New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion

December 3, 2020 by  
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New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion Liesl Truscott Thu, 12/03/2020 – 01:00 This week, in advance of World Soil Day — Dec. 5 — the Textile Exchange Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) Program is launching a new tool to help the fashion and textile industry take urgent action on biodiversity. The Biodiversity Benchmark , developed in partnership with The Biodiversity Consultancy and Conservation International and supported by Sappi, will enable companies to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature in their materials sourcing strategies, chart a pathway to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes, and benchmark their progress. Outcomes and learnings can be channeled back into the community to support further improvements. The benchmark is in beta and comments will be open through Jan. 31. All interested companies are eligible, and it is free to participate. More than 200 companies already report through the CFMB. With the Biodiversity Benchmark, the aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. The aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. The inclusion of biodiversity is part of Textile Exchange’s Climate+ strategy, which focuses on urgent climate action and recognizes that soil health, water and biodiversity will play a key role in this transition. Benchmarking drives a race to the top and is one way Textile Exchange mobilizes the industry to accelerate the uptake of preferred materials. It is my hope that this new benchmark will help transform biodiversity commitments into actions. A risk — and an opportunity The Earth’s interrelated systems of water, land, biodiversity and ocean are facing unsustainable pressure. We cannot win the fight against climate change without addressing nature loss.? — Science Based Targets Network, 2020 When surveyed in 2019, 42 percent of our member companies put “biodiversity risk” as important or very important to them. A sustainability strategy is no longer an option, it is now table stakes. Considering biodiversity as part of the strategy is the next step, not only because biodiversity is an urgent issue and the right thing to do, but also because it poses real business risks, particularly as many businesses are directly dependent on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to human systems and well-being. A company that recognizes biodiversity risk as a priority would acknowledge the importance of nature’s services to its business as well as how its operations affect biodiversity. The fashion industry, for example, is very dependent on natural resources and healthy agricultural and forestry ecosystems. The Biodiversity Consultancy’s chief executive, Helen Temple, sees this as an opportunity: “The fashion and textile industry now has an opportunity to establish a leadership position in how it tackles biodiversity and nature loss.” No-regrets approach This Biodiversity Benchmark Companion Guide is designed to catalyze companies to think about their fiber and material choices in relation to their dependencies, risks, opportunities and impacts through a biodiversity lens. While a company’s biodiversity strategy is being fully developed and science-based targets confirmed, we advocate a no-regrets approach , as defined by the UNDP, UNEP and IUCN and expressed by the Science Based Targets Network. Such an approach focuses on maximizing positive and minimizing negative aspects of nature-based adaptation strategies and options. No-regret actions include measures taken which do not worsen vulnerabilities (for instance to climate change) or which increase adaptive capacities and measures that always will have a positive impact on livelihoods and ecosystems (regardless how the climate changes). It’s there to encourage companies to start immediately by taking positive action. From my own industry — apparel and textiles — I want to share three examples of companies taking action on biodiversity: Suppliers leading the way: Sappi Biodiversity is never more relevant than with suppliers, who are arguably the closest to the issue, working directly on the land and in ecosystems, sourcing, refining and renewing resources. Sappi is a leading global provider of dissolving pulp and of everyday biobased materials created from renewable resources, from packaging paper to biomaterials such as nanocellulose. They’ve been committed to sustainability for decades and a U.N. Global Compact member since 2008. Krelyne Andrew, head of sustainability at Sappi Verve, explains why. “Our goal is to be a trusted, transparent and innovative partner. … By promoting sustainable and innovative approaches to forest management, we ensure that all the benefits of healthy forests are maintained for people and the planet. Biodiversity conservation is a central pillar of our land management.” Biodiversity conservation is a central pillar of land management. In South Africa, she explains, Sappi owns and leases 964,000 acres of land, of which about a third is managed for biodiversity conservation. In North America, Sappi is a founding member of a new risk assessment platform, Forest in Focus, aimed at assessing the health of wood baskets using trusted public data to drive action. Sappi is also accelerating partnerships to help achieve its ambitious goals. Luxury meets biodiversity: Kering In July, Kering announced a dedicated biodiversity strategy with a series of new targets to achieve a “net positive” impact on biodiversity by 2025. It included launching the “Kering for Nature Fund: 1 Million Hectares for the Planet” to support the fashion industry’s transition to regenerative agriculture. Aligned with its long-term commitment to sustainability, Kering’s biodiversity strategy outlines steps to not only minimize biodiversity loss across its global supply chains, but also support nature and create net positive conservation. The strategy encourages the prevention of biodiversity degradation, the promotion of sustainable and regenerative farming practices favoring soil health and the protection of global ecosystems and forests that are vital for carbon sequestration. As Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, describes it: “Thriving biodiversity is intrinsically linked to the long-term viability of our industry, and society more broadly. Integrating a dedicated biodiversity strategy — which is now part of our wider sustainability strategy — into Kering’s day-to-day operations is pivotal for our contribution to bending the curve on biodiversity loss over the next years. Business has a serious role to play in shifting towards a ‘nature-positive’ economy and ahead of the establishment of the Global Goals for biodiversity in 2021, it is important that Kering’s strategy aligns with the scientific community so that we are already on the right path and taking the actions that are urgently needed.” Smaller brands taking bold action: INDIGENOUS INDIGENOUS, which promotes “organic and fair trade fashion,” was founded on the fundamental belief of supporting climate justice. Indigenous peoples own or steward about a quarter of the world’s landmass and are the guardians of more than 70 percent of the earth’s remaining biodiversity. When we think about protecting biodiversity on the planet, indigenous peoples need to participate as a cornerstone of the conversation. As industry begins to realize the importance of protecting biodiversity, Scott Leonard, the company’s CEO, believes business leaders must come together to rebuild the rights of nature economy and align on accountable supply chain practices. “The road ahead to adopt business practices that protect biodiversity is an arduous task,” he says. “We need much stronger alignment with all stakeholders in the value chain surrounding industry to adequately scale the rapid adoption of next generation solutions that truly protect our biodiversity. Our current consumption patterns are not an option for our future and yet we continue to allow more deforestation, forest degradation, species extinctions and massive carbon loss as each day goes by.” Collaborative leadership: Fashion Pact The Fashion Pact — more than 60 CEOs from the industry’s leading companies, representing more than 200 brands — is focusing on the collaborative action needed to bring solutions to a global scale. Alongside setting seven tangible targets for climate, biodiversity and oceans, the companies are beginning their first collaborative activity on biodiversity. “We are very excited for the launch of the Textile Exchange Biodiversity Benchmark,” said Eva von Alvensleben, executive director of the Fashion Pact. “Not only is this a step forward for our signatories in advancing on their global commitments but [this] will allow for the development of a common understanding of the information needed to shape effective biodiversity strategies as an industry.” It’s clear that we have a mountain to climb, but I am encouraged by the number and ambition of new commitments on biodiversity from companies of all market segments and parts of the supply network. Meaningful change requires bold action, and we hope we can provide a catalyst for this within the textile industry with the Biodiversity Benchmark. Pull Quote The aim is to integrate biodiversity into existing materials and sourcing strategies, rather than approach biodiversity as a new or disconnected topic. Topics Supply Chain Biodiversity Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image credit: Sappi

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New benchmark shows that biodiversity is in fashion

Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

October 28, 2020 by  
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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry Elsa Wenzel Wed, 10/28/2020 – 02:02 It’s probably fair to say that nobody expressly set out to devise a sunscreen to bleach coral reefs or a yoga mat to emit carcinogens. Yet toxic substances circulate in waterways and bloodstreams, leached out from all the consumables of everyday life. Shortsightedness and paltry data in the cycles of product design and engineering are partly to blame for this collateral damage of modern chemistry. Most product designers are unlettered in chemistry, and the practice of green chemistry remains in its early years. Even a basic count of all the industrial chemicals in use is scarce — somewhere over 80,000 , according to the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory, although the EPA total for recent output is less than 9,000 . It’s simply asking too much of most people formulating a consumer product only to include ingredients that are proven not to harm living systems. But what if design teams seeking safer ingredients didn’t have to know much about the molecules that comprise the stuff they’re making? What if they had a handy menu that graded each chemical? In theory, picking a less-toxic choice could be as simple as shunning an “F” or “C” ingredient for an “A” or a “B” on the list. We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. That’s the vision being advanced by ChemFORWARD, a mission-driven nonprofit backed by leading corporations with serious ambitions to accelerate safer chemistry. The effort is attracting pioneers in green chemistry, design and data to build a first-of-its-kind clearinghouse to help design teams and supply chains ditch hazardous chemicals for good. Leaders on board “We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry,” said Mike Werner, circular economy lead at Google, who serves on the nonprofit’s advisory board. The search giant pushes for safer chemistry and a circular economy on myriad levels , including within its office spaces, at its data centers and inside the devices it sells. “ChemFORWARD fits [into] this really big important puzzle toward making materials healthy and safe.” Google is among ChemFORWARD’s roster of “co-design” partners that includes Sephora, Target, Levi’s, HP, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, Steelcase and Method, each recognized for various leadership efforts toward safer chemistry. Last year, for example, Sephora became the first major cosmetics retailer to broadcast its policy on chemicals. Target’s Sustainable Product Standard came on the scene in 2013. Nike has its own Chemistry Playbook . Levi’s innovations include its recyclable Wellthread denim line. Other ChemFORWARD partners include the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.  ChemFORWARD’s technical advisory board is led by Art Fong, Apple’s green chemistry lead. Corporate scientists and chemists also come together via ChemFORWARD for regular meetings and peer reviews with third-party toxicology firms. The nonprofit is betting that teaming up with such pathfinders will help spark lasting industry innovation via its tool, in the process lowering the cost for even small companies to find safer chemical alternatives for their products. “Our intention is to reverse decades of negative impacts from the inundation of toxic chemicals that we find in our products, our economy, our environment and our bodies,” said ChemFORWARD Executive Director Stacy Glass, who has led the effort from a project within the  Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to its current iteration, housed within the Washington, D.C.-based Healthy Building Network , a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable building materials. “We need new solutions, new ways of thinking about things to have safe, circular products.” We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. ChemFORWARD seeks not only to display what chemicals not to use, but also what’s available instead. This aim progresses away from the longtime industry reliance on restricted substances lists that can leave product makers empty-handed, while liberating data that until recently has been trapped in various PDF reports or proprietary databases. ChemFORWARD seeks to stand apart from other data plays by building bridges in the supply chain with its “collaborative, harmonized” approach. “We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed,” Glass said. What’s inside However, ChemFORWARD is entering an area that’s already seeing a lot of activity. Multiple hazards assessment standards are available in increasingly usable formats to help companies identify problematic chemicals. The for-profit firm Scivera , launched in 2008 in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers a subscription database SciveraLENS, with color-coded grades for chemicals based on their inherent hazards. ChemFORWARD’s web-based software pools together data from some of the best-known chemicals assessment methodologies. A color-coded letter grade rolls up information from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification , Cradle to Cradle (on material health) and the EPA SaferChoice Safer Chemical Ingredients List . That results in offering users more than 50 pieces of interpretation and over 20 human and environmental endpoints, such as around neurotoxicity or aquatic toxicity, for each chemical. A view inside a ChemFORWARD display of dimethyl phthalate, used in plastics. “The work that ChemFORWARD is doing and proposes to do will provide important additional information to a community of organizations seeking real-world data to better understand the safety implications of their materials choices,” said green chemistry trailblazer John C. Warner, a distinguished research fellow at synthetic biology startup Zymergen. Think of nearly any consumer-product chemical villain that’s dominated recent headlines for disrupting ecosystems or being linked to cancer or hormonal havoc. Chances are ChemFORWARD is building a collection of alternatives to it. These include ortho-phthalate plasticizers found in flexible toys, UV-blocking oxybenzone in sunscreens and halogenated flame retardants in electronics. ChemFORWARD has portfolios of alternative cleaning solvents , cosmetics preservatives and fragrance fixatives. The goal is for ChemFORWARD to scale up from about 200 to 2,000 safer chemicals in 2021. “The more technical person can see the technical data they need,” Glass said. “But most companies need, ‘Can I use it [or] can I not use it?’ for an answer.” More than skin deep ChemFORWARD is building clearinghouses for electronics and food packaging, but one of its earliest repositories coalesces data in beauty and personal care, with hundreds of safer alternatives. Someone shopping around to include a safer surfactant in a skin cleanser or an emollient in a moisturizing lotion can consult the tool for the green “A” or “B” options. Sephora, which is mindful of its many eco-conscious young customers and became a co-design partner with ChemFORWARD in March, recently took steps to advance beyond its restricted substances list. The company says 94 percent of all the products it sells eliminate potentially negative “high-priority” chemicals. The Clean at Sephora label for sustainable beauty care products in its catalog features goods from more than five dozen smaller companies, including BeautyCounter . “We knew the importance of creating a baseline expectation for all brands in terms of safety and the environment,” Carley Klekas, Sephora’s senior manager of product sustainability, said. “Sephora already had rigorous requirements in place, specifically with our in-house brand, Sephora Collection, that goes beyond EU regulations, but we also wanted to expand this even more across the brands we carry.” These chemicals used in cosmetics display letter grades according to safety. It teamed up with ChemFORWARD and EDF on a research project that prioritized four chemical categories common within beauty and personal care: preservatives; benzophenones; silicones; and ethanolamines. Sephora then sponsored chemical hazard assessments for the alternative ingredients named in the research. As a result of the partnership, safer alternatives have been assessed for 73 percent of Sephora’s high-priority chemicals — and made available to industry via ChemFORWARD. “We needed a credible and innovative resource to help us assess alternatives to chemicals within our policy, to ensure they were safe, and that we were avoiding regrettable substitution,” Klekas said. “We know this is important work to be done and will ultimately help showcase that there are safer alternatives to the high-priority chemicals we seek to reduce in our assortment, while also help the industry identify gaps where more innovation is needed.” The innovation puzzle Glass sees ChemFORWARD’s highest mission as its potential for furthering innovation. But that requires buy-in not only from retailers and product manufacturers, but also from the chemical producers themselves. The process of making chemical substitutions is only one step along the path to optimizing shiny, new, safer chemicals, which Glass hopes to help propel. Enter Pat Harmon, industry manager at chemicals powerhouse BASF. He’s been involved with ChemFORWARD for many years after meeting Lauren Heine through a Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (G3C) event. Heine was then executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Green Chemistry and had just joined MaterialWise, the early iteration of ChemFORWARD, where she’s now director of safer materials and data integrity. BASF’s sustainability strategy hinges upon developing chemicals that advance sustainability, called “accelerators,” which account for more than 25 percent of its sales. Ninety-five percent of BASF’s products have been evaluated for potential sustainability contributions. BASF has a history of involvement in collaborative assessments, and it quantifies the sustainability benefits of its products through life-cycle assessments and its Sustainable Solutions Steering methodology. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. Harmon aligned with Heine on the need for better third-party assessments for alternatives to troublesome ortho-phthalates, which are tied to multiple health problems. He also liked what she described of how the fledgling nonprofit chemical clearinghouse might lower the cost to companies of chemical assessments while moving away from “negative lists.” ChemFORWARD’s involvement with leadership brands and retailers, which are ultimately BASF’s downstream customers, also helped to elevate the case for BASF getting involved.  Eventually, BASF shared details for ChemFORWARD about several of its plasticizer accelerators, including its ortho-phthalate alternatives Hexamoll DINCH and Palatinol DOTP . These are used in flexible PVC and in a broad range of applications including children’s toys, yoga mats, wiring cable, vinyl flooring and automotive interiors. A bridge? “Now, chemical suppliers have the option to market their safer alternatives and to validate their low-hazard claims through an independent, trusted platform,” Glass said. “In this way, we create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust.” Harmon sees ChemFORWARD as a useful tool for companies that ultimately use BASF’s chemicals as well as a resource that can help move safer chemistry forward in industry, demonstrating for BASF’s customers the value of the safer decisions behind their product formulations. And the involvement with CHEMForward may help BASF to identify potential market gaps in areas where the number of attractive chemical alternatives is slim.  “This is why the ChemFORWARD project is so important,” Harmon said. “It’s one of the ways to help understand that you’re making the right decisions to move to new substances. I would really like to see this approach be used more and more.” For example, what if ChemFORWARD could grow to include the broader area of plastics additives in addition to plasticizers, such as flame retardants and light stabilizers? That could bring more of the plastic industry onboard, he added. “If you make it broader for the whole plastics industry, then you have a lot of people who would have interest in using this type of tool,” Harmon said, optimistic that ChemFORWARD may help to advance plastics circularity longer term. For example, if it identifies safer plastics used, say, in medical equipment that’s currently discarded, then more IV bags or other consumables finally might be recycled without the possibility of circulating harmful chemicals into the marketplace and the environment, Harmon said.   Here’s a view of inherent hazards for benzophenone, known to damage coral reefs. It has been banned in sunscreens in Hawaii. ChemFORWARD’s small team hopes to encourage more chemical suppliers to get involved by providing them a means to bring forth their safer chemicals in a way that’s trustworthy, verified and peer-reviewed by a third party, also broadening the availability of their chemicals for certifications and reporting. Companies can use this information for marketing purposes, including for consumer labels, but it’s also critical for risk management and verifying internal claims about a product. “As we get more and more eyes on our platform, we’ll be able to make that case even more strongly that: ‘Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it,'” Glass said. “We feel a tremendous sense of urgency to not only stop unknowing toxic chemical exposure, but to empower those who are working to create a safe and circular future for all.” Data driven Glass spent a decade in green building, serving as VP for the built environment at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute , which shaped in 2016 the earliest version of ChemFORWARD. Research across industries, up and down supply chains, found that companies lacked information to use better chemistry. Good attempts by other nonprofits had failed to gain traction. Recognizing a larger industry need, the institute spun out the effort, which currently counts less than 10 staff members distributed across the U.S. and a network of toxicologists. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. “I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to, and the incredible tax this exposure is causing to society,” Glass said. “I’m not a chemist, I’m not a toxicologist — I said, we can fix this. I see the solution clearly. I’ll take any data solution, any scalable solution, that will get this information into the hands of designers and formulators so (they) can make safer decisions.” It’s possible ChemFORWARD ultimately could feed data into life-cycle analysis or supply chain management tools. It can’t hurt to have Google as a partner, and it’s worth noting that the advisory board’s latest addition is Kimberly Shenk, co-founder of the AI-driven supply chain transparency startup Novi. The movement, however, has a long road ahead. It’s still relatively cheap for companies to crank out new molecules, and the chemicals industry is a powerful economic engine and lobbying force. Nevertheless, ChemFORWARD and others pivoting away from the conventional focus in managing chemical risks and instead toward making decisions based on inherent toxicity is a huge paradigm shift, said Mark Rossi, executive director of Clean Production Action, who also created the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals hazard assessment method with Heine. “It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry,” he said. “All chemistry should be green chemistry, and how do you get there? This is all part of that movement toward making choices based on hazards.” Pull Quote We really saw this as a key to unlock in order to improve safe and circular chemistry. We are fundamentally changing the way that chemical hazard data is created, maintained, distributed and financed. It’s really powerful in terms of thinking about moving to green chemistry. I realized this was a data organization problem, our not knowing what was in our stuff and what we’re exposed to. We create a bridge between chemical suppliers, their customers and prospective customers with data that has been traditionally hard to come by, difficult to interpret and sometimes hard to trust. Hey, chemical suppliers, if you have good stuff and you want to verify those claims, this is a great place to do it. Topics Chemicals & Toxics Data Eco-Design BASF Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Industrial chemicals have proliferated exponentially since the time of this antique medical cabinet, and new ways of organizing them are sorely needed. Shutterstock Triff Close Authorship

