Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

January 18, 2021 by  
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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects? Gloria Oladipo Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:15 With carbon emissions expected to rebound this year, 2021 presents another opportunity for companies to invest in climate-saving initiatives that move the corporate world closer to a net-zero future, especially carbon removal projects . While some companies already have started investing in these solutions on a larger scale, questions remain about how to conduct the process equitably. In other words, what environmental justice considerations should companies evaluate when investing in these opportunities? There’s a good reason to ask. Historically, carbon removal projects have a legacy of potentially reifying inequality; projects in the Global South become responsible for hosting said projects and their associated consequences while countries (and companies) in the Global North use these initiatives to meet their carbon reduction targets. Examples of this dynamic include projects such as a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala ( later linked to egregious human rights abuse ) and forest preservation projects in Brazil ; both offered Western companies opportunities to gain carbon offset credits, but the reality of their impact from a human rights standpoint was less understood.  Ugbaad Kozar, senior policy advisor at Carbon180, discussed these disparities and the power imbalance associated with carbon removal measures. “There’s a long history of Global South countries inheriting the burden of hosting projects that have benefited wealthier countries in reaching their climate targets,” Kozar said. “These projects can lead to inadequate payments, loss of local control over natural resources, loss of ability to use their land for other livelihood purposes.” A number of safeguards developed by NGOs can aid companies deciding whose carbon removal projects to invest in, Kozar said.  Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. For example, in 2005, the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks” (REDD+) system was created as a social and biodiversity safeguard to make sure carbon removal efforts didn’t harm biodiversity and that its benefits were given to local communities. Elsewhere, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance , a partnership spanning several international environmental NGOs, created “Climate, Community and Biodiversity” standards to ensure land-based projects respected community stakeholders and their cultures, and nurtured biodiversity, among other goals.   However, as argued by Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo, these safeguards have not been carried out without issues. REDD+ social safeguards have had mixed results ; the impact of the safeguards sometimes have been difficult to monitor and interventions made based on the safeguards had mixed results, she noted. Looking forward, that means companies have an opportunity to be even more progressive in establishing their own standards for equity considerations related to carbon removal, according to Kozar and Buck.  “Companies are even poised to play a role in having even more ambitious standards because some of those safeguards haven’t always been working out as well as intended … [companies can make] sure that theoretical co-benefits are actually delivered upon and [pay] more attention to who reaps the benefits from these projects,” Buck said.  Where to start? Before analyzing equity considerations related to their external carbon removal work, companies should first ensure they cultivate a workplace culture of justice within their organizations, Buck and Kozar said. This type of internal work is not only critical to unseeding racism in general (demonstrated as more carbon capture companies focus on making meaningful contributions to environmental justice ). Among other things, the Clean Air Task Force  also is following projects in California and Texas to determine how carbon capture technology might play a role in reducing local air pollution, with a view to releasing its research after this year to front-line communities. it’s an important first step for companies hoping to address oppression in their environmental work.   “It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce. Doing so allows for opportunities to refute and rethink contextual perspectives and to understand the drivers of inequity and injustice,” Kozar said.  It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … In addition to creating equity within the workplace, companies investing in carbon removal projects must be committed to transparency about the process itself, all associated data, community involvement and an equitable distribution of resources. Carbon removal projects can be an opaque process, shrouded in litigation and inaccessible information; community members where carbon removal projects are located should be made aware of the process and included in the discussion of the project’s effects. “With industrial removal, some of the questions at the project site are: Are people happy with the industrial facility? Is it impacting them? … Are they seeing any benefit from it or just having to live next to a waste disposal site?” Buck said.   Most important, benefits need to be equitably distributed, ideally problem-solving for legacy effects of climate change that often occur in marginalized communities. For instance, a strategy of planting trees not only could address removing emissions but also help cool neighborhoods, reduce pollution, provide shade and have other benefits, an example Kozar provided.  Buck also cited the importance of government involvement to help ensure benefits are given equally. She noted how the California government helps redistribute funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to vulnerable communities.  Overall, while the increase in companies investing in carbon removal programs signals a positive shift in more climate-friendly thinking, it’s critical to participate in these solutions in a way that centers and benefits oppressed communities, Buck and Kozar advised.  “Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and whi ch solutions will be deployed. As the industry emerges and scales, key players need to prioritize transparency and accountability, ensuring they do not ignore legacy pollution that harms marginalized communities,” Kozar said.  Pull Quote Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … Topics Carbon Removal Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Courtesy of Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

