Engaging Middle America in recycling solutions

August 26, 2020 by  
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Engaging Middle America in recycling solutions Suzanne Shelton Wed, 08/26/2020 – 01:00 A few weeks ago, I wrote a GreenBiz piece about what Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can teach us about the moment we’re in right now, based on our latest polling of Americans. At Circularity 2020, I’m talking about how to engage people in recycling, and the two ideas are linked together. The gist is that we can’t self-actualize as the people we want to be if we’re not getting our basic needs met. Pre-COVID, 41 percent of us wanted to be seen as someone who buys green products, and 25 percent of us could cough up an example, unaided, of a brand we’d purchased or not purchased because of the environmental record of the manufacturer. As of late May, smack in the middle of the pandemic, these numbers dropped dramatically, down to 2013 levels at 33 percent and 19 percent respectively. In the rock-paper-scissors game of survival, we just can’t take action on higher-level things when we’re worried about meeting our basic needs. And we’re really worried about getting our basic needs met. Worries about the health of the economy and human health far outweigh concerns about the environment right now. This was not the case pre-pandemic. We were just as worried about plastics in the ocean and climate change in early March as we were last summer, but that concern plummeted in May.  Think about it like this: We decided to take a cross-country road trip in a car with a transmission that’s on its last legs, so the whole time we’re driving we’re worried about the transmission failing. Then all of a sudden — boom — we get a flat tire.  Now we’re not worried about the transmission anymore. Coronavirus is the flat tire and once we can get it repaired and drive on it long enough to be sure it won’t go flat again, we’ll start worrying about the bigger transmission issue — the environment — again. For now, though, we feel disempowered and unable to do much about the environment.  For instance, last summer the one environmental issue 27 percent of us felt we actually could do something about was plastic waste. We’ve backslid in a major way one year later: Only 18 percent of us believe we can do anything about it now — and that’s the No. 1 answer! Not surprisingly, then, we’re less activated on trying to avoid single-use plastics. Last year, one-third of Americans said they actively tried to buy products packaged in something other than plastic and urged friends and family to do the same; as of May, only a quarter of us said we are doing that. Remember that so much of the outrage about plastics in the ocean is the fact that plastics are in our food stream, so it’s a human health issue. We now have a more pressing, immediate human health issue to deal with — as well as a pressing social equity crisis and economic crisis — so we’ve become less activated on single-use plastics. In fact, you might say that the Great Awakening of our massive systemic issues — spurred by COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd — has allowed us to go to sleep, for the moment, on the environment. One last thing for context: With all the noise about the economy, coronavirus, politics and so forth, we’re all hearing less about every single environmental issue we track. For instance, last year 63 percent of Americans said they had heard about bans on single use plastic. Now that number is down to 54 percent.  In the rock-paper-scissors game of survival, we just can’t take action on higher-level things when we’re worried about meeting our basic needs. So, there’s something to be said for continuing to communicate about environmental issues, and there’s something to be said for demonstrating the behaviors you want people to adopt — both have a correlated impact on consumer action. And, again, it will be hard to motivate action on our environmental transmission while we’ve got an economic and health-related flat tire. So what does this mean for engaging Americans in recycling?   If we don’t feel like we actually can affect the plastic waste issue and some of us have gone to sleep in terms of our habits and actions, what does this mean for recycling?  Are we less inclined to throw our recyclables in the bin because we feel so disempowered and/or worried about the economy and anxious about keeping our families from catching COVID? And are we aware of the issues in the recycling market — that China won’t take our recyclables anymore and that the American recycling system is in turmoil? If they’re aware, does that affect their willingness to do their part? Well, it’s a good news/bad news scenario. In the good news column, the vast majority of Americans (80 percent) believe recycling is the bare minimum they can do for the environment, and it makes them feel better about all the stuff they buy. By the way, 77 percent of Americans say they recycle via a curbside pickup service. So they’re “in” on the current system of throwing stuff in the blue bin and rolling it to the curb. Some other good news: only 30 percent have really heard about some cities discontinuing curbside recycling programs. And only 10 percent say their curbside recycling services have been discontinued. So about a third of us are aware something’s going on with our recycling system, but the vast majority of us are happy to keep going along with our curbside guilt-assuaging approach to waste management. And it is a guilt-assuaging system. While roughly half of us have made some changes to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we buy, plastic is the No. 1 material we all think is easiest to process into a substance that can be used to make a new product or packaging.  