The problem with zero-waste goals is the word ‘waste’

January 22, 2021 by  
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The problem with zero-waste goals is the word ‘waste’ Jim Giles Fri, 01/22/2021 – 00:15 This essay originally appeared in Food Weekly.  Sign up for your free subscription. Last week, I mentioned a project in the Netherlands that puts circular thinking at the heart of plans for a more sustainable food system. Afterward, I realized that the project jumped out at me partly because this kind of thinking is so rare, at least in the private sector. This makes no sense. We know that circular economy strategies can create profits, cut waste and reduce emissions. Why aren’t these approaches more common? Before answering, I’ll back up quickly for people new to circular thinking. Most industrial systems are linear: We extract a resource, which could be anything from timber to crude oil; transform it into a product, often with little concern for the waste produced along the way; then trash that product when we’re done with it. A circular system, by contrast, prioritizes the regeneration of natural systems, the designing out of waste and finding ways to extend the life of products. Food and ag is beginning to deliver on that first principle: the use of cover crops, rotational grazing and other regenerative techniques is growing rapidly. But every week I hear from food and ag companies that want to highlight their sustainability projects, and very few focus on the idea of redesigning systems to eliminate waste. Why is that? The most obvious answer is that it’s cheaper to simply send waste to landfills. That’s true in some cases, but there are plenty of examples of companies that are discovering value in what was previously waste: A new InnovaFeed plant In Illinois will use crop residues from a neighboring corn processing facility to rear insects for animal feed.  Upward Farms recently raised $15 million to combine fish farming with indoor ag: The nitrogen-rich waste water from the fish tanks will be used to fertilize leafy greens . BioEnergy Devco transforms chicken poop into natural gas. The pasta and snacks in Zenb, a new range from the Japanese food company Mizkan, are made using parts of plants that are usually discarded , such as stems, seeds and peels. These companies are united by more than innovative systems. Underlying their processes and technologies is an innovation in thinking: That all materials are potentially valuable and should never be written off as waste. And that’s something we need more of. “Right now, the thinking is very muddled in industry,” said Emma Chow, who leads food projects at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading advocate for the circular economy. “When we speak to companies about opportunities in waste streams, they say we’re doing everything we can. Then we dig into it and realize they don’t know what’s in these streams.”  That shortsightedness comes in part from something that sustainability advocates normally celebrate: zero-waste goals. Chow suggests that these goals have the unintended effect of labeling certain materials as needing to be eliminated: “It’s a mindset about looking at something as bad instead of saying, ‘What value and opportunities does this hold?'” I’m curious as to how widespread this muddled thinking is. Is it present in your company? And what value could you unlock by doing away with the concept of waste? (It’s a little late for New Year’s resolutions, but that would be an amazing goal for 2021.) Shoot your thoughts to jg@greenbiz.com , and I’ll feature as many responses as I can in future newsletters. Topics Food & Agriculture Circular Economy Food Waste Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The pasta and snacks in the Zenb product portfolio are made using parts of plants that are usually discarded , such as stems, seeds and peels. Photo courtesy of Zenb

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The problem with zero-waste goals is the word ‘waste’

Trump administration opens 3.4M acres of owl habitat to loggers

January 15, 2021 by  
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The Trump administration has once again rolled back an important policy regarding the protection of birds . Only about a week ago, the administration stripped protections of migratory birds from accidental deaths by oil companies. This week, it has removed over 3 million acres of Pacific Northwest land from northern spotted owl protected habitat. This means that the land will now be opened to loggers, a situation that exposes the owl to more threats. The decision is the latest in a series of environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration. The  decision , which has been made public by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was born out of a 2013 case challenging the protection of 9.5 million acres for the owls. The case was filled by a lumber association, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to loosen its grip on part of the protected land . Initially, the agency had proposed to release about 200,000 acres from protection; however, in a recent turn of events, it has opted to release a whopping 3.4 million acres from protection. Related: US and Canada in drastic crisis with 3 billion birds lost since 1970 “These common-sense revisions ensure we are continuing to recover the northern spotted owl while being a good neighbor to rural communities within the critical habitat ,” Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. The decision by the agency to release such a huge amount of the habitat from protection has raised an uproar from wildlife conservation groups. According to Susan Jane Brown, an environmental lawyer at Western Environmental Law Center, conservationists are protesting the move and have vowed to sue the agency. “I’ve gotten several calls from wildlife biologists who are in tears who said, ‘Did you know this is happening? The bird won’t survive this,’” Brown said. Data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself is contradictory to the move. Its own research shows that the northern spotted owls are on the decline, despite having a designated habitat. Although they have been protected since 1990, the owls have been declining at a rate of 4% per year. Via The New York Times Photography by Shane Jeffries / USFWS

