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

We Earthlings: 1.1 Billion Lbs. of Pesticides

October 1, 2019 by  
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American agriculture is heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers. According to … The post We Earthlings: 1.1 Billion Lbs. of Pesticides appeared first on Earth911.com.

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We Earthlings: 1.1 Billion Lbs. of Pesticides

One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup

September 30, 2019 by  
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The next time you are craving tea , choose the paper teabag or loose-leaf tea in a reusable infuser — just steer clear of the plastic teabag. Why? A recent McGill University study found that just one plastic teabag can leach billions of microplastic particles into your beverage. Professor Nathalie Tufenkji, of the McGill University Chemical Engineering Department, was surprised to find that premium teabags, made of plastic , were offered at her local Canadian coffee shop. For research purposes, she then asked graduate student Laura Hernandez to purchase several plastic teabags from a number of different brands. Next, the research duo collaboratively ran tests and analyses in the laboratory to discover the amount of microplastics being released after steeping the teabag. Related: Have your plastic and eat it, too — average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year Results alarmingly showed that as many as 11.6 billion microplastic particles and 3.1 billion nano-sized particles were contaminating the tea. Nano-sized particles are small enough to enter the human bloodstream and human cells. These numbers were considerably above-average — in fact, thousands of times higher — relative to other food products and beverages. Tufenkji said, “you’re literally adding plastic” into your cup each time you steep a plastic teabag. Microplastics are everywhere, contaminating the oceans and the marine organisms that live there, and often making their way into our food chain. A joint study — published earlier this year by the University of Newcastle in Australia and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and available for viewing here — announced that humans are ingesting about 5 grams of plastic per week, which is about the size of a credit card. Consuming tea brewed from plastic teabags could very well increase that collective annual amount. Currently, the two types of plastics linked to adverse effects on the human body are Bisphenol A ( BPA ) and Phthalates. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued warnings on BPA exposure creating negative effects like metabolic disease, birth complications and other health problems. Phthalates, meanwhile, are known to disrupt the body’s natural endocrine functions. Even more worrisome, regarding ingestion of microplastics, is that microplastics act as “toxic rafts” that pick up other environmental pollutants around them. In other words, microplastics attract environmental pollutants, concentrate them and carry them. Ingesting these microplastic “toxic rafts” rife with concentrated pollutants therefore increases the risks to your health. Unfortunately, there is no study yet that examines the actual danger that the plastic teabags, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and nylon, pose to humans. Instead, more research is required to understand the long-term impact that various microplastics can have on human health . “There’s really no research,” Tufenkji said. “But this really points to the need to do those studies. Think of people who drink one or two or three cups of tea a day, every day.” Tufenkji moreover emphasized that these plastic teabags are just another example of single-use plastics that are fomenting more environmentally destructive trouble than they are worth. It is up to consumers to fight for alternative packaging and to urge government policymakers to regulate plastic production and plastic use. Decreasing plastic packaging will not only improve the environment, but it could also safeguard one’s health as well. + Environmental Science & Technology Via EcoWatch Image via Conger Design

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One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup

More than half of Europes native trees face extinction

September 30, 2019 by  
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Europe’s endemic trees are threatened by extinction, states a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment on biodiversity. The unfortunate decline is due to the combination of three paramount factors: problematic invasive species , unsustainable deforestation from logging and wood harvesting and urban development. According to the IUCN’s European Red List , there are 454 native European tree species, of which 265 species are found nowhere else on the planet except in continental Europe, and 252 species are found only in the 28 European Union (EU) member-states. Of these, 168 species (or 42 percent) are regionally threatened with extinction. Related: Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years Circumstances adversely affecting European trees include changes in forest and woodland management. More poignant is the significance of ecosystem modification, as in the case of forest fire, land abandonment, agricultural encroachment, livestock farming and even tourism. But the three most hazardous are invasive species, deforestation and urban development. “It is alarming that over half of Europe’s endemic tree species are now threatened with extinction ,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List Unit. “Trees are essential for life on Earth, and European trees, in all their diversity, are a source of food and shelter for countless animal species, such as birds and squirrels, and play a key economic role. From the EU to regional assemblies and the conservation community, we all need to work together to ensure their survival.” The IUCN report calls for more data gathering and analysis, especially regarding overlooked species. By improving knowledge of all these “overlooked” European species, the continent’s biodiversity can be better managed and protected. Tree species , unfortunately, are rarely prioritized in conservation planning and policy making. But it is hoped that the recent disclosure of the IUCN’s European Red List findings will change that. Growing public awareness can help galvanize urbanization control, conservation action and sustainable management. “This report has shown how dire the situation is for many overlooked, undervalued species that form the backbone of Europe’s ecosystems and contribute to a healthy planet,” explained Luc Bas, director of IUCN’s European Regional Office. “We need to mitigate human impact on our ecosystems and prioritize the protection of these species.” + IUCN Images via Noël Zia Lee

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More than half of Europes native trees face extinction

Healthier Tips for Baby Food Your Baby Will Love

September 25, 2019 by  
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If you’re a new parent or a been-there-done-that parent, it’s … The post Healthier Tips for Baby Food Your Baby Will Love appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Yum! Whip Up Scrumptious & Easy Vegan Desserts in a Snap