And while 40 percent of us correctly answer that plastics coded with the number 1 (PET) are the easiest for recycling centers to process, 38 percent of us have no idea which number is easiest to recycle and the remainder of us answer incorrectly. So, we’re opinionated about plastics, but blissfully ignorant about them, and we let ourselves off the hook for doing anything different in our purchasing because of the current curbside system. So what happens when the municipal curbside system fails, as it’s starting to do? In this case, knowledge or awareness is not correlated to behaviors: 39 percent of us have heard about other countries no longer accepting our recycling and, of those folks, 97 percent say it hasn’t changed their recycling habits. Overall, 77 percent of us believe that what we put in the bin actually gets recycled. (It’s worth noting that’s down from 88 percent the year before.) In other words, we’re still chucking stuff in the bin with few worries about whether that stuff’s actually being recycled. We can laugh an ironic laugh at their ignorance or we can look at this as extremely good news. We worked hard to get consumers to adopt recycling behaviors and to adopt the idea that it’s the bare minimum they can do to do their part. And it’s sticking: In fact, they’re clinging to it.  We’re opinionated about plastics, but blissfully ignorant about them, and we let ourselves off the hook for doing anything different in our purchasing because of the current curbside system. The last thing we want is for them to throw in the towel, which is what they’re doing in places where curbside has been discontinued. Of the 10 percent who say their curbside programs have been discontinued, 56 percent say they no longer recycle.  So, if we want to engage Americans in recycling, here’s what we need to do:   1. We need to continue communicating about — and demonstrating action on — plastic waste Remember, we’re all hearing less about environmental issues and noticing fewer bans on plastic waste and fewer actions taken by retailers and restaurants on plastic waste, and that has a direct correlation to our own awareness and action. We need to keep the steady drumbeat of communications and action going if we want to bring people along. 2. We need to continue our curbside programs and make them really work. When these go away, we will see a massive backslide in recycling behaviors. This means we need to ensure that our system works, and that what gets thrown in the bin actually gets recycled. Given that will require massive infrastructure changes (and probably policy changes as well), as a stop-gap we need to: Teach them to “look before they toss”:  Only 22 percent actually look at the label on an item to see if it’s recyclable before chucking it in the recycling bin. Most haven’t noticed the new How to Recycle label or find it too hard to read. We need a massive campaign on this. Teach them what’s actually recyclable:  Back to the earlier point, many consumers feel bad about using single-use plastics, so their tactic for assuaging their guilt is to throw everything into their bins. That means they’re throwing a lot of things in that aren’t actually recyclable, which is rooted in a pretty big lack of understanding of what’s actually recyclable.  For example, when shown pictures of various types of used packaging and asked what should be done with them — put them in the recycling bin, the trash bin, or some combination — Americans don’t pick the right answer as often as you’d hope.  My favorite is the plastic creamer bottle with the plastic sleeve/wrap around it. 69 percent say they’d put the entire package in the trash can, 22 percent say they’d put the entire package in the recycling container and 9 percent say they’d put parts of it in the trash can and parts of it in the recycling container. So 91 percent of Americans get this wrong, despite these bottles having a How To Recycle Label displayed, telling them what to do. The point is that Americans have a mixed level of understanding about what’s recyclable and what’s not. And despite the progress made by getting the How To Recycle label onto so many products, it’s just not enough.  We either have to teach them to look before they toss and help them see what’s actually recyclable or, better, encourage them to put it all in the Blue Bin and upgrade our recycling system and technologies so that it all actually gets recycled. Want to learn more about all of this? Join me at 1:20 p.m. EDT Aug. 27 during Circularity 20 and/or download a free copy of the full report . Pull Quote In the rock-paper-scissors game of survival, we just can’t take action on higher-level things when we’re worried about meeting our basic needs. We’re opinionated about plastics, but blissfully ignorant about them, and we let ourselves off the hook for doing anything different in our purchasing because of the current curbside system. Topics Circular Economy Marketing & Communication Circularity 20 Collective Insight Speaking Sustainably Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

