New study finds microplastics in fruits and vegetables

June 29, 2020 by  
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A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research has revealed that microplastics are absorbed in the fruits and vegetables we consume. According to the study, scientists have discovered that some of the most commonly consumed produce, including apples, carrots, pineapples, kale and cabbage, may be contaminated with high levels of plastic. The study found that apples and carrots are among the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. This new revelation is a cause for concern, considering that these are vital parts of the food chain. Doctors often recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost the body’s immune system. However, the abundance of microplastics in such foods could erode their benefits and lead to more health complications. Related: One plastic teabag can release billions of microplastics into your cup The research publication highlighted the daily intake of plastic as being worrying for both children and adults. Although the amount of plastic consumed from fruits was found to be less compared to that in bottled water, there is still cause for concern. According to another study published in the journal Nature Sustainability , microplastics can be absorbed by the roots of lettuce. Once the microplastics are absorbed, they are transported to edible parts of the crops through the internal water and food transport systems. Several lobby groups are calling for more information about microplastics’ affect on the human body. According to Plastic Soup Foundation’s founder Maria Westerbos, the company has been raising concerns about the presence of microplastic in fish and other marine animals . The foundation is now concerned about the presence of plastic in produce and speculates that there could be microplastics in our meat products. “For years we have known about plastic in crustaceans and fish , but this is the first time we have known about plastic getting into vegetables,” Westerbos said. “If it is getting into vegetables, it is getting into everything that eats vegetables as well which means it is in our meat and dairy as well.” Studies are now underway to determine the effects of consuming too many microplastics per day in our bodies. + Environmental Research Images via Hans Braxmeier

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Consumer Reports finds high arsenic level in Whole Foods bottled water

June 26, 2020 by  
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New Consumer Reports tests determined that some bottled water manufactured by Whole Foods contains potentially dangerous arsenic levels. Starkey Spring Water, which Whole Foods has been selling since 2015, contained at least triple the amount of arsenic as every other brand tested. Arsenic levels in the Starkey Spring Water ranged from 9.49 to 9.56 parts per billion. While this is within federal regulations stating that manufacturers must keep arsenic levels at or below 10 PPB, Consumer Reports experts believe that level is too high to keep the public safe. Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected Consumer Reports and The Guardian worked together on a major project about Americans’ access to safe and affordable water . They found that bottled water is not always safer than tap water and noted irregularities between the ways in which the EPA regulates municipal water and the FDA oversees bottled water. While states can set individual standards for tap water, they have no jurisdiction over bottled water’s contaminants. For example, New Jersey and New Hampshire lowered their acceptable arsenic levels to 5 PPB to protect children. However, that rule only applies to tap water. “I think the average consumer would be stunned to learn that they’re paying a lot of extra money for bottled water, thinking that it’s significantly safer than tap, and unknowingly getting potentially dangerous levels of arsenic,” said Erik Olson, senior strategic director of health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), according to The Guardian . Arsenic levels of 5 PPB or more were associated with children’s IQs measuring five or six points lower than average, according to a 2014 study published in the journal Environmental Health . Whole Foods has already faced a couple of lawsuits over Starkey Spring Water’s arsenic level, including one from a stage IV cancer survivor who said his condition makes him keenly aware of contaminants, and he wouldn’t have bought the bottled water had he known about the high amount of arsenic. An FDA spokesperson stressed that because arsenic occurs naturally, “it is not possible to remove arsenic entirely from the environment or food supply.” However, you may want to rethink your bottled water brand in favor of one with lower levels. Or, better yet, if you live in a place with good tap water, save some money and skip the ocean-bound plastic bottles. + Consumer Reports Via The Guardian Image via Suzy Hazelwood

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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause?