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A micro-house offers a formerly homeless resident both privacy and connection

January 15, 2021 by  
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Austin-based Mckinney York Architects has completed its second micro-house for the Community First! Village , a program by Mobile Loaves & Fishes to uplift people experiencing chronic homelessness in Austin with affordable, sustainable tiny homes. As with the firm’s first project for the community, Mckinney York Architects teamed up with Bailey Eliot Construction to design, underwrite and build a permanent new home for a Community First! resident. Located 20 minutes east of downtown Austin , the two-phased Community First! Village is a transformative residential program with 51 acres of affordable, permanent housing and community for residents who were formerly homeless. The first phase of the program kicked off with Tiny Victories 1.0, a 2014 design competition hosted by AIA Austin and Mobile Loaves & Fishes that invited firms to design minimalist and sustainable one-person shelters no larger than 200 square feet. In fall 2018, the program moved forward with Phase II by adding 24 more acres of development for a total of over 500 tiny homes along with new amenities such as community gardens, outdoor kitchens and a welcome center. Related: Community First! provides affordable, permanent micro-housing Building on its experience with Phase 1 Tiny Victories, Mckinney York Architects began the Tiny Victories 2.0 project by speaking with current and future Community First! Village residents to determine design needs. The firm was assigned to design a custom tiny home for a “Seed Neighbor,” a woman who lived in Phase 1 of the development and would be “transplanted” to Phase II. In working closely with the client, the architects crafted a home that respected her desires for privacy without compromising a sense of community. For example, instead of large windows, the architects installed a screened porch in the front corner of the home that can be opened up to the neighborhood or closed off when more solitude is desired. The tiny house is topped with a butterfly roof that harvests rainwater for irrigating the garden, and the cozy interior is lined with knotty pine paneling. + Mckinney York Architects Photography by Leonid Fermansky via Mckinney York Architects

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French court persecutes noisy frogs in Grignols

December 16, 2020 by  
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A French judge has sentenced a pond full of frogs to capital punishment. Their crime? Being too noisy. The judge decreed the pond must be drained within 90 days. The legal battle over the frogs of Grignols, a village (population: 587) in the Dordogne area of southern France , has a long history. The frogs live in the backyard pond of Michel and Annie Pécheras. Twelve years ago, Michel re-excavated the 300-square-meter pond and moved it farther from the property line of his neighbor, Jean-Louis Malfione. Things seemed fine for a few years. But in 2012, Malfione brought legal action due to the amphibians’ cries of “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” during the mating season. At times, their amorous ribbits reached 63 decibels from Malfione’s open window. Related: First fluorescent frog in the world found in South America The case was thrown out by a judge in 2014 but later upheld by a judge in Bordeaux. Since then, several legal jurisdictions have heard the case. French environmentalists have become increasingly agitated. Some campaigned for the frogs to be relocated to another pond, but that appeal failed. The environmental group Société pour l’Étude et l’Aménagement de la nature dans le Sud-Ouest is appealing to France’s highest court. The Association Cistude Nature has stated that six protected frog species make their home in the pond. This isn’t the first noise complaint heard in rural French courts. Other cases have been heard about roosters crowing, ducks quacking, church bells pealing, crickets chirping and cowbells clanging. One farmer even had to pay 8,000 euros because a neighbor thought his cows smelled bad. Threatened with fines and even prison, Michel and Annie have started emptying the pond. Not only will the frogs be left homeless and probably die, the fish and ducks that live in the pond will be out of luck, and passing wildlife like wild boar, herons and deer might have to start carrying reusable water bottles. Many people around the world are lending their support to the frogs and other wildlife that the pond supports. More than 95,000 people had already signed this petition within days of its appearance online. Via The Guardian Image via Jill Wellington

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An answer to aquaculture’s unsustainable fish feed habit?

