One would think that most consumers don’t give Mother Earth a second thought as they go about their shopping. So from that point of view, the following statistics are surprising. 71% of consumers say they at least sometimes consider the environment when they shop. Over one in four say they regularly or always keep it in mind (1). Now, there’s a difference between thinking green and actually going green, but it’s reassuring to know the vast majority of people are aware that they can vote for the environment with their dollars, and improve the ecology of their daily lives as well.

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Palm oil is ubiquitous at the supermarket today, as it’s found in everything from margarine to cereal to potato chips. Palm oil imports have ramped up 485% over the last decade or so, according to the Rainforest Action Network’s palm oil factsheet. The consequence of this increased production is rampant rainforest destruction, and yet this issue may only be reaching the fringes of general consumer awareness.

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An annual growth rate of 41% is highly impressive for any business or industry. Would you believe that fair trade and eco-friendly products are currently seeing just such an explosion? The good news comes in a report called The State of Sustainability Initiatives Review 2014, compiled by a coalition of fair trade and sustainable development groups. It presents an optimistic outlook for sustainability standards and certifications and the companies that choose to pursue them. Some areas that need improving were also identified.

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The United States is forging ahead with the natural oil and gas boom that defines its energy policy, even as the significance of this boom flies under the radar. The average person has rarely heard about the explosive growth, except perhaps from stories about fracking controversies. But the global community has taken notice, with the official Chinese state news agency calling U.S. energy growth the most underreported story of 2013. Meanwhile, major alternative energy sources have been carving their own paths.

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Frustrated with a lack of progress from negotiators, activists groups made a dramatic exit just before the close of this year’s world climate change meetings by walking out en masse from Warsaw’s National Stadium, where the meetings were held. The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held November 11–22, was meant to firm up the timeline for a legally binding 2015 agreement on climate change goals, but observers were dismayed by continued fighting over details among the delegates.

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Newly updated eco-friendly building standards made their debut at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held in Philadelphia from November 20–22. The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) well-established LEED program (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) has reached its fourth version. LEED v4 is more user-friendly, and the LEED certification program is more open and ready to handle a wider variety of green construction projects, according to officials.

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As the first U.S. government shutdown since 1995 began on the morning of October 1, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to put into action a contingency plan it hoped never to use. Like nearly every other government agency and service, the effects on daily activities were set to be devastating. Though the shutdown, just beginning at press time, will likely have ended before too long, here is a look at the impact it had on the EPA.

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In a copy of the fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) obtained by Reuters, scientists upped the likelihood that human activities are causing global warming to 95%. The United Nations report was due to be officially released sometime in September 2013.

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A new study published in Environmental Research Letters examines the relationship between attempts to improve global food security and to mitigate climate change. The findings revealed that these two efforts can potentially form a virtuous circle, where improvements in agricultural yields may cut down greenhouse gas emissions, on top of providing more food.

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In a lengthy speech laying out his administration’s current vision for climate change policy and the urgency with which it needs to be approached, President Barack Obama may have set an ambitious course for the United States as a global leader in the cause. “When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently—in crises averted, in a planet preserved,” he said.

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