July 20, 2020 by  
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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change Joel Makower Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:11 Last week, a group of activists, scientists, academics and others issued a report calling for policies and other initiatives to generate prosperity while addressing inequity and the climate crisis. They called it the Blue New Deal. Its focus: an ocean-based blue economy . The problem, these experts said, is that the much-ballyhooed Green New Deal doesn’t adequately address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world’s shorelines and into the deep blue: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. Yes, provisions in the Green New Deal address fisheries and fishing communities, but that’s only a drop in the ocean, say blue-economy experts. The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), produced by the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier, aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal, offering a four-part set of policy recommendations that, it says, “contains both conservative and liberal economic philosophies that are mutually reinforcing.” There’s a pool of insights for companies, too. “There’s been a lot of stovepiping between the marine conservation community and the climate community,” David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, explained to me last week. “There’s kind of this feeling that the environment ends with the shoreline.” Suffice to say, it doesn’t. Indeed, says Helvarg, 14 of the 20 biggest U.S. cities are coastal, which he and others regard as those adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. That’s also true for eight of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans . These communities face a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges that extend well beyond their terrestrial-based boundaries. There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. The OCAP report is the result of “dozens of conversations” with leaders and experts, culminating in October in a meeting in Monterey, California, attended by 60 leading ocean and coastal experts across disciplines. It was followed by a virtual meet-up in April, attended by more than 750 people. The group is quick to distinguish the ” blue economy ” from the ” ocean economy .” The latter includes all ocean-based economic activity, including fishing, shipping, mining, port operations, oil and gas exploration and energy generation. “When we talk about the blue economy, we’re talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain the health of the ocean that support our economies and communities, both human and wild,” said Helvarg. “We’re looking at how you build and expand economic activity in ways that benefit both the sustainable ecological systems and the health of the ocean that sustains us and that benefits ocean-dependent communities and businesses.” That includes providing opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, that tend to be at greater risk of pollution and climate impacts. According to the report: One of OCAP’s core premises is that our ocean and coastal economies suffer from pervasive market failure; many externalities from industry are not properly priced in the market, many offshore industries are currently being stymied due to regulatory uncertainty over property rights, and large gaps in information lead to inefficient decisions about ocean and coastal resource use. Correcting these market failures in order to spur rapid innovation in the blue economy is one of OCAP’s top priorities. Ensuring that markets function efficiently is a deeply conservative objective. The Blue New Deal laid out in the OCAP report is a policy framework that aims to achieve two key objectives: use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw atmospheric greenhouse gases down to safer levels; and enable coastal communities to more effectively and equitably adapt to climate impacts. No wish list  To accomplish these things, the report lays out four key issue areas along with policy recommendations for each: Coastal adaptation and financing: helping vulnerable communities retreat from unstable shorelines; catalyzing a “large-scale dynamic living shorelines industry”; creating jobs that rehabilitate coastal ecosystems; reforming flood insurance; improving coastal wastewater management. Clean ocean energy: catalyzing large-scale deployment of offshore wind power; ensuring the protection of critical offshore habitats; creating robust programs to assess additional renewable ocean energy systems such as wave, current, tidal and thermal. Ports, shipping and the maritime sector: accelerating the decarbonization of ports and the shipping industry, including dramatically improving air and water quality in adjacent communities. Aquaculture, sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation: helping U.S. fisheries adapt to climate impacts; catalyzing the growth of a “new sustainable seafood industry,” including aquaculture, mariculture and plant- and cell-based seafood alternatives. It’s not just a wish list. The report offers a gap analysis of how current U.S. congressional legislation aligns — and doesn’t — with Blue New Deal objectives. Example: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the report’s recommendation to fund state governments to pilot living shoreline projects in at-risk coastal counties is addressed in seven congressional bills. As with most other sustainability-related matters, there’s a takes-a-village aspect of all of this, along with a sense of urgency as climate impacts become increasingly evident, particularly along coasts. “It’s triage at this point,” Helvarg explained. “I mean, we’re fighting to preserve the last 10 percent of the world’s tropical corals. We’re fighting to minimize the impacts of sea-level rise and intensifying hurricanes, where NOAA just put out a report that hurricane intensity increased 8 percent a decade over the last 40 years. That means we’re going to have a more-than-normal active hurricane season on top of the pandemic this year, and if a hurricane comes ashore this year it’s going to be a third more intense than one that would have come ashore in 1980.” Given U.S. legislators’ decidedly somnolent approach to addressing the climate crisis, it likely will take a few more devastating hurricanes or other natural disasters before the Blue New Deal — and the Green New Deal, for that matter — garner a sense of urgency. It’s also possible that market signals could drive many of these notions forward without policy action. “We think that the crisis is an opportunity for almost every maritime sector and industry to engage and work with other stakeholders in turning the tide on this,” Helvarg said. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Helvarg’s group works with a wide range of industries, but not with the oil and gas sector — “they’re the problem, not the solution,” he said — but there’s good news even there. “There’s a lot of potential lateral movement for the roughnecks and roustabouts ” — skilled and unskilled workers on oil rigs, respectively. “They have all the skill sets to immediately transition to be wind turbine technicians and linesmen and ocean engineers, which have the potential to be at least as significant in terms of U.S. domestic energy as offshore oil.” Can ocean and coastal health become part of a “new deal” — green, blue or any other hue? This is yet another arena where equity and environmental issues align, creating opportunities for leadership companies and communities to uplift the 40 percent of Americans living in coastal regions. And help thwart the worst impacts of what may well be a future national crisis. As Helvarg quipped: “Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue.” Pull Quote There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Policy & Politics Social Justice Coastal Health Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock / GreenBiz photocollage

