Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

September 16, 2019 by  
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The growing apprehension surrounding climate change is altering consumer behavior. Kantar, a data analytics firm, recently published a report documenting that environmental conscientiousness is shifting consumption choices, particularly on sales of meat and single-use plastic items. Of the 65,000 people surveyed in 24 countries across Asia, Europe and Latin America, one-third expressed worry about the environment. Roughly half of those people, or 16 percent of total respondents, actively take steps to decrease their environmental impact . “We’re already seeing small reductions in spending on meat , bottled drinks and categories such as beauty wipes,” Kantar revealed. “As markets get wealthier, the focus on issues of environmentalism and plastics increases.” Related: Germany proposes a meat tax increase to improve animal welfare and curb climate change The poll further disclosed that Western European respondents were more engaged in reducing environmental impact compared to their Asian and Latin American counterparts. Austrian and German shoppers ranked as the most ‘eco active,’ followed closely by British consumers. But 37 percent of the Chilean respondents proved to be eco-conscious, thus making Chile the environmental nonpareil of Latin American countries. Kantar asserted, “Our study shows there is high demand for eco-friendly products that are competitively priced and readily available.” Just last month, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conveyed the urgency that global meat consumption must decrease to help reverse global warming . Furthermore, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions can be accelerated by the rise of plant-based food consumption and production. Consequently, there has been market expansion in plant-based protein and other alternative offerings to meat. Companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and even London-based Moving Mountains Foods have become more mainstream with many of their flexitarian , vegetarian and vegan products appearing on restaurant menus as well as wholesale and retail grocery store shelves. Because meatless protein is still a fledgling industry, competitors are likely to emerge in the near future as a response to the call for cutbacks to meat and dairy. Meanwhile, recent legislative bans against single-use items such as bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic packaging have helped. Surging global awareness of the environmental damage wreaked by plastic has hiked restrictions, in turn, denting demand for their production. With recycling efforts and sustainability initiatives gaining momentum in today’s world, both the meat and plastics industries are being called upon to adapt to the changing consumer landscape. + Kantar Via Reuters and TreeHugger Image via Beth Rosengard

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Climate fears affecting meat, bottled beverage and plastic production industries

The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

Weekly climate disasters give new urgency to resilience

July 9, 2019 by  
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Somewhere in the world, there is a climate disaster unfolding every week. According to the leading disaster risk reduction adviser for the United Nation’s secretary general, climate related disasters are affecting thousands of people every week, whether or not they get media coverage. The U.N.’s adviser, Mami Mizutori, told reporters that governments need to adjust their policies to not only prioritize but mandate disaster-resilient infrastructure immediately. According to Mizutori, a 3 percent budget increase for all new infrastructure projects could cover the additional cost of making such projects resilient to storms, floods and other climate-related crises. That 3 percent rise in spending equates to a total of $2.7 trillion USD by 2040. While anything in the trillions might seem like a lot of money to the average person, when it is spread around the world’s nearly 200 countries across 20 years, the price tag is actually quite modest. In comparison, the U.N. estimates that these climate disasters cost the world at least $520 billion USD every year, so it seems logical to invest a little into reducing not only that cost but also the loss of lives. Related: Disaster-resilient housing saves lives and dollars “Resilience needs to become a commodity that people will pay for,” warned Mizutori. “This is not a lot of money [in the context of infrastructure spending], but investors have not been doing enough.” Most of the discussion about climate change at the international level revolves around reducing carbon emissions per nations’ Paris Climate Agreement commitments. While mitigation is important, curbing future emissions to reach a target and limit global warming does nothing to reduce the suffering of those impacted yesterday and today. According to the World Bank, there will be 143 million people displaced by climate-related incidences by 2050, and that’s only counting those from Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Low-cost, nature-based adaptation strategies are promising, such as restoring mangrove forests that protect coastal residents from sea-level rise, erosion and flooding. In order to adequately address the scale of these disasters though, a combined natural and built infrastructure approach will be necessary. According to Mizutori, these resilient solutions will require not only international collaboration but unlikely partnerships within governments as well. For example, most governments have separate departments for the environment and for infrastructure, but progressing toward resilience will require unprecedented collaboration at a scale that matches the unprecedented threat of climate change. Via Eco News and The Guardian Image via Jim Gade

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New sweet potato dye spares bugs and pleases vegans

