t satisfied, Deforestation Free Funds can show them better-rated alternatives, and amplify their calls for reform. Future evolutions of the website will include information about all commodified sources of deforestation, including timber, paper, cattle, soy and sugar.

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Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage



water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

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Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism



When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.

After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.

How was it started?

It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.

How to go about it?

So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.

If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.

What can be learned?

Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .

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