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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’

July 20, 2020 by  
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Danone’s Eric Soubeiran: ‘The food system is broken’ Cecilia Keating Mon, 07/20/2020 – 00:30 Earlier this year, Danone became the first listed company to become an “enterprise à mission,” a new type of corporation created by a 2019 French law. The pioneering governance structure will see the food giant officially entrench environmental, social and societal objectives into its bylaws, alongside more typical profit goals. Danone, founded more than a century ago and famously declared an asset of national importance by the French government in 2005, has long prided itself on being a purpose-led business. Its new status is the latest in a string of moves the company has made to boost its environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials as it works towards meeting a highly publicized aim of becoming one of the first B Corps certified multinational. Eric Soubeiran, the company’s vice president of nature and water cycle, explained that weaning the company off intensive farming is at the core of its new sustainability mission. Danone, which owns a range of household brands including Volvic, Evian, Actimel, Alpro and Activia, is first and foremost a dairy company, after all. “If you really want to do sustainability well in a company, you need to know your business well,” Soubeiran said. For a food company, that means knowing how and where you source your ingredients, what your customers want, and understanding the provenance of your direct and indirect carbon emissions. “Concretely, when you look at Danone, 60 percent of our carbon footprint is from agriculture,” Soubeiran acknowledged. “Eighty-nine percent of our water footprint is from agriculture. [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. That is why it’s very important for us to have an opinion about the agriculture model we want.” [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. As such, the company is working with farmers worldwide to adopt a regenerative approach to farming that encourages healthier soil and ecosystems, better water stewardship and a broader diversity of cultivated seeds and crops. Danone is providing training to farmers in France to make the switch to new techniques to meet a goal to rely on 100 percent regenerative farming in the country by 2025. And in order to encourage the approach beyond its supply chain, Danone recently founded the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative, a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity. The strained food production system is begging for reform, argued Soubeiran. “It is very clear in Danone’s vision that the food system is broken,” he reflected. The practices ensconced in the “green revolution” of the 1970s, he said, have “intensified agriculture practices to a point where we have created a situation where food has become a commodity. And by definition, a commodity has no value or very limited value. That’s why [as an industry] we are focused on volume, not quality, and how we have reached a point where we accept the fact that 30 percent of all food produced globally is wasted.” The transition away from intensive farming, he stressed, not only can prevent the loss of wild species, create better working conditions for farmers and livestock, end monocropping and protect local ecosystems, but is also a lever that Danone must pull if it is to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century in line with global climate goals. Soubeiran has experience disrupting what he dubs “linearalized” food chains and moulding them to be more sustainable. In a previous role at Danone, he was charged with managing the company’s milk supply during the period when France liberalized its previously tightly controlled milk market. The company decided to eschew a price mechanism focused on volume and set its milk price based on the cost of production, giving Danone leeway to firm up production conditions with farmers. “We wanted to stabilize our relationship with farmers so that we could discuss the way they were farming, talk about sustainability and animal welfare,” Soubeiran explains. “It’s hard to do that when you have huge [price] volatility.” Indeed, Soubeiran is under no illusions that the wholesale transition to regenerative farming comes at a cost premium, despite growing interest in sustainable products from customers across Danone’s markets. “There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing,” he said. “That’s why Danone has signed the green recovery appeal at the European level, because we believe the transformation and the renegotiation of the agriculture policy is instrumental to that.” There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. An additional stream of financing is targeted at helping farmers improve the quality of what they are producing while keeping prices down for the customer, Soubeiran explained. As such, in May the company urged the EU to use its upcoming Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies to establish an EU Common Food Policy that provides incentives to farmers to switch to regenerative practices. These, the company suggested, could range from crop and livestock insurance that minimizes the risk of lower yields through the transition process; “innovative multi-stakeholder financing mechanisms” or carbon bonds for agricultural products with pricing adjusted to reflect soil carbon sequestration performance; and guarantees of “first loss” inspired by the