September 16, 2019 by  
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If you’re shifting to healthy, planet-friendly, plant-forward foods, desserts are … The post Yum! Whip Up Scrumptious & Easy Vegan Desserts in a Snap appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

September 13, 2019 by  
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With fall around the corner, the pumpkin spice latte (PSL) has already taken over Starbucks menus across the country, and it’s likely that the crisp mornings will send you straight for the drive-thru. But before you prove your loyalty to the iconic, autumnal beverage, consider the effects your morning brew might have on the environment and your health, from the ingredients to the drive-thru to the disposable cups. The ingredients can be bad for the Earth and our health The recipe varies from one place to another, but it’s worth asking the question, “What is in that pumpkin spice latte, anyway?” Most contain a combination of traditional fall spices, steamed milk, espresso, often sugar and sometimes some pumpkin puree, topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spice. While that might sound wholesome, researchers have found things like sulfites, potassium sorbate and annatto, which have been linked to breathing conditions, damage to genetic material and effects on blood pressure. Even when Starbucks announced its intention to switch to real pumpkin instead of a mixture of artificial flavors, other ingredients might also be problematic, such as commercially produced milk and non-organic pumpkin that contributes antibiotics, pesticides , insecticides and herbicides to our diets and ecosystems. Organic is a better option, and some groups have pressured Starbucks to make the change to no avail. Related: The problem with coffee pods and the eco-friendly alternatives to use instead You should also know the concoction is barely even coffee, with a very low amount of caffeine. While it’s difficult to know exactly what’s mixed into your cup, before you indulge, do your own research about what you’re ordering. Note that a 16-ounce cup, or “grande,” with 2 percent milk and whipped cream serves up 380 calories , 14 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbs and 50 grams of sugar. PSL impacts our planet in many ways Cultivating the ingredients for your cup of seasonal Joe is rough on the planet. Consider the impact to the Amazon alone, where 2.5 million acres have been cleared in favor of coffee plantations over the past few decades. Sure, your single PSL isn’t to blame, but the cultural and habitual elements of the daily coffee run are; not to mention the whipped cream topping and the ever-growing awareness of the effect cattle has on the planet. Animal agriculture is one of our planet’s largest contributors to air quality issues, making that frothy topping and milky foundation anything but a treat. Then, there is the fact that coffee is a water-intensive crop, with Mother Nature Network reporting that it takes about 37 gallons of water to grow and process the coffee beans to make one cup of coffee . Take into account the process of making a cup of PSL and washing dishes afterward, too. Humans are responsible for polluting our waterways , which comes as no surprise after many years of headlines regarding landfills, lawn fertilizer runoff and microbeads. What you might not realize is something as simple as a cup of PSL can result in water pollution. While it might not be as toxic as Roundup , a group called Sound Citizen has monitored the waterways around the Pacific Northwest for the past decade and reported finding higher amounts of cinnamon and pumpkin spice throughout the fall season. PSLs leave a trail of waste Following the damage that the ingredients of the PSL have on the planet is the waste left behind. To perform at the level we expect, manufacturers coat the disposable paper cups in plastic, for which the planet does not thank us. Even when the paper manages to break down naturally, the residual plastic is left to sit in the soil and eventually the waterways. Add to that the plastic lids and straws (unless of course, you have your own ), and you’ve contributed plentiful carbon emissions and landfill waste in a single sip. The larger point to this is that everything we produce and consume has an effect on the water and earth, from the pumpkin and coffee remnants tossed at the cafe to the garbage full of drippy, plastic-lined cups to the waste we release in our urine. How to enjoy an eco-friendly PSL You might not be able to pass up the PSL 100 percent of the time, and we’re not saying you should, but awareness is a huge part of the battle. There are several things you can do to lessen the burden on the planet. Firstly, bring your own refillable cup and skip the single-use option. At the very least, avoid the lid and straw. Secondly, skip the whipped cream and opt for soy or almond milk options. Finally, avoid idling in the drive-thru. Organize coffee stop carpools at the office, walk to your morning spot or at least turn off the engine while you wait. Related: The homesteader’s guide to a perfect pumpkin spice latte Another alternative option is to make your own PSL at home. Enjoy the warmth and endearing scent emanating from your mug with ingredients sourced locally. Plus, using your own recipe means you know what went into it, like organic milk and pumpkin. If you’re not sold on making your own concoction, seek out local coffee shops that offer organic and natural ingredients. Cheers! Via Care2 , Society 19 , Earth Day , Independent , Mother Nature Network and Atlas Obscura Images via Pexels , Mimzy , Robert Couse-Baker , Daniel Spils and Jill Wellington

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The environmental cost of the pumpkin spice latte