June 1, 2020 by  
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Is sustainability undergoing a pandemic pause? Joel Makower Mon, 06/01/2020 – 00:00 If you were to believe the mainstream business media, there would be no question whatsoever that the twin crises of a pandemic and a recession have pretty much put the kibosh on sustainable business activity. I mean, why, amid all this human and economic carnage, should companies be focused on anything besides keeping their doors open? Last month, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a piece (“Sustainability Was Corporate America’s Buzzword. This Crisis Changes That”) proclaiming that when it comes to corporate commitments and programs, “executives have called a timeout.” It said in part: Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves. Among the Journal’s proof points: General Motors put the brakes on a car-sharing program, Starbucks washed its hands of filling reusable coffee mugs and “companies have delayed sustainability reports.” Yes, we get it: No one wants to share a vehicle with strangers or refill an unwashed coffee mug during a pandemic. No question those programs should be “thrown overboard,” at least temporarily. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. All of which, my friends, is the editorial equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard: something so dissonant with reality that it makes my head hurt. The reality is that corporate sustainability is alive and well. Unlike previous economic downturns, sustainability isn’t being jettisoned in the spirit of corporate cost-savings. It’s being kept alive as part of a pathway back to profitability. For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Need proof that reports of the death of sustainability are premature? Let’s begin with a few headlines: Southern Company commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 Microsoft committed to protect more land than it operates on globally by 2025 Citigroup to halt all financing for thermal coal mining by 2030 Shell plans to achieve net-zero emissions across its product manufacturing operations Mattel launches latest sugarcane-based products Volvo and Daimler launch €1.2 billion fuel cell truck joint venture General Mills commits to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 All of those happened in April. April! The Lost Month. When jobs and economic activity essentially went poof. When more than 190,000 humans died of COVID-19 globally, nearly five times the number one month earlier, and more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs. When the U.S. services sector posted its biggest contraction in more than a decade and the price of oil turned negative for the first time in history. When the global economy essentially sank like a stone as people world over sheltered in place. April! Okay, you say, April coincides with Earth Day, when companies traditionally strut their sustainability stuff. Thus, it’s not a good indicator. Fair enough. In that case, here are some headlines from May: Total pledges to deliver net-zero operations by mid-century Campbell Soup to transition to 100% recyclable or compostable packaging by 2030 Dunkin’ switches to plastic-free cups and plans to double number of green restaurants French corporates call for “green and inclusive recovery” BNP Paribas accelerates “complete coal exit” plan Intel’s 2030 commitments include “shared” climate and social goals More than 300 companies push U.S. Congress to promote climate action Pernod Ricard moves up ban on single-use plastics to 2021 ADM to pioneer biofuels, more carbon capture projects Over 150 global corporations urge world leaders for net-zero recovery from COVID-19 Siemens Gamesa unveils plans for “world’s largest wind turbine” Google to stop making AI tools for oil and gas extraction Half of Cargill’s sustainable cocoa now traceable from farm to factory I could go on; there’s more where these came from. Still, this baker’s dozen of storylines provides a peek into what happened in the 31 days just ended, well before most cities and states have started to reopen. Another data point, albeit anecdotal: The 90 or so members of our GreenBiz Executive Network — sustainability leaders at large companies — remain firmly in their jobs. Sure, there’s been some churn — both comings and goings — but that’s normal. There seem to be precious few layoffs among these professionals. That could change if the downturn drags on, but so far, so good.  Five easy pieces So, why is sustainability still going strong within the private sector amid this terrifying time? Five reasons: 1. Corporate sustainability is a long-term evolution. As several of the above headlines suggest, companies are making commitments into 2025, 2030 and beyond. That means they have set the wheels in motion for long-term structural change. These changes generally don’t come and go based on quarterly cycles. 2. Companies understand that sustainability engenders resilience by making supply chains more transparent, operations more efficient and, increasingly, improving the ability of operations to withstand or recover from calamities of all types. 3. Investors see sustainability as material. Largely because of No. 2 above, institutional shareholders see sustainability performance as a proxy for a well-managed company that is taking a risked-based approach to strategy and investing. And they’re not shy about letting companies know this. 4. There’s a growing call for a business-led “green recovery” to revive economies around the world and help them prepare for the next likely pandemic: climate change. While the Green New Deal isn’t yet getting traction in Washington, D.C., some of its components already are being tucked into the recovery legislation. And in Europe, “green recovery” is already a mainstream meme . 5. Companies understand that the world is watching. They want to be able to attract and retain customers and talent — to be seen as part of the solution or at least not part of the problem. True, we’ve been hearing this for years, and there is strong evidence that job shoppers and seekers have been seeking out “good” companies. But the times have ratcheted up those concerns. In a world where talent, both young and experienced, are drawn to employers that are helping address the world’s problems, who will want to work for your company? Of course, it’s not all a rosy scenario. Clean energy jobs have been decimated . Hiring is on hold for many open corporate sustainability positions. More than a few sustainable business professionals are devoting their time these days to the pandemic, to ensure the well-being of employees, suppliers, customers and others, and that facilities will be healthy places to work once the recovery kicks in. Some are itching to get back to their “day job.” But let’s stop and briefly celebrate the moment: Corporate sustainability continues, largely unhindered, during some of the worst moments in modern human history. Its value and importance are being seen as central to addressing the economic, environmental and social problems we face, and to increasing societal resilience to the next wave of shocks, in whatever form they take. And, little by little, companies are stepping up to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities. Okay, enough celebrating. It’s time to get back to the hard work still to be done. Pull Quote For the first time, corporate sustainability professionals are on the bus instead of being thrown under it. Topics Leadership State of the Profession Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz, via Shutterstock Close Authorship