renewable energy sector that would allow farmers to fund the transition to more resilient agricultural systems. Soubeiran contends that the coronavirus has, in some respects, made his mission easier, given that the animal-originating coronavirus has underscored how ecological systems support human life. “If we protect biodiversity, we are basically protecting the diversity of DNA,” Soubeiran mused. “There’s also a sanitary aspect to it, given that we’re protecting corridors of biodiversity. While that was not that obvious six months ago, that’s obvious now for everyone.” He points out more than 65 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic — transmitted to people from animals. But, while the zoonotic coronavirus has turbocharged public understanding of biodiversity and served as a “call to action” for Danone’s corporate sustainability initiatives, Soubeiran concedes that on a practical level the pandemic has hampered the firm’s ongoing efforts to transition farmers to regenerative practices. For example, when social distancing regulations were at their most demanding, trips to train farmers on new practices and discuss investment and financing plans became logistically impossible. On the bright side, however, the crisis has underlined the resilience of Danone’s direct sourcing model, he says, which minimized supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. The firm sources 75 percent of products directly from suppliers, Soubeiran explained, adding that the model is a major boon in a world where collaborations and knowledge-sharing between multinationals and their suppliers are critical to meeting carbon targets and other joint sustainability objectives. Soubeiran contends that there is a healthy appetite from company shareholders for Danone’s growing file of sustainability initiatives, in particular its decision at the close of last year to publish carbon-adjusted earnings per share (carbon EPS) in its quarterly reports. The metric sends a very strong message to shareholders that the company “has done its homework” on counting its Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions, according to Soubeiran, as well as exposing them to the invisible cost of carbon. Danone, banking on the assumption it reached peak emissions in 2019, is confident that its carbon-adjusted EPS will rise over the years to come. And investors are engaging with the approach — in 2018, Soubeiran estimates he had 70 interactions with shareholders; last year, it had more than doubled to 190. Moreover, in late June, 99 percent of shareholders backed Danone’s motion to become an “enterprise à mission,” a turnout dubbed “mind-blowing” by Danone chief executive Emmanuel Faber. “Huge kudos to our shareholders after today’s unanimous support of the change of Danone’s by-laws to incorporate health, planet, people and inclusiveness objectives as part of our mission,” Faber enthused. “You showed evidence that finance can change the world. It is on us, boards and CEOs, CFOs to engage finance on what matters. It responds. Big time.” Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Over the coming months, Soubeiran will focus on steering a cross-sector effort to improve the private sector’s approach to biodiversity, dubbed the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) initiative. The coalition, launched by Danone at last year’s UN COP climate conference, counts consumer goods heavyweights L’Oréal, Google, McCain, Walmart, Kellogg, Nestlé and Unilever. The companies have promised to work together to scale up regenerative agriculture practices, to increase the number of ingredients sourced in order to reduce the world’s reliance on a handful of crops, and to better protect local ecosystems through nature restoration and eliminating deforestation. The group is developing a framework for action that will be unveiled at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, postponed six months to January in the wake of the pandemic. The initiative has been inspired by “systems thinking,” Soubeiran explained, and will focus on specific actions that can be monitored instead of overarching science-based targets or percentage-based goals. “With OP2B the focus is on action, action that can trigger a transformation,” he said, adding that that the single-issue, action-orientated initiative is “quite a new way of collaborating” for Danone. Overall, Soubeiran is buoyed by the boundless opportunities’ biodiversity boosting initiatives present to food companies looking to enrich their portfolios — a fact underlined by this week’s World Economic Forum study highlighting how a nature-focused recovery could deliver over $10 trillion of economic gains . “Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer,” Soubeiran reflected. “But biodiversity is about more: More choice, more taste, more experience. It’s a very interesting topic and creates a positive spin on sustainability.” Pull Quote [Sustainability] starts from knowing your Scope 3 [value chain emissions]. It is looking at the elephant in the room, and going after it piece by piece. There is a market for sustainable food — people look for it — but we need to develop parallel stream of financing. Very often, sustainability is seen as a constraint — about less carbon, less pesticide, less fertilizer. Topics Food & Agriculture Leadership COVID-19 Biodiversity Regenerative Agriculture ESG COVID-19 BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Workers fills up milk storage tank at a Danone dairy plant in Normandy, France, April 2008. Source:  Photoagriculture Shutterstock Photoagriculture Close Authorship

