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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Photo: Jim Maragos, US Fish and Wildlife Service, CC BY-NC 2.0.
The Ocean Panel is a group of 14 countries looking to protect 100% of their ocean areas by 2025. Pictured: a coral reef in the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

I don’t know which aspect of this story is more hopeful: that there is time to save oceans or that 14 countries have pledged to collaborate. On anything.

From the radio show Living on Earth: “The oceans are facing serious and growing threats, including climate change, overfishing, plastic pollution and more. But a group of 14 world leaders called the Ocean Panel is committing to transform the ocean from victim to solution, by sustainably managing 100% of their ocean areas by 2025. Jane Lubchenco is the Deputy Director for Climate and Environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as a co-chair of the Ocean Panel Expert Group that helped ground this vision in research. She joins Host Aynsley O’Neill. …

“O’NEILL: Before she took her White House job, [Jane Lubchenco] spoke with us about the vision and work of the Ocean Panel. Jane, welcome back to Living on Earth!

“LUBCHENCO: Thanks, Aynsley, it’s a delight to be here.

“O’NEILL: Now, when we look at how we currently manage the oceans, why does the world need this total transformation in management? …

“LUBCHENCO: We’ve treated a lot of these problems issue by issue. And part of the message that the Ocean Panel leaders heard is the need for integrated solutions that consider the whole suite of human activities. The other major thing that I think they heard was that a smart future is not just doing more of the same. It’s actually doing things differently, being much smarter about how we fish, much smarter about how we produce energy, much smarter about how we transport goods around the world. And so much of what is in their new, exciting Ocean Action agenda is doing things smarter, more effectively, more efficiently, and also doing things more holistically. …

“In September of 2019, we had a new report that came out from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There was a special report on the ocean and the cryosphere, and it painted in very depressing detail, all of the ways that the ocean has been massively affected by climate change and ocean acidification. … The same week, the Ocean Panel unveiled a report. … The report that the Ocean Panel commissioned, looked at a variety of ocean-based activities and asked simply, what is the potential for mitigating climate change? And they found enough data at the global scale to analyze five categories of activities. And when they added up how much they could get from each of those five, they came to the astounding conclusion that it might be as much as 1/5 of what we need, by way of carbon emission reductions to achieve the 1.5 degree centigrade target of the Paris Agreement by 2050.

So that’s huge. You know, a lot of those activities weren’t even on the table. And here, we find that they actually could play a very significant role in helping to turn things around in terms of climate change.

“O’NEILL: So Jane, you mentioned five ocean-based activities to help mitigate climate change. Could you go through those for us, please?

“LUBCHENCO: So the first one was increasing renewable energy from the ocean, and that’s a big one. Most of that is going to likely be wave energy, but it might also be tidal, it might be current, it might be thermal, depending on what part of the world you are in.

“The second category was making shipping less polluting. So 90% of the goods that are traded globally travel by ocean and currently, that’s pretty polluting. Its dirty fuels contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. But it is technologically possible to decarbonize shipping, and that could have a huge benefit.

“Number three is focusing on what we call blue carbon ecosystems. So these are coastal and ocean ecosystems, such as mangroves, salt marshes, or seagrass beds, that are little carbon engines that are just sucking carbon out of the atmosphere like crazy. Those habitats; mangroves, sea grasses, salt, marsh beds, can not only remove but then sequester as much as 10 times as much carbon as an equivalent area of forest, for example. And we’ve currently lost about half of them globally. So here is an opportunity to actually protect the remaining ones, but also to restore those that have already been degraded.

“The fourth area for ocean based activities to mitigate climate change comes from focusing on a little bit greater efficiency with aquaculture, mariculture operations, a little bit greater efficiency with fisheries. But the big one in this category is really shifting diets globally, away from animal protein on the land, and including animal protein from the sea, instead of that animal protein from the land.

“And then the fifth category was simply sequestering carbon on the seabed. And the panel who looked at these five categories, said that the first four, they felt completely comfortable recommending that they be pursued aggressively. Smartly, yes, but aggressively. This fifth one, carbon storage in the seabed has a lot of questions still about technical and environmental impacts. And so they recommended further study for those. …

“This is not really sacrifice. It’s being smarter about doing things. I think people are familiar with the concept of greater efficiency when we think about energy. You know, much of the focus for mitigating climate change has been focusing on how do we use energy more efficiently. And there have been tremendous advances in energy efficiency of our appliances, of our automobiles, of our transportation systems. That same concept of being more efficient, is what underlies a lot of the transformative actions that are in the ocean action agenda. So yes, this is an incredible opportunity. And it’s my belief that these 14 nations that have embarked on this journey of discovery and now journey of action will have such success with what they are proposing that others will say, oh my gosh, I want some of that too.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters.
From the
Christian Science Monitor news roundup: “Managing director Kimani Muturi shows off a TexFad hair extension made from banana trunk fibers near Kampala, Uganda, April 3, 2021. When finished using it, consumers can compost the product. The company also makes rugs and other handwoven textiles.

When in the air-conditioner season I stop to think about how much we all depend on fossil fuels, I worry that we will never be able to halt global warming. But then I read stories from around the world about inventive people doing what they can, and I remember the underlying wisdom of “one and two and 50 make a million.”

Lindsey McGinnis at the Christian Science Monitor has scoured the news media for signs of progress in a variety of areas, including the environment.

