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On Earth Day, majority of New Yorkers concerned about pollution, climate change

Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers say they are very concerned about water pollution, air pollution and deforestation, a new Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) survey shows.

More than half of the respondents to the Earth Day poll said they are very concerned about climate change.

“New Yorkers, by over two-to-one, believe policies designed to protect the environment are more likely to help rather than hurt the economy,” said SCRI Director Don Levy. “Just under 60 percent say that we are at the point of no return and if our government, businesses and population don’t actively address the threats to our environment, we will do irreparable damage to our planet.”

In nearly every category, more female respondents said they were very concerned about pollution and climate-changing factors. Sixty-nine percent of female respondents said they were very concerned about water pollution, compared with 58 percent of male respondents. Some 62 percent of female respondents said they were very concerned about climate change, compared with 51 percent of males. And 54 percent of women said they were very concerned about waste disposal, compared with 44 percent of men.

While 70 percent of New Yorkers very often recycle waste including paper, cardboard and plastic and 69 percent very often use reusable bags, fewer than half very often conserve electricity by lessening use, try to conserve water or use reusable beverage containers. Majorities engage in each of those conservation measures at least sometimes, and a majority at least sometimes also cut back on the amount of computer paper that they use, and use forms of transportation that could include public transportation, carpooling, walking or biking in order to reduce auto emissions.

“While Democrats overwhelmingly support pro-environmental policies, believe those policies will spur economic activity and think failing to protect the environment will lead to irreversible harm, Republicans disagree,” Levy said. “Not only does a majority of Republicans think that pro-environmental policies will hurt the economy, but nearly two-thirds despite supporting efforts to protect clean water and air, say that we’re doing as much as we should and doing too much is too expensive for us and our nation.”

When it comes to environmental policies, Levy added, majorities of New Yorkers support making our cities more pedestrian-friendly, promoting the widespread use of electric cars, having New York produce 100 percent of its electricity with zero emissions by 2040 and the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accords.

“A small majority even supports encouraging New Yorkers to move toward a more plant-based diet,” Levy noted.

A new Gallup poll shows that four in 10 Americans consider themselves environmentalists. That is down considerably from the 78 percent who called themselves environmentalists in 1991. A decline has been seen across the board from Republicans, Democrats and independents, the poll found, and today 50 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans think of themselves that way.

Environmentalists differ most from non-environmentalists in the level of concern about global warming and climate change, the poll found, with 63 percent of environmentalists and 29 percent of non-environmentalists worrying “a great deal” about the issue.

Some 70 percent of environmentalists say the U.S. is doing too little to protect the environment, compared with 46 percent of non-environmentalists. Nearly three-quarters of environmentalists think the effects of global warming already have begun to happen, while 50 percent of non-environmentalists feel the same way.

In a separate poll, Gallup found that roughly 70 percent of U.S. workers say that a company’s environmental record matters to some degree in whether or not they would take a job with that company. Nearly one-quarter of those say it is a major factor in their decision to work for a company.

U.S. workers who identify as Democrats are the subgroup most likely to say a company’s environmental record is a major factor in taking a job. Women also are a bit more inclined than men to prioritize environmental records when looking for work.

“If Americans become more likely to perceive climate change as a pressing issue, employers who do not have a strong record on protecting the environment may have a harder time finding employees,” Gallup’s researchers noted.

In a recent ranking of the nation’s “most sustainable cities,” Lawnstarter, a startup lawn care service with locations here and in dozens of locations nationwide, ranked Rochester sixth, behind San Francisco, Boston, Sacramento, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Key factors in Rochester’s high rating include:
• Third in the number of incentives and policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency
• Seventh for its alternative-fuel stations per 100,000 residents
• 29th for its median air quality index where a lower value equates to better quality
• 28th in its share of workers who walk, bike, carpool, or ride public transit to work
• Sixth for its farmers markets per 100,000 residents

Lawnstarter ranked 200 of the nation’s largest cities for the “Most Sustainable Cities in the U.S.”

