Five things to toast this holiday season

Beyond plastic

staff | TPIN
This year, as we’ve gathered to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, we have been taking some time to reflect on the environmental victories made possible by the hard work of our staff and the generosity and conviction of our supporters and allies. Here are five milestones that we hope you’ll join us in toasting this year:

500,000 people urged protection for our nation’s oldest forests

On Earth Day 2023, the Forest Service took a step toward protecting our most important trees and forests. We worked to elevate calls from community members, scientists and forest defenders around the country about the necessity of protecting our old-growth and mature forests from harmful logging. During the summer, we knocked on doors in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina to build support for stronger forest protections. Along with coalition partners, we delivered more than 500,000 public comments to the Forest Service, urging protection for our oldest trees on federal lands.

Photo: Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery and staff help deliver more than 500,000 public comments to the U.S. Forest Service to protect mature and old-growth forests and trees from logging on federal land. Photo credit: Staff.

Seven big wins for wild lands and the wildlife they support

Following the submission of 17,500 comments marshaled by Environment America and our campaign partners, the Biden-Harris administration protected 225,504 acres in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, from mineral and geothermal leasing for 20 years. A year after we introduced Alaska Environment, our 30th state-level group, the Environmental Protection Agency issued restrictions against the use of certain Bristol Bay headwaters as a disposal site, effectively preventing the proposed Pebble Mine from moving forward. In March, President Biden declared Avi Kwa Ame and Castner Range national monuments, protecting more than 510,000 acres of canyons, natural springs, peaks, grasslands, Joshua trees and petroglyphs, as well as mule deer, mountain lions, javelinas and other wildlife species. In June, Environment America staff joined Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to celebrate the protection of the Greater Chaco Canyon landscape from drilling. Just two months later, President Biden designated 900,000 acres of public land surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument, protecting the precious waters of the Colorado River from the threat of dangerous uranium mining. In November, more than 76% of voters in Texas approved a ballot measure to invest $1 billion in new state parks. Our staff in Texas teamed up with a conservative business leader to get Prop 14 on the ballot and worked with Grammy-winning country singer Kacey Musgraves to seal the deal with voters.

Photo: Environment Texas staff and coalition partners advocate for more funding for our state parks. Photo credit: Staff.

California and Colorado joined the ranks of pollinator-protecting states

Through our research, lobbying, organizing and canvassing, we called on governors and state lawmakers to restrict bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. Our efforts paid off the most in the West, with Colorado and California passing laws restricting the sale of neonicotinoids and in turn limiting one of the largest threats to thousands of native pollinator species critical to the survival of local ecosystems. As a result, 10 states now have limits on pollinator-killing pesticides, and 1 in 4 Americans lives in a state with such a law.

Photo: Staff join Gov. Jared Polis as he signs legislation making Colorado the ninth state to restrict neonics. Photo credit: Staff.

We build momentum to put wildlife over waste and curb plastic pollution

We believe that nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute our environment and harm wildlife for hundreds of years. To this end, we released a survey documenting the prevalence of unnecessary plastic packaging across items sold at Whole Foods. Our staff delivered tens of thousands of petition signatures to Amazon, signed by our members and supporters, urging it to reduce its plastic packaging, and a couple of months later the online retail giant agreed to replace its padded plastic mailers with recyclable alternatives. We also celebrated a series of victories in the Pacific Northwest: Oregon committed to phasing out polystyrene foam foodware and packing peanuts, and a new law will make it easier for Oregon restaurants to provide reusable container options. Washington passed a law requiring bottle-filling stations in new buildings and phasing out unnecessary plastic waste from single-use personal care items in lodging establishments.

Photo: Environment Oregon’s Celeste Meiffren-Swango (first on left) celebrates the passage of Oregon’s polystyrene foam ban with state Rep. Janeen Sollman (second from left) and staff from our coalition partners at Oceana and The Surfrider Foundation. Photo credit: Staff.

By year’s end, 12 states were committed to 100% clean electricity

This year, we saw multiple states and entities take decisive action toward a clean energy future. Minnesota became the 11th state to commit to 100% clean electricity and Michigan became the 12th. As a result, 1 in 3 Americans lives in a state with such a commitment. Five states (Colorado, Rhode Island, Maine, Hawaii and Oregon) passed legislation to phase out energy-wasting fluorescent lighting. On the eve of the release of our “Solar on Warehouses” report, which makes the case for harnessing the billions of square feet of warehouse rooftops across the country to generate solar power, Lowe’s announced plans to install 48 megawatts of rooftop solar on 52 stores and two distribution centers. Additional reports offered guidance for bringing clean energy to schools and showcased America’s progress toward adopting clean energy policies across the nation. We celebrated California’s commitment to encourage solar power infrastructure in underutilized space alongside its highways. To encourage clean energy adoption at home, we ran webinars to help Americans take advantage of clean energy tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Photo: Johanna Neumann, senior director of our national Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, tours a warehouse rooftop with solar panels. Photo credit: Tim O’Connor.

On behalf of the Environment America team, we wish you a happy new year.



Wendy Wendlandt

President, Environment America; Senior Vice President, The Public Interest Network

​​As president of Environment America, Wendy is a leading voice for the environment in the United States. She has been quoted in major national, state and local news outlets for nearly 40 years on issues ranging from air pollution to green investing. She is also a senior vice president with The Public Interest Network. She is a founding board member of Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizers, and Green Century Funds, the nation’s first family of fossil fuel free mutual funds. Wendy started with WashPIRG, where she led campaigns to create Washington state’s model toxic waste cleanup program and to stop the nation’s first high-level nuclear waste dump site. She is a 1983 graduate of Whitman College. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and dog and hikes wherever and whenever she can.

Douglas H. Phelps

Chairman, Environment America; President, The Public Interest Network

Doug is President and Executive Director of The Public Interest Network. As director of MASSPIRG starting in 1979, he conceived and helped organize the Fund for the Public Interest, U.S. PIRG, National Environmental Law Center, Green Century Capital Management, Green Corps and Environment America, among other groups. Doug ran the public interest careers program at the Harvard Law School from 1976-1986. He is a graduate of Colorado State University and the Harvard Law School.

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