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Why Google, BASF and Sephora are coming together on safer chemistry

EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

October 26, 2020 by  
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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me Terry F. Yosie Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:45 The American people always have possessed a very personal relationship with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Like all personal relationships, the EPA and its public have their share of successes and shortcomings, adjustments of expectations to realities, and recognition that the daily grind of complexity reveals our own values however much they end up being compromised. Few institutions exhibit such a pervasive daily presence in American life as the EPA. Its decisions impact the air we breathe (indoors and outside), the water we drink, the food we eat, the health of the children we give birth to and raise, the cars and fuel we purchase, the beaches where we swim, the chemicals we consume (voluntarily or involuntarily) or the quality of nature that we enjoy. The public health and environmental benefits of the EPA’s actions have been enormous, even while controversial. As one example, a draft report to Congress from the current administration estimated that, over the past decade, annual benefits from EPA regulations ranged from $196 billion to $706 billion, while yearly economic costs were between $54 billion and $65 billion. On Dec. 2, the EPA will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its establishment, not by an act of Congress but through an executive decision of President Richard M. Nixon. It has carried out its mission through the various statutes enacted by Congress beginning in 1970. The 50th-anniversary commemoration will not be widely celebrated because the EPA has become a political lightning rod among anti-regulatory conservative groups — who have dominated the national narrative about environmental policy during most of the past 40 years — and the toxic management of the current administration has weakened numerous health and environmental safeguards. However, the anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from the EPA and ourselves if we are to successfully resolve the mounting domestic and international challenges that have placed the biological systems of our planet in various stages of collapse. The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. A good place to begin that reflection is a new book by former senior EPA officials, “Fifty Years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Progress, Retrenchment and Opportunities,” edited by A. James Barnes, John D. Graham and David M. Konisky and soon to be published by Rowman & Littlefield. (I am co-author of the chapter on environmental science.) Long-term environmental policy observers will note that the EPA’s beginning coincided with a burst of public interest and participation to clean up America’s degraded skies, water and land. Often led by idealistic college students and affluent citizens of a growing middle class, a mass movement catalyzed new research, advocacy and media attention that greatly affected decisions in Congress and the executive branch and pioneered new judicial interpretations supportive of the EPA’s decisions. Fast-forward 50 years to the present. Both America and the EPA have experienced what author George Packer described as the “unwinding” of American life. The phenomenon of the unwinding means that people who have been on this earth since at least the 1960s “have watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapse like pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape … the order of everyday life … changed beyond recognition.” Unwinding support  America’s relationship to the EPA and environmental policy also has experienced an unwinding that has manifested itself in four distinctive ways: Environmental decision-making became less connected with core values and more focused around technocratic solutions. This understandable outcome resulted from a growing recognition that environmental problems were more complex than originally perceived and more costly to resolve. The resulting investments in science, technology and economic analysis, and debates over which scientific data and cost/benefit analysis met acceptable professional standards, moved the environmental conversation away from citizens and towards scientists and engineers and lawyers that knew how to craft or oppose regulations to support their positions. At times, these “insider” debates became dysfunctional (EPA’s scientific review of dioxin risks went on for about 20 years) and detracted from the ability to continuously engage in a broader public conversation about environmental priorities and the benefits of EPA policies to enhancing the quality of life. Bipartisan politics largely died. The bipartisanship present at EPA’s founding generally persisted through subsequent decades until the mid-1990s and the unveiling of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. Deregulation was a central feature of this Republican agenda and has remained so to the present day. Democrats also abandoned the idea that the EPA should remain as an independent agency and, beginning with the Clinton administration, centralized much of environmental policymaking as part of the White House political operation. The financial advantages that Republicans and their corporate allies enjoyed supported their deregulatory agenda at all levels of government through gerrymandered congressional districts, volumes of commissioned studies conducted by their ideological supporters and more conservative judicial appointments. Both parties used environmental policy, and the EPA, as a weapon against their political opponents. A debilitated and insecure middle class led to weakened support for environmental protection. Beginning in the 1970s, America’s post-World War II economic success buckled through a series of recessions and depressions, oil embargoes, high inflation and low inflation, de-industrialization and free trade policies and financial collapses that eroded the affluence of the middle class. As a result, the widespread societal consensus for environmental protection fragmented across social and economic class lines as middle- and lower-income voters focused more directly on job security, health insurance and the broader social safety net. Advocacy groups opposed to taking action on climate change, strengthening controls on particulate matter or controlling non-point sources of water pollution were able to exploit the economic anxieties of workers in America’s industrial states and the farm belt. Environmental organizations, and other members of the center-left and progressive communities, have been slow to recognize that enacting their agenda necessarily depends upon building a new political coalition to build hope and job opportunities for those whose incomes have not kept pace in a changing economy. Public values have changed. Over several decades, public opinion polls consistently concluded that Americans support environmental protection as a second-tier priority (generally below health care, jobs and economic security, and education). These surveys, however, do not reveal that awareness of environmental problems necessarily motivates people to act upon this information, endorse specific policies or support EPA as an institution. The changing arc of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) is a case in point. Boomers provided the tip of the emotional and advocacy spear for a host of environmental and social reforms while in their 20s and 30s. By the time they reached their 40s and 50s, their values and priorities had taken a decidedly more conservative turn in favor of tax cuts and more skepticism towards government intervention in the economy. They have represented a core part of the constituencies that elected the Reagan, Bush and Trump administrations and Republican control of Congress. As this generation, now proceeding into its retirement years, experiences the COVID-19 pandemic, its receptivity towards government taking preventive public health actions and securing a broader economic and social safety net appears to be evolving yet again. Regenerating and refocusing Renewing support for environmental protection, and for the EPA specifically, critically depends upon reviving America’s democracy. Such renewal depends upon success in three areas: Expanding voting and other forms of civic participation across all income levels and social groups so that environmental policymakers and legislators hear from a more representative range of voices across society; Assuring that future abundance is distributed more equitably and that the risks (environmental or economic) generated from such abundance are reduced and managed more effectively; and Rethinking the EPA’s role in advancing environmental and social justice. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. A regeneration agenda for the environment and EPA can advance through the following initiatives: Re-establishing the EPA as a science-based, professional, independent agency whose decision-making processes are decoupled from any White House or campaign political operation. While the agency’s senior leadership will continue to be political appointees who will generally seek to reflect any specific administration’s priorities, supporting the professionalism and diversity of EPA staff and its adherence to widely accepted scientific and economic methods and peer standards can significantly augment its effectiveness, reputation and legitimacy. Investing in and broadening public access to environmental data and decision-making. This should include expanding research to understand the impacts of pollution upon minority populations and supplementing the array of risk reduction tools beyond traditional regulation to expedite decision making. The EPA also must embrace more direct and extensive public engagement to listen to public concerns and explain its actions through community outreach, talk radio, town hall meetings and social media. Most EPA administrators and their leadership teams have not conceived these actions as a vital responsibility nor have they possessed the critical communications skills for success. Re-establishing the public’s relationship with the EPA is a vital factor in restoring the agency as a credible and effective — and non-political — public institution. Integrating environmental protection within the economic renewal agenda. Expanding health care, investing in more innovative infrastructure (digital technologies and more equitable access to broadband) and decarbonizing the economy all provide unique opportunities to unify environmental and economic policies. Well-paying job opportunities, greater economic security, healthier lifestyles, more prosperous communities and a more sustainable planet are measurable outcomes of such a strategy. Being explicit about the values that environmental policies support. Oftentimes, public policy decisions are submerged in a barrage of models and concepts that are impenetrable, even to many of the most senior leaders of the EPA and other agencies. If the outcome of an environmental decision will increase the cost of a consumer product as a means of protecting children’s health or reducing hospital admissions from pollution — then say so. Over time, and more often than not, the public will support such reasoning and appreciate the honesty and integrity through which it is offered. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Even more, unfortunately, our present moment is experiencing four simultaneous crises — public health, economic, race relations and global climate change. The current unwinding largely was predicted and has been long in the making. It, too, can be resolved if economic investment, science-based policies and public engagement expand although the process will take time and be noisy and sometimes disruptive. As for those Baby Boomers, many of whom have entered their retirement years, it’s time to pass the torch to the millennials and their idealism, new skills and alternative outlooks on life and the planet we inhabit. Pull Quote The anniversary should stimulate serious reflection about what we as citizens expect from EPA and ourselves. The very complexity of American society and its overcharged political system has the unfortunate byproduct that issues don’t get the attention they deserve until a crisis emerges to focus public and political attention. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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EPA @ 50, and what it says about you and me