“Researchers from the University of Maryland and Yale have made a breakthrough in the search for sustainable plastic alternatives, developing a wood-based bioplastic that disintegrates in a few months. … The new bioplastic is created by using a biodegradable solvent to deconstruct wood powder found at lumber mills into a slurry, which can then be shaped into common plastic products, such as shopping bags and other packaging.

“Other experimental bioplastics have often lacked the strength to compete with petroleum-based plastics, but the scientists say their product showed high mechanical strength during tests, the capacity to hold liquid, and resistance to ultraviolet light. At the end of a product’s life, the bioplastic will quickly decompose in soil, or can be re-slurried and used again. Source: New Atlas, Nature Sustainability

“A startup in Uganda is making consumer products from edible banana plant material that would otherwise go to waste. Uganda is sub-Saharan Africa’s top producer of bananas and plantains, with an estimated 75% of all farmers growing some form of banana. They typically leave the stalks to rot after harvesting fruit. That’s where TexFad saw an opportunity. The company, which launched in 2013 and employs 23 people, runs the stalks through a machine to create long fibers, hangs the leathery strands to dry, and uses the material to create products such as carpets.

“Last year, the company made $41,000 in sales, and the managing director expects TexFad to double production in 2021 to 2,400 carpets, some of which will be exported to customers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States for the first time. The company also creates hair extensions (used ones can be composted) and is working on a process to soften the fibers for use in clothing. Source: Interesting Engineering, Reuters

“A global network is helping reroute dangerous refrigerants before they leak into the atmosphere. Freezers and refrigerators have housed some of the most potent greenhouse gases, including the compound known as R12, a chlorofluorocarbon with roughly 10,000 times the destructive potential of CO2. The refrigerants pumped into modern units are better, but still pose global warming potential. When disposed of improperly – either knowingly or unknowingly – these gases are released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

“Tradewater, a company that collects and destroys greenhouse gases and sells the carbon offset credits, is coordinating with governments and businesses around the world to dispose of the gases safely. Its teams are sometimes called ‘chill hunters’ or ‘ghostbusters’ for the way they track and trap the gases, transferring them from discarded refrigerator cylinders into a large container. Tradewater then incinerates the recovered gases. The group reports that 4 million to 5 million metric tons have been kept out of the atmosphere so far. Ángel Toledo has run a waste disposal plant on the edge of Guatemala City for 16 years, but only dealt with refrigerant gases since 2018. ‘It’s like a dream, helping the environment … [by preventing these] gases from reaching the atmosphere.’ Source: BBC.”

More at the Monitor, here. I am not a Christian Scientist, but the Christian Science Monitor newspaper has a long and illustrious history for objective reporting, especially on international news, although I believe they don’t cover health news.

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Photo: BBC.
An all-female crew successfully rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in an “eco” boat.

In case you didn’t know, women can do anything. In today’s story, a group of women who wanted to make a statement about sustainable living rowed across the Atlantic in a boat with no backup motor. Sure. Why not?

“The BBC has the story. “Having spent nearly 47 days at sea and rowed for 3,000 miles (4,800km), the Bristol Gulls finished the ‘world’s toughest row’ in Antigua [this month].

“In so doing they became the first crew to complete the crossing in a sustainably-made boat. Skipper Sofia Deambrosi said the foursome was ‘exhausted but happy.’

“The Bristol Gulls — Miss Deambrosi, Lorna Carter, Phoebe Wright and Sarah Hunt — began the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December. Rowing in two-hour shifts, they survived seasickness, scorching temperatures, being capsized by huge waves and stronger-than-normal headwinds.

” ‘We’re all very proud and happy but our levels of exhaustion are pretty high,’ said Miss Deambrosi. …

“As well as raising awareness and money for charities the RNLI [Royal Navy Lifeboat Institution] in Portishead and Clean Up Bristol Harbour, the team wanted the boat to promote sustainability.

The Bristol Gulls’ motto is ‘To be the trailblazers that inspire others to embrace sustainable change and equality.’

“Their resin and fibreglass boat was built using renewable energy and its foam core was also made from 10,000 recycled plastic bottles. It had no engine and the women, who wore clothing partly made from recycled marine waste, used a solar-powered desalination unit to convert seawater into freshwater.

” ‘We hope in the future that manufacturers will start looking at making boats whose core, at least, is 100% recycled material,’ said Miss Deambrosi. ‘There’s no reason they shouldn’t do that. It doesn’t make a boat any slower or any less robust.’ …

“Miss Deambrosi, who first decided to take on the event in 2018, said she hoped their efforts would inspire others. ‘A lot of the male teams are army guys, navy guys, super endurance athletes, which makes sense because it is a very, very tough thing to do. …

” ‘We are all very down-to-earth, chilled people. It required a lot of training, but we wanted to prove anyone from any background can do it. And we did.’

“The Bristol Gulls placed ninth overall and Miss Deambrosi became the first person from Uruguay and the first woman from South America to row across any of the world’s oceans. ‘I left Uruguay 10 years ago but to represent my country is amazing,’ she said.”

More at the BBC, here.

Update: Earle sent this photo of the replica tule balsa his daughter made for an art project. She rowed it between two islands near the Golden Gate Bridge. Cool, huh?

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Illustration: Chris Dent for TIME

This interesting story about reaching for a more egalitarian type of economics says that capitalism got started in the Netherlands in the 17th century, but a very good book says that says it started with the enclosure of commonly used pasture in England in the 13th century. (See Steven Stoll’s Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia.)