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The Iceberg Sofa draws attention to melting glaciers

June 15, 2020 by  
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Fnji, a design brand based in China, is using its platform to raise awareness for global warming , specifically the effect on sea ice. The new Iceberg Sofa is a sculptural furniture piece made of interconnecting gray-blue blocks, inspired by melting ocean glaciers and set to be released in September 2020. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program , a federally-mandated organization that researches changes in the global environment and its impacts on society, the world’s average temperature has increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s. Even worse, average global temperatures have exceeded the last century’s average every year since 1980. Minimum sea ice extent (the ocean area that has an ice concentration of 15% or more) in the Arctic has steadily decreased by 33% since the year 1979. Related: Floating ICEBERG creatively confronts global warming To raise awareness of this issue, Fnji founder Guqi Gao designed the Iceberg Sofa. The sofa is made of Kvadrat Fiord multipurpose wool fabric that combines blended and undyed yarn, giving the piece a dotted texture mimicking the blue and white glitter of a polar glacier. An interlocking block design gives it an organic-yet-organized look, with the added benefit of a comfortable touch thanks to the high-quality wool. Sculptural in form, every “ice block” making up the sofa is unique. Beneath the fabric, the internal structure is processed independently and each sponge is crafted separately before being assembled together under the surface, a technical process requiring detailed skill. Each block is meant to represent its own identity and provide different perspectives independent of the entire piece. Different shapes come into play once again in the solid wooden base, which is designed to represent melted portions of glaciers with its curves. This isn’t the first staggering environmental issue that Fnji has addressed through design. The Iceberg Sofa is a continuation of the Crestline Collection, which takes inspiration from nature and environmental protection. + Fnji Images via Fnji

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Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

May 20, 2020 by  
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While most Americans have been inside watching Netflix and cultivating sourdough starter, Chase Kimmel has scoured the Central Florida sand dunes for the blue calamintha bee . The rare bee hadn’t been spotted since 2016, but Kimmel’s diligence paid off. The postdoctoral researcher has caught and released a blue bee 17 times during its March-to-May flying season. Scientists think the bee lives only in the Lake Wales Ridge region, which is due east of Tampa in the “highlands” — about 300 feet above sea level. This biodiversity hotspot traces its geological history back to a time when most of Florida was underwater. The high sand dunes were like islands, each developing its own habitat. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is quickly disappearing. Related: UK bees and wildflowers thrive during lockdown “This is a highly specialized and localized bee,” Jaret Daniels, a curator and director at the Florida Museum of Natural History and Kimmel’s advisor, told the Tampa Bay Times . The bee pollinates Ashe’s calamint, a threatened perennial deciduous shrub with pale purple flowers. Scientists first described the blue calamintha bee in 2011, and some feared it had already gone extinct . It’s only been recorded in four locations within 16 square miles of Lake Wales Ridge. “I was open to the possibility that we may not find the bee at all so that first moment when we spotted it in the field was really exciting,” Kimmel said. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is funding Kimmel’s two-year study. Before the Ashe’s calamint began blooming this spring — and before the pandemic upended some of his research strategies — Kimmel and a volunteer positioned nesting boxes in promising areas of the ridge. After the flowers bloomed, he has continued to return and look for bees. When he sees what he thinks is a blue bee, he tries to catch it in a net and puts the bee in a plastic bag. Then, he cuts a hole in the corner of the bag and entices the bee to stick its head out so he can look at it with a hand lens. After photographing the bees, he releases them. Kimmel says their stings aren’t too bad. + Florida Museum Photography by Chase Kimmel via Florida Museum

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Rare blue bee spotted in Florida

