Amid record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

August 27, 2020 by  
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Amid record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail Jesse Klein Thu, 08/27/2020 – 01:45 The coronavirus pandemic threw almost every market into a tailspin, including the notoriously sensitive oil market. And when crude oil prices fell into negative territory in April, the recycled plastic industry experienced a reckoning. Would corporations still invest in relatively expensive circular plastic commitments if virgin plastic prices, closely tied to the petroleum industry, nosedived? So far, most big companies seem to be standing by their pledges. “Our strategy hasn’t changed,” Yolanda Malone, vice president of global foods packaging at PepsiCo, told a digital crowd at GreenBiz’s Circularity 20 event this week. “We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Our strategy needs to be strong enough to weather it.” Shifting the focus away from everyday volatility and instead emphasizing the long-term benefits of an overarching and durable circular packaging plan can help brands avoid reacting to oil price dynamics and enable them to ignore the small short-term benefits — such as lower virgin plastic prices — in favor of long-lasting ones, according to Malone and other speakers who addressed the topic during the online event. We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. “One thing we did was to remind our associates and merchants that you can’t claim something is recyclable if it doesn’t actually get [turned into] recycled content,” Ashley Hall, lead for sustainable packaging at Walmart, said during the session. “That was a really important ah-ha moment for our clients and reaffirmed their commitment to get past these low prices and reassess moving forward.” But like good businesswomen, Malone and Hall are ready to adapt to a changing landscape, and the market volatility that occurred during the early days of the pandemic has prompted some soul-searching. According to Malone, her team is working on ways that ensuring Pepsi’s tactics can support a circular plastic initiative even amidst dropping oil prices — even if that means some tactics might need to change, such as shifting conversations away from cost savings associated with circular initiatives and instead turning the focus to consumer purchasing trends, the value of having a qualitative lifecycle assessment and the potential for refillable containers. Taylor Price, global manager of sustainability at packaging company Aptar, suggested that shifting to refillables rather than focusing almost exclusively on recycled content could be one way for companies to combat the effect of sinking oil prices on their packaging strategy.  “What we’ve seen as a packaging company is it’s not really an either/or,” she said. “Refillable solutions, for us, are really a co-strategy.”  Hall agreed that strategy diversification is important: “One solution won’t solve our issues. We need to work on all of them.” The consensus among the panelists was that a sustainable, circular packaging plan that includes a variety of levers to pull and different types of projects would be best suited to survive changing oil prices and other shifting market dynamics.  “Don’t reinvent the wheel,” Hall said. “Pull from existing resources. And on the other side, share not only what works but where you’ve had troubles. And by doing that you can help other people avoid making some mistakes that you [have] made along the way so we can all move forward.” Pull Quote We aren’t letting the oil prices and the fluctuations in the market sway us from our long-term vision. Topics Circular Economy Circularity 20 Circular Packaging Plastic Circularity 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off As oil prices fall, recycled plastic initiatives have a new obstacle. //Unsplash

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Amid record oil price fluctuations, circular plastic strategies prevail

Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet

August 27, 2020 by  
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Applying science and healthcare principles to soil wellness can help our planet Poornima Param… Thu, 08/27/2020 – 01:00 Basic human health principles tell us that we should diagnose before we treat and that we should test before we diagnose.  From annual physicals and screenings to blood tests and imaging exams, providers and specialists have many new tools and resources to address the health issues we experience in real-time and to prevent new issues from arising. For example, our deepening understanding of DNA helps us discern how drugs, medication, multi-vitamins or treatment plans work differently in patients — creating a brand-new frontier, personalized medicine. Today, by leveraging advancements in technology and new medical discoveries, we are able to treat and prevent diseases and enhance our quality of life, health and wellness. Take the influx of at-home genetic testing kits that provides data on food sensitivities, fertility and predispositions to disease. These same principles of human healthcare, and these same scientific and technological advances, are starting to be applied to soil — our most important asset for securing our food supply. Soil at the center  Soil is one of the most important natural resources we have, yet we’ve degraded over a third of the soil used to grow food, feed, fiber and fuel with intensive farming practices. Healthy soil is critical for environmental sustainability, food security and the agricultural economy — even large food companies are starting to fold soil health efforts into their sustainability programs as they understand the impact it has on creating a viable, cost-effective supply chain.  Soil removes about 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions each year through carbon sequestering, a natural way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. From a food security perspective, farmers can harness soil organic matter to ensure greater productivity of their fields and reduce erosion and improve soil structure, which leads to improved water quality in groundwater and surface waters. If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. According to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation , a foundation whose mission is to catalyze change to improve the standard and quality of life, soil loss costs an estimated $400 billion per year globally. Undoubtedly, soil is foundational to human life, yet we know very little about the soil itself. We need to get to know our soil if we want a science-based, data-driven agricultural ecosystem. The first step in improving the health of the planet, the quality and quantity of our food, and the prosperity of agricultural businesses is soil wellness. And now we have the tools to investigate.   A global, comprehensive soil intelligence project Agronomists are agricultural specialists — soil doctors — who test, touch and smell our soil to assess the earth’s physical and chemical characteristics to determine how to make it most productive, now and going forward. They ask questions such as: Does the soil have large or small pockets of air? Does it have a silty, sandy or clay loam texture? What are the phosphorous levels of the field? Based on their findings, they might recommend chemical inputs or physical measures farmers can take such as adding tiles to the field to help with drainage, planting cover crops or adding a new crop to rotation to reduce depletion of certain nutrients from the soil to improve its resiliency.   Problematically, agronomists have a dearth of information on the biomes that makes up our soil. Over 10,000 species and 100 billion actual specimens of bacteria are in a single handful of soil. More biodiversity is in the earth beneath our feet than in all above ground ecosystems combined. Without the ability to account for the biological make up of soil, our agronomists, farmers, chemical and fertilizer providers, food companies, environmental scientists and more cannot fully diagnose, treat or increase the wellness of the soil to grow more food, farm profitably or capture more carbon.   The agriculture, food, environment, science and technology communities are collaborating to change this. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. This allows agricultural stakeholders to better identify and prevent disease, understand soil nutrients to make better planting decisions and preserve and restore our deteriorating top soil. Then you add in hyperspectral imagery technology, which collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum to help collect and determine soil properties and composition. Alternatively, farmers can use a method called the Haney test to evaluate soil health indicators such as soil respiration and water-soluble organic carbon. Automated sensors can monitor and measure soil’s physical traits, such as respiration and temperature, with predicted development towards the measurement of soil’s biogeochemical properties.  This is all in an effort to gather data to create intelligence that can help us better understand how to improve the health of the earth beneath our feet. What does it look like in action? Like a 23andMe test but for the soil, farmers can sample their soil and know if their field is at high-risk of certain diseases or nutrient deficiencies based on soil composition; this allows them to make informed decisions about which crop to plant, how many inputs are needed, what kind of and how much fertilizer to use — all based on known risks.  This isn’t unlike taking our daily vitamins. A 2019 survey showed that 86 percent of Americans consume dietary supplements for their overall health and wellness, yet only 24 percent of those had information indicating a nutritional deficiency. Not every vitamin is needed, and not every treatment plan will work for everyone. The same goes for our fields.  The same health and wellness interventions we use on ourselves can and should be applied to our living soil. If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive.  Hurdles to jump moving forward  There are hurdles to scaling and applying science to soil — from lack of regulations and investment to upending the status quo — but it’s essential we address them as soil health has vast implications, above and below ground.  Investing in intelligence to drive agricultural decisions rather than reverting to traditional practices is a major obstacle. According to the latest AgFunder Agri-FoodTech Investing Report, $19.8 billion was invested in agrifood tech across 1,858 deals in 2019. The report shows that the largest year-over-year growth in funding was for downstream innovations such as meat alternatives, indoor farming and robotic food delivery. Investment in startups operating upstream, or closer to the farmer, increased 1.3 percent year over year. There’s a significant opportunity to boost investment for upstream innovations — and nothing is more upstream than soil.  Today, farmers are experiencing setbacks due to the pandemic. According to the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Research Institute, this year, farmers face losses of more than $20 billion . Taking a risk to try new practices or invest in new technologies weighs heavy on these communities. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. Embracing regulation to protect the planet is also key to creating real change for our soil, air and water. Take the phase-out and eventual ban on methyl bromide , a fumigant used to control pests in agriculture and shipping: Methyl bromide used to be injected into the ground to sterilize the soil before crops are planted, with 50 to 95 percent of it eventually entering the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer, until it was phased out from 1994 to 2005 .  Furthermore, diseases are spreading quickly due to climate change and expanding global trade. For instance, seeds are grown and traded around the world, and there are many examples where diseases in agriculture that originated in other countries have spread across the world in a matter of weeks or months via the seed market. This can have a huge economic toll on food security, quality and production.  Monitoring, measuring and regulating our ecosystem, along with the substances that we put into our ecosystem and the practices we use to create a global food and agricultural economy, is vital as we work to create a healthier, more vibrant earth for ourselves and future generations. This is an urgent need because of the state of our soil and the depletion of our topsoil. If we continue to use soil the way we are today, we’ll have only 60 more cropping cycles left.  Now is the time to build a cohort of stakeholders — including farmers, chemical manufacturers, small and large food brands, policy makers, activists, scientists and technologists — armed with information on what good soil looks like, why we should care about what’s under the surface and what immediate and long-term impact soil wellness can have our world to fast-track innovation and positive change.  Pull Quote If we continue to apply science and technology — and at scale — we can address disease and deterioration of the soil, and we can give it the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Combining microbiology, DNA sequencing, data science and machine learning, we can digitize the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the soil to generate evidence-based, actionable soil intelligence. Topics Food & Agriculture Health Care Food & Agriculture Health & Well-being 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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The time for electric trucks and buses is now