December 4, 2020 by  
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An answer to aquaculture's unsustainable fish feed habit? Jim Giles Fri, 12/04/2020 – 00:15 Sustainability can be a game of Whac-A-Mole: We roll out a promising solution to an environmental problem, only to discover that the solution generates problems of its own. It certainly feels that way in aquaculture. On paper, fish farms should be a win for sustainability. A third of wild stocks are overexploited , and sourcing seafood from farms should allow ocean biodiversity to recover. In practice, the industry has spent years chasing a sustainable solution for feeding the fish that it farms.  Aquaculture companies already have gone through two rounds of Whac-A-Mole for the fishfeed challenge. The question now is whether the third solution — which I’ll admit looks pretty exciting — will prove better than the first two. Solution No. 1 was to catch a bunch of wild fish and feed them to farmed fish. This works great if fattening fish is all that matters — so well, in fact, that around a fifth of the global wild catch is now used to feed farmed fish. Of course, it’s not the only thing that matters. “The mass exploitation of these species poses the risk of localized population collapses with knock-on effects on other marine life,” experts at the Changing Markets Foundation, a Netherlands-based nonprofit, concluded last year . These systems divorce food production from land, dramatically cutting water use and potentially freeing up space for forests and other diverse ecosystems. Partly because of these concerns, but more significantly due to rising fishmeal costs, the industry moved to solution No. 2: feed based on soybeans. In 1990, 80 percent of the protein in the feeds produced by BioMar , a leading provider of feed for aquaculture, came from marine sources. According to Planet Tracker, a British nonprofit, that proportion fall to just 16 percent in 2018 , with soy making up the bulk of the difference.  Problem solved? Sadly not, because production of soy is a primary driver of the ongoing destruction of native ecosystems in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado. Several big aquaculture companies have tried to eliminate soy grown on deforested land from their supply chains, but it’s notoriously hard to track sourcing in remote regions. Soy grown elsewhere also comes with costs. In the U.S. Midwest, for instance, soy production relies on chemical inputs that damage biodiversity and generate greenhouse gases. This brings us to an industrial facility in Decatur, Illinois, the site of what might be the third solution. Last month, Paris-based InnovaFeed announced plans to build the world’s largest insect farming facility at the site. The facility will begin rearing black soldier flies next year and eventually will scale to produce 60,000 tons of animal feed protein annually, some of which will be used in feed for farmed fish.  Research shows that substituting black soldier fly larvae for fishmeal doesn’t affect the quality of farmed fish . Insect farms also have a relatively small impact in terms of land use, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions . In Decatur, InnovaFeed will generate further sustainability gains by building the insect farm next to a corn processing plant operated by ag giant Archer Daniel Midlands. The larvae will feed on organic waste from the corn processing and be warmed by excess heat generated by the plant. This circular approach will allow the InnovaFeed operation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent compared to a standalone facility, according to ADM. Black soldier flies are actually just one element of a wave of new approaches vying to solve aquaculture’s feed problem. Companies are also growing fishmeal from algae and using microbes to convert carbon dioxide into protein. Switching to these systems can be costly, but, as Planet Tracker argues in its report, green bonds can be used to finance the transition. Some large aquaculture firms, including Grieg Seafood , are already making use of this mechanism. Given the troubled history I just outlined, it’d be foolish to get too excited at this stage about this third wave of solutions. But I see an encouraging commonality with other new food production processes, such as cultured meat and indoor farming. These systems divorce food production from land , dramatically cutting water use and potentially freeing up space for forests and other diverse ecosystems. If powered by renewable energy, these facilities also have low carbon footprints. This approach doesn’t gel with our intuitive idea of what constitutes “natural” food, yet an industrial approach actually might be the best way to protect and restore natural systems. Pull Quote These systems divorce food production from land, dramatically cutting water use and potentially freeing up space for forests and other diverse ecosystems. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Aquaculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Fecundap Stock Close Authorship

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An answer to aquaculture’s unsustainable fish feed habit?

Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

September 10, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed has revealed that yellow mealworms can serve as an alternative protein source for animals and, possibly, humans. The study comes at a time when global food demands keep rising. Spontaneous population growth in developing countries has led to a shortage of protein sources, prompting researchers to look for alternative options. The new research, conducted by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), proposes yellow mealworms as a food source. Christine Picard, associate professor of biology and the director of the Forensic Investigative Sciences Program at IUPUI School of Science, led the research. The study focused on analyzing the genome of a mealworm species known as tenebrio molitor. “Human populations are continuing to increase, and the stress on protein production is increasing at an unsustainable rate, not even considering climate change ,” Picard said. Findings explain that the yellow mealworm can offer several agricultural benefits. Fish and domestic birds can use the worms as an alternative source of protein. The worms can also help produce organic fertilizer, with their nutrient-rich waste. The mealworm genome research employed a 10X Chromium linked-read technology. Researchers now say that this information is available for use by those seeking to utilize DNA to optimize mealworms for mass production. According to Picard, IUPUI’s research has dealt with the challenging part, opening doors for interested stakeholders. “ Insect genomes are challenging, and the longer sequence of DNA you can generate, the better genome you can assemble. Mealworms, being insects, are a part of the natural diet of many organisms,” Picard said. Since fish enjoy mealworms as food , the researchers propose adopting these worms for fish farming. Researchers also say that pet food industries can use the worms as a supplemental protein source. In the future, mealworms could also serve as food for humans. “Fish enjoy mealworms, for example. They could also be really useful in the pet food industry as an alternative protein source, chickens like insects — and maybe one day humans, too, because it’s an alternative source of protein,” Picard said. To facilitate the yellow mealworm’s commercialization, the IUPUI team continues researching the worm’s biological processes. + Journal of Insects as Food and Feed Via Newswise Image via Pixabay

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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

September 10, 2020 by  
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Over 2 million acres of land have burned in California this year alone, according to the U.S Forest Service. Unfortunately, fires are still breaking out and more destruction is expected. The state is bracing for the worst as summer comes to an end. Normally, the period preceding fall is the most dangerous in terms of fire outbreaks, and California has already witnessed more acres burned so far this year than ever recorded in a similar period. Currently, two of the state’s largest fires in history are still underway in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are deployed to handle these fires and others around the state. During the Labor Day weekend, a three-day heatwave aggravated the situation. Triple-digit temperatures and dry winds are making it hard for firefighters to control the flames. Related: Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires The continued increase in temperatures and forest fires is affecting services for the residents of the state. Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the state, said it might cut power to 158,000 customers this week. According to the company, this move would be taken to reduce the risk of its powerlines and other equipment starting more wildfires . According to Randy Moore, regional forester for the U.S Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest Region, the state will close all eight national forests in southern California to prevent further damage. He said that the closures will be re-evaluated each day, based on the available risks. The service is monitoring daily temperatures and other weather aspects that are likely to lead to fire outbreaks. This decision consequently means that all campgrounds within national forests remain closed. “The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Moore said. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.” Via Huffington Post Image via Steve Nelson / Bureau of Land Management

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The smooth handfish is declared extinct

September 3, 2020 by  
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The International Union for The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared the smooth handfish extinct. This news makes the smooth handfish the first fish species to be declared extinct in modern history. The smooth handfish belongs to a family of fish that get their name from their fins, which are shaped like hands. As opposed to swimming, the smooth handfish crawled with its hand-shaped fins across the seafloor. The handfish is among the most unique types of fish. Besides their bright, multicolored bodies, their awkward movement on their hand-like fins makes them stand out from other fish. According to the IUCN, there used to be 14 species of handfish. But after the organization updated its list of endangered species, the smooth handfish has been listed as an extinct species. The smooth handfish has not been seen since the year 1802, despite searches being conducted around the world. Related: We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it is accelerating The IUCN’s announcement marks the first time a fish species has been declared extinct in modern history, according to National Geographic . The unfortunate news now shifts focus on the other species in the handfish family. Alarmingly, seven types of handfish have not been seen since 2000 or earlier. This might mean that these species are also on the verge of extinction . The handfish is a special family of fish that is characterized by isolation. They do not associate with other types of fish and are usually localized in one place. “They spend most of their time sitting on the seabed, with an occasional flap for a few meters if they’re disturbed,” Graham Edgar, marine ecologist, told Scientific American . “As they lack a larval stage, they are unable to disperse to new locations — and consequently, handfish populations are very localized and vulnerable to threats.” While the fish stay on the seafloor, they are faced with many threats. Some of the threats include industrial runoff that affects the quality of seawater. Further, fishing and dredging along the seabed also threaten many fish, including the handfish. Invasive species also pose a threat to these unique creatures. The recent news of the smooth handfish’s extinction opens our eyes to the possibility of losing more precious species if actions are not taken to protect biodiversity . + IUCN Via Mic , National Geographic and Scientific American Image via Kenneth Lu