Unilever ambitiously pledges to cut use of new plastics in half by 2025

October 8, 2019 by  
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To better align with green initiatives worldwide, the British-Dutch conglomerate Unilever recently pledged to invest in a more circular economy for plastics via a two-part plan. First, by the year 2025, Unilever will halve the bulk of its non-recycled plastic packaging waste. Secondly, the company will accelerate its recycling endeavors by focusing more on collecting and processing waste plastic rather than selling single-use virgin plastics. Unilever shared on its website that it pledges to “make the blue planet blue again” and especially commits to “making sustainable living commonplace.” To do so, the company will follow a three-pronged approach: 1) investing and partnering to better the waste management infrastructure, 2) purchasing and utilizing recycled plastics, rather than virgin plastics, in its packaging and 3) participating in extended responsibility programs that directly pay for the collection of all Unilever packaging. Related: Unilever’s energy-efficient office is one of the greenest in Europe Currently, Unilever uses about 700,000 tons of plastic packaging annually. To curb its association with the growing plastic pollution crisis, the company will cut its plastic use by 100,000 tons. Unilever vows to replace single-use plastic packaging with recycled materials in a shift toward reusable, refillable and even compostable alternatives. Unilever will also annually collect and recycle more than 600,000 tons of plastic. “Our plastic is our responsibility, and so we are committed to collecting back more than we sell, as part of our drive toward a circular economy,” said Alan Jope, Unilever CEO. “This is a daunting but exciting task, which will help drive global demand for recycled plastic.” Unilever is a portfolio powerhouse, owning many popular brands in both the food and cosmetics industries. It is the parent company that manufactures and distributes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Breyers ice cream, Klondike bars, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Knorr spices and Lipton ice tea.  Among its many cosmetics lines, Unilever owns Brut aftershave, Dove soap, Noxzema, Pond’s, Q-tips, Suave shampoo and conditioner and Vaseline. Despite its behemoth range of products that rely on plastic packaging, Unilever has been operating under the “Less, Better, No” plastic framework, planning to eliminate unnecessary packaging by innovating with the refill, reuse and recycled plastic sector as it moves away from virgin plastics. “Over the last five years, Unilever has collaborated with many partners to collect plastic packaging, including the United Nations Development Programme, to help segregate, collect and recycle packaging across India,” reads a company press release. “In addition, it has helped to establish almost 3,000 waste banks in Indonesia, offering more than 400,000 people the opportunity to recycle their waste. In Brazil, Unilever has a long-running partnership with retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar to help collect waste through drop-off stations.” + Unilever Image via Shutterstock

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Unilever ambitiously pledges to cut use of new plastics in half by 2025

NYC bans processed meats served in public schools

October 8, 2019 by  
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In an effort to improve the Big Apple’s public health, all processed meats will no longer be offered at New York City public school and public university cafeterias. That means no pepperoni, bacon, cold-cut deli meats, sausages or hot dogs for lunch. The new ban follows on the heels of the city’s successful test-run across all city schools of Meatless Mondays. Policymakers and education officials say the decision to adopt Resolution 238 is thanks to scientific evidence linking disease and other ailments with red and processed meats . The move paves the way to healthier food choices, minimizing any associated health risks. Related: Meatless Mondays are coming to public schools in New York City Over the years, the World Health Organization has warned that processed meats are carcinogenic, increase the likelihood of obesity and pre-diabetes among children and teens and elevate risk factors associated with heart disease, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer rates among young adults. But these conditions, researchers say, are preventable through dietary and lifestyle changes. Similarly, the National Cancer Institute announced that young people of today exhibit double to quadruple the risks of colorectal cancers, when compared to those of the 1950s. Why? Sadly, today’s youth have diets low in fiber and high in processed meats, exacerbated by lifestyles lacking in physical activity . Even more worrisome, studies have shown just one hot dog or two bacon strips per day increases colorectal cancer risks by 18 percent. “We cannot continue feeding our children substances scientifically proven to increase cancer later in life,” said Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams. “Chicken nuggets and sloppy joes are in the same class of substances as cigarettes. We know that we would never give our children cigarettes to smoke, so there’s absolutely no reason why we should continue poisoning our children’s health with processed foods .” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics affirms that those following plant-based diets show lower rates of health complications than their omnivorous counterparts. In other words, curbing unhealthy meat consumption and removing processed meats from school menus is a positive change for students’ health. By offering more nutritious meals on public school campuses, from preschool through university, all NYC students can be better nourished, likely boosting academic performance and overall well-being. In September 2018, the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) became the first school district in the country to remove processed meats from all school lunch lines. This recent ban in such a large metropolitan area shows that the move toward providing plant-based alternatives for more nutritious school meals is gaining momentum. + Resolution 238 Via TreeHugger Image via Shutterstock

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NYC bans processed meats served in public schools