Whenever capitalism started, it’s past time for a look at whether it inevitably caused the extreme inequality we see today.

Ciara Nugent writes at Time, “One evening in December, after a long day working from home, Jennifer Drouin, 30, headed out to buy groceries in central Amsterdam. Once inside, she noticed new price tags. The label by the zucchini said they cost a little more than normal: 6¢ extra per kilo for their carbon footprint, 5¢ for the toll the farming takes on the land, and 4¢ to fairly pay workers. …

“The so-called true-price initiative, operating in the store since late 2020, is one of dozens of schemes that Amsterdammers have introduced in recent months as they reassess the impact of the existing economic system. By some accounts, that system, capitalism, has its origins just a mile from the grocery store. In 1602, in a house on a narrow alley, a merchant began selling shares in the nascent Dutch East India Company. In doing so, he paved the way for the creation of the first stock exchange — and the capitalist global economy that has transformed life on earth. ‘

“[But, asks Drouin], ‘Is it actually making us healthy and happy? …

“In April 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19, Amsterdam’s city government announced it would recover from the crisis, and avoid future ones, by embracing the theory of ‘doughnut economics.’

“Laid out by British economist Kate Raworth in a 2017 book, the theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into what Raworth calls the ‘sweet spot’ between the ‘social foundation,’ where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the ‘environmental ceiling.’ By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that’s the doughnut.

“Amsterdam’s ambition is to bring all 872,000 residents inside the doughnut, ensuring everyone has access to a good quality of life, but without putting more pressure on the planet than is sustainable. Guided by Raworth’s organization, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL), the city is introducing massive infrastructure projects, employment schemes and new policies for government contracts to that end. …

“Raworth says DEAL has received an avalanche of requests from municipal leaders and others seeking to build more resilient societies in the aftermath of COVID-19. Copenhagen’s city council majority decided to follow Amsterdam’s example in June, as did the Brussels region and the small city of Dunedin, New Zealand, in September, and Nanaimo, British Columbia, in December. In the U.S., Portland, Ore., is preparing to roll out its own version of the doughnut, and Austin may be close behind.

“The theory has won Raworth some high-profile fans; in November, Pope Francis endorsed her ‘fresh thinking,’ while celebrated British naturalist Sir David Attenborough dedicated a chapter to the doughnut in his latest book, A Life on Our Planet, calling it ‘our species’ compass for the journey’ to a sustainable future. …

“Amsterdam is grappling with what the doughnut would look like on the ground. Marieke van Doorninck, the deputy mayor for sustainability and urban planning, says the pandemic added urgency that helped the city get behind a bold new strategy. … She says, ‘I think in the darkest times, it’s easiest to imagine another world.’ …

“Raworth published her theory of the doughnut as a paper in 2012 and later as a 2017 book, which has since been translated into 20 languages. The theory doesn’t lay out specific policies or goals for countries. It requires stakeholders to decide what benchmarks would bring them inside the doughnut — emission limits, for example, or an end to homelessness. The process of setting those benchmarks is the first step to becoming a doughnut economy, she says.

“Raworth argues that the goal of getting ‘into the doughnut’ should replace governments’ and economists’ pursuit of never-ending GDP growth. Not only is the primacy of GDP overinflated when we now have many other data sets to measure economic and social well-being, she says, but also, endless growth powered by natural resources and fossil fuels will inevitably push the earth beyond its limits. …

“The doughnut can seem abstract, and it has attracted criticism. Some conservatives say the doughnut model can’t compete with capitalism’s proven ability to lift millions out of poverty. Some critics on the left say the doughnut’s apolitical nature means it will fail to tackle ideology and political structures that prevent climate action.

“Cities offer a good opportunity to prove that the doughnut can actually work in practice. … Van Doorninck, the deputy mayor, says the doughnut was a revelation.

‘I was brought up in Thatcher times, in Reagan times, with the idea that there’s no alternative to our economic model. … Reading the doughnut was like, Eureka! There is an alternative! Economics is a social science, not a natural one. It’s invented by people, and it can be changed by people.’ …

“When the Netherlands went into lockdown in March, the city realized that thousands of residents didn’t have access to computers that would become increasingly necessary to socialize and take part in society. Rather than buy new devices — which would have been expensive and eventually contribute to the rising problem of e-waste — the city arranged collections of old and broken laptops from residents who could spare them, hired a firm to refurbish them and distributed 3,500 of them to those in need. ‘It’s a small thing, but to me it’s pure doughnut,’ says van Doorninck. …

“The doughnut model doesn’t proscribe all economic growth or development. In her book, Raworth acknowledges that for low- and middle-income countries to climb above the doughnut’s social foundation, ‘significant GDP growth is very much needed.’ But that economic growth needs to be viewed as a means to reach social goals within ecological limits, she says, and not as an indicator of success in itself.”

More at Time, here.

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Photo: Oxfam / Jacob Turcotte

The leveling aspect of Covid, or any pandemic, helps people realize that one person’s situation affects their own. If people living in poverty have no way to stay safe, wealthy people more likely to get sick, too. Climate change is similar: pollution in a poor neighborhood will ultimately affect your neighborhood.

Today’s article looks at some connectivity lessons society is learning — and what companies are doing in response.