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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

May 29, 2020 by  
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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept Heather Clancy Fri, 05/29/2020 – 02:15 If your sustainability team has regular debates about how to label or describe its various initiatives, it’s not alone. The nuances of all the various adjectives and descriptors that are used to describe climate action — from “science-based” to “net zero” to “carbon negative” — are enough to make heads spin, especially for those who spend their professional lives worrying about how to communicate these concepts. The analysts and journalists of GreenBiz feel your pain. So, it was hardly surprising when literally thousands of GreenBiz community members signed up for the recent webcast about “Absolute Zero,” moderated by yours truly. It was one of the best-attended sessions in the history of our online events.  Technically speaking, the literal definition of absolute zero is the lowest possible temperature that’s theoretically possible. From the climate perspective, the phrase is used frequently by UK Fires, a research collaboration between the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Nottingham, Bath and Imperial College London — although it’s not all that common (yet at least) in North American circles.  So how does this idea apply to the world of sustainability? Here’s the first thing to understand about the concept of Absolute Zero as it applies to corporate climate action: It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s just the table stakes. The reality, though, is that any individual company must use a combination of strategies to inch or leap toward that goal — and the combination of what an organization is able to use will depend a great deal not just on its industry sector but also on its financial clout and support from the C-suite.  It might, for example, buy carbon offsets to kickstart action in the short term without delay, then move on to supporting initiatives that directly affect its operations, such as installing new technologies for energy efficiency or clean energy. From there, the focus for many companies often progresses into its supply chain — the place many corporate sustainability teams spend a lot of their time today. The most ambitious plans (at least right now) are those seeking ways to enable reductions for others on top of all that. Some organizations never may reach the last stage. But those that can should try, according to the speakers on this month’s webcast. “In a world in which we know some companies will not be able to reach net zero, it’s absolutely imperative that others who can reach it go beyond,” said Charlotte Bande, climate strategy lead for sustainability consulting firm Quantis. Bande said Absolute Zero (a concept that the firm is socializing with its clients) is the long-term guidepost that businesses should navigate toward — it encourages companies to maximize their individual contributions toward the vision of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. “Absolute sustainability is about making sure that society operates within planetary boundaries while satisfying human needs,” Bande said. Included in that should be strategies addressing biodiversity, land use, freshwater consumption, the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle, she noted. How might Absolute Zero apply to your own strategy? During the next 10 years — a period the United Nations Global Compact has dubbed the ” Decade of Action ” — companies must focus far more on mitigating their impact not just within their own corporate boundaries but within their entire value chain, including suppliers and customers, according to the speakers on the GreenBiz webcast.  That means paying far more attention to issues related to sustainable development, such as child labor policies, community water abuses or gender equity issues, said Owen Hewlett, chief technical officer of Gold Standard, a Swiss NGO that issues carbon credits.  “We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time,” he said. Offsetting versus insetting Hewlett devoted part of his presentation to a discussion about ” insetting ,” which he and Bande defined as activities within a company’s supply chain that can be counted toward science-based targets even though they are technically outside a company’s direct boundaries — such as addressing the emissions of suppliers in tiers one or two of a company’s supply chain.  In that way, insetting is distinct from the more broadly used process of “offsetting,” a term often used to describe the process of supporting projects focused on carbon removal in order to receive credit for the reductions that it enables.  For many organizations, the distinction is elusive, but many companies use the process of offsetting to kickstart their corporate emissions reductions. The idea of insetting is often associated with natural climate solutions , although it can be accomplished by any verifiable activity that mitigates emissions related to a company’s value chain.  We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. “The real test is this question: What does it count towards? If it’s in boundary, you can report it against science-based targets. If it’s outside boundaries, then it should be considered enabling reductions [for others]. Often, it’s a bit of both,” Hewlett acknowledged. One example of insetting is a program that the petcare divisions of food company Mars created to help wheat farmers improve their productivity and measure the carbon sequestration impact of activities such as reducing fertilizer usage and using cover crops and manures.  Apple’s program to invest in renewable energy for some suppliers is another illustration of an initiative that could be considered an example of insetting. (This example wasn’t used on the webcast, but it helps illustrate what’s possible.)   Leadership is a constantly moving target Focusing on reducing Scope 3 emissions that are upstream or downstream in a company’s value chain is a growing focus for sustainability teams in sectors such as food and consumer packaged goods — as is focusing on the creation of products and services that help other organizations, particularly customers and suppliers, cut their impact more broadly.  During the webcast, one of several polling questions probed attendees about where they thought it was possible to “maximize the potential” of their sustainable business strategies. More than half of those who responded during the live session said “enabling others to reduce” was where their largest future impact lies. The idea that companies have a responsibility not just for their own emissions but also for those of their customers and suppliers is being embraced by a growing number of companies, including Microsoft.   In January, the technology company publicly embraced a “carbon negative” climate strategy that will see Microsoft begin to charge its different business units an internal carbon fee for their Scope 3 emissions — it also does this for Scope 1 and Scope 2 impacts. It also committed $1 billion in funding to new technologies, innovations and climate solutions, with the intent of taking responsibility for past emission. “We really zeroed in on what we’re doing not only in our own operations but in our value chain,” said Elizabeth Willmott, carbon program manager at Microsoft, on the webcast. In a sense, successful companies and industrialized nations should bear responsibility for the climate impact of their economic sense, she said. “What is exciting is that it embraces the idea of net zero, but goes beyond,” Willmott said. While Microsoft hasn’t used the phrase Absolute Zero to describe this strategy, the carbon negative nomenclature has been used by others, including retailer IKEA, which actually adopted a similar philosophy in 2018. (IKEA now uses the term ” climate positive ” to describe its policy, as does Intuit, which is teaming up with Project Drawdown for help.  Regardless what they actually call it, the aim is the same: These companies intend to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they produce — because they have the means of doing so.  Microsoft considers the future impact of its products — particularly its cloud software services — as a key motivator for its recent strategy shift. In that sense, its climate policy is increasingly being embedded into core business decisions, including future “co-innovation” with both retail and enterprise customers.  “What is a leadership move today won’t be tomorrow,” Willmott said during the webcast. Pull Quote We very much see that climate results are optimized when you deal with sustainable development at the same time. Topics Corporate Strategy Carbon Removal Offsets Natural Climate Solutions Collective Insight GreenBiz 101 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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Demystifying the ‘Absolute Zero’ concept