These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health

October 26, 2020 by  
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These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health Oliver Camp Mon, 10/26/2020 – 01:30 On the recent World Food Day, the clarion call was clearer than ever: We must fix our food systems to improve human health, drive economic growth and save the planet from environmental collapse. The challenges facing us are wide-ranging. The way the world produces and consumes food causes huge environmental impacts, and yet 3 billion people worldwide are unable to afford a healthy diet, and up to a third of the food we produce is wasted. What’s more, hunger and micronutrient deficiencies are concentrated among the poorest and most vulnerable — often including those who produce the food we eat. Meanwhile, the so-called double burden of malnutrition is on the rise: hunger and malnourishment coexisting with overweight and obesity, often in the same countries, communities or even individuals. Tackling these multiple challenges and threats requires coordinated action from the public sector, private sector, NGOs, civil society, innovators and actors throughout the food value chain. In my role at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (a Swiss-based foundation on a mission to advance nutrition outcomes by improving the consumption of nutritious and safe food for all people, especially the most vulnerable), I am constantly inspired by the passion and commitment of our partners across these sectors. In particular, young leaders who refuse to accept the status quo are already driving real change and positive impact in food and ag. Over the past two months, I reached outside my usual network to discuss this topic via email with six fellow honorees from the 2020 GreenBiz 30 Under 30 , to which I was named in June. In particular, our exchange explored how food systems can be made healthier and more sustainable as we look to a future in which we’ll need to find a way to produce enough food to nourish as many as 10 billion people while staying within planetary boundaries. We also considered the role of young leaders from the private and public sectors in this essential transformation. All comments expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of their organizations. Below are excerpts, edited for style and length. If you’d like to discuss these subjects and the future of food systems, join Oliver Camp’s roundtable session Thursday at VERGE 20 . Jennifer Ballen, head of global market operations, Indigo Ag What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Only eight countries in the world spend less than 10 percent of their household income on food, with the United States spending the least amount (around 6 percent). In contrast, Nigeria spends over half of its household income on food, followed by nine other countries that spend over 40 percent on food. This is not because food is more expensive in Africa than it is in the United States. Au contraire, it is the reverse. The average American spends $2,392 per year on food while the average Kenyan spends $543 per year on food (World Economic Forum, 2016). The global food system, like many of the world’s Achilles’ heels, is representative of the tragedy of the commons: a renowned economic theory by which individual agents of a system using shared resources act in accordance to their self-interest at the expense of society. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, each additional unit consumed directly harms those who can no longer reap the benefits. The chief impediment is that the gain is private, yet the cost is public. One juicy hamburger for you equates to (about) 600 gallons of water consumed, 0.126 pounds of methane released, 13.5 pounds of cattle feed that could have been consumed by a malnourished human, 64.5 square feet of land and the assuaging of animal species distinction, water pollution and habitat destruction. My biggest concern is running out of time. Looking back with regret. My grandchildren wondering how our generation let this happen. The world seems to be less nourished than ever before. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there are almost 60 million more undernourished people now as compared to 2014. In 2019, 690 million people or 8.9 percent of the world population were undernourished. Moreover, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, scientists posit carbon emissions must drop rapidly to 25 gigatons by 2030, or 7.6 percent emissions reduction every year over the next decade (United Nations). Pause and consider how difficult this will be considering the pace at which our population is growing. We must change our relationship with food. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The problem is vast. In our world of finite resources, we need to revolutionize the way we produce and consume food to ensure enough nutritious food for 9.8 billion people by 2050. And we need to do so in a way that reduces the environmental devastation on our planet. Awareness is vital to ignite change. I am optimistic that the world is “waking up” Corporations, governments and individuals are enduring the conversation and mobilizing around solutions aimed at producing enough nutritious food for our growing population in a sustainable manner. We have access to myriad documentaries and books aimed at increasing awareness. I am witnessing the increase in education ignite behavior changes in some communities: less meat; less waste; more conscious decisions.  People, corporations and governments are seemingly taking action. We’re seeing a variety of interesting solutions and advancements from the private sector such as carbon sequestration on farms, meatless food that tastes like meat, greater access to vegetarian and vegan options and the use of technology to reduce food waste. The public sector is mobilizing around curbing hunger. We’re working with each other, not at each other’s expense. Collaboration is queen if we are to solve this thing. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Long-lived, profitable habits are hard to change. While some ignore the issue at hand, others point to the food system as “broken.” Both are dangerous vantage points. The chief impediment to the notion that a system is broken is the illusion that a system can easily be fixed. A different point of view is that the food system is not broken, but instead working exactly the way it was built — by and to the advantage of the rich at the expense of the poor. We don’t need small tweaks and improvements: We need a revolution.  The battle against climate change is vital. The more troops the merrier. Learn, share, act. Sustainability leaders of all ages must educate themselves on the systemic food production and consumption challenges and subsequently educate others. Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders should also ‘vote’ with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. When designing solutions, it’s imperative to understand that the climate crisis and therefore the global food crisis disproportionately affects people of color, particularly Black and Indigenous peoples, who are more likely to live near toxic areas, be inflicted by pollution and climate-related diseases, experience lagging response to emergencies — the list, unfortunately, goes on. Sustainability leaders must vote at the polls and with their wallets. We need strong public sector commitments to mitigate the global food crisis. Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders also should “vote” with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. Leaders must lead by example in their own food consumption habits. Is your household dependent on meat? Do you know where your food is coming from and how it is produced? Charlotte Bande, global head of climate strategy, Quantis International What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I think the first element is how slow we are moving in the right direction. While I understand the complexity of these supply chains and how difficult it will be to fully transition to a more sustainable food system, we are losing critical time in endless debates that are not focusing on action.  A great example is accounting. Companies often spend months if not years trying to get the accounting perfect, and this can shift the focus away from action as a result. Accounting methodologies are yet to be refined and finalized and, in the meantime, companies need to try to find a balanced way to track progress while also taking action. Secondly, companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. It leads them to focus on optimizing their current business models rather than taking a step back and look to transform it. To give some concrete examples of what I mean, let’s talk about three major transformations that our food system needs to undertake to become more sustainable, and where we are not seeing the right pace of change. Deforestation is a critical environmental challenge associated with the food system. It drives most of the food and beverage industry climate impacts, threatens biodiversity and water, as well as habitat for people and animals. While many companies are very aware of this issue, they are working on it in a siloed way, which significantly limits opportunities for improvement. Companies have targets that push them to fix their own supply chain, but this can lead to simply shifting the problem to another company’s supply chain. Companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. Food loss and waste is another big environmental topic. And like deforestation, it affects much more than the environment alone. We need to feed 11 billion people in the future, and some studies estimate food loss and waste amounts to up to 50 percent of food production. Food loss and waste is very poorly measured right now, and most value chains are not equipped to understand the extent of food loss and waste that is occurring in their supply chain or at consumer levels. However, this is a topic that brings great economic and social opportunities. Reducing companies’ food loss and waste not only would help drastically reduce the food system’s heavy impact at the raw materials extraction stage, it also would help reduce costs, as less food would need to be produced to feed 11 billion people in the future. It might even help farmers earn more for what they sell. Finally, meat consumption. Animal protein production is heavily reliant on feed that is fossil-dependent and contributes to deforestation. To reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius world, we’ll need a paradigm shift in the way we raise animals, and regenerative agriculture practices can and should be a part of the solution. However, in addition to improving practices, there is an opportunity for producers to rally around the idea that less and more sustainable meat options, which will be critical to limit global warming, can still be good for business. These examples show the importance for every company to take a step back and look at the overall picture, understand what a 1.5 degrees C food system looks like, and define how their business model will need to shift to guarantee not only that we can stay within planetary boundaries, but also to ensure their business’ long term resilience. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The first thing is the shift in consumer mindsets. In Southern California, where I live, I can see the explosion of interest in our local farmers’ markets or the appearance of plant-based options on restaurant menus. To me, this really shows a demand from consumers for these products. On a corporate level, working with companies at Quantis, I have seen a major shift over the past few years. Companies now have a good sense of where their major drivers lie and are seeing the case for some environmental actions. Additionally, they start to better identify where risks associated with a siloed approach might occur and ensure that their identified solutions aren’t simply shifting impacts. Finally, NGOs like the WWF are working to define what a sustainable food system looks like, and I’m hopeful that bringing more clarity on the level of sector-wide transformation needed will help companies take the transformative actions we need. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? I believe it is our role to make these risks and opportunities more visible. During conversations with companies we work with at Quantis, I always try to bring a more global perspective in our discussions, supporting companies in identifying the questions that will put them on the right path and broadening the conversation towards business model transformation rather than incremental changes.  It’s also our role to share our knowledge with the people we know. Not everyone works in our fields and has access to the information we have. We should use this to help others make better-informed decisions by helping them learn what we have learned throughout our careers.  