Peter Ford reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “Verneuil-sur-Seine is not the sort of place you expect to find a revolution going on. It’s a sleepy, nondescript suburb outside Paris, its streets hushed on a recent midweek morning. But in a cramped office in a converted apartment, an ebullient American mother of five and her French husband, a former auto executive, are busy reinventing capitalism.

“Putting purpose before profits and ethics above everything, they are building a new sort of business. ‘We wanted to bring all our personal values into the company,’ says Elizabeth Soubelet, a trained midwife. …

“Ms. Soubelet and her husband Nicolas make Squiz, re-useable pouches for toddlers to suck applesauce from, which help parents cut down on plastic packaging waste. Theirs is a tiny company with ten employees [but]even titans of finance are on the same track as a new mood sweeps through businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, prompting CEOs to shift out of greed and into good. …

“Battered by the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, tainted by yawning disparities in income and opportunity, and focused tightly on the bottom line, ‘capitalism has been derailed,’ says Paul Collier, an Oxford University economist and recent author of a surprise best-seller The Future of Capitalism. …

‘Potentially, capitalism is a wonderful system,’ he adds. ‘But it doesn’t run on autopilot. It needs rules.’ …

“When the global businessman’s bible, the Financial Times, launches a campaign entitled ‘Capitalism: Time for a Reset’ as it did last September, you know something is afoot.

“In the developed countries where capitalism first flowered, but shifted away from its social obligations, its credibility today is badly tarnished. A worldwide poll earlier this year found that 56% of respondents thought the system was doing ‘more harm than good.’ And when the pro-free market think tank Legatum surveyed British public opinion in 2017, it found the notion of capitalism most often associated with greed, selfishness, and corruption. … 

“Labor’s slice of the global income pie has fallen from 54% to 39% since 1970, while the share going to wealthier individuals who own capital (such as stocks) has risen correspondingly, [and] executive pay, meanwhile, has reached astronomical levels. …

“It wasn’t always like this; Henry Ford was keen on reminding people that ‘a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’ … That approach [is] stirring now in more and more boardrooms as business leaders carve out a new role for their companies. Last August 181 U.S. corporate members of the Business Roundtable, including the bosses of Apple, Walmart and PepsiCo, signed a pledge proclaiming their ‘fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders’ and renouncing the doctrine of shareholder primacy. …

“ ‘It’s these notions of purpose, trustworthiness, values, and culture that underpin a reconceptualization of business for the 21st century,’ said Colin Mayer, the former dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, at a recent seminar.

“But what does that look like in real life? For Elizabeth Soubelet, it all began with shame. She was buying applesauce in 64-pouch family packs, she recalls, ‘and my kids were finishing them in like 14 seconds flat’ and then throwing the aluminum-lined plastic containers away. …

“She decided to make her own, and with her businessman husband set about creating a company with a simple mission: to help people reduce waste by using the company’s reusable pouches. … But Squiz also has a broader vision of its purpose, Nicolas explains. ‘We want to build an organization that cares for people generally – our customers, our employees, our suppliers and the environment.’ …

“So as to keep the company’s carbon footprint light, and to fulfill a social purpose, Squiz entrusts its packing and dispatch to a local nonprofit employing intellectually disabled people. Last year that meant some time-consuming and costly mix-ups, but Squiz sales administrator Virginie Bartoli, who spent weeks at the packing center sorting things out, discovered a silver lining.

“ ‘I didn’t know much about handicapped people, but I realized when I was working there that everyone has the right to work,’ says Ms. Bartoli. ‘This job I do has made me more human, in some ways.’ …

“Still, what does all the care for the environment, the employee perks, the insistence that all materials be recyclable, do to the bottom line? Just how much does it raise the cost per unit?

” ‘That’s a question that drives me crazy,’ Elizabeth splutters. ‘What would you call the base cost? The China price? You can only tell the “real” price when you add in the damage to peoples’ health and to the planet.’ “

Hmmm. I do believe that committed individuals and small companies might stick to their ideals in this realm. But when it comes to large corporations, count me skeptical. They will be good citizens if it’s good business financially. If not, not. What do you think? More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
The world’s largest container-shipping company, Maersk, has promised to make its operations zero carbon by 2050. Doing so will require using new fuels, such as hydrogen.

Would you pay more for goods delivered on ships that don’t use fossil fuels? Many people can’t afford to pay more, so sometimes the idea of cutting our dependency on oil and coal seems impossible. Fortunately — because they don’t know what’s impossible — young people are leading the charge.

But even corporations are starting to think it would be to their advantage to go carbon free. Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping company, based in Denmark, is one such corporation. And there are others.

As Rebecca Hersher reported at National Public Radio (NPR), “The global shipping industry is enormous — thousands of ships carry billions of dollars of goods each year across nearly every ocean on the planet.

“Those ships run mostly on a particularly dirty type of fuel known as heavy fuel oil, or bunker fuel. It’s thick and sooty, and when it burns, it emits sulfur and particulate matter that can cause respiratory illness. It also emits greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming.

” ‘If shipping was a country, it would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world,’ says Nerijus Poskus of the shipping technology company Flexport. ‘About 3% of global emissions are released by ocean freight shipping.’

“The industry is growing so steadily, he says, that it’s projected to produce more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury if ships continue to burn the same fuel, which is a real possibility considering that most cargo ships are designed to last at least 30 years.