January 18, 2021 by  
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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates John Elkington Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:45 Bill Gates has a new book in the pipeline, ” How to Avoid a Climate Disaster .” Vital reading, particularly in a year that should see Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate summit. But if I could propose one additional New Year’s resolution for Gates, it would be to send another book to all COP26 delegates: Kim Stanley Robinson’s ” The Ministry for the Future .” Sci-fi fans know Robinson as a giant in his field, but I literally stumbled across his work. I had acquired a second-hand copy of his 2017 novel “New York 2140,” coverless and so somewhat unappetizing. I was using it as a doorstop, hence the stumbles. At 600-plus pages it loomed like the Eiger, but once in I was unstoppable. Wanting more, I ordered “The Ministry of the Future,” clocking in at a more modest 564 pages. If I had to give a prize for the best writing, it would go to “New York,” but if the prize was for giving readers confidence that we can crack the climate challenge, I would choose “The Ministry.” True, some early sections read like novelized versions of an MBA course on sustainable development, but stick with it. “The Ministry” is set in the time of COP58, a world where our worst climate nightmares are materializing. Indeed, the book opens with a disaster leaving perhaps 20 million Indians dead. It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Science fiction, if you think about it, is all about perspective. In that vein, when I was trying to creep up on companies back in the 1970s, I pictured myself using a periscope. Later, when we had breached the corporate gates, even finding our way into boardrooms, it felt as though we were putting corporations — their leaders, cultures, technologies, business models and supply chains — under the microscope. We still do that sort of work but reaching for our telescopes — to track the trajectories of entire constellations of economic actors, with an eye to spurring systemic change. Still, alongside those different lenses and optics, I have long ached for some form of kaleidoscope — a compound lens delivering more information the more it is shaken, whether by the user or by reality. Decades ago, creeping up on the future, I began to stalk sci-fi authors. I had a fascinating early exchange with John Brunner, author of “Jagged Orbit” and “Stand on Zanzibar.” When I complimented him on the dystopian vision in the second book, which seemed to be increasingly realistic, he replied, uncomfortably, that he had hoped that the terrifying vision would wake people up in time. A later thrill involved interviewing Frank Herbert back in 1983. Denis Villeneuve’s film of Herbert’s magnificent “Dune,” perhaps the best sci-fi novel I have read, is due out in October. I genuinely can’t wait. Meanwhile, one thing Herbert told me stuck in my mind: “If you’re managing and fixing, you’re locking down today, you’re not getting into tomorrow. You’re preventing tomorrow.” A linked idea that has been rattling around my brain recently features an A.I.-enabled resource pooling all key solutions proposed in sci-fi novels — to tap into the collective creativity of some of the brightest minds of all time.  That idea, in turn, had me stumbling across an experiment launched by David Brin, another of my favorite sci-fi authors since I read his novel “Earth” in 1990, when he already was talking about the possibility of bringing mammoths back from extinction. Like it or not, such ideas are bounding forward, as I learned when talking to people such as Ryan Phelan of Revive & Restore a couple of years ago. Another case of fiction teetering on the edge of science fact .  It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. For a couple of decades, William Gibson has been my favorite contemporary sci-fi author, with the impossibly distant future of his early book “Neuromancer” gradually hauling back in later novels until it eerily mutates today’s realities. Or, as Gibson famously put it in the last century, “The future’s already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” To which I often add, “Yet.” Someone else who achieves this trick is Ramez Naam — whose “Nexus Trilogy” I strongly recommend. As it happens, I met Naam — in his role as a radical energy analyst — at a VERGE event in San Jose, California, in 2016.  Now, with China looming, I have been reading sci-fi (in translation) by such authors as Liu Cixin . It’s fascinating how as cultures rise, technologically and economically, some begin to produce world-class sci-fi. Europe did it with authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, America with everyone from Isaac Asimov to Kurt Vonnegut.  New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to shape the future. I don’t do them, but if I did one candidate for 2021 would be to pour myself heart and soul into a new Volans project, the Green Swans Observatory . The idea here is to turn every lens we have — periscopes, microscopes, telescopes — onto the emerging regenerative economy. Scanning for what’s working, what isn’t (yet) and what needs to be tried next. Once again, I’m pondering where the sci-fi kaleidoscope fits in. So I called David Brin, inspired by his TASAT database — the acronym standing for “There’s A Story About That.” The idea, the website explains, involves: “Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.” A fantastic experiment, TASAT, although when you search the database for terms that feature routinely in The Ministry for the Future they rarely show up. Yet. True, the “Dune” series of novels focuses on the regeneration of planets such as Arrakis, but can TASAT-style initiatives help us all boldly go toward a truly regenerative future? Perhaps that’s one more resolution for Gates, or for another future-oriented billionaire or foundation: to help turn TASAT into a globally accessible portal to the ever-expanding universe of sci-fi wisdom. At a time when every second business book seems to include words such as “reimagining,” “reinventing” or “resetting,” we will need all the help we can get. Pull Quote It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Topics Innovation Leadership Books Featured Column The Elkington Report Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit: gatesnotes.com