And finally, ask more from our politicians and governments. This is a global challenge that will require collective action. We need everyone on board. Arturo Elizondo, CEO, Clara Foods What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I am deeply concerned about our reliance on animals to make our food. From a sustainability standpoint, animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector (all the planes, ships, cars in the world combined). And from a health standpoint, it’s the cornerstone of the Standard American Diet directly fueling heart disease as the No. 1 killer in the country. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? Conscious consumers give me hope. People voting with their dollars. If it weren’t for conscious consumers actively trying to eat more sustainably, pushing companies to source better and more ethical ingredients, and striving to eat less meat and animal products, the sustainable food-tech startups that can scale massively to transform our food system would have a harder time getting off the ground. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Advocate for plant-based options at your corporate cafeterias, get you and your colleagues at work to do Meatless Mondays, and get you and your friends excited about out all the new plant-based foods that are now ubiquitous. Demand drives supply. A tiny ripple can create a tsunami. It makes a difference. Alyssa Harding, executive director, Sustainable Food Trade Association What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Our food system as it is today is broken and is disconnected from the needs of its stakeholders. Our planet’s 500 million smallholder farmers tend to be the most impoverished and malnourished groups, not to mention the disproportionate lack of equitable access to healthy, nutritious food that low income, minority communities often face. We need to find sustainable and equitable solutions that provide nutritious food to almost 10 billion people by 2050, and remedy the global food inequity that permeates our communities and supply chains. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? The global pandemic has illustrated that local, sustainable supply chains are more resilient, and with the rise of regenerative organic agriculture, it is clear that a redefined food system can provide an opportunity for climate impact and environmental justice. I’ve worked with many brands over the past few years who are intrinsically motivated to find good food solutions and think business as a force for good has a unique role to play in both climate action and social justice. Although sustainable food systems lag behind energy and health when it comes to investment and policy, we are at a critical mass to help push forward sustainable development, focus on equitable food access, and diversify our leadership to better serve our economies, people and planet. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Many of my colleagues can be considered young leaders, and youth climate activists have been gaining a lot of momentum in terms of educational awareness and producer responsibility. I feel very fortunate to pursue both my personal and professional passions in one role, and I think that young leaders can bridge the gap between industry/sector leaders and bring new technology innovation, research hubs, new financing mechanisms and radical collaboration to our conversations on building a truly holistic food system. José Miguel Salazar, senior specialist, corporate sustainability services, CSRone What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? Since the Industrial Revolution, as humanity we have been achieving unprecedented progress in terms of decoupling famine from our living conditions due to advances in technological innovation, science and more efficient industrial practices, among others. However, our modern food systems also have brought a new set of global challenges that require urgent attention and action to fix systemic failures that threaten our way forward. In terms of environmental sustainability, our current global food system accounts roughly for 12.8 percent of our total global greenhouse gas emissions , and its contribution as a sector to climate change is quite significant. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that roughly a third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted along different stages of the value chain. If food waste alone were a country, its emissions would rank third in carbon emissions after China and the U.S. Fixing our food system is an important component to address the urgent climate crisis and at the core lies decoupling our reliance on animal-based foods, which overall have a significantly higher footprint than plant-based foods. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges and emphasize the opportunities … In terms of human health, based on the latest estimates from the Global Nutrition Report, globally one in nine people is hungry or undernourished, and one in three people is overweight or obese. These findings indicate that a very significant percentage of the world’s population is affected by malnutrition and at least by one or some of the following health issues: poor child growth; micronutrient deficiencies; overweight and obesity; and non-communicable diseases. These health issues ultimately could bring serious and lasting burden for individuals and their families, for communities and for countries. The convergence of these challenges creates unprecedented risks for the sustainability of our natural environment and the development of societies and economies. Moreover, we need to keep in mind that our world population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, hence food production would have to be increased to meet growing demands and, of course, we would have to bring innovations along the value chain. In this regard, what concerns me the most is our ability to accelerate the innovation and change at scale that is needed on time and in ways that respect human well-being and the environment. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? There are several positive signals of change I’ve been observing in the last few years. But I’d like to highlight three in particular: 1. Growing awareness and changing behaviors. Increased access to education and modern communication technologies have brought more attention towards these issues, and rapidly emerging groups of consumers advocate and favor food products that are more nutritious, with lower environmental footprint and that contribute to regenerative agricultural practices. This is still a niche market from the total, however many social enterprises, companies and even multinational corporations are understanding and designing or re-adjusting their operations to meet these emerging needs. 2. Advances in technologies and their applications. Solving these challenges requires addressing a number of gaps (food production gaps, agricultural land area use gaps, GHG mitigation gaps, inequities gaps, nutrition outcomes gaps, etc.) and this requires better collection and analysis of data. Emerging new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence can help us to understand and identify areas to invest resources and increase positive impact. 3. The rise of multi-stakeholder initiatives. Organizations such as GAIN, the FAO, the Global Nutrition Report, the WEF and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) provide important platforms for different stakeholders to convene and develop system-wide proposals and solutions. These initiatives can be implemented on the ground through the collaboration of governments, investors, business, NGOs, civil society and consumers that have the capacity to accelerate change and scale up the innovations where needed the most while creating shared value. Solving the food systems challenge is an immense task and it could not be addressed by one stakeholder alone. How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? Since this is a very complex and systemic challenge, I think there are plenty of areas where sustainability leaders can advance progress. Any sort of innovation brought along the value chain (production, storing, processing and packaging, distribution and consumption) will be important. There is a great report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) that offers a set of five solutions to ensure we can feed 10 billion people by 2050 without increasing emissions, fueling deforestation or exacerbating poverty. I highly recommend everyone interested in the topic to take a look at it. In my view, anybody can exercise the role of a positive agent of change in these topics and move forward solutions; however, in terms of how and where can young sustainability leaders be most influential, I believe it is through the advocacy of the risks and opportunities from the food system failures internally in their organizations and externally with the wider society and governments. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges, but also and most importantly emphasize the opportunities of creating shared-value and proposing practical initiatives that can bring these opportunities forward.   Katerina Fragos, manager, sustainability and climate change consulting, PwC What concerns you about the current global food system when it comes to environmental sustainability and human health? I have three concerns with the global food system. First, a large majority of medical practitioners will tell you that nutrition is not well-covered in medical school curriculum just as several farmers will tell you that regenerative agriculture techniques are not yet well-understood in their community groups. This means that two of the most important stakeholders in our health and food system are missing the knowledge and tools to entrench sustainability within the system. Second, modern life has decoupled us from the food system, with many of us never visiting a farm or tending to a garden in our lifetimes. A lack of exposure to the various steps in our food system value chain makes it challenging to understand just how damaged the system has become. Third, the cheapest and most available foods are also often the least healthy and sustainable. We need to start replacing calorie-dense, nutrition-devoid foods with plant-based, nutrition-rich alternatives to make the healthiest foods the most accessible and affordable. What gives you hope and optimism when you look at the future of our global food system? I am encouraged by the large number of medical professionals focusing on communicating and simplifying the complex science behind nutrition and health to empower people to make more informed food choices. There are fantastic sources of information available. To name a few: Dr. Michael Gregger’s NutritionFacts.org and Daily Dozen app as well as Dr. Will Bulsiewicz’s Fiber Fueled . There is also a great deal of momentum around regenerative agriculture with organizations such as the Land Institute , Regeneration International and RegenAg taking the lead. Interestingly, certain experts, like Dr. Zach Bush, have even begun to triangulate the concepts of health, nutrition and regenerative agriculture through efforts such as the Farmer’s Footprint . How can young sustainability leaders play a role in securing a nutritious and sustainable future of food? From a personal perspective, a few actions to consider: transition towards a plant-based diet; aim to grow our own food (start small with herbs) if possible; try to buy from local farmers; look for third-party certifications (RFA, organic, etc.). From a professional perspective, there are plenty of opportunities to drive action. For instance, aim to influence the spending habits of the organization you work for (catered events, cafeteria options), work for food manufacturers and retailers to help accelerate their transitions to more sustainable and regenerative models; participate in sustainable food advocacy groups or organizations. Pull Quote Sustainability leaders should vote those with strong environmental platforms into office. Leaders should also ‘vote’ with their wallets, supporting companies that are part of the solution and avoiding companies that are part of the problem. Companies are setting individual targets to try to solve a global challenge. By focusing on reducing their own impacts instead of looking at things holistically, they sometimes end up losing sight of critical pieces and actually driving change. We as sustainability professionals have a unique positioning in our organizations, networks and communities to serve as ambassadors or influencers to communicate these challenges and emphasize the opportunities … Topics Food & Agriculture 30 Under 30 VERGE 20 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 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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These changes to our food systems could improve human and planetary health

BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

October 26, 2020 by  
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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea Michael Holder Mon, 10/26/2020 – 00:05 A coalition of oil and gas majors are eyeing up the potential to capture carbon dioxide emissions from ships out at sea, teaming up with global tanker owner and operator Stena Bulk to evaluate the feasibility of technology they claim could play a key role in decarbonizing the hard-to-abate sector. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) — which represents 12 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies including BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, Aramco and Petrobras — revealed recently it is funding research alongside Stena Bulk into mobile carbon capture on board ships out at sea. The project aims to evaluate the technical and economic challenges involved in capturing CO2 from ships cruising the oceans, and is in part an extension to OGCI member Saudi Aramco’s research which it claims has successfully demonstrated carbon capture on board heavy-duty trucks on roads, it said. “Carbon capture will play an important role in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions, but there’s no reason it needs to be limited to stationary applications,” said Michael Traver, head of OGCI’s transport workstream. “Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use, while addressing a difficult to abate sector of the transport industry.” Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. OGCI claims mobile carbon capture technologies aboard ships could help the global shipping sector reach its current climate target to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2050, from a 2008 baseline — a goal that has faced criticism from green groups for lacking ambition. The research itself is also likely to provoke renewed criticism of the OCGI’s priorities, given it focuses on CCS technologies that would in effect prolong the use of fossil fuels to power ships, rather than on alternative, low or zero carbon shipping fuels that could transition the sector away from fossil fuels altogether. But Stena Bulk President and CEO Erik Hånell argued it was “increasingly evident that we need to evaluate as many potential solutions as possible that might help decarbonize the industry.” “Carbon capture might be such a solution with the potential to play a key role in this transition, and this feasibility study presents a unique opportunity for us to work with some of our key customers to understand and assess the technical and economic challenges involved in making carbon capture work onboard vessels,” he said. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has received flak over its failure to come up with a detailed, ambitious plan to decarbonize in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) — the UN-affiliated body which oversees the global shipping sector — agreed on a draft target to cut global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008, alongside targets to cut the average carbon intensity by at least 40 percent by 2030. However, details of the strategy have yet to be fully thrashed out, and crunch negotiations over how the industry should go about meeting its near-term 2030 climate goals are set to kick off today at the IMO, amid concerns from green groups that current proposals amount to an “empty shell. ” Meanwhile, the OGCI today announced that its members collectively have reduced the cut their absolute upstream methane emissions by 22 percent since 2017, shrinking the methane intensity of members’ upstream oil and gas to operations to 0.23 percent. It surpasses its target to cut methane intensity to 0.25 percent by 2020, and as such the OGCI has set a stricter goal of 0.2 percent by 2025. Moreover, the group claims to have cut its carbon intensity by 7 percent collectively since 2017, as it pushes towards its target for a 13 percent cut.  However, carbon intensity targets have faced increasing criticism from green groups, as organizations potentially can still increase their overall emissions by expanding their business while reducing the CO2 intensity of their operations.  Pull Quote Expanding carbon capture to long-distance marine shipping could help accelerate its use. The global shipping sector is responsible for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Topics Oil & Gas Carbon Removal Shipping & Logistics BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Stena Conqueror is a Oil and Chemical Tanker, built by Swedish tanker giant Stena Bulk. The company is participating in a novel carbon capture project for shipping. Flickr royvanwijk Close Authorship

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BP, Shell, oil giants fund research into mobile carbon capture from ships at sea

How 2 gadgets are going to change China and the world

October 14, 2020 by  
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Pollution. Smog. Dirty air. It’s all around us. Sometimes, you can see the pollution hanging in the air. Pollution is a huge public health problem, especially in China. But how big is the problem? There’s no precise answer to that question. At least, not yet. A couple of amazing new inventions may just change that. Many of the world’s most polluted cities are in China. It’s the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and in 2014, the country far exceeded the national standard for pollution suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO). It isn’t always easy to get accurate pollution ratings through standard methods employed by the Chinese government. Enter the Pollution Ranger. This little machine is a self-powered air quality monitor that can be placed on cars to collect data on air pollution everywhere it goes. Related: How clean is your indoor air? The Pollution Ranger is designed for full transparency of data. Anyone can use a smartphone app to access the data gathered by the device. You can use the information to check out pollution levels in your current location, or use the app to find data on a place you’re going to. Want to know how much pollution is the air? Smog Shade makes it easier to visually see exactly how polluted the air around you is. This is an installation with a sleek, circular design that shows air quality in real-time. The shade darkens to indicate how much pollution is in the air; the darker the shade is, the more polluted the air is. The Smog Shade is accessible via app as well. The app allows users to view overall city pollution or pollution levels in specific locations all over the city. Both of these inventions were designed by Huachen Xin. Xin spoke about some of the applications for the gadgets, saying, “People have the right to know the genuine air quality [around them]…based on this data, they could choose whether they need to move in or out of where they currently live. City managers could also use the data as clues to find out realtime pollution, for example, or track illegal emissions during the night.” According to Xin, the Chinese government doesn’t always offer precise pollution measurements. Sometimes, air quality monitors are purposefully put in areas where the air is cleaner. Monitors installed in parks, on rooftops and on islands in the middle of lakes aren’t getting accurate readings of city streets and neighborhoods. One study published in Lancet estimated that as many as 1.24 million deaths in China in the year 2017 were caused by air pollution. That’s a huge public health risk, and that’s why accurate pollution monitoring matters. Putting pollution data in the hands of everyone could have another effect — it shows people the reality of pollution. Hard data and accurate numbers are pretty hard to ignore. Xin hopes that real-time pollution data will encourage people to change their daily habits and help work toward reducing pollution levels. If the first step to improving air quality is raising awareness of how bad the air actually is, then devices like the Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade are going to change the world … and not a moment too soon. + Huachen Xin Images via Huachen Xin