“Yet there are signs that the status quo is changing and that a new fuel could make cargo ships among the cleanest transportation methods on Earth. …

“The international body that helps create global shipping regulations has clamped down on emissions of some air-polluting substances when ships are in or near ports. The new regulations, which started going into effect in 2012 and which decrease limits dramatically in January 2020, require ships to significantly cut the amount of sulfur pollution they emit when they’re near land. For the U.S., the regulations apply anywhere within 200 miles of its coastline. …

“Additional increasingly stringent emissions standards are planned for the next two decades. The largest container-shipping company in the world, Maersk, announced in 2018 that it intends to make its operations carbon free by 2050, though it’s still unclear how the company would achieve that goal.

“What is clear is that success will require new ships, new engines and — above all else — a new fuel. … Research at the U.S. Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories suggests that of [liquefied natural gas and hydrogen], hydrogen is the most promising.

“Using hydrogen to generate electricity is very clean. Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen and create electricity and water. The electricity can be used to turn a propeller, for example. The exhaust from fuel cells is moist air — with no greenhouse gases. …

“Leonard Klebanoff, a researcher at Sandia … and his then-research partner, Joe Pratt, started systematically analyzing whether current ships could be retrofitted to run using hydrogen fuel cells instead of fossil fuels.

“Pratt says the project started when a San Francisco Bay ferry operator asked the Energy Department whether it was possible to switch his fleet over to hydrogen power. … The answer, they found, was yes.

“The main issue was about size. For each unit of energy, liquid hydrogen is about four times larger by volume than conventional diesel … but ‘the efficiency of a fuel cell is about twice as much as a diesel engine,’ Klebanoff says. …

“When they analyzed the entire system, Klebanoff and Pratt found that it would be possible to retrofit most types of existing vessels to run on hydrogen and even easier to construct a new ship powered by fuel cells.”

Read more at NPR, here.

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Photo: Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Surplus bakery products account for nearly a third of the UK’s total retail food waste. Now Tesco is turning unsold bread into other products.

Remember this post on turning stale bread into beer? Stale bread is good for other products, too. Rebecca Smithers at the Guardian describes how the UK supermarket chain Tesco plans to make money while cutting waste.

“Britain’s largest supermarket chain is launching a drive to reduce food waste from bread by turning unsold baguettes and batons from its in-store bakeries into new products.

“Surplus bread is one of the biggest waste problems for food retailers, according to the government’s food waste adviser Wrap, particularly from freshly baked lines which have a short shelf life.

“Its most recent figures show surplus bakery products account for nearly a third (67,500 tonnes) of the UK’s total retail food waste a year. Bread is the second most wasted food in the home, with an estimated 1m loaves thrown away each day. It is also one of the most wasted items at every stage of the supply chain.

“Tesco said that, as well as being among the UK’s most popular breads, freshly baked baguettes and batons were among bread items left on its selves at the end of the day. The retailer said it had decided to use the unsold products to make a range of olive crostini and bread pudding which will be launched in 24 stores next week. It estimated the amount of unsold fresh bread could be cut by up to a half if the range was made available at all its outlets.

“Currently, Tesco’s surplus bread is reduced in price while still on sale, and some is sent to food distribution charities on the evening of its production. The remainder is then offered free in Tesco’s staff shop, after which it is sent for use in animal feed. …

“Said David Moon, the head of business collaboration at Wrap, ‘Using surpluses in store to make a delicious new product saves good food from spoiling and reduces the cost of waste to the business.’ ” Read more here.

If you would like to know more about the work of the sustainability consultant Wrap, check out the website. It says in part, “Our five year plan, ‘Resource Revolution, Creating the Future’ sets out how businesses, organisations and consumers can be part of a resource revolution that will re-invent, re-think and re-define how we use materials.

“It focuses on the three priority areas that will help best meet our goals – Food and Drink; Clothing and Textiles; and Electricals and Electronics, all of which are underpinned by resource management. …

“We work uniquely, and by design, in the space between governments, businesses, communities, thinkers and individuals – forging powerful partnerships and delivering ground-breaking initiatives to support more sustainable economies and society. We are world leaders in establishing the facts, getting the right people working together, then converting ideas into action and delivery on the ground. …

“Underpinning all our priority sectors is resource management, our focus on maximising the value of waste by increasing the quantity and quality of materials collected for re-use and recycling.”

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Photo: George Chernilevsky
A basket of wild mushrooms in Ukraine. Hunting mushrooms is a popular activity in Eastern Europe. And it’s good for the environment.

Danger, wild mushrooms! That’s what I was taught and that’s what I taught my kids and grandkids. But it’s only because the only way I know if mushrooms are edible is if they are in a supermarket bin. In places like Eastern Europe, however, identification skills are learned young.

A story from UN Environment explains why using forest products like mushrooms is important both for subsistence living and environmentally sound forest management. (Boy, how I wish I’d known all this about Bulgaria when I was in sixth grade and had to write a fancy report: there was no information anywhere.)

“Wild mushroom picking in Eastern Europe is more than a tradition. It is a social event. Every year, in late summer and early fall, thousands of people roam the woods for the biggest, most perfect specimens. They take their children along to teach them which mushrooms are edible and which are poisonous, which are ripe and which should be left for another week or so, passing on generations-old teachings and care for the woods. In the evenings, families share their harvest around a plateful of tasty, butter-fried delicacies. Together, they celebrate their love for the forests, sharing the best spots they found and recalling the animals or birds they sighted along the way.