June 10, 2020 by  
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The time for electric trucks and buses is now Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:30 Despite the pandemic, sales of electric trucks and buses are expected to surge in the United States and Canada over the next couple of years. And perhaps, surprising to many, they’ll soar even within this year (the year that can best be described as WTF).  That’s according to new data released recently by the clean-transportation-focused nonprofit CALSTART. The organization expects there to be 169 zero-emission commercial vehicles available for purchase, or soon to be available, in North America by the end of 2020; that’s a 78 percent increase from the number of zero-emission commercial vehicles available at the end of 2019. What’s more, between 2019 and 2023, the amount of zero-emission commercial vehicle models is expected to double, to 195.  Why does this matter? Because diesel-powered trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate amount of transportation-related carbon emissions and are also a source of air pollution, much of it in disadvantaged communities, who live closer to industrial areas or freeways. In addition, commercial vehicles are offering a bright spot for automakers that are seeing slumping sales of passenger vehicles in the wake of COVID-19.  If data and analyst predictions make your eyes glaze over, you can look at the trend another way. Companies are increasingly making zero-emission truck and bus announcements. Every day when I skim Twitter or my inbox, I see more. Here are just a few from the past couple of weeks: General Motors is making an electric van to rival Tesla. Rivian is on track with its Amazon electric delivery vans. Nikola Motors will start accepting reservations June 29 for its electric pickup truck the Badger. Ford is making an electric transit van. CALSTART says that the surge is coming from a combination of market demand, policies and economics as EV battery costs continue to drop. Big companies such as Amazon , IKEA , UPS and FedEx are making big purchases (or working with partners to make purchases). But cities across the United States are also buying EVs, including electric transit buses, garbage trucks and pickup trucks. Substantial growth in the number of commercial EV models available is particularly important for the market because model availability has long been a major hurdle. The large automakers have been pretty slow to offer a variety of models, citing a lack of demand from customers. It’s a pretty standard chicken-and-egg scenario that happens in a nascent market. But as a result, much of the early commercial EV models on the market have come from startups such as Rivian , Nikola , Chanje and Arrival . The bigger automakers are entering the market and playing catch-up.  COVID-19 also has shone a spotlight on the need for a resilient and dynamic transportation supply chain, as shippers across the country have relied heavily on trucks and truck drivers to meet unusual spikes and valleys in demand. The trucking industry, like all operators of commercial vehicles, will need to become cleaner, too, as customer demand, policies and economics evolve. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Electric Trucks Electric Bus Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Nikola Badger pickup truck.