March 11, 2019 by  
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Cochineal beetles are rejoicing this month as the Hansen sweet potato proves a viable alternative for producing the carmine color crushed beetles have long added to foods and cosmetics . Chr. Hansen, a bioscience company based in Denmark and founded in 1874, developed and commercialized the Hansen sweet potato™ Ipomoea batatas . “For the first time, we’ve created a whole new variety of vegetable to create the natural color our customers are asking for,” said Jakob Dalmose Rasmussen, vice president of commercial development at Chr. Hansen Natural Colors. Vegetarians have long wanted an alternative to this common coloring, but the sweet potato took time to develop. “Over 10 years ago, we discovered a promising pigment in a root vegetable’s tuber, but the plant’s pigment content was on the low side. We took this plant and embarked on a process of selective breeding using traditional, non-GMO methods. The result is a plant-based , brilliant red that gives our customers a natural alternative to carmine and synthetic colors,” said Dalmose Rasmussen. Related: California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics Chr. Hansen launched its FruitMax® line of concentrates to provide a variety of red coloring options. “Strawberry red is a popular shade for food products — from cakes to confectionery to milkshakes,” noted Dalmose Rasmussen. “But until now it has been nearly impossible to make a fire-engine red color with no risk of off-taste without using carmine.” Cochineal beetles live on cacti in Latin America. Their color comes from carminic acid, a substance which deters predation and makes up almost a quarter of the insects’ weight. The Incas and Aztecs both used the beetle for dye. Once Spaniards arrived in the New World, they quickly discovered that the cochineal beetle dye was far superior to anything they had in Europe, and dried bugs became the second most valuable export after silver. It’s still big business. In 2017, Peru exported more than $46 million dollars’ worth of carmine. Over the centuries, people have used the beetles to dye everything from cardinals’ robes to modern lipsticks. As the Hansen sweet potato gains popularity, perhaps the cochineal beetles will be able to relax on their cacti. While some studies indicate that plants also feel pain, the legless tuber could neither run nor be reached for comment. + Chr. Hansen Via Food Navigator Image via Aunt Masako

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We could avoid 3.3 million cases of dengue fever each year if we limit global warming

May 29, 2018 by  
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Climate change: it’s not just about rising oceans. According to new research from the  University of East Anglia (UEA), action on climate change could help avoid millions of cases of dengue fever . If we limited global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a Paris Agreement target — we might be able to avoid around 3.3 million cases annually of the tropical disease  in the Caribbean and Latin America alone. There are around 54 million cases of dengue fever, caused by a mosquito -spread virus, in the Caribbean and Latin America every year, and approximately 390 million people are infected worldwide. But by around 2050, in a 3.7 degrees Celsius warming scenario, this number could increase by 7.5 million additional cases a year. While dengue fever is only fatal in rare cases, a specific treatment does not exist, and symptoms include headaches, muscle and joint pain, and fever. Related: Climate change could reverse all reductions in child mortality over the last 25 years But if we take action against global warming , we might be able to prevent millions of cases, according to UEA’s research, which drew on computer models and clinical and laboratory-confirmed reports of dengue fever in Latin America. Keeping warming to two degrees Celsius could lower cases by as many as 2.8 million per year by 2100, and keeping warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could see an extra drop of half a million cases a year. Lead researcher Felipe Colón-González of UEA said, “While it is recognized that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would have benefits for human health , the magnitude of these benefits remains mostly unquantified. This is the first study to show that reductions in warming from two degrees Celsius to 1.5 degrees Celsius could have important health benefits.” Co-author Carlos Peres of UEA said, “Our economic projections of the regional health costs of climate change show that developing nations will bear the brunt of expanding arbovirus infections, so a preventative strategy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later is the most cost-effective policy.” The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the research this week; researchers from Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso in Brazil contributed. + University of East Anglia Image via Depositphotos

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Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

January 5, 2018 by  
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Biologist Dan Metcalfe is leading a study that seeks to understand how climate change may impact the cloud forests of Peru and elsewhere by using a giant curtain to affect the local environment. A professor at Lund University in Sweden, Metcalfe describes his unprecedented plan as “an experimental approach where we actually physically try to remove clouds from a portion of the forest.” Cloud forests are unique ecosystems, which, although small in land area, provide enormous regional ecological benefits. Despite their importance, there has been little research on how climate change may impact cloud forests. Metcalfe’s study will test how the forest reacts to reduced cloud and moisture cover in hopes of understanding what is in store for these precious habitats. At only 1 percent of the world’s total forested area, cloud forests are well adapted to mountainside locations near the equator between 500-4,000 meters (1640-13,000 feet) in elevation. Cloud forests function as moisture banks for rivers and lowland habitats, storing water in its spongy soil and releasing it when needed down below during a dry spell. Many species of plants and animals are endemic to cloud forests and may face threats to their habitat due to climate change. Scientists suspect that clouds will form further uphill, leaving the forest to deal with decreased levels of moisture. Metcalfe’s experiment intends to observe what effects this change might have on the forests and those who call it home. Related: Fly through Ecuador’s cloud forest on a human-powered sky bike! After earlier curtain designs proved impractical, Metcalfe salvaged a damaged tower not longer suitable for climbing to rig up a ten-story tall curtain. Even after reaching a final plan, Metcalfe’s project continued to endure delays and obstacles. A key team member became sick, essential gear was destroyed by fire , and Metcalfe’s wife gave birth to two children, limiting travel to Peru. After four years of work, the curtain is almost finished and extensive data on the cloud forest and climate change will soon be arriving. Via the Guardian Images via William Ferguson/Wake Forest University ,  Dan Metcalfe/Lund University , and  Caroline Granycome/Flickr