“Forests are among the most valuable treasures on earth: they supply energy from timber, help with water regulation, soil protection and biodiversity conservation. Yet in traditional forest management, trees are still primarily viewed as a source of wood. All other products derived from wooded lands — such as honey, mushrooms, lichens, berries, medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as any other products extracted from forests for human use — are considered of secondary importance.

“Non-timber forest resources, however, have far-reaching benefits for millions of households, both in terms of subsistence and income. These by-products go into food and everyday items like cosmetics or medicines. The protection of their environment is therefore a vital need.

“Bulgaria, whose forests cover more than a third of its land area, is one of Europe’s richest biodiversity hotspots. Brown bears, lynxes and wolves can be found in its woods, which also harbour hundreds of bird species as well as a great variety of tree types, including beeches, firs, spruces and oaks.

“The country has a long tradition of forest management practices. Large-scale monitoring programmes are in place, and local communities are known to keep a close eye on the natural environment. Together, these factors have allowed national authorities to make the most of their biodiversity.

“Over 90 per cent of the annual yields of wild and cultivated herbs are sold as raw material to Germany, Italy, France and the United States, making Bulgaria one of the world’s leading suppliers in this sector. By gaining expertise in the protection and sustainable use of non-wood forest products, they have become a model for other Balkan countries. …

“Around 80 per cent of the developing world’s population use these products for health and nutritional needs, notes Anela Stavrevska-Panajotova, Project Coordinator at the Connecting Natural Values and People Foundation. The practices and skills learned from Bulgarian experts are crucial to work on identifying non-wood forest products and pilot testing in [places that have not protected their resources].

“Educating local office managers and the business sector on the sustainable use of forest resources is a cost-effective solution to address climate change. Sustainable resource use helps to improve the state of forests and habitats and, by extension, ensure economic and food security for local communities.

“In addition, forests act as carbon sinks and can remove pollutants from the atmosphere, making them a highly versatile tool to fight air pollution and mitigate climate change. Every year, they absorb one third of the carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels worldwide.” More here.

By the way, an amazing book about subsistence living, Ramp Hollow, permanently changed everything I thought I knew about history. Recommended.

 

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Photo: Omari Daniel
Bees at the Lyric Hammersmith Theater in West London.

The arts are always struggling for funds, so it’s lucky that artistic people are by definition creative. In this story, some creative theater people thought up a way to help the environment while simultaneously raising a little cash for their work. It’s all part of a theater’s broad sustainability plan.

Sian Alexander writes, “As a leading producing theatre and the largest creative hub in west London, the Lyric Hammersmith welcomes around 200,000 people a year to its building, including 30,000 young people at classes and activities. We have nine Young Lyric partners based here, three resident companies, 50 permanent staff and over 500 freelancers each year – all under one roof.

“Our roof is also now a symbol of our long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. As well as our public roof terrace, a green oasis in the heart of an urban environment, we have a green sedum roof — covered in plants — installed in 2015 during our last major capital redevelopment.

“Last year we teamed up with the local business improvement district, HammersmithLondon, to install three beehives on the roof, now home to 180,000 Buckfast honey bees. They seem to be happy here, and this summer we enjoyed a substantial honey harvest. We sell the honey in our café and at local markets, where it is a great conversation starter about our efforts to go green. …

“Bees have a critical role in food production, as around a third of the food we consume relies on pollination. The bees also help our green roof mature through pollination, and help improve air quality and biodiversity in the local area. …

“We strive to ensure our green values run through all elements of our business. For example, our building has air-source heat pumps and predominantly LED lighting; we send zero waste to landfill, working with First Mile and Scenery Salvage; our energy supply is 100% renewable electricity and green, frack-free gas; our finance and administration teams run on a paperless system; and all new staff and creative teams are given a reusable water bottle on their first day. …

“We are introducing a vegetarian and vegan specials menu in our bar and grill, visiting allotments and trying alternative foods. We are also running a stall at the local food market to engage the public on food packaging, as well as addressing food waste.”

More at Arts Professional, here.

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Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers - Sky Bet League Two

Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images
Reuben Reid (front) of the Forest Green Rovers in England went fully vegan after the team’s owner introduced healthful food. He says it’s made a huge difference in his life.

Even after the retirement of founding host Bill Littlefield, the WBUR show Only a Game continues to have stories that appeal to sports lovers and lay people alike. I got a kick out of this one about England’s vegan soccer team.

Gary Waleik was the reporter.

“The menu at sports events has traditionally been a bit limited … and unhealthy. Especially at soccer games in England.

” ‘On a match day, you’re looking at a lot of sausages, burgers, bacon sandwiches. Quick and easy fried food,’ says Forest Green Rovers striker Reuben Reid. His team is broadening its menu with healthier fare. But that’s just one part of a much larger mission.

“In 2010, Forest Green Rovers, then a fifth-tier football club in Nailsworth, England, was in financial trouble. Dale Vince, who loved the sport as a kid, was approached by the team.

” ‘They said they needed a little bit of help to get through the summer,’ Vince says. ‘And I thought it would be a nice thing to do — because we could, so we should. But within a couple of months, it was clear that they needed much more than just a little bit of money.

” ‘And they said to me, “You really need to be the Chairman.” And I said, “I really don’t. I’ve got so much else to do.” But I then faced the choice — if I walked away, they would fold.’

“It was heady stuff for a guy who, two decades before, was living a hermit’s life on a hill in England’s bucolic Cotswolds region.