Surfing trip leads to 4Ocean cleaning coastlines around the world

June 20, 2019 by  
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This is the story of how plastic , local fishermen, a bracelet and two surfers have created a recipe to clean up the massive plastic debris in oceans and along coastlines around the world. Alex Schulze and Andrew Cooper took a surfing trip to Bali that would change their lives and the future of the planet. The post-college trip opened their eyes to the growing problem of ocean plastic. While attempting to enjoy the beach and waves, Alex and Andrew found themselves literally wading through plastic. A local lifeguard told them that the plastic washes ashore each and every day. Related: Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during world’s deepest dive The lightbulb went off when the duo saw some local fisherman dragging their boats through mounds of plastic as they headed out to work. With capable boat captains and deckhands already heading into the water each day, Alex and Andrew decided to find a way to give them a new job to do. So, they began paying the crews to retrieve plastic instead of fish. As before, the boats went out each morning, but when they returned, the nets had hauled in a different load— plastic. As the movement continued to grow, more locals joined the crews and 4Ocean was officially born. This business plan is not only effective in cleaning up the beaches and ocean , but is also providing sustainable jobs for the local community. What began as a focus on Bali has now evolved with the company’s direct involvement in cleaning up the coastlines of 27 countries so far. With boats and payroll expenses growing around the globe, the founders needed a way to fund the business and they found it in the creation of the 4Ocean bracelet, made from recycled waste materials pulled directly from the ocean. The bracelets are hand assembled on the island of Bali, providing additional work in the community. Recycled plastic is sourced to make the beads on each bracelet. The attached charm is made from recycled stainless steel. They are unisex, adjustable and 100 percent waterproof to appeal to just about anyone. The cord is made from recycled water bottles and although the blue cord is the original, they feature a different color monthly— each representing an endangered sea animal . For example, June is the leatherback sea turtle. Each featured bracelet provides information that aims to raise awareness about these threatened animals and the harm from ocean pollution . Bracelets are priced at $20 and are packaged in eco-friendly materials. The purchase of each bracelet funds the removal of one pound of plastic from the ocean. “Buy a bracelet, pull a pound.” + 4Ocean Images via 4Ocean

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Surfing trip leads to 4Ocean cleaning coastlines around the world

Black bear cub in Oregon euthanized after too much human contact

June 20, 2019 by  
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After months of eating trail mix and making human friends, a black bear cub had to be euthanized in Oregon. According to state officials, the unfortunate incident is a reminder to tourists and locals that bears and all wildlife should never be fed or engaged with. Visitors at a boat launch on Hagg Lake frequently saw the bear cub, and many continued to leave food and take photos with the bear. After the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received numerous calls about bear cub sightings and noticed circulating social media photos of “selfies” with the bear cub, they investigated the sightings and set out a trap. Deputies are working to get this bear cub near Hagg Lake to go back into the woods… please stay away from the area near Boat Ramp A. pic.twitter.com/tI8m5yTbyk — WCSO Oregon (@WCSOOregon) June 13, 2019 The state officials eventually caught the bear cub with the intention of releasing him farther into the forest , away from busy roads and popular family recreation sites. However, upon realizing that the bear was not fearful when they approached and instead had become very comfortable around humans, the officials reported that they had no choice but to euthanize the cub. Related: Seven commandments of leave no trace camping “This is a classic example of why we implore members of the public not to feed bears,” wildlife biologist Kurt Licence said in a statement. “While the individuals who put food out for this bear may have had good intentions, bears should never, ever be fed.” According to Oregon state law, it is illegal to scatter food to attract or lure wildlife . The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife explained that miscellaneous food can not only make bears sick, it can also cause them to become habituated to human interaction. This dependency and comfort opens the door for dangerous encounters, especially when the bears become older and larger. Many people expressed outrage upon hearing news of the killing; however, most understood that the state officials had no choice and that the situation could have been avoided by those who fed the bear. “They got the bear killed and that’s not OK,” local resident and frequent visitor to Hagg Lake Jennifer Harrison told the local news . “They tried to do something they thought was a good thing, but it ended up getting the bear killed, so please do not feed the bears.” Rangers guessed that the bear cub was approximately 3 years old. Via Huffington Post Image via Keaton

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Black bear cub in Oregon euthanized after too much human contact

Earth911 Quiz #56: Does This Go in the Blue Bin?

April 11, 2019 by  
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Across the U.S., one of the biggest influences on recycling … The post Earth911 Quiz #56: Does This Go in the Blue Bin? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Quiz #56: Does This Go in the Blue Bin?

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