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Giant curtain built in Peru to study climate change in the cloud forests

Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

December 6, 2017 by  
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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier will be completely gone within the next 10 to 20 years. Until as recently as 1991, five glaciers were found in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range in Venezuela . As climate change has accelerated, so too has the meltdown. Named for the nearby Pico Humboldt, Venezuela’s second highest peak at over 16,000 feet, the Humboldt Glacier is one-tenth of the size it was three decades ago. Scientists hope to study the glacial disappearing act so as to learn more about what other communities might expect in a warming world. “This is a tragedy that should be highlighted as one more consequence of irresponsible behavior in energy-intense economies,” said Walter Vergara, a forest and climate specialist at Global Restoration Initiative in Latin America , according to GlacierHub . Unfortunately, Venezuela’s current political and economic crises make an international scientific study very difficult. The Humboldt glacier was last studied by an international team in 2015. Even then, the data was limited; a research team from Westfield State University in Massachusetts was only able to conduct a GPS survey and gather basic observations. While some data, such as measurements of ice coverage and reflection of solar radiation, can be studied using satellites, they would be more accurate if more researchers were able to spend time at Humboldt. Related: Venezuelans are getting Fridays off to battle an energy crisis It is often difficult for Venezuelan scientists to find success at home due to the economic and political crises that has gripped their country in recent years. Despite the challenges, Venezuela is not without its environmental heroes.  “Venezuela’s Minister for Environment, Ramón Velásquez-Araguayán, is a smart and capable climate scientist who is very sensitive to climate change issues and environmental conservation ,” Ángel G. Muñoz, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, and Princeton University, told GlaicerHub. Still, it is likely that Venezuela will soon become the first country to lose all of its glaciers . Sadly, it is not likely to be the last. Via GlacierHub Images via Wikimedia and Serge Saint/Flickr

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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

Spectacular wildflower roof grows atop a dreamy Texan cabana

December 6, 2017 by  
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You might not think a cabana could outshine a glistening blue pool—especially in the Texan heat—but this Pool House in Texas’ City of West Lake Hills is a scene-stealer. Murray Legge Architecture designed this dwelling topped with a flourishing wildflower green roof in a project that’s so beautiful we can’t help but wonder what the main residence looks like. The pool house project was also designed to minimize impervious surfaces and aid in management of stormwater runoff. A modernist beauty, the City of West Lake Hills Pool House and the surrounding area emphasize clean lines, steel framing, and glass. Light-colored stone stairs leading down to the pool are raised off the slope to allow water to pass through, while grasses grow in the space between treads. An innovative suspended and permeable stone terrace system surrounds the L-shaped pool. Stone also makes up much of the Pool House and are stacked in large blocks to give the exterior a beautifully textured appearance. Glazing wraps around the front of the building and opens up to create an indoor-outdoor dining area complemented by an outdoor wood stove and high-end residential kitchen. Timber is featured prominently in the Pool House, where it lines the interiors and is used for furnishing. The vaulted roof arches upwards, echoing the surrounding canyon hills, and gives the structure a more airy feel. Related: 42mm Architecture’s sculptural Pool House in India is wrapped in a curved concrete shell “Impervious cover and storm water run-off regulations within the city are very restrictive,” wrote the architects. “The City of West Lake Hills granted a variance to allow the construction of a garden roof and accepted it as permeable cover through a variance process. This variance was a first for the City of West Lake Hills and points to the city’s progressive environmental policies.” The architects also added that they stacked much of the project’s equipment and programs beneath the green roof to minimize impervious surfaces. + Murray Legge Architecture Images by Ryann Ford, Murray Legge, Whit Preston

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Spectacular wildflower roof grows atop a dreamy Texan cabana

SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

September 14, 2017 by  
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The game-changing power of solar energy is a gift to all of the global community. Nations of the world, having recognized the absolute necessity to do so, are slowly shifting towards a clean energy economy while reaping the benefits. These benefits are being particularly felt in the developing economies of the Global South , where communities are making the transition from no electricity access to resilient, local power through solar energy. SOLARKIOSK, a Berlin-based social enterprise, is supporting this movement and empowering local communities by installing innovative multi-purpose structures called E-HUBBs that are powered by the sun and operated by members of the communities they serve. SOLARKIOSK has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge – read on for a closer look at this world-changing initiative. Although similar in appearance to shipping container homes , the E-HUBB is emphatically much more – it’s “an energy-connectivity gateway.” With the energy generated through its solar panels, a single E-HUBB can provide power for phone and computer charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an LED TV, a refrigerator, a printer, interior and exterior lighting, and more. It also offers a display area and storage space, solar products and sustainable consumer goods. “SOLARKIOSK is continuously working on the design of the E-HUBB, in order to make it more efficient in terms of maintenance, implementation and transportation,” said Marija Makejeva, Business Development Manager at SOLARKIOSK. “Over time, the design has evolved across 3 different E-HUBB models from an aluminum to a steel structure, which is more cost-efficient and easier to source. Solar components and remote metering options have also undergone significant improvement as technology has evolved.” Related: Compact OffGridBox provides drinking water and power where it’s needed most E-HUBBs have proven their versatility by serving the needs of different communities. A last-mile distribution retail E-HUBB brings underserved populations much needed products and services across Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s also a Connected Solar Clinic operated by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, a banking kiosk that offers financial tools to off-grid populations in Nigeria , and a solar school unit for the displaced population at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan . In addition to the tangible impacts of power generation, commercial empowerment, and more, the E-HUBB also has the ability to positively impact and inspire younger generations who will one day inherit these changing communities. “The fascination always surfaces in the eyes of the kids as they gaze upon the site clearly delighted by the atmosphere emitted by SOLARKIOSK,” reads a statement by the company. “Being accepted and loved by the children is a great reassurance for our work directive and personal initiative; a true blessing.” Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Each E-HUBB is uniquely fitted for the local community’s needs and is operated by members of the community, ninety percent of whom are women . “SOLARKIOSK sees great value in empowering women through job creation within the network of E-HUBBs,” said Makejeva. For its success in supporting localized community development, SOLARKIOSK has been nominated for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. “The Fuller Challenge was established to draw attention to a ‘whole systems’ approach to addressing some of the complex problems facing the world,” said Founding Director Elizabeth Thompson. “Fuller’s hypothesis was that integrated solutions that focus on root cause, and are designed to be models for replication elsewhere, lead to long lasting, transformational change.” The prize winner receives $100,000 in funding as well as inclusion in the Challenge’s Catalyst Program, which offers support in expanding the winner’s work. “Our criteria have been distilled from Fuller’s voluminous writings and talks about the fundamental principles of what he called design science,” said Thompson. “The program set a very high bar for what we are looking for, so the projects selected as semi-finalists, finalists, and winners are truly exceptional examples!” If it were to receive this award, SOLARKIOSK would be well-positioned to scale up its operations in the coming years. While the economic empowerment gained in a local community through the support of SOLARKIOSK is exceptional, the mission and impact is more than that. An E-HUBB is a center for the community, a gathering place around which people can share stories, build strong relationships, and find inspiration for a brighter future. + SOLARKIOSK + Buckminster Fuller Challenge

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SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

Chile introduces world’s first metro to be powered largely by renewables

May 26, 2016 by  
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Public transportation offers a sustainable alternative to masses of individual automobiles, yet many systems still run on unsustainable power sources. With around 2.2 million people riding the Metro de Santiago every day, Chile requires a great deal of energy to keep people moving. President Michelle Bachelet recently announced the country’s mass transit system will soon be almost entirely powered by wind and solar energy, resulting in a slew of environmental benefits. This is an exciting step for South America’s second largest subway system in terms of length. Chile’s Metro de Santiago will receive 42 percent energy from solar power and 18 percent from wind power . The country’s step towards renewables highlights its commitment to clean energy that does not harm the environment or people, according to President Bachelet . She announced the news at a future metro station currently under construction. California solar company SunPower is building the solar plant that will generate the solar power, and Brazilian company Latin America Power owns the wind project also worked on by Spanish company Elecnor that will provide wind power. Related: Uganda to launch its first solar-powered bus this month SunPower expects their solar plant to be finished in 2017. According to the company , Metro de Santiago “will become the first public transportation system in the world to run mostly on solar energy.” In a statement, SunPower’s Executive Vice President of Power Plants Eduardo Medina said, “Solar is an ideal energy source for Chile because of the country’s high solar resource and transparent energy policies.” Chile will make the switch to renewables in 2018 when the solar and wind plants are operational. The projects will provide Metro de Santiago with renewable energy for 15 years. According to President Bachelet , not only will passengers be able to travel swiftly and safely, they will be able to get around in a way that “cares for the planet, reduces our carbon footprint , and makes possible a sustainable future for all.” Via Quartz Images via Wikimedia Commons and SunPower Corp.

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