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started 

January 18, 2021 by  
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Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started  Lauren Phipps Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:15 By now, you know the problem: Nearly 250 billion single-use cups are used globally every year — most of which end up in a landfill — and the environmental, economic and social costs are mounting. And that’s just cups. You also know the solution: In addition to recyclable and compostable alternatives, reuse models are quickly emerging as a fundamentally better alternative to single-use ones, not to mention that converting 20 percent of the world’s disposable plastic packaging into reusables is a $10 billion opportunity.  So…now what?  If only this were just a matter of procurement. Far more complex are the systems surrounding cups and other disposables: platform design; customer adoption; retail implementation; collection; sanitation; end-of-life management; and, of course, selecting the right cup itself. That’s before you get to sustainable materials and production methods. Thanks to a new report by Closed Loop Partners, the path from conception to pilot and scale for a reusable and refillable packaging model — in this case the cup — has been spelled out to help you get started. It’s not a blueprint per se, but rather a collection of insights and learnings from the NextGen Consortium’s initial pilots with Starbucks and McDonald’s, done in collaboration with the design firm IDEO.  Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind when designing a new reuse system:  Design: Convenience, integration into existing systems and environmental impact must be aligned from the start, at the design phase. Consider the cup’s journey from sign-up and point of sale, to use at retail, customer handoff, point of return, washing and sanitizing, pickup and delivery. In-store inventory management (display and stackability of bulkier cups, storage, accessibility) — all will need to be designed into the system. Environmental impact is based on materials sourcing and manufacturing, the number of uses before a cup is decommissioned, and its end-of-life plan, so each element must be considered.  Collaboration: Engage baristas, staff and other key stakeholders who don’t often play a role in corporate decision-making processes. The employee buy-in and ease of integration into existing cafe workflows can make or break the success of a system. Determining the appropriate logistics partners also will be crucial at every step of a cup’s existence. Be sure to engage with local policymakers as well to ensure your program’s adherence to health and safety codes, and to help shape future policy to enable reuse models.  Implementation: Systems will need to be flexible to adapt to unique cafe environments, market needs and cultural considerations. Incentives and fee structures will need to adapt to the particular policy environment in which a cafe sits, which will likely change over time.  Adoption: When considering the overall cost of new systems, account for an investment in education, storytelling and customer acquisition. This will take time. Consider the motivations of customers and design the system accordingly, all while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Evaluate and adjust along the way.  “We are on the cusp of a reuse revolution,” says Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, in the report. “Reuse will be a growing part of the plastic solution portfolio used by brands and retailers. It’s certainly not going to solve the whole plastic waste challenge, but as more of these models come to market, we are excited to see new solutions that collectively build reuse back into our cultural and behavioral norms.” Sure, many headlines about reuse are still in pilot phase, but brands and retailers have to start somewhere. On top of designing a workable system — one that considers consumer demand and readiness, cultural differences and financial barriers — it’s important to remember that the humble cup is a primary touchpoint for brand engagement. For most consumers that don’t (yet) bring their own cup to a Starbucks, for example, a change to the design and user experience could have negative visceral, emotional and Instagrammable implications.  Pilots are a great place to begin, so long as they are just the start.  Topics Circular Economy Circular Packaging Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Six of the cups tested as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge. Image courtesy of NextGen Consortium

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Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact

December 30, 2020 by  
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An environmental row rages on as the Trump administration races against time to complete its target 450 miles of the border wall along the American-Mexico border. At the beginning of 2020, the Trump administration vowed to meet this goal within the year. In a last-ditch effort to deliver the promise, workers across 37 different construction sites along the border rush to meet the deadline. While workers erect the bollard steel wall, environmental conservationists and other groups voice frustration over how these reckless actions fail to consider nature. According to Kate Scott, Executive Director and President of the Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Centre, the construction disrupts the natural migration of wildlife and birds. “I feel great pain in my heart,” Scott said while speaking to CNN. “It’s like driving a stake through my heart because the river should be allowed to be, and not have this monstrosity. This wall of shame.” Like several other conservationists, Scott has been at the border watching and documenting the harm the process causes to wildlife . She watched as construction workers erected steel bollards at the San Pedro River, which flows from Mexico to the United States. Her frustration with the process is that it hampers the free migration of birds and other animals across the river and natural terrain. According to the  National Audubon Society of Arizona , about 40% of all bird species in North America spend some part of their lives on the San Pedro River. Due to the construction process, most of the birds and other animals have been pushed away from their natural habitat and travel pathway.  Despite the project’s effects on wildlife and nature, Customs and Border Protection insists the project meets environmental requirements. The organization claims the project has been analyzed and measures have been put in place to reduce environmental impacts. In contrast to these denials, conservationists have already collected enough evidence to show the project’s negative effects on wildlife. At the start of the construction in 2019, a non-profit organization, Wildlands Network, put up cameras in the San Bernardino Valley to monitor the project’s impact on wildlife migration. According to Myles Traphagen, Wildlands Network borderlands program coordinator, all  migrations across the border stopped dead  at the end of the second week of December. All hopes now rest on incoming President Joe Biden to put an end to the Trump administration’s reckless actions. Although Biden promised not to continue with wall construction , conservationists want the wall pulled down entirely, especially in areas where it affects wildlife. + CNN Image via Ted Eytan

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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy