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Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

September 3, 2020 by  
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It’s an ethical conundrum vegetarian pet owners frequently face — isn’t it hypocritical to eschew meat consumption yourself while still supporting animal slaughter by purchasing pet food? Those days of having to choose Fluffy over a nameless abattoir victim may be coming to an end as Bond Pet Foods improves a new lab-grown chicken protein technology. The Boulder, Colorado-based biotech company has figured out how to crack the genetic code of a chicken and replicate it in a lab. In this case, Inga, a farm-dwelling heritage hen from Lindsborg, Kansas, was the blood donor. Food chemists combine the genetic code in a fermentation tank with food-grade yeast, and voilà, they’ve created something identical to animal meat. The fermentation process is similar to one commonly used to make enzymes for cheese. Related: 7 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner “A new wave of responsible food production is emerging, working with the best that nature and science has to offer, and our team is leading this wave in Pet,” said Rich Kelleman, co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods. “Our team’s continued developments are laying the foundation to bring high-value meat protein and nutrition to dogs and cats, while removing farm animals from the equation.” Don’t race to your local pet food store just yet. Bond aims to have the slaughter-free pet food on shelves by 2023 with support from seed investors. In the meantime, an early test of a dog treat made from the cultured chicken protein was a success with canine consumers. “Our initial tests with dog volunteers have been very promising, and its nutritionals, palatability and digestibility will only improve on our path to commercialization,” said Pernilla Audibert, co-founder and CTO of Bond Pet Foods. “The science team at Bond is also working on production of other cultured meat proteins made through a similar fermentation process. The successful chicken prototype is a demonstration of our technology’s potential to create a complete portfolio of animal proteins for pet consumption, and beyond.” + Bond Pet Foods Via VegNews Image via Bond Pet Foods

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Cod are disappearing due to global warming

August 12, 2020 by  
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Cod lovers might have to change their preferences soon. According to new research published in the  Journal of Applied Ecology , global warming may cause a decline in cod populations. Cod thrive in cool water, and global warming pushes the species to the brink of extinction. A group of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Exter, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) conducted this research. The researchers used computer models to predict how fish populations may change by 2090.  Research now indicates that cod may need to be replaced by species more resistant to climate change . Cod serves as a favorite for fish and chips, but as cod populations decline, new species may need to step up. Species such as the red mullet, John Dory, and lemon sole rank as possible candidates to replace cod on menus. These species thrive in warm water and are starting to appear more frequently in catches, in contrast to decreasing numbers of cod. “Our results show that climate change will continue to affect fish stocks within this sea region into the future, presenting both potential risks but some opportunities that fishers will likely have to adapt to. Consumers can help fishers take advantage of these fishing opportunities by seeking out other fish species to eat and enjoy,” Dr. Katherine Maltby, marine climate change scientist at Cefas and the study’s lead author, said. Earlier research from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory warned that larger North Sea fish populations may fall by up to 60%. This decline comes alongside reports of the North Sea heating at a rate double that of average world oceans . Last year, the North Sea hit a new record of heating by 1.67 degrees Celsius over the past 45 years.  Reducing global warming’s impacts on the fish in these waters will require new fish management techniques. As Louise Rutterford, co-author of the Cefas study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, explained, “We know from working with fishers that warmer water species are appearing in catches more. Bringing together their ‘on-the-ground’ experiences with studies like ours will help inform future management decisions that enable sustainable exploitation while supporting fishers’ adaptation.” + Journal of Applied Ecology Via Independent and The Ecologist Image via Per Harald Olsen

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