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EPA's Climate Action Plan may save thousands of lives

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In Chicago, the weather has always been moody. But weather conditions are getting more sporadic no matter where travelers go.

In a June 2 proposal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Climate Action Plan, with the approval of President Barack H. Obama, to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, which would increase efficiency and lower pollutant rates.

The Earth’s temperature on average has risen 1.4 degrees in Fahrenheit and will continue to rise 2- to 11.5 degrees in Fahrenheit in the upcoming century, leading to more flooding, droughts, rain and heat waves. And carbon dioxide pollution is the primary culprit – responsible for an estimated one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

By cutting greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent, this eliminates 730 million metric tons of carbon pollution (the size of emissions for over 150 million cars or power for 65 million homes).

EPA estimates that the Clean Power Plan would reduce the health risks for over 25 percent of people by 2030. Even deniers who believe global warming is either nonexistent or exaggerated should be concerned about how the Climate Action Plan can affect their families.

By curtailing the pollutants from power plants, this could eliminate 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths; 140,000 to 150,000 of children’s asthma attacks; 340 to 3,300 heart attacks; 2,700 to 2,800 admissions in hospitals; and 470,000 to 490,000 missed school and work days.

Every dollar invested in the plan could also help Americans save up to $7 in health benefits and lower electricity bills by approximately 8 percent.

States will be given guidelines for goals to reduce carbon pollution and given the flexibility to work on an individual basis with a final plan due by June 2016.

While states work on significant resources to control pollution, textile wastes should be another highlighted area of concern. One trillion kilowatt hours are used every year by the global textile industry (10 percent of the global carbon impact). And the crisis over textile wastes and recycling is one that won’t take two years to get a plan underway.

An estimated 14.3 million tons of textiles were generated in 2012 (5.7 percent of total municipal solid waste). The good news is approximately 14.4 percent of clothing and shoes and 17.8 percent of sheets and pillowcases were recovered in the same year.

But the bad news is the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing on an annual basis and only 15 percent of their textiles are sent to recycling or charitable organizations. Ninety-five percent of textiles that are worn out, stained or torn can still be recycled, even if only to be used as wiping cloths or fiber conversions (ex. car insulation).

And let’s face it. “Worn out” is a matter of opinion – what may be “old” to one person is “new” to another, especially those who are less financially fortunate and would appreciate second-hand clothing nationally and worldwide. For others, “old” and “worn” clothing are easily relabeled “exercise clothes” or “cleaning cloths.” Who needs paper towels when that unwearable T-shirt is just as efficient for house cleaning or a car wash? Be creative with finding ways to increase the longevity of all clothing, not just the latest styles.

Speaking of style though, for seamstresses and some clothing manufacturers, second-hand clothing is a primary shopping haven to refurbish and redesign better outfits, especially vintage cloth. And over 70 percent of the population around the world wears second-hand clothing.

Companies such as Beyond Retro (located in the UK and Sweden) purposely look for older clothing to redesign, creating garments that are 100 percent recycled and repurposed. Fashion magazine Marie Claire voted Beyond Retro as one of the top three vintage online stores.

For local shoppers in Illinois, CBS News recently highlighted vintage stores around Chicagoland, such as Knee Deep Vintage, VMR, Kokorokoko, Rad Vintage and Seek Vintage.

If consumers commit to reuse and recycle everyday goods, financially support local (and national) organizations that make environmentalism a priority, purchase more energy-efficient appliances, and properly dispose of old clothes and shoes through recycling and charitable organizations, everyone can help in the fight against global warming.

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