November 16, 2020 by  
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How effective stakeholder engagement shaped Samsonite’s ESG strategy Christine Rile… Mon, 11/16/2020 – 01:00 In March, Samsonite announced “Our Responsible Journey,” a new global sustainability strategy that outlines its commitments across four priority areas: Product Innovation; Carbon Action; Thriving Supply Chain; and Our People, including engagement, development, diversity and inclusion. Samsonite is proud of its 110-year history of industry leadership in the innovation, quality and durability of its products. With Our Responsible Journey, Samsonite strives to lead the lifestyle bag and travel luggage industry across key sustainability indicators, including the use of recycled materials in its products and packaging and achieving carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities. With strong support from the entire senior management team and especially from Samsonite CEO Kyle Gendreau, the company has embarked on this journey to make sustainability a key tenet of its brand promise. The goal is to keep the world traveling while staying true to Samsonite’s long-standing ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. Samsonite first disclosed the state of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) journey with the publication of its first ESG report in 2016, a requirement for the company’s listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. When I joined as the company’s first global director of sustainability in December 2017, I was tasked with developing a global ESG strategy that would include attainable goals and the action plans that would enable the company to demonstrate continuous improvement and progress toward achieving those goals. We report our progress annually in Samsonite’s ESG report. From the very beginning, the Samsonite executive team empowered me to take the lead on developing an industry-leading approach. The team was directly involved in every phase of the project, including providing feedback, participating in interviews and dedicating resources from their respective regions and functional areas. With executive support, I engaged with Brodie, a London-based consulting firm, to co-lead our materiality assessment. Materiality assessments matter I am a firm believer in the value of materiality assessments, especially when a company is first developing a sustainability strategy. It enables you to identify and validate your issues objectively; educate your company and colleagues about your ESG efforts; effectively allocate resources for your ESG strategy and strengthen credibility with external stakeholders. As we progressed through the internal interview process, I was continually impressed by the number of initiatives already underway to increase the use of sustainable materials in our products and to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, Samsonite North America launched its first product made with post-consumer recycled PET fabric, in January 2018, one month after I started. And by the end of my first year, we already had diverted nearly 30 million PET bottles from landfills through our global use of post-consumer recycled PET fabric in our products. In addition, the company already had installed solar panels on its manufacturing facilities in Hungary and Belgium and had plans to install them on its manufacturing facility in India. It became clear that one of my primary responsibilities would be to identify and organize all of these existing efforts under a comprehensive, focused strategy. Based on the outcomes of the materiality assessment, we identified four key pillars focused on Samsonite’s products, carbon footprint, supply chain and people. One key learning ;from the materiality assessment was that when people thought about sustainability, they often defined it in the context of the environment. As a result, we realized we had to include a brief overview of the issues that fall under the umbrella of ESG so people would evaluate the business across a broader range of initiatives. We further identified two action platforms within each pillar that would allow the company to set goals and to communicate our progress. For example, one pillar focuses on product innovation because Samsonite’s ambition is to lighten the journey of its customers by creating the best products using the most sustainable and innovative materials, methods and models. Within that pillar, we have an action platform that focuses specifically on materials innovation to drive continuous improvement toward developing new, more sustainable materials and increasing the use of more sustainable materials in Samsonite products and packaging. The other action platform targets the product lifecycle and underscores the company’s efforts to continue to make products that are built to last, repairable and, eventually, recyclable. Goals that are specific, yet ambitious The next step was to articulate specific goals and, ultimately, we identified nine global goals with targets set for 2025 and 2030. One of Samsonite’s goals is to achieve carbon neutrality across its owned and operated facilities by 2030. Recognizing that the company’s impact extends beyond its own facilities, we also set a goal to estimate, track and support actions to reduce Scope 3 emissions — those emissions tied to Samonite’s business but outside our control. Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. One of our original goals focused on developing a recyclable suitcase. The feedback was that this was too narrow in its scope. The final goal is more aspirational and states that the company will continue to develop innovative solutions to ensure the durability of its products, extend the life of products and develop viable end-of-life solutions to divert as many of its products from the landfill for as long as possible. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Complementing this effort, we needed to establish a global carbon footprint across 1,500 retail, office, manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide. Partnering with Industrial Economics (IEc), an environmental consulting firm, we collaborated with cross-functional leads worldwide. Specifically, we worked with individuals responsible for the equipment and operations at our owned and operated manufacturing and distribution centers; representatives from our IT and HR departments who source office equipment and train employees on energy-efficient behaviors; and employees from our retail and development teams who make decisions about lighting and real estate. We also worked with global finance teams to collect hundreds of utility bills to ensure an accurate and representative sample size. From all this data, we established a baseline using 2017 data. An extended dialogue While the process is relatively straightforward, Brodie, IEc and I did not do it in a vacuum. Critical to our success was engaging a wide-ranging group of internal stakeholders and subject matter experts. Samsonite operates using a primarily decentralized management structure across its four key regions: North America; Asia; Europe; and Latin America. With the strong support of our regional presidents, we formed a global sustainability committee and a global carbon reduction committee. Membership is varied across functional areas and included human resources, marketing, sourcing, facilities, retail, finance and product development. Participants are nominated by their regional president based on their contribution to the company’s sustainability efforts and/or their interest in the topic. Another way we engaged internal stakeholders was by holding extensive feedback sessions with representatives from different functional areas about the respective goals to ensure that they would be able to successfully implement initiatives and provide data that would be useful and practical when demonstrating progress. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. For example, when we first set a product-related goal, we recommended establishing a target percentage of sustainable materials across our product lines. As we engaged the design and sourcing teams, it became clear that the target percentage was distracting us from the intent of the goal to increase our use of sustainable materials. There were endless ways to define that number, and we would need to spend significant time determining how to measure it. Rather than significantly delaying the goal-setting process, we decided to develop the quantitative target as part of measurement process. Now that the goals have been announced, we are actively working with marketing, design and sourcing to clearly define how we will demonstrate progress against our goal to increase the use of materials with sustainable credentials in all our products and packaging to lessen our impact on the environment. The global carbon reduction committee was involved in the process of choosing the environmental consulting firm, reviewing proposals, meeting with the candidates and making a final recommendation to work with IEc. The individual committee members, along with others, also provided feedback on the data-collection process. We shared both the results and the credit with everyone who was part of the process. This extensive stakeholder engagement meant that the process took two years from launching the materiality assessment to announcing the strategy. I am proud Samsonite has a sustainability approach that everyone can feel ownership of, and ultimately all of us are invested in its successful implementation. The world has changed a lot over the past two years, and especially during the past six months. Sustainability is increasingly important to consumers as more and more, we recognize the impact of our behaviors and consumption habits on the environment. I am proud that Samsonite has developed an ESG strategy that aligns with my personal and professional commitments and with Samsonite’s ethos, the “Golden Rule,” which guides how we treat each other and care for the world we live in. Pull Quote Our CEO and the Samsonite leadership team wholeheartedly supported the initiative and even encouraged us to up-level some key goals in order to truly lead the industry in sustainability. The directive was to expand the company’s ambition and further incentivize continuous innovation. The resulting set of goals better reflect Samsonite’s vision and its ambition. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The interior of a Samsonite facility. Courtesy of Samsonite Close Authorship