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The time for electric trucks and buses is now

The time for electric trucks and buses is now

June 10, 2020 by  
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The time for electric trucks and buses is now Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:30 Despite the pandemic, sales of electric trucks and buses are expected to surge in the United States and Canada over the next couple of years. And perhaps, surprising to many, they’ll soar even within this year (the year that can best be described as WTF).  That’s according to new data released recently by the clean-transportation-focused nonprofit CALSTART. The organization expects there to be 169 zero-emission commercial vehicles available for purchase, or soon to be available, in North America by the end of 2020; that’s a 78 percent increase from the number of zero-emission commercial vehicles available at the end of 2019. What’s more, between 2019 and 2023, the amount of zero-emission commercial vehicle models is expected to double, to 195.  Why does this matter? Because diesel-powered trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate amount of transportation-related carbon emissions and are also a source of air pollution, much of it in disadvantaged communities, who live closer to industrial areas or freeways. In addition, commercial vehicles are offering a bright spot for automakers that are seeing slumping sales of passenger vehicles in the wake of COVID-19.  If data and analyst predictions make your eyes glaze over, you can look at the trend another way. Companies are increasingly making zero-emission truck and bus announcements. Every day when I skim Twitter or my inbox, I see more. Here are just a few from the past couple of weeks: General Motors is making an electric van to rival Tesla. Rivian is on track with its Amazon electric delivery vans. Nikola Motors will start accepting reservations June 29 for its electric pickup truck the Badger. Ford is making an electric transit van. CALSTART says that the surge is coming from a combination of market demand, policies and economics as EV battery costs continue to drop. Big companies such as Amazon , IKEA , UPS and FedEx are making big purchases (or working with partners to make purchases). But cities across the United States are also buying EVs, including electric transit buses, garbage trucks and pickup trucks. Substantial growth in the number of commercial EV models available is particularly important for the market because model availability has long been a major hurdle. The large automakers have been pretty slow to offer a variety of models, citing a lack of demand from customers. It’s a pretty standard chicken-and-egg scenario that happens in a nascent market. But as a result, much of the early commercial EV models on the market have come from startups such as Rivian , Nikola , Chanje and Arrival . The bigger automakers are entering the market and playing catch-up.  COVID-19 also has shone a spotlight on the need for a resilient and dynamic transportation supply chain, as shippers across the country have relied heavily on trucks and truck drivers to meet unusual spikes and valleys in demand. The trucking industry, like all operators of commercial vehicles, will need to become cleaner, too, as customer demand, policies and economics evolve. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Electric Trucks Electric Bus Clean Fleets Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Nikola Badger pickup truck.

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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice 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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What do Americans think about fake meat products?

