Week 21: Free Press

The Obama administration implemented net neutrality policies to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast to allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source. The policies prohibit ISPs from blocking, slowing, or selling priority delivery speeds to certain sites. ISPs have been taken to court over net neutrality issues such as restricting access to competitive companies and slowing service to peer-to-peer sharing sites. The current administration is seeking to roll back these policies, claiming that government interference reduces incentives to invest resulting in higher prices for consumers. On Monday April 3rd the President signed a repeal of Obama’s net neutrality rules, following repeal votes in the House and Senate. FCC commissioners voted to start the process to end net neutrality rules in May and they are now conducting a public comment period that lasts through the end of August. Companies such as Amazon and Netflix and online activists participated in a day of action on Wednesday July 12th that featured protest videos and memes with statements such as, “Unfortunately, your ISP does not want you viewing this content.” Submit a comment to the FCC to share your opinions on net neutrality.

This week in support of net neutrality we donated to the advocacy nonprofit Free Press. Their programs focus on preserving a free and open internet, curbing media consolidation, protecting freedom of the press, and ensuring that media represents diverse voices. In 2015 Free Press secured net neutrality rules at the FCC; the same rules that the FCC is now considering rolling back. In 2016, Free Press successfully defended those net neutrality rules against AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon in the courtrooms and in Congress. In addition, their efforts led to the FCC adding internet broadband service to the existing Lifeline program, which was created to subsidize phone service for low-income individuals.

We believe that this is a MAJOR issue that truly affects our freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to learn and share information. The Internet permeates so many aspects of our lives, both personal and professional, on an individual and community level. As demonstrated by writing and publishing this blog, we believe that the free and open Internet is one of the most valuable tools that people today have to share their opinions and ideas, and fight back against what they feel is wrong. It is hard to imagine life without the luxury of this free and open Internet. It pains and worries us to think about what might happen if we do not all rise up and demand net neutrality today. This decision could have ramifications on all of our lives for years to come.

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Week 20: Goodwill

Among Trump’s proposed 31% cuts to EPA funding in his FY18 budget includes the elimination of the RCRA Waste Minimization and Recycling programs. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the framework for the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. The EPA’s budget justification includes the statement, “State and local entities or industry groups may elect to continue work to reuse and recycle materials…The EPA will focus on core environmental work.” In 2013 alone, U.S. recycling reduced greenhouse gas emissions equal to the quantity produced by 39 million cars. Email your Senators and Representatives urging them to preserve the RCRA Waste Minimization and Recycling programs.

This week we donated to Goodwill Industries International, which placed 313,000 people in employment last year and provided online education and job training services to 34 million. Goodwill accepts many discards from residents that cannot go into curbside recycling bins in most cities such as clothing, sporting goods, kitchenware, appliances, and furniture. Goodwill goes to great lengths to repurpose donations; for example they try four different ways to divert a piece of clothing from landfill. First, they try to sell the garments in retail stores. After 4 weeks, items still unsold go to Goodwill outlets where they are sold by the pound. From the outlets, unsold textiles travel to auctions where attendees bid on bins of items without knowing the exact contents. The fourth stop is textile recyclers such as the members of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), who cut clothing into rags for industrial use or soft fiber filling for purposes such as insulating homes or filling furniture. Only 5% of items that eventually make it all the way to SMART are ultimately landfilled (primarily wet, moldy, or contaminated garments).

We have long been fans of Goodwill, donating clothing and items to their drop-off locations and shopping for gently-used items at their stores. However, it wasn’t until Allyn began pursuing a career in sustainability and waste reduction that we truly learned about all of the remarkable work that Goodwill Industries International does for our planet. We believe that the current administration’s insinuation that reusing and recycling materials is somehow not part of “core environmental work” is absolutely ludicrous. Diverting waste from landfills means much less greenhouse gases unnecessarily produced that contribute to rapid climate change; less toxins polluting our soil and groundwater; and less disposal of items that could have been given a new life and new use. We applaud the work that Goodwill does for our communities and Mother Earth—more vital now than ever before!