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Climate crisis could turn the Amazon rainforest to savanna

October 6, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Nature Communications indicates that the Amazon rainforest could shift from a closed canopy rainforest to an open savanna due to the climate crisis. The study shows that the rate of deforestation coupled with forest fires sparked by climate change could significantly change the status of the rainforest in the future. According to the researchers, rainforests are very sensitive to changes in rainfall. If they experience prolonged droughts and fires like the ones recently witnessed in the Amazon , they may lose more trees and become more like a savanna. Although scientists have always known that this was possible, it was thought that such changes were decades away. The new study, led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, now indicates that the changes are much closer than initially anticipated. Related: You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch Almost 40% of the Amazon is already receiving less rainfall than usual and is at the point where it could exist as a savanna instead of a rainforest . While the researchers say that the process of fully changing the forest to savanna would take decades, they also say that once the process starts, it is nearly irreversible. “Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Arie Staal, lead author of the study, told The Guardian . If the Amazon rainforest changes to a savanna, there would be dangerous consequences. Rainforests are important because they support a huge number of species and absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If the rainforest changes, much of the plant and animal species here could be lost. The problems experienced by rainforests like the Amazon are exacerbated by harmful policies. For instance, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has made promises to develop the Amazon , a move that has been criticized by many. This year, the Amazon has experienced a 60% increase in fire hotspots compared to 2019. The study now warns that if such fires continue, the rainforest could be permanently altered. + Nature Communications Via The Guardian Image via Jose Eduardo Camargo

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Haeckels delivers zero-waste skincare with Bio Restore Membrane

August 31, 2020 by  
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Skincare products often get a bad rap for negatively impacting the environment. From plastic packaging to chemical ingredients, they may help skin but put a heavy burden on the planet. Until now. Haeckels has developed a zero-waste option that solves both the waste issue and those under-eye bags. Called Bio Restore Membrane, this under-eye mask is created using a base of jellied algae called agar, which is then combined with aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, cucumber and witch hazel. These ingredients are specially selected to be all-natural while working to plump, soothe and hydrate the delicate under-eye area. Once the ingredients are blended, the science really kicks in as the mixture sits for three weeks, growing like yeast-fueled dough. Then the liquid concoction is dehydrated and laser-cut, creating a one-month supply of 18 masks. The company states that frequent use produces the most consistent results and suggests applying the water-activated under-eye masks a few times each week and before events. Related: The Haeckels Victorian-style bathing machine has a sauna inside The Bio Restore Membrane is made to order, and customers can track their beauty masks throughout the process, receiving information when the membrane is created and weekly updates regarding its growth. Environmentally speaking, this process confronts several issues within the skincare industry, including waste . Because many products end up in the landfill due to overproduction, the made-to-order platform eliminates excess product on the shelf. In addition, both the product and the packaging are zero-waste. The membrane will biodegrade after use and disposal. The same is true for the compostable glassine sack in which the masks are shipped. Plus, the company is committed to carbon-neutral shipping. This isn’t the first time Haeckels has shown its innovative capabilities. The wellness brand recently won a Wallpaper* Design Award for its mycelium and seed-paper packaging. + Haeckels Via Wallpaper* Images via Haeckels

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Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

