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Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

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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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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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Erik’s running buddy passed along a BBC story suggesting that cutting back on meat could have value for the planet.

Interestingly, that was the premise of Frances Moore Lappé‘s 1971 bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet, which my sister got me interested in when she was a vegetarian.

At the BBC, environment analyst Roger Harrabin notes research that confirms some of Lappé’s predictions.

“Research from Cambridge and Aberdeen universities estimates greenhouse gases from food production will go up 80% if meat and dairy consumption continues to rise at its current rate. That will make it harder to meet global targets on limiting emissions.

“The study urges eating two portions of red meat and seven of poultry per week. However that call comes as the world’s cities are seeing a boom in burger restaurants. …

“If [the trend] continues, more and more forest land or fields currently used for arable crops will be converted for use by livestock as the world’s farmers battle to keep up with demand.

“Deforestation will increase carbon emissions, and increased livestock production will raise methane levels and wider fertiliser use will further accelerate climate change. The lead researcher, Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘There are basic laws of biophysics that we cannot evade.’

“The average efficiency of livestock converting plant feed to meat is less than 3%, and as we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans.” Read more here. And consider going in for mushroom burgers.

I only ever made the eggplant casserole Diet for a Small Planet, but it sure was yummy.

Photo: CiteLighter-Cards
In 1971, Frances Moore Lappé wrote that raising animals for food takes resources better used elsewhere. It can also put too much methane into the atmosphere.

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@OFH_John tweeted this cool article about making batteries from something like rhubarb.

CBS News has the story: “A cheap rechargeable battery that harnesses energy by using the electrochemistry of organic molecules rather than metals is being touted by Harvard researchers as a breakthrough for renewable energy.

“The Harvard team reports that the battery, which they say can be applied on a power-grid scale, uses naturally abundant and small organic compounds called quinones rather than electrocatalysts from costly precious metals such as platinum.

“Quinones would be inexpensive to obtain and can be found in green plants or synthesized from crude oil. The battery designed by Harvard scientists and engineers used a quinone molecule that’s almost identical to one that’s found in rhubarb.

“The technology is outlined in the Jan. 9 edition of the journal Nature.”

More here.

Photo: Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
Michael J. Aziz with metal-free flow battery made from naturally abundant, small organic molecules.

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Artist Sarah Hall is killing two birds with one stone. Or solving two challenges with one creation. According to Canadian Public Broadcasting, Hall has made stained glass windows that can convert the sun’s rays into energy for the building the stained glass embellishes.

Emily Chung writes, “Lux Gloria by Sarah Hall, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, is currently being connected to Saskatoon Light & Power’s electrical distribution network, confirmed Jim Nakoneshny, facilities manager at the cathedral.

“The artwork, which consists of solar panels embedded in brightly coloured, hand-painted art glass, had just been reinstalled and upgraded after breaking and falling into the church last year.

“Once it is connected, the cathedral will be able to use the solar power produced by the art installation to offset its own power consumption from the regular grid, Nakoneshny added.

“According to Kevin Hudson, manager of metering and sustainable electricity for Saskatoon Light & Power, the solar panels are expected to produce about 2,500 kilowatt hours annually or about a third to a quarter of the 8,000 to 10,000 kilowatt hours consumed by a typical home in Saskatoon each year.”

Read all about it at the CBC, here.

Photo: Sarah Hall on Popsci.com website
Lux Gloria: The solar-stained glass installment features dichroic glass and will be connected to the electrical grid in Saskatoon, Saskatechewan.

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Cate McQuaid, my favorite Boston Globe art critic, who usually covers more esoteric subjects, explains some large artsy globes seen around Boston in recent days.

“Huge, colorful orbs line up in a row down the Tremont Street side of Boston Common. It looks like a giant might be marshaling his marbles. Get up close, and you’ll see that the spheres, each 5 feet in diameter, are globes, fancifully decorated and proffering solutions to climate change.

“ ‘Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet’ has landed in Boston. The public art project, for which artists designed globes with green strategies to contend with environmental issues, originated in Chicago in 2007 and has traveled the world.”

Environmental activist Wendy Abrams, says McQuaid, is the initiative’s founder.

“Abrams cites two inspirations for the project, the wrecked cars that Mothers Against Drunk Driving pointedly deploy in their Crash Car Program, and the painted cow sculptures that showed up in the streets of Chicago in 1999 — a public art project that prompted Boston to follow suit with painted cod.”

Read about individual artists’ Cool Globe themes, the outreach to students, and more, here.

The first two photos below are near the Park Street subway station. The third is in front of the aquarium, and I am not sure if it is part of the traveling series.

cool-globes-boston

globes-for-a-coller-planet

globe-at-aquarium

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Building energy savings into school design means more money for education.

At Yes! Magazine, Erin L. McCoy describes what planners did for the rural Richardsville Elementary School near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“When Richardsville opened its doors in fall 2010, it was the first net zero school in the nation, meaning that the school produces more energy on-site than it uses in a year.

“Solar tubes piping sunlight directly into classrooms eliminate much of the school’s demand for electric light, while a combination of geothermal and solar power cut down on the rest of the energy bill. Concrete floors treated with a soy-based stain don’t need buffing. The kitchen, which in most schools contributes to 20 percent of the energy bill, houses a combi-oven that cooks healthier meals and eliminates frying. This means an exhaust fan doesn’t pipe the school’s temperature-controlled air to the outdoors all day long.

“Meanwhile, ‘green screens’ in the front hall track the school’s energy usage so kids can see the impact of turning off a light in real time.

“These and other innovations make Richardsville better than net zero. It actually earns about $2,000 a month selling excess energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

“Three factors are essential to making a green school work: First, you need the participation of the community and the local power company; second, you can’t forget that a school is a dynamic learning environment; and third, you need to speak the language of money.

“Since the economic recession began in 2008, school districts have suffered. Local tax bases were shaken as property values plummeted, and states have cut back on funding to districts, which were pushed to cut funds wherever they were able. Addressing energy use made a lot of financial sense.”

More.

Photograph: Michael Heinz/The Journal & Courier/AP/File
Students gather on the first day of school at Wyandotte Elementary School near Lafayette, Ind., in 2011. Wyandotte is one of many US schools that have made cutting energy use a priority.

 

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