LEED Platinum CoLab Building brings first-ever CLT structure to Virginia

September 13, 2019 by  
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Earlier this summer, William McDonough + Partners and HITT Contracting officially opened Co|Lab, an innovative research space in Falls Church that has received LEED Platinum certification for its high-performance design. It is also the first cross-laminated timber structure in Virginia and the first commercial mass timber building in the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a beacon for sustainable design, the impressive building incorporates a wide swath of green features — such as Cradle-to-Cradle materials and roof-mounted photovoltaic panels — and is expected to achieve Zero Energy Certification. Located close to HITT’s headquarters in northern Virginia, the 8,650-square-foot Co|Lab serves as a research and testing center for emerging materials and technology . In addition to a double-height lab workspace that offers room for full-scale spatial and building “mockups,” the building includes flexible meeting and conference spaces, all of which are oriented for maximum access to natural light. The layout is organized around the workspace to encourage engagement between clients and team members through direct observation and hands-on interaction. Related: Interview with green architect and Cradle-to-Cradle founder William McDonough Per William McDonough + Partner’s commitment to circular economy principles, Co|Lab is constructed with high-value mass timber elements that can be disassembled and reused or recycled if needed. The use of mass timber also reduces the building’s carbon footprint and aids occupant well-being. Cradle-to-Cradle, Health Product Declaration, Forest Stewardship Council and Declare products were also used to promote human and environmental health. All of Co|Lab’s energy consumption will be offset by a rooftop solar array to ensure zero-energy consumption. “We designed HITT’s Co|Lab based on our concept of building like a tree,” said McDonough. “Instead of just talking about minimal environmental footprint, we talk about beneficial environmental footprint — not just minimizing negative emissions — we talk about optimizing positive emissions.” The building will also pursue Petal Certification from the International Living Future Institute. + William McDonough + Partners Photography by John Cole Photography via William McDonough + Partners

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LEED Platinum CoLab Building brings first-ever CLT structure to Virginia

Supermarket happy hour reduces food waste

September 10, 2019 by  
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A Finnish supermarket chain is fighting food waste by offering steep discounts during a “happy hour.” Every night at 9, food with a midnight expiration date is discounted 60 percent off already reduced prices. Shoppers are flocking to S-market’s 900 stores to avail themselves of bargains on meat and other food that has reached its sell-by date. S-market’s initiative is part of a much larger movement to decrease food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations , nearly one-third of food made for humans winds up lost or wasted. This unused food weighs in at 1.3 billion tons annually, with a value of almost $680 billion. Related: New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative Not only is this a terrible waste, given that 10 percent of the world’s population is undernourished, but all that food rotting in landfills worsens climate change. As food decomposes, it releases methane . This gas is about 25 times as dangerous to the environment as carbon dioxide. Wasted food also requires a ridiculous amount of unnecessary transportation. Food is transported from where it is grown to stores all over the world. Then, after its expiration date, unsold food gets a final ride to the landfill . That’s a huge waste of water and fossil fuels. But S-market wants to help reduce food waste while also minimizing its own losses from thrown-out, expired foods. The chain will sell hundreds of items that are already reduced in price by 30 percent for an additional 60 percent off after 9 p.m. until closing time at 10 p.m., and many customers are enjoying the happy hour. “I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” shopper Kasimir Karkkainen told the New York Times . Karkkainen scored pork mini-ribs and two pounds of pork tenderloin for US$4.63. While this is happening in Finland, U.S. grocers could benefit from adopting a similar initiative as Americans can be especially wasteful. “Food waste might be a uniquely American challenge because many people in this country equate quantity with a bargain,” said Meredith Niles, an assistant professor in food systems and policy at the University of Vermont. “Look at the number of restaurants  that advertise their supersized portions.” Via New York Times Image via Nina Friends / S-Market

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Supermarket happy hour reduces food waste

‘The Blob’ returns: marine heatwave settles over Pacific

September 9, 2019 by  
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Rising ocean temperatures are rising in the northeast Pacific, similar to conditions presented in 2015. It is safe to say the marine heatwave known as the “Blob” has returned. This time the Blob’s 2019 return is the second largest to occur in the Pacific in at least 40 years. It encompasses 4 million square miles from Alaska to Canada and as far away as Hawaii, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said Andrew Leising, a research scientist at NOAA. “Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen.” Related: Deadly heatwaves may make parts of China uninhabitable by the end of the century The Blob got its ominous name from Washington state climatologist and University of Washington scientist Nick Bond when the 2015 heatwave happened. The more recent Blob popped up in an area of high pressure stationed over the region. Such an incident forces warm surface waters to swirl around allowing cool, wholesome water from below to rise and takeover. “We learned with ‘the Blob’ and similar events worldwide that what used to be unexpected is becoming more common,” said Cisco Werner, NOAA fisheries director of Scientific Programs and chief science advisor. Without this churning process, surface heat can build up and if there are no nutrients from the cooler water below, the heatwave agitates the food chain. Overall, this creates less food for marine life and compels animals to go beyond their immediate home in search of food or simply die off. Underwater creatures aren’t the only things to suffer as humans who bank on the ocean’s physical condition are also affected. For instance, commercial fishing businesses in some places have shut down like Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, which has limited fishing rights for First Nations. Scientists also report should the Blob stick around it could be a bigger threat than it was in 2015. “There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem ,” added Bond. “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.” Via Gizmodo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Image via NOAA

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‘The Blob’ returns: marine heatwave settles over Pacific

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