August 31, 2020 by  
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Approximately 40  dolphins have been reported dead  in an area affected by an oil spill from a Japanese ship. The ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef on the southern tip of Mauritius in July. According to Nature , the ship was ferrying approximately 3,900 metric tons of oil, of which 1,000 metric tons spilled into the ocean. Officials in Mauritius have confirmed the death of 40 dolphins in the area at the time of writing. The deaths come just one month after the spill, sparking speculations that the dolphins have died because of the spill. Although there is no official evidence linking the deaths of the dolphins and the oil spill, several organizations are stepping in to ensure that there is transparency in analyzing the deaths. Related: Lapsed fishing moratorium endangers Amazon river dolphins Since the oil spill on August 6, there have been cleanup efforts in progress. Unfortunately, Mauritius was not prepared for such a catastrophe, and efforts to clean up the oil have been slow. According to Jacqueline Sauzier, president of the nonprofit Mauritius Marine Conservation Society in Phoenix, the organization has been helping with the cleanup in collaboration with other local organizations. On Monday, August 24, Greenpeace Africa and Japan joined a local organization, Dis Moi, in writing a joint letter to the Government of Mauritius calling for transparency. The organizations are urging the Mauritius government to speed up the process of analyzing the dead dolphins to determine their deaths. “The ocean is part of who we are. The whole country including coastal communities depend on its health,” said Vijay Naraidoo, co-directory of Dis Moi. “That is why many Mauritians woke up anguished and afraid that the oil spill may be killing it. Such biodiversity loss is an ominous development for what might come as a result of the oil spill.” As of Friday, August 28, Mauritius had reported that about 75% of the spill had been cleaned. The UN along with several countries, including France, Japan and the U.K, are offering Mauritius a helping hand to ensure that the spill is completely cleared out. + Nature + Greenpeace Via Reuters Image via Mokshanand Sunil Dowarkasing and Shav via Greenpeace

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Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

How to properly freeze fresh produce

August 4, 2020 by  
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If you’ve ever wished you could have a taste of your summer garden in the dead of winter, bought a little too much at the farmers market because it was all so beautiful or took advantage of that amazing bargain at the grocery store and ended up with more fruit than you can eat, you need to know how to properly freeze fresh produce so you can enjoy it later. Plus, preserving these items is a great way to reduce food waste . Many fruits and veggies can be frozen and stored so they retain their crisp, fresh taste for many months. That means you can keep on enjoying all your garden favorites all through the year. Before you freeze Before you freeze any produce, thoroughly wash it and examine it for any spoiled areas. You should only freeze ripe, unspoiled, clean produce . If you have large pieces of produce, such as whole ears of corn, you can chop them up into more manageable pieces before you begin the freezing process. Remember, everything you want to freeze has to fit inside storage containers that can fit inside your freezer. Related: 8 tips to keep your summer fruits and vegetables fresher for longer For most produce, you’ll also want to remove extras like husks and stems . Peppers need to have the seeds removed before you freeze them. Once everything is cleaned and the extras are removed, you can begin the process of properly freezing produce. Prepare your veggies To lock in the fresh flavor and crispness of vegetables , you have to pre-treat them before they’re ready to be frozen. First, blanch your veggies. That means you need to briefly dip them in boiling water and then immediately place them in ice water. This preserves the fresh taste and actually helps them freeze more effectively. The vegetables must be completely dry before you freeze them. Spread the blanched, dried vegetables out evenly on a sheet pan, and allow it all to freeze completely like this before you place vegetables in a storage container. Otherwise, everything will end up frozen together. Fill a storage container completely, packing it as tightly as you can. Air is the enemy of all frozen food, so do your best not to leave any extra space. Use freezer bags (check out reusable silicone options) or airtight containers. If the container is airtight, your vegetables will stay edible and maintain their flavor for about 18 months. Write the freeze date on your storage container or freezer bag so you know when you placed your vegetables in the freezer. Freezing fruits It can be a little tricky to freeze fruits, which naturally turn brown over time. To prevent your frozen fruits from browning, steam them first for about two minutes. You can also sprinkle a little ascorbic acid and water over fruits prior to freezing. All fruits should be spread out on a baking sheet and frozen before being placed in storage containers. Berries can be frozen whole in most cases. Larger fruits, such as peaches, should be cut into slices before they’re frozen. You should also remove unnecessary parts of the fruits, such as the stems on strawberries and the pits in cherries. Choose wisely No matter how careful your process is, there are simply some fruits and vegetables that freeze better than others. Corn and peas both freeze beautifully and last for a long time when they’re frozen properly. Onions and peppers also freeze incredibly well, whether they’re chopped or whole. But there is some produce that simply doesn’t freeze well. No matter how careful you are, these veggies will end up mushy and lose their flavor. Celery, endive, lettuce , cabbage, watercress, cucumbers and radishes naturally have a very high water content already. When these items are frozen and dethawed, you’ll end up with a slushy mess. Citrus fruits of all kinds also don’t freeze well. They can be frozen, but they only remain edible for about three months. Other produce can be frozen and eaten for up to 18 months, so this is a huge difference. Still, this can buy you a bit more time to use up these fruits instead of letting them go to waste. Bananas are the easiest of all fruits to freeze and store, because you can simply throw them as they are in the freezer. The peels will turn brown. But inside that frozen peel, the banana will stay fresh and tasty. Freezing fresh produce Once you know how to freeze fresh produce to preserve the taste for months into the future, you can get as much as you want from the farmers market, expand your summer garden and take advantage of that amazing berry sale at the grocery store whenever you want. Take the time to freeze your produce properly, and you’ll get to enjoy the taste of freshness time and time again, all while minimizing food waste. Images via Naturfreund_pics , LeoNeoBoy and Sosinda

