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Every living thing on Earth consumes something, from the greatest whale to the tiniest microbe. Their consumption is part of the contribution they make to their environment. In a healthy environment, this exchange of energy supports the life cycles of all. As humans, we are unique: With short-sighted ingenuity, we tend to harvest, strip-mine and consume resources at a rate that compromises our very survival. Obviously, that means trouble. 

Footprints aren't just the literal marks we make, trekking across the ground. Footprints can also be concepts, measurements of the impact our lifestyles and personal choices have on the environment. According to the Global Footprint Network, this ecological footprint is a "metric that compares the resource demand by individuals, governments, and businesses against what the Earth can renew." How much do we take from the Earth, and what of that can be replenished?

Big feet 

This spinning green and blue marble we live upon has finite resources. To support our current levels of consumption, we would need the environmental resource of 1.75 planets. We don't have 1.75 planets; we only have one. As any first-time credit card holder learns, when your expenses exceed your income, it eventually catches up with you. Humanity is living beyond its means.

If we imagine the issue on a planetary scale, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where do we fit in this equation as individuals, and how do our actions impact the whole? There are lots of online resources to calculate your own footprint. The Global Footprint Network offers one of the better online quizzes. In this context, "better" does not mean "gave me the results I wanted." Alas, no angel am I. Despite my efforts to tread lightly on the Earth, I'm coming in at 1.4 planets, meaning if everyone on Earth lived just like me, we'd still be in trouble. (A 1:1 ratio is what we need to live in balance with our environment; anything above that uses more resources than our planet can supply).

Once I looked at the data more closely, I learned where I could improve: shelter. Inefficient energy use at home is my Achilles heel. That's a bit frustrating since I'm a renter with limited control in this area. A vintage 70s-era refrigerator, for example, is still kicking and gurgling along in my rented kitchen, large enough that I could someday be buried in it. The global footprint calculator has taught me that upcycling a massively inefficient appliance as a coffin probably isn't the right kind of creative. I ran through the quiz a few more times with aspirational responses to figure out what changes might bring me below the 1 planet threshold. (Here's a plot twist I didn't see coming: Using a dishwasher uses less energy than washing by hand! Weird!) With some achievable tweaks to my daily routine, I'm able to (theoretically) bring myself back into balance with the Earth. There is hope!

Crops leave footprints, too.

If we can calculate the ecological footprint of a person or business, can it also be assessed for an industry such as genetically modified crops? The questions would be different, of course. Asking herbicide-tolerant GMO corn how often it commutes by motorcycle gets us nowhere. Because natural systems are complex, we need to look at the big picture of GMOs: the diverse species, fertilizers and other chemicals that are employed and affected.

Considering that big picture — how we rely on and utilize the Earth's resources — is essential to understanding how we can leave the Earth better off than we found it. In Part 2 of this blog, we'll look at the ecological footprint of GMOs and how our food choices can nourish ourselves and our planet. Join us next week!

 

RadRunner e-bikeAs part of our #BeTheButterfly Campaign, we've partnered with Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes for the chance to win a state-of-the-art electric bike! Rad Power Bikes is a local direct to consumer business with global impact: It grew from a one-person operation to become an industry leader in the field of ebikes, with stores in the US, Canada, and Europe. The company is a natural ally: Grown in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, inspired by the passion of a small group of people determined to make a positive change. Their vision of accessibility — that everyone deserves energy-efficient and enjoyable transportation — resonates strongly with our belief that everyone deserves the right to know what's in their food.

When it comes to positive impacts, changing up some of our daily tasks can have huge benefits. According to Rad Power Bikes, "for every mile spent driving, the average car releases 404 grams of CO2, a greenhouse gas that builds in the atmosphere and wreaks havoc on the climate." That's each car, each mile driven, each day. Consider for a moment that the things we do every day are where the greatest opportunity lies. How we move through the world, the food we eat, and how we move that food from the grocery store to our home — these are basic human needs and fantastic opportunities for positive change.

Biking is FUN

I've never had a driver's license. I'm jumpy by nature, and having a ton of steel and fuel at my highly strung fingertips seemed like a bad idea. I've made do with walking and public transit. A few years back, wanting a bit more variation in my commute, I shifted toward cycling, and what I found was unbridled joy: the wind, the glide, the zoom of it! I started making my own sound effects as I went (something that is actively discouraged on the bus). If I'm on a particularly fluid stretch of road, I might burst into song. Is this odd? Yes, yes it is. But there are many odd things in the world, and spontaneous expressions of joy are the sort we need more of. 

Those healthy and happy cyclists are taking cars off the road, reducing fuel consumption, air and noise pollution. And — my favorite cycling fun fact of all time: Cycling makes the streets safer for everyone who uses them. Drivers are a bit slower and a bit more cautious when they share the road with cyclists, which means that up ahead if a kid runs out into the street, that same motorist is better able to stop. Good cycling infrastructure, like separated bike lanes and traffic-calmed roads, calls more riders to the fellowship of the wheel. The whole system of getting people from point A to point B improves, becoming more energy-efficient and quieter (except for the singing).

At the time of writing, Washington State is still mostly locked down. But when I travel, I do so on my bike. Non-GMO Project staffer Lindsey Rieck uses her RadWagon electric cargo bike to reduce her car use: "I love that it has pedal assist but still lets me get exercise if I want to." Ebikes dramatically increase the number of trips taken by bike by making cycling more accessible: There's an assist level for every fitness level.