Megadrought grips Western states, new study says

April 21, 2020 by  
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As if we weren’t in enough of a pickle, a new study claims that the western U.S.  is in the midst of a megadrought affected by climate change. “We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we’re on the same trajectory as the worst  prehistoric  droughts,” the study’s lead author Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in a statement. “We’re no longer looking at projections, but at where we are now.” Researchers say the 19-year drought the region has experienced since 2000 is as bad as any in the past 1,200 years. The study, published in the journal  Science , looked at part of northern Mexico and the U.S. states of California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico. So far, the only earlier drought that rivals the current one was one in the Medieval period that began in 1575. The researchers used tree ring data to estimate annual soil moisture for pre-modern data. They found four multi-decade droughts, aka megadroughts, dating back to 800 A.D. Natural variables play a role in drought. But studying the current drought, scientists put almost half the blame, or 47%, on  global warming . “There is no reason to believe that the sort of natural variability documented in the paleoclimatic record will not continue into the future, but the difference is that droughts will occur under warmer temperatures,” said Connie Woodhouse, a University of Arizona climate scientist. Woodhouse was not involved in the study. “These warmer conditions will exacerbate droughts, making them more severe, longer, and more widespread than they would have been otherwise.” The 20th century could also be blamed for giving humans false optimism. It was the wettest century in the whole 1200-year study, which helped the population boom. “The 20th century gave us an overly optimistic view of how much water is potentially available,” said co-author Benjamin Cook of Lamont and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The 21st century looks like it will be bringing drier decades. + Common Dreams Via Earth Institute Images via Pixabay

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Researchers convert durian and jackfruit biowaste into ultracapacitors