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Companies changing logos in support of climate fight


Rochester People’s Climate Coalition is trying to go viral like the Ice Bucket Challenge did, but with melting instead of freezing.

RMSC changed its logo to call attention to climate change.
RMSC changed its logo to call attention to climate change.

And instead of curing a disease, the group is aiming to cure the planet of climate change by educating people and businesses about steps they can take to help.

RPCC, with the help of a lot of legwork from Partners + Napier, launched its #LogoWarming campaign on Thursday, with about 10 business and organization partners participating. Each agreed to change its logo for a time to represent the melting caused by global warming, and to challenge other entities to do the same.

The idea is to not only call attention to climate change but also to what can be done about it, namely to “Go All Electric.”  The theory is that because 91 percent of the electricity generated in New York comes from nuclear, water, wind or solar power already, switching from fossil fuel for heating or transportation to electricity cuts down on carbon production.

“Where our emissions come from is the heating of our buildings and transportation. Both of those lend themselves to electrification,” said Abigail McHugh-Grifa, executive director of RPCC. “Go All Electric is an idea we want to be planting in everyone’s mind.”

McHugh-Grifa said that while most people agree that the earth’s atmosphere is heating up, they often don’t know what to do to fight that potentially cataclysmic phenomenon. Many folks haven’t heard of or don’t understand what a heat pump is, for example, she said, referencing a heating system that pulls heat out of your house in the summer and draws it from the warmer earth in the winter. It saves both money and energy costs.

“The heating and cooling systems — that is going to be slower to come along than electric vehicles,” McHugh-Grifa said. But the group is focusing on one step at a time, starting with asking companies to change the appearance of their logos online temporarily.

With the help of Partners + Napier, the logos are being remade to look as if they’re melting in the heat of the sun.

“For companies, their logo is sacred,” McHugh-Grifa said. “I think it is a big ask for businesses to do this. But protecting our planet is absolutely worth it.”

Apparently a cadre of companies and institutions agree.

The Rochester Museum and Science Center, along with its Cumming Nature Center, has signed on to be two of the initial #LogoWarming participants.

“It’s a lovely, beautiful way to get something out there,” said RMSC President and CEO Hillary Olson.

Hillary Olson
Hillary Olson

A museum of science is an ideal organization to be involved, she said, because its job is to share science without bias.

“We can be a community convenor for everyone, all belief systems,” Olson said. “Museums are a trusted source of information. There’s so much that’s been politicized about this issue unnecessarily. It’s an issue of science and it’s an issue of what we can do … using our brains and human ingenuity.”

The #LogoWarming campaign seems to fit right in with companies that have already made environmental issues a priority. The museum, for instance, has changed its parking lot to porous material and commissioned an art piece that both collects rainwater runoff and educates people about water issues.

Similarly, David Brickman and Patricia Sunwoo, a married couple who own Hemp It Up, decided to go into the hemp products business because of their environmental concerns, said Brickman.  “Hemp can replace cotton in just about any use,” he said, but with less negative environmental impact. It can also be used to make paper, negating the need to cut down trees, which are necessary to help trap carbon dioxide.

Brickman and Sunwoo are professional violinists who also own another Park Avenue business adjacent to Hemp It up, called Bodymind Float Center. Both businesses will change their logos for the campaign.

“I hope that our melting logo will add to the din from scientists, activists and concerned citizens that screams ‘Climate change is real and the time to act is NOW!’” Brickman wrote in an email.

Other organizations that have signed on include Abundance Cooperative Market, Breathe Yoga, Brighton High School Climate Club, Computer Systems Asset Disposal, ROC Recycling Co., Stacy K Floral, Sweet and Cute, and SWBR.

Businesses interested in participating in the #LogoWarming challenge can learn more at the initiative’s website.
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