About those hills...

We have hills in Bellingham. These are the kinds of hills that make you lean your whole body forward to resist the pull of gravity. Quads are worked, Achilles tendons are stretched. I live on such a hill. Lean and Lycra-clad individuals on racing bikes as light as a baby squirrel come to MY  neighborhood for a challenge. I can't pedal these inclines without slaloming wildly, and that ain't safe. Add a load of groceries and it feels like I'm towing an elephant behind me. Enter the ebike, with pedal assist. Pedal assist offers a little help on steep roads or with heavy loads, and the rider controls how much help and when. Here's a stretch of bike lane to keep cyclists safe on a long, inclined arterial road, and here's NGP staffer Kathy Weinkle climbing it with ease.

When we make changes to our daily lives, changes that benefit us, the people around us, and the planet we share, it doesn't have to be hard. Ebikes are a change for the better that feels like it, and we need as many of those as we can find. Positive change can be about empowerment, about figuring out how to do things better. Taking more trips on a bike enhances our connection to our community, makes our neighborhoods safer and allows us to tread lightly on the planet. Empowerment rides a bike. 

Enter to win an electric bike from Rad Power Bikes!

Rad Power Bikes generously donated three electric bikes for #BeTheButterfly giveaways. Enter to win and share your butterfly effect!

*Open to U.S. residents 18+ years of age only. By entering this Giveaway, you agree to the Giveaway’s Terms of Use, which can be found here.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for giveaways over the next year

Beginning today, the Non-GMO Project is launching an awareness campaign to highlight how individual actions ultimately lead to huge impacts. This idea is called the butterfly effect, and in the natural world, it happens all the time: A small and seemingly insignificant event spirals outward, creating massive and complex changes in the world around us. And we each have a role to play. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that small actions and choices have large impacts. When we act towards a common goal, we are capable of amazing things.

Look for the Butterfly Effect

In collaboration with renowned domino artist Lily Hevesh and Children of the Setting Sun Productions, the Non-GMO Project brings you a stunning “domino fall” video to illustrate how small, individual actions impact the greater whole. The video playfully examines a “world of connections, woven together with infinite dexterity," arguing that industrial agriculture — with its reliance on GMOs, toxic chemicals, and vast monocultures — disrupts these connections and robs from the Earth. 

“We recognize that our work to build a non-GMO food system, one that honors nature and our place in it, is just a small piece of a much broader collaboration,” said Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project.  “We are all connected in ways that make it possible to make big changes through small but important choices. That includes the food we buy, and also what we give back to the Earth and to each other.”

Within this interconnected landscape, each one of us has an impact, and we can choose to be an agent of positive change.

#BeTheButterfly

Starting the week of May 18th, 2020, we invite you to share stories of your contributions to a healthy, prosperous and diverse future for all. We hope you will take inspiration from each other's ideas, expanding the global movement towards sustainability. By sharing #BeTheButterfly stories, Non-GMO Project's social media followers can enter to win a state-of-the-art ebike from Rad Power Bikes, the Seattle-based pioneer in sustainable transportation. Coordinating prizes throughout the campaign will also include Patagonia backpacks, Klean Kanteen containers, and more!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for upcoming contest details!

Join us over these next 12 months as we partner with mission-aligned artists, brands and innovators that are making their own #BeTheButterfly pledge. Like the monarch butterfly, we might think that we travel alone, but ultimately we live together.

Beginning today, the Non-GMO Project is launching an awareness campaign to highlight how individual actions ultimately lead to huge impacts. This idea is called the butterfly effect, and in the natural world, it happens all the time: A small and seemingly insignificant event spirals outward, creating massive and complex changes in the world around us. And we each have a role to play. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that small actions and choices have large impacts. When we act towards a common goal, we are capable of amazing things.

Look for the Butterfly Effect

In collaboration with renowned domino artist Lily Hevesh and Children of the Setting Sun Productions, the Non-GMO Project brings you a stunning “domino fall” video to illustrate how small, individual actions impact the greater whole. The video playfully examines a “world of connections, woven together with infinite dexterity," arguing that industrial agriculture — with its reliance on GMOs, toxic chemicals, and vast monocultures — disrupts these connections and robs from the Earth. 

“We recognize that our work to build a non-GMO food system, one that honors nature and our place in it, is just a small piece of a much broader collaboration,” said Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project.  “We are all connected in ways that make it possible to make big changes through small but important choices. That includes the food we buy, and also what we give back to the Earth and to each other.”

Within this interconnected landscape, each one of us has an impact, and we can choose to be an agent of positive change.

#BeTheButterfly

Starting the week of May 18th, 2020, we invite you to share stories of your contributions to a healthy, prosperous and diverse future for all. We hope you will take inspiration from each other's ideas, expanding the global movement towards sustainability. By sharing #BeTheButterfly stories, Non-GMO Project's social media followers can enter to win a state-of-the-art ebike from Rad Power Bikes, the Seattle-based pioneer in sustainable transportation. Coordinating prizes throughout the campaign will also include Patagonia backpacks, Klean Kanteen containers, and more!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for upcoming contest details

Join us over these next 12 months as we partner with mission-aligned artists, brands and innovators that are making their own #BeTheButterfly pledge. Like the monarch butterfly, we might think that we travel alone, but ultimately we live together.

 

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