February 21, 2020 by  
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The topic of how we produce food is commonplace and more relevant than ever. After all, the way we choose to grow produce affects waterways, soil and air, which in turn, affects each of us. When it comes to raising animals for meat, the stakes are even higher. Report after report doles out alarming numbers regarding pollution related to the practice. Plus, animal activists frequently remind us about how animals are treated when they are raised as food sources. The rise of fake meat With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that food scientists have been investing copious research and development time, money and energy into finding meat alternatives. Some have already been around for decades, while new alternatives are consistently hitting the market. Although beef replacements are the most common, you can find pork, chicken and even fish alternatives. Related: Vegan and lab-grown meats predicted to take over meat market in 20 years Opinions on meat substitutes So what do people actually think about this “fake meat” phenomenon? A research group called Piplsay posed the question nationwide in a January 2020 survey and received 31,909 responses from individuals aged 18 years and older. The results show an overwhelming interest in the products and an underwhelming satisfaction. Specifically, 51% of Americans have tried meat substitute products at least once, a majority of which (53%) said they tried it because they were curious. Another 32% responded they tried it due to a concern for the environment or for their health . Others say they are trying to go vegan or vegetarian and were wondering if the meat substitute would satisfy the longing for meat (15%). Why are people trying fake meat? The results show there are a variety of reasons people try or continue to consume fake meat, none of which seem to be because they actually prefer the taste. In fact, out of 31,909 responses, fewer than 30% gave the products a thumbs up. When it comes to health, the debate rages on to whether fake meat has anything to offer. Even though 27% felt fake meat was a healthy and eco-friendly alternative, a slightly larger 28% felt these meat alternatives can’t beat real meat. Another 20% suggest the products are highly processed, counterbalancing any potential benefits from avoiding meat. A quarter of the respondents said they didn’t know what to think of them. Related: Beyond & Impossible alternative meats — are they healthier than the real thing? The most popular brands for meat substitutes When Piplsay asked people what brands they had tried, a group of big names were, not surprisingly, in the top five. Seven percent of respondents had tried Hormel, and another 7% tried Perdue brands. Impossible Foods is relatively new to the market, but at the time of this survey, 11% of respondents had tried it. Tyson garnered another 13%, and the most-frequently tried products are produced by Beyond Meat (15%). The type of meat substitute that people were interested in trying varied, too, with beef being the most popular at 38%. Chicken came in at 29%. There was a significant drop for pork at 18%, but it is a newer product to the market. Finally, fish swam in at just 15%. Study demographics One interesting result of the survey is that there didn’t seem to be a huge geographical discrepancy. The top three states where fake meat is consumed “quite often” are Washington (18%), South Dakota (20%) and Vermont (26%). These numbers don’t represent the populations as a whole, but rather the frequency of respondents who say they eat fake meat quite often, which is 12% of overall respondents. In contrast, 23% said they’ve had it once or twice and 16% admit they’ve only had it once. Age is one category where the survey highlights fairly large differences. Millennials are by far the most likely to eat fake meat on a regular basis. Although only 16% of millennials eat fake meat regularly, that’s twice the reported number from baby boomers, at only 8%. Not only do millennials rank the highest for consuming the products, but their reason for doing so stands out as well. The report shows that 23% of millennials eat fake meat for health and environmental reasons , which is highest among the age groups. In contrast, the age group with the largest number of people saying they have no interest in even trying fake meat goes to the baby boomers, with 52% opposed to the idea. The fake meat trend has room for improvement All in all, the survey revealed that while many people are interested in trying, have tried or regularly consume meat alternatives, most people feel these products leave more to be desired in terms of flavor and healthful ingredients. Still, people seem to still eat many of these fake meats for betterment of the planet, and there is still plenty of room in the industry for existing and new brands to grow and innovate. + Piplsay Images via Shutterstock

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What do Americans think about fake meat products?

Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street

February 18, 2020 by  
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Downtown San Francisco is putting pedestrians first by turning the 2-mile Market Street, a major hub for the city, into a completely car-free space. Inhabitat spoke with an urban planner of the esteemed Perkins and Will for more details about the groundbreaking, pedestrian-friendly project. While the complete redesign is expected to extend into the rest of the year, January 29 marked the official ban of cars on the thoroughfare. The structural transformation will include a restriction of public cars, but it will also implement newer two-way streets, intersection safety improvements and extensions for the Muni (the city’s public transit system). Buses, as well as a fleet of vintage streetcars, will also be able to operate along the street. Related: Perkins and Will designs modular, affordable housing for the homeless Inhabitat caught up with urban planner and developer Geeti Silwal from the San Francisco branch of design firm Perkins and Will . Silwal was an integral part of the design and development of the Market Street project. Her initial design created the vision and laid the foundation for the car-free initiative, taking close to a decade to finally come to pass. Inhabitat: The plan to make San Francisco’s Market Street car-free was 10 years in the making. Can you talk a bit about how this project began? Silwal: The project was initiated primarily to take advantage of the fact that Market Street needed to replace its aging utility that would need to be dug up soon. The city agencies took this opportunity to reimagine the role and identity of the city’s premiere boulevard. Working with six key city and county agencies, Perkins and Will led a team of urban designers, transportation planners, infrastructure engineers, public realm strategists, streetscape designers and wayfinding experts to lead this exploration. We started in 2011 meeting three demanding — and sometimes competing — objectives: placemaking, enhancing transit experience and improving infrastructure. In order to meet these objectives, we expanded the scope of the study to include Mission Street to help relieve the demands on Market Street. We analyzed: What if Market Street offered seamless transit transfers and relied on Mission Street to provide safe, pleasant, dedicated and buffered bike lanes? What if we minimized space dedicated to private vehicles to provide more space for pedestrians and bicyclists ? What is the right bike infrastructure to invite the 8- to 80-year-olds to ride on Market Street? Would this achieve our shared vision of Market Street as a destination to socialize and enjoy street life and to interact with public art , nature and each other?  We saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a beautiful street befitting the world-class city it represented. Prioritizing and structuring the street for people and public life over movement of private vehicles was a fundamental goal that the entire team got behind. Inhabitat: How do you feel now that this vision has come to life? Silwal: It’s gratifying. If you were to walk Market Street today and compare it to walking it the week before it went car-free , you’d notice a dramatic difference. Market Street now feels peaceful, safe and comfortable — it really feels like a completely different place. There has been a positive response from the media and people in general. We’ve heard many people say, “I took transit and it was so fast and so much better!” or “I biked Market Street and it feels as though I am in Amsterdam.” And this is only the beginning. More improvements will happen in the next few years as the future phases of the Better Market Street project unfold. Inhabitat: What do you think banning cars on some of San Francisco’s streets means for the rest of the country? Are there many other environmentally minded cities following suit? Silwal: The Better Market Street project was inspired by several cities in Europe, which have streets prioritized for pedestrians, cyclists and transit. There are many examples outside of Europe as well. I come from India, and in my home city, Shimla, the main streets in the mall and lower mall area are closed to traffic and are for pedestrian use only. We need to embrace the qualities of these streets that put ‘people first’. Market Street’s new image will be instrumental in inspiring other cities to rethink their streets. It will take strong political will, persistent public agency collaboration, community support and individual behavioral change to think beyond cars. Inhabitat: What about the design do you think was most integral to the environmental benefits of the project? Silwal: By not enabling private vehicles, people are encouraged to use low-carbon modes of transportation and subsequently, greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced. By making Market Street safe, inviting, comfortable and efficient for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users, people are more likely to take these modes of transit. Related: Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá Inhabitat: We love your motto — Designing urban centers with the fundamental organizing principle of ‘people first’ creates more humane, inclusive and socially connected cities . What is important about putting pedestrians first in the fight against climate change? Silwal: We’re in a climate crisis , and we need to base our urban planning around it. Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. By prioritizing cars, we have structured our streets to promote that. If we design streets for the low-carbon modes, we will have a different outcome. I would say that ‘pedestrians first’ is fundamentally about a ‘people first’ approach. Designing cities that allow the majority of people to navigate their city on foot, bike or transit will result in a huge reduction in carbon emissions. Providing an efficient, enjoyable and a robust network of transit system reduces single-occupancy car trips.  We know that climate change impacts will have a more severe effect on the most vulnerable population of our cities. Planning for physical and social connectedness is an important criterion in dealing with climate change. Social connectedness that is about face-to-face interaction enables people to know, understand and empathize more with their fellow beings. It facilitates social resilience. A resilient city is better prepared to fight climate change. Inhabitat: Can you talk about safety, which was the other big concern before Market Street’s car ban went into effect? Silwal: Market Street has always been a popular street for the cyclist community, but it is also infamous for 20 times more collisions than similar streets in the state. Reducing conflict among pedestrians, cyclists and drivers was a key goal for this project. This change will make it much safer for commuting pedestrians and cyclists. Further enhancements to the bike infrastructure will be rolled out in future phases of the Better Market Street project that will have a dedicated and buffered environment for cyclists — making it even safer. Inhabitat: What’s next for you? Can we look forward to any other exciting sustainability projects in the future? Silwal: Through our urban design practice, Perkins and Will is continually planning, advocating and proposing for pedestrian/bike-prioritized connectivity in existing environments and new developments. Mission Rock is a project along San Francisco’s eastern waterfront on the Giants’ 25-acre surface parking lot. Mission Rock’s Shared Public Way will offer a new street prioritized for pedestrians, with limited vehicle movement. The Shared Public Way at Mission Rock will be a dynamic space with street rooms, stormwater gardens and tree groves that will create a lively and unique environment. These design elements serve as cues to differentiate pedestrian-dedicated areas from the shared pedestrian/vehicular zone. Vehicles on the Shared Public Way will be limited to one-way travel for drop-off, pickup and deliveries only. Besides streets, Perkins and Will is currently engaged in the Living Community Challenge (LCC) pilot project in the city of Sacramento called the Sacramento Valley Station Master Plan. “LCC is a certification program that guides the design and construction of buildings and neighborhoods to be socially just, culturally rich and ecologically restorative. LCC projects aim to have a net-positive impact in seven petals: place, water, energy, health & happiness, materials, equity and beauty.” This project plans to be a regenerative project. It plans to be a net-positive carbon, net-positive water and net-positive energy community around the regional intermodal mobility hub in Sacramento. We are privileged to work in an industry that lays the foundation for smarter, sustainable design that has a positive impact on the places and people that inhabit it. + Perkins and Will Images via Perkins and Will