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

September 14, 2020 by  
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As Andy Aldeen strides across his Montana land, a can of bear spray stuffed in his back shorts pocket, you’d never guess the Midwestern-born hay farmer had spent 25 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now, his three-generation family is rooted here in the Swan Valley, haying and running three VRBO units for visitors craving clean mountain air far from cities. A homesteader cabin That’s what brings my husband, dog and me here. With COVID-19 numbers rising, we hesitated to plan ahead. Then, we got lucky and snagged a last-minute reservation for a socially distant getaway at what was described as a pioneer homesteader cabin . So here we were, briskly touring Aldeen’s land with his black lab, Sis, acting as hostess and leading our dog Rudy through bushes and brambles. Related: 5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall The cabin has been thoroughly redone since a Norwegian fur trapper built it in the early 1900s. He surely didn’t have a hot water shower, a full kitchen and such a comfortable bed. Aldeen decorates in what he calls “Victorian explorer” style, which means a fun mix of cheery and unpredictable items, including a red-and-white-checked table cloth on the kitchen table downstairs, a cow-spotted plant stand and a sequined rainbow pillow on a daybed in the cabin’s attic library. Aldeen has scoured used bookstores all through the valley, furnishing his VRBO units with thousands of books of all genres. Best of all was the big front porch strung with Christmas lights. You can sit on an easy chair with a view of hay bales sitting in front of the Mission Mountains. In the morning, you may hear migrating sandhill cranes purring as they hunt for critters or see deer bounding by. Down the road, the ranch’s horses congregate under their favorite shade tree. With two bedrooms and a small, cozy living room, the homesteader cabin is the mid-range option among Aldeen’s VRBO units. The Lazy Bean is a 2,000-square-foot cabin that sleeps up to eight and has the most extensive library . Then, there’s a more primitive, 300-square-foot cabin with twin bunk beds. The Seeley-Swan Valley The cabins sit in the Seeley-Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and just off of Highway 83. This is known as one of Montana’s most scenic roads and is a popular route to Glacier National Park . But it’s also a destination in itself for people seeking outdoor adventures. Seeley and Swan are actually two back-to-back valleys. We were in Swan, the northern of the two, near the tiny town of Condon. The Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains towers to the west, the Swan Range to the east. This is an unusually wet part of Montana, with significantly higher rainfall than most of the state, which accounts for the greenness and abundance of water. Rivers, lakes, ponds and bogs left by long-ago receding glaciers cover about 16% of the Swan Basin — compare that to only 1% wetland habitat for the rest of the state. This is the part of the state to visit if you want to get in the water or if you like scenic hikes with dazzling lake views. With average July and August highs in the mid-80s, the lakes and rivers get lots of summertime use. “Be Bear Aware” One of the things I hadn’t realized until I got to Montana was how many bears call it home. “Greatest concentration in the Lower 48,” Aldeen told me proudly while I shook in my hiking boots. As we set out one morning for the Glacier Lake Trailhead , our route took us on a long stretch of gravel road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was relieved to see other cars. Wilderness is great, but sometimes I gravitate toward safety in numbers. Still, there’s no guarantee that the presence of humans equals the absence of bears. Bears are big, and they go where they want. Signs at just about every trailhead exhort visitors to “ Be Bear Aware .” As we followed the Glacier Lake Trail, I took the information to heart. Bear spray on front backpack strap, check. Talking or singing before turning blind corners, yep. The mountains were gorgeous, and the trail was lined with huckleberries ripe for the picking. I relaxed and enjoyed it, as long as I didn’t think too much about who else loves huckleberries. Paddler’s paradise Bears swim, too. But at least it’s easier to see them coming over open water. This part of Montana is an absolute dream if you like to kayak , paddleboard or swim. Highway 83 has signs for lakes every couple of miles. If you favor motors on your watercraft, a big lake like Seeley will give you lots of space to explore. But if you prefer human-powered vessels, you can also find a quiet lake without motor traffic. The most touristy lake we visited was Holland Lake. This 400-acre glacial lake is popular for good reason, with its well-used campground, Swan Mountain views and easy access to the Holland Falls trailhead . You can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP from the Holland Lake Lodge . My favorite thing about Holland Lake was the cordoned off swimming area. Some of the lakes we visited were nice for paddling but mucky for swimming. Not Holland. You don’t have to worry about putting your feet on the bottom and having them disappear under questionable slime. Van Lake is too small to be of much interest for those with fast boats. A leisurely paddle around the perimeter took less than hour, including stops for wildlife viewing. From my SUP, I saw a bald eagle dive down and nab a fish off the line of somebody fishing from a rowboat. Watching bald eagles swoop, fish and fly above your SUP, and loons swimming alongside you, is a dream come true for any wildlife-enthusiast. The most remote lake we visited was Clearwater. It’s about a 0.7 mile walk from the road. The trail is mostly flat and would be easy an easy trip, if not for dragging an inflatable SUP. But it was worth it, as it was the only time I’ve ever been the only watercraft on a lake, accompanied only by electric blue damselflies. September average high temperatures for Seeley-Swan are in the 70s. There’s still time to get your Montana lake fix before the temperatures dip down and the snow begins falling, although that is another trip full of nature’s beauty. So if you get the chance to escape to a remote Montana cabin, grab your bear spray and go. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: We recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

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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Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

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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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products

August 21, 2020 by  
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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products Deonna Anderson Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:15 When shopping online, consumers are able to see a lot of information about a product. There’s the product description and specifications of an item. For a bottle of perfume, the listing would declare the fluid ounces and describe the scent. A piece of clothing would show the material makeup and available sizes. A page for a bookshelf would have information about the dimensions. And of course, all of these would display the cost. But even with so much information at the ready, it is still rare to see details about the impact the product has on the climate or the chemical makeup of an item. The Environmental Defense Fund is calling for change. “You have this greater real estate available to share this information about products right on the product page, just like you would the size of a product or colors or product reviews and you have the ability to tell more of the sustainability story, because you essentially have endless shelf space online,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of EDF+Business at the Environmental Defense Fund, the arm of EDF focused on corporate sustainability. In late July, EDF+Business released a report called ” The Roadmap to Sustainable E-commerce ” that pushes companies to do better by their customers and the environment by sharing more information about the products they offer. “We want to call attention to how the biggest environmental impacts and the biggest health impact of products is really due to the products themselves and the creation and the use of a product,” Brown-West said. As the COVID-19 crisis rages on in the United States, some people are relying on e-commerce retailers for their needs — from household goods to food. Making these goods and transporting them has a cost to the environment. And as my colleague Joel Makower wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, “This is exactly the right time to be talking about climate change.” The EDF+Business report outlines how the world’s biggest e-commerce retailers — such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart — could use their influence to benefit the environment and their bottom lines.  In addition to calling on e-commerce retailers to step up, the report outlines seven steps to do just that: Assessing chemical and carbon footprints of the products they sell. This would help e-commerce companies understand the prevalence of toxic chemicals in their product assortment as well as their contribution to global climate change. Setting ambitious goals to address footprints. This step could set retailers on the path to offer products with safer chemicals and reduce their climate impact. To improve their chemicals footprint, e-commerce businesses are encouraged to establish a chemicals policy with specific, time-bound goals that incentivize their suppliers to use safer ingredients in their products. Regarding retailers’ climate impact, the report suggests setting specific, time-bound goals that reduce their Scope 3 emissions. That could look like setting a waste goal that prioritizes eliminating single-use plastics or one that encourages the growth of reuse and recycling infrastructures. Align business operations with sustainability goals. E-commerce retailers would need to integrate sustainability goals into their organization and operations. Engaging product suppliers and sellers to meet goals. E-commerce companies should establish new expectations with their suppliers and incentivize them to lead. Help consumers make sustainable choices. This step could look like translating product data into compelling consumer terms. Measure progress and share it publicly. Companies should regularly report and share on their sustainability goals with employees, consumers and investors. In this effort, leaders should include both their successes and lessons learned in their reporting. Lead the industry forward on sustainability. By stepping up, e-commerce industry leaders can recruit other parts of the value chain to participate in relevant industry groups, commitments and coalitions. Some retailers already are doing this work, although not specifically in the context of e-commerce. For example, back in 2013, Target launched its Sustainable Product Index , which tasked vendors with assessing the sustainability of product ingredients as well as their health and environmental impacts.  “We definitely see some movement in [companies] trying to communicate to consumers some more information about environmental or health impacts of products,” said Brown-West, who authored the report. “But we haven’t seen a full, we haven’t seen the full experience.” Screenshot of a page from SustainaBuy, a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint Transparency from companies is key to ensuring consumers know about the work a company is doing to improve (or not improve) on its sustainability efforts, Brown-West said. In addition to the report, EDF+ Business launched SustainaBuy , a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint. EDF+Business envisioned SustainaBuy as a way to weave sustainability into the entire shopping experience, Brown-West said. There are numerous reasons for companies to employ this type of approach to transparency. For one, there is consumer demand for this type of information. The report notes a Nielsen projection that estimates consumers are projected to spend $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. “Consumers want to buy sustainable products and e-commerce retailers can help them do so by sharing environmental and social data on their online platforms,” said Tensie Whelan, professor and director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and author of the report’s foreword, in a statement. “Whether companies choose to jump at this opportunity will determine their ability to cultivate the consumer and remain competitive over the long-run.” Brown-West noted that since releasing the report, EDF+Business already has started having conversations with some e-commerce retailers about how to improve their transparency, which is key for accountability of their sustainability goals. Topics Retail Transparency E-commerce Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  Jacob Lund

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