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How to properly freeze fresh produce

How one company is planning to Redefine Meat

July 27, 2020 by  
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Veggie burgers have been around for years. If you have any vegetarian or vegan friends, you’ve seen them eating their sprouts or maybe even tasted some of their flavored soy. If you hated it, you’re not alone. Lots of people have tasted those frozen veggie burgers and gagged, especially the ones made years ago. But changes are coming. The meatless market has exploded recently, and big changes have rocked this trend. Meat alternatives taste so good these days, you can even get them at restaurants and fast food chains. What’s the next step in this revolution? Steaks. One company is hoping to Redefine Meat…and it may just succeed. Is beef bad? Many people are turning to meatless options, because beef is incredibly bad for the environment. The huge cattle farms, slaughterhouses and related meat industry businesses create big problems for our planet. That’s why Redefine Meat hopes to change the game. Related: What do Americans think about fake meat products There are about 1 billion cows being raised for beef and dairy on the planet right at this moment. These cows drink more water than all the humans on the planet combined and produce more pollution than all of the cars on the roads. To gain 1 pound of meat, cows must consume about 7 pounds of feed — grains that could be used to feed humans. That’s not a very efficient use of food, is it? When you start to think about the environmental impact of the meat market, plant-based options are probably starting to look a whole lot better. Thanks to companies like Redefine Meat, those plant-based options are starting to taste much better, too. Redefining a favorite Redefine Meat is using 3D-printing to create plant-based “Alt-Steaks” that look and taste just as amazing as the real thing. It’s an ambitious undertaking. Mimicking the texture and taste of beef is so difficult, companies have only recently mastered the process well enough to get meatless options into fast food chains. Any meat-eater knows that there’s a world of difference between the taste and texture of steak as compared to ground beef. It’s way easier to fake ground beef than it is to fake a juicy steak — isn’t it? Steak is marbled with fat, which gives it that wonderful texture that meat-eaters love. It’s an entirely different texture and flavor profile than what you’ll get with a standard burger. But Redefine Meat is using 3D-printer technology to copy the texture and flavor of real, marbled meat. The company’s goal is to perfect and speed up the process of creating plant-based steaks so they will be even cheaper than real meat. The 3D-printing revolution 3D-printing is starting to be applied to all sorts of industries in amazing ways that were unthinkable just 10 years ago. This technology is already being used to manufacture athletic shoes, airplane parts and medical devices. Redefine Meat is using 3D-printing to recreate the muscles and fat found in real meats to give plant-based meats the same texture and taste as beef without all of the environmental problems that are associated with the meat industry. Redefine Meat’s Alt-Steak has no cholesterol and a 95% smaller environmental impact than the exact same amount of meat. “The importance of using precision 3D printing technology to achieve texture, color and flavor — and the combinations between them — cannot be overstated,” said Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, CEO and co-founder of Redefine Meat. “By using separate formulations for muscle, fat and blood, we can focus on each individual aspect of creating the perfect Alt-Steak product. This is unique to our 3D printing technology and lets us achieve unprecedented control of what happens inside the matrix of alt-meat. Collaborating with an industry-leader like Givaudan has led to the creation of an Alt-Steak product that is not only healthy and sustainable, but also offers the satisfying flavors, textures and aromas of eating actual meat.” Transforming plants into steak might sound like science-fiction, but it is an innovative approach to shaking up the meat industry. Companies like Redefine Meat are hoping to change the way people think about meat. Because when a steak from a plant can taste just as good as a steak from a cow, why not choose the option that is better for the planet? As the meatless revolution continues, options like this will become more and more available. Perhaps soon, the “meat” industry will be completely plant-based. + Redefine Meat Via Core77 Images via Redefine Meat , René Schindler and Lutz Peter

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