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Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street

Craft beer waste saves Montana town $1M for wastewater treatment

February 18, 2020 by  
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A Montana town has found a money-saving solution to its sewage and wastewater treatment expenses, thanks to a nearby craft brewery. The innovation caught the eye of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provided the town and its water reclamation facility an Honorable Mention accolade in one of the federal agency’s annual awards. Havre, Montana has a population of 10,000. Its 40-year-old water reclamation facility, as the EPA has described, “needed upgrades to help meet their final ammonia and residual chlorine limits,” while processing more than 6 million gallons of water . Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected Unfortunately, with more than 10 breweries nearby, the wastewater generated further increased because beer waste is “rich in yeast, hops and sugar.” These contents are known to skew the microbial activity process that removes both nitrogen and phosphorus from the water as it is being treated. In short, if nitrogen and phosphorus are not removed before the treated water enters the drain-off into estuaries, then bacterial and algal blooms will arise. These unwanted blooms would disturb an estuary’s water chemistry enough to adversely affect the ecosystem. Engineering consultant Coralyn Revis offered a paradigm shift to solve the issue. “If we can use [brewery waste] correctly and put it in the right spot, it’s very beneficial to the process,” Revis said. “This is super-simplified, but like, if they’re eating their french fries, they need a little ketchup with it. So to get the nitrate out, you dose a little carbon, and the bugs are happier.” Havre’s wastewater plant manager, Drue Newfield, sought Michael Garrity, Triple Dog Brewing Company’s owner, to source leftover barley for feeding the water treatment microbes. The spent barley was used as a substitute for the chemical alum, an aluminum-sulfate solution. The joint endeavor saved the community from investing an additional $1 million in upgrades to the water treatment plant. “To further enhance the biological phosphorus removal process, 10 gallons of waste barley mash from a local brewery gets added daily as an external source of carbon and volatile fatty acid supplement,” the EPA explained. “These improvements have allowed the facility to continuously meet all permit effluent limits and has significantly improved the operability, reliability and treatment capability of the facility. These upgrades have greatly improved the quality of wastewater effluent discharged to the Milk River, particularly with respect to nutrient levels and ammonia toxicity.” The endeavor has been federally acknowledged as a creative and successful example for integrating community involvement at solving water quality infrastructure challenges in four key areas: public health, economy, sustainability and innovation. Via NPR , Core77 and EPA Image via Manfred Richter

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Craft beer waste saves Montana town $1M for wastewater treatment

Why climate-saving investments in cold chain technologies are hot

January 15, 2020 by  
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As demand for safe food and vaccines explodes in emerging economies, growth in the market for environmentally safe refrigeration technologies is reaching the boiling point.

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Why climate-saving investments in cold chain technologies are hot

This year’s resolution: Fix the broken plastic material system

January 15, 2020 by  
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The momentum to stop plastic pollution continues to grow, so how do we channel it into real systems change?

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This year’s resolution: Fix the broken plastic material system

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