” ‘I had an old U.S. Air Force radar trailer that I rescued from a scrap yard and converted into a home,’ Vince says.

“In 1991, he was traveling in Cornwall. And something caught his eye.

” ‘It was England’s first modern, proper wind farm,’ Vince says. … That inspired him to build his own windmill farm, beginning in 1996. He called his new company Ecotricity. It was a big risk.

” ‘When I got started, renewable energy powered about 2 percent of Britain,’ Vince says. ‘Last year, it was 30 percent. And we’ve grown to be a company of about 700 people supplying about 200,000 customers.’ …

” ‘I saw the opportunity to use football as a new channel to speak to a new audience of people about sustainability,’ Vince says. ‘It’s still a football club, but it’s become something else, as well.’ …

” ‘We cut red meat out of the menu straight away for the players. We did it across the whole ground at the same time, so staff and fans and visitors as well. And then we took a series of other steps over the next couple of years toward full-on veganism.’

“The team dropped all meat, fish and dairy. By 2015, Dale Vince was the Chairman of the world’s first vegan sports team.

‘There were people at the time that said, “You’re gonna kill the club. Nobody’s gonna eat it. This kinda stuff,’ Vince remembers.”

Read more here.

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daniella

Photo: Paige Pfleger/The World
Puerto Rican farmer Daniella Rodríguez Besosa says Hurricane Maria “was also a call to action. Nobody else is going to help us. We need to help ourselves.”

Americans expect and deserve government help when there is a natural disaster, and often they get it. But Puerto Rico was pretty much out of sight, out of mind after Hurricane Maria. I do know someone who went there to help with logistics as part of a Federal Emergency Management team, but I also know several someones who lost everything and came to the mainland with their children.

Puerto Ricans who stayed behind have been managing as best they can. I was impressed with Paige Pfleger’s story at Public Radio International (PRI) about women farmers working together to build resilience.

“High in the mountains of Puerto Rico,” Pfleger writes, “a group of women struggles to keep their balance as they drive pickaxes deep into the earth of a hillside guava orchard. They’re digging a narrow trench called a swale on the steep terrain of this 7-acre farm. It’s a low-cost, low-impact way to retain rain water and reduce erosion in a place where both can be a challenge.

“With a swale ‘you end up storing most of your water in the soil itself, so the plants can access it whenever they need it,’ said Daniella Rodríguez Besosa, who has her own farm nearby. Besosa is part of a group called the Circuito Agroecológico Aiboniteño — all farmers, mostly women — who’ve been working together since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017 to help each other’s farms recover and become more sustainable

Maria ‘was an eye-opener for a lot of people,’ Besosa said. ‘It was also a call to action. Nobody else is going to help us; we need to help ourselves.’

“Farms in Puerto Rico were devastated during Hurricane Maria. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of the crops on the island were destroyed, and $1.8 billion of damage was done to agricultural infrastructure.

“ ‘The best part from this hurricane crisis was this, that we get to organize to help each other recover,’ said Janette Gavillan, the owner of the guava orchard the Circuito is working on.

“Gavillan is a retired chemistry professor and is relatively new to farming. But she says working with the Circuito has taught her ways to be more sustainable. …

“Since Maria, the Circuito’s members have come to see sustainability as synonymous with resilience and independence. They hope that if they’re able to rely only on themselves, they’ll be better prepared for the next big storm, or at least be better able to recover. …

“A few miles from Gavillan’s farm, Jessica Collazo works a small plot dotted with baby chicks and thin beds of fruits and vegetables. … Collazo and her husband support their family by selling their produce at local markets, but she says after Maria, they had to start from zero.

“ ‘We were left with nothing,’ Collazo said. The storm washed her crops, seeds and soil over the side of the mountain.

“The brigade of local farmers helped her clear fallen trees and get new seeds. Circuito members also built banks on the edges of the mountain and dug swales that Collazo hopes will reduce the damage from the next hurricane.

“ ‘On my own, that would take me months,’ Collazo said. ‘But with help, it took only a few hours.’

“Collazo hopes the expertise and extra hands of the Circuito members will help her family reach its goal of building a completely self-sustaining farm. She says she wants to dig her own well so she doesn’t have to depend on the government for water, and install solar panels so she doesn’t have to rely on the local electric utility.” More at PRI, here.

I can’t help thinking of the Little Red Hen (“All right, then, I’ll do it myself!”) and wondering if it’s unfair to say that this is more likely to be a woman’s experience than a man’s. In any case, it’s the women farmers arming themselves against a sea of troubles here. I hope that like the Little Red Hen, they reward themselves.

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Image: Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics scooped two Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards for sustainability.

In The Sea Around Us, Rachel Carson suggested that Earth’s oceans might be too vast for humans to completely ruin. At least that’s what I remember, but I was only 14 when I tried to tackle the grown-up books on my new school’s summer reading list.

I wonder what Carson would say now, given that increased carbon dioxide is damaging reefs and many sea creatures.

She might also be concerned about shipping, but as Hannah Koh reports at Eco-Business, sustainable practices are starting to appear.

“Despite being in an industry that is predisposed towards environmental degradation, Swedish-Norwegian shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) has not let the circumstances define it.

“The company has been proactively putting in place measures to reduce sea and airborne pollutant emissions and set up an international coalition to champion the enforcement of sulphur emission regulations – critical to minimising the impact of the shipping industry.