March 10, 2020 by  
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Durian fruit is notable for its funky stench, making it a rather malodorous waste when it is discarded. But a new study from Australia’s University of Sydney, published in the Journal of Energy Storage , focused on recycling durian waste into an affordable, sustainable source of energy storage to counteract global warming. How? The researchers have discovered a way to create ultracapacitors from durian and its related jackfruit cousin. Who knew that putrid-smelling biowaste could pack an electrical punch? “Super-capacitors are like energy reservoirs that dole out energy smoothly. They can quickly store large amounts of energy within a small battery-sized device and then supply energy to charge electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, within a few seconds,” explained associate professor Vincent Gomes. “Using durian and jackfruit purchased from a market, we converted the fruits’ waste portions (biomass) into super-capacitors that can be used to store electricity efficiently.” Related: New technological process transforms everyday trash into graphene As TreeHugger reported, the waste biomass of durian and jackfruit are “converted into a carbon aerogel using non-toxic methods.” These aerogels are then leveraged and converted into electrodes, “which are tested for their energy storage properties.” Interestingly, these durian- and jackfruit-derived electrodes “demonstrate outstanding performance, making them a green, low-cost energy solution for charging phones, laptops and tablets.” When compared to what’s currently on the market, the electrodes developed from durian and jackfruit have proven to be a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional ultracapacitors derived from activated carbon. “The durian and jackfruit super-capacitors perform much better than the materials currently in use and are comparable, if not better, than the expensive and exotic graphene -based materials,” Gomes said. “We have reached a point where we must urgently discover and produce ways to create and store energy using sustainably sourced materials that do not contribute to global warming.” + Journal of Energy Storage Via TreeHugger Image via Jonny Clow

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Great Barrier Reef outlook decreases from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’

September 3, 2019 by  
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Conditions at one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is declining, and coral bleaching caused by climate change is to blame. The world’s largest coral reef, where 400 types of coral as well as about 10 percent of the world’s fish live, has gone from “poor” to “very poor.” The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) that manages the reef released a five-year study of the reef and stated, “Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing the deterioration of the reef’s ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery.” Related: University of Queensland wants to drop “bommies” on the Great Barrier Reef Located off the northeastern Australian coast , the reef is a major tourist attraction, bringing in around AU$5-6 billion (about $3.3-4 billion USD) yearly to the country’s economy. But if things don’t improve, the reef might not be around to enjoy for much longer. While coral bleaching and climate change are the main concerns, the report suggested the 1,400-mile reef has “multiple, cumulative and increasing” problems including run-off from agriculture , coastal land clearing and crown-of-thorns starfish that eat the coral. Another possible factor hindering the reef’s growth could be the increased use of coal mining in Australia. Statistics show that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been on an upward climb for four years and counting. As reported by Deutsche Welle , a 2012 study said that since 1985, the Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover. Five years later, the journal Nature said 91 percent had been bleached at least once in the last 20 years. Those concerned by the GBRMPA report have gone as far as asking UNESCO to quash the reef’s standing as a World Heritage site, which could humiliate the Australian government. In early 2019, the government did say it would spend AU$380 million to try and reproduce stronger coral. + Great Barrier Reef Via EcoWatch and Deutsche Welle Image via Robert Linsdell

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Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

August 14, 2018 by  
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Take that, plastic! France has announced that it plans to make bottles made with recycled plastic less expensive than those made from new plastic, part of a larger plan to intensify regulations on plastic use. Other aspects of the plan include increasing taxes on landfill and lowering the value-added tax on recycling activities. Related: Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets According to Junior Environment Minister Brune Poirson, the French government will introduce further specific measures to address the problem of plastic pollution . “We need to transform the French economy,” she said. “We are launching a movement that will be scrutinized and followed by our European partners.” Part of this movement is a plan to reduce the price of products packaged in recycled containers by up to 10 percent. The discount-premium system encourages its consumers to recycle by making sustainability the more affordable option. “Tomorrow, when there is a choice between two bottles, one made with recycled plastic, the other not, the first one will be cheaper,” Poiron stated. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Currently, France has the second-worst recycling rate in Europe, with just 25.5 percent of its plastic packaging waste recycled. By comparison, Germany and the Netherlands recycle about 50 percent of their plastic waste. Nevertheless, the French government plans to change its plastic recycling rate to 100% by the year 2025, with the recent announcement marking the first steps toward this goal. Veolia and Suez, recycling powerhouses in the French market, have long been calling for the regulation changes, which would provide a boost for business. Retailers have also joined the cause; for example, French company E.Leclerc has pledged to eliminate the sale of throwaway plastics and replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo , and is testing a loyalty point system for customers who deposit plastic and glass bottles in some store outlets. + Eurostat + Le Journal de Dimanche Via Reuters

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