“Its initiatives impressed the judges of the Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards – which aims to increase the level of awareness and adoption of good environmental approaches within organisations, held by the non-profit Singapore Environment Council – that WWL won the SEC-CDL Outstanding Singapore Environmental Achievement Award and the SEC-MPA Singapore Environmental Achievement Award (Maritime).

“Speaking to Future Ready Singapore in a phone interview, WWL’s head of sustainability Anna Larsson shares that the company’s award-winning approach to sustainability is guided by a combination of its long-term vision as well as immediate-term targets.

“Having and acting on a sustainable vision for the future has reaped rewards for WWL, from saving costs to staff retention, and prepares WWL for the future of the shipping industry today, which challenges companies to balance their bottom lines against their environmental impacts. …

“Ship operators today are under pressure to clean up their act, especially after the United Nations shipping agency ruled in October 2016 to implement a global sulphur cap of 0.5 per cent by 2020. …

“Experts have estimated that this will cost the industry some US$35 to $40 billion alone for the container shipping industry, at a time when the shipping industry is suffering its worst downturn ever.” More here.

Gotta love those Swedes for biting the bullet!

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Is it possible for a group of people to collaborate effectively enough to make their quaint English village carbon neutral?

Tatiana Schlossberg has an answer at the New York Times: “Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change. Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

“The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

“But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

“As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

‘We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,’ ” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. ‘And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.’

Oh, ye-es! One and one and 50 make a million.

More here.

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I think it’s safe to say that most adults would rather take care of themselves than rely on charity, but sometimes it’s hard for people living in extreme poverty to figure out how to cut the cord. Beth Alaimo at the Christian Science Monitor‘s People Making a Difference has a story about some Ugandans who are finding a way.

“Iganga, a town conveniently located along the central highway from Kampala to Nairobi, is much more than a popular truck stop. It’s where Musana, a community organization breaking Uganda’s reliance on foreign aid, has made its home. …

“With 67 percent of the population living in poverty, Uganda is no stranger to dependency. Despite being a popular region for development ventures, organizations often lack an approach that prioritizes what locals want and need while leaving the savior mentality behind.

“Originally a children’s home for 80 orphans, Musana Community Development Organization decided to change its model from a system that perpetuated child-rearing dependency to one that encouraged parents to provide what they could. Today, says co-founder Leah Pauline, ‘we are more than a charity. We’re a sustainable solution for the community.’ …

“Its first and largest project, the nursery and primary boarding school, is the closest to being self-sustainable. Roughly 600 students are attending this upcoming semester, an estimated 500 of whom are paying fees, with the rest receiving scholarships.

“Businesses created and run by locals are also moving the Musana community closer to achieving sustainability. A trendy restaurant (the ‘only place in Iganga you can find a burger’ says Pauline), a dairy farm, and handmade women’s crafts are all businesses funding community outreach.

“A bakery is the newest sustainability project at Musana and has quickly become profitable. Proposed and started by the head of child care, the kids often come in and help bake.” More here.

A famed Wharton School professor from South Africa, Ian C. MacMillan, has been known to complain about the dependency cycle he sees in Africa, and has taken steps on his own to boost independent small businesses there. An article here is partly about that work.

Photo: Musana Community Development Organization
The Musana Community Development Organization runs several enterprises, including a nursery and primary boarding school. A bakery, proposed and started by the head of child care, is the newest project and has quickly become profitable. The children often come in and help bake.

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Here’s a good one from the radio show Living on Earth (LOE).

“At Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, an environmental science professor teaches sustainability by example, transforming an empty dumpster into a tiny apartment where he’s lived for a year. Professor Jeff Wilson tells [LOE] host Steve Curwood about life in his micro home and his long-term goals for Project Dumpster.

CURWOOD: “Dr. Jeff Wilson, aka Professor Dumpster, is teaching sustainability by downsizing his living quarters to the dimensions of a dumpster – a clean dumpster, mind you. Jeff Wilson joins me now from his steel abode on the campus of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, where he’s Dean of the University College and teaches environmental science. Welcome to Living on Earth, Jeff, or, do you prefer, ‘Professor Dumpster?’

WILSON: “I’ll take Professor Dumpster and you’re at my disposal.

CURWOOD: [LAUGHS] “Right now you’re in your dumpster. What kind of headroom do you have?

WILSON: “Well, it’s a standard 10 cubic yard dumpster, which means it’s six foot by six foot at the base. And this one’s actually quite tall; it’s about seven feet…. I’ve got a wooden false floor, so the actual height of standing room is about 6’2” right now. I’ve got a window unit air conditioner. I have a few tapestries hanging on the wall. I have a twin bed and then a very small bookshelf on the corner with various things like an Oscar the Grouch mug …

“The main point of this entire experiment is to test if one can have a pretty good life on a whole lot less. … A lot of people asked why we used a dumpster instead of a tiny house or instead of even a container, and the reason we did that were some of the awareness and educational aspects of this project around addressing waste. And dumpsters, you know, are these magical boxes that we put our waste into and come back a few days later … and everything’s disappeared. So we want to highlight some of those subjects as well. …

“One of the things we’re interested in is the increased interactions with the community and the environment when you’re in a smaller home like this, sort of what that might do for one’s sort of quality-of-life and sense of experience and just the overall magic that is brought into the everyday. If you want to call it dumpster magic.”

Find the rest of the interview transcript, plus the audio version and pictures, here.

Photo: Jeff Wilson
Egress from the the professor’s dumpster home can be challenging. 

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