How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform

February 5, 2021 by  
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How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform Jim Giles Fri, 02/05/2021 – 01:00 For more great analysis of sustainable food systems, sign up for Food Weekly , our free email newsletter. I was chatting recently with a veteran strategy wonk about the world’s stuttering progress toward decarbonization. Electricity generation was an early focus. More recently, the transport sector began to move away from fossil fuels. But what about food and ag? Farm-to-fork emissions are on a par with transport and electricity, said the wonk, yet progress has been lamentably slow in comparison. It’s true: Food and ag are late to this party. But I increasingly find myself floored by the rate of progress in these sectors. It’s not uniform by any means — in fact, some food systems players are actively resisting reform. Still, the innovation in technologies, strategies and policies is remarkable. Here are three developments — all just from the past week — that speak to the sometimes dizzying pace of change. The price is (almost) right A couple of years back, I visited a U.S. startup and saw a nugget of chicken meat the team had grown in the lab. I asked if I could try some. No chance, they said. A plateful would cost several hundred dollars. This week, Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli startup, announced it can produce a cultured chicken breast for $7.50 . That’s many multiples more expensive than the chicken in your local supermarket, but it represents an astonishing reduction in price from even just a few years ago. In a 2013 demo, for instance, scientists showed off a lab-grown burger that cost $325,000.  It was an “odd demonstration of one view of the future of food,” the New York Times wrote at the time . Now the idea is no longer odd, and the future is almost here. Future Meat Technologies just raised $27 million in new funding from a roster of big names that includes Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland and S2G Ventures. The company hopes to start pilot production later this year. “We remain very optimistic that alternative protein foods will reach price parity and eventually price superiority with animal proteins over the next few years,” said Zak Weston at the Good Food Institute , a nonprofit that promotes alternative proteins, in response to the announcement. Why does this matter? Animal products are responsible for an outsized proportion of both food system emissions and the land we devote to agriculture. Shifting some production to a lab potentially could lead to big savings on both fronts. Carbon neutral, profit positive Last year, a leading U.S. dairy organization said it would transition the industry to “carbon neutral or better” by 2050. That’s a necessary target, but I found the announcement frustratingly light on specifics. Commitments to change three decades from now don’t mean much without a detailed plan on how to get there. Well, some details were filled in this week — and they’re encouraging. Using data shared by the industry, the Markets Institute at the World Wildlife Fund looked at the potential impact of emission-reductions options available to dairy farmers today, including feed additives that reduce methane-filled bovine burps and the use of digester technology to produce natural gas from manure . Large dairies, concluded WWF , could reach net-zero emissions within five years and generate a return of almost $2 million per farm in the process. That’s remarkable potential for an industry that’s responsible for around 2 percent of U.S. emissions. It’s not going to happen without government help, however. Many dairy operators can’t afford the upfront costs of digesters and can’t easily access renewable subsidies for the natural gas the equipment produces. That’s something the new U.S. administration should look at, which brings us to the week’s third development… Hit the ground running Rewind to before the presidential primaries. Back then, few environmental advocates would have chosen Joe Biden for president or Tom Vilsack, who led the Department of Agriculture under Barack Obama, as his ag secretary. Neither were deemed hawkish enough on climate. It’s true that Biden’s record on climate is muted. One of his trademarks as a politician, however, is his ability to sense the mood of his party. And, rIght now, many Democrats are demanding radical climate action. That’s why Biden’s executive order blitz contains several measures that focus on climate, including one that directs Vilsack to begin consultations on how to spread “climate-smart agricultural practices that produce verifiable carbon reductions and sequestrations.” The results of this process could well be this year’s biggest story in sustainable food. As expected, Vilsack received bipartisan support at his confirmation hearing this week. By some analyses , he has $30 billion at his discretion. That’s more than enough to dramatically accelerate the take-up of regenerative agriculture and, if the practices work as hoped, to begin sequestering carbon in U.S. farmland. I hope that gives a sense of what’s happening in food systems right now. The sector may have been slower than others to respond to climate, but there’s no doubt that things are moving. Pull Quote We remain very optimistic that alternative protein foods will reach price parity and eventually price superiority with animal proteins over the next few years. Topics Food Systems Climate Change Innovation Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Future Meat Technologies, an Israeli startup, can now produce a cultured chicken breast for $7.50 . Photo courtesy of Future Meat

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How the climate crisis is accelerating food systems reform

Biden to replace entire federal fleet with electric vehicles

January 28, 2021 by  
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President Joe Biden has announced his administration’s plans to replace the entire federal fleet with electric vehicles . According to his remarks while signing the “Made in America” executive order, all the new electric cars will be made in the United States. “The federal government also owns an enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean electric vehicles made right here in America , by American workers,” Biden said in an address. Although political campaign promises take time to materialize, this move signals the potential for positive change. Biden’s commitment to changing the way the federal government carries out its transport is a good gesture, in line with his climate agenda . The federal fleet consists of more than 645,000 vehicles, according to the latest Federal Fleet  report . If the promise comes to pass, the government will have to replace approximately 254,000 civilian vehicles , 173,000 military vehicles and 225,000 post office vehicles with electric ones.  Even though Biden has expressed his commitment to the matter, there are no timelines set. The fact that the federal government owns such a large number of vehicles may mean that the process takes several years.  While some of the government vehicles may take time to replace, others are prime for the switch. For instance, the Grumman Long Life Vehicles (LLV) that have been serving the postal service since the 1980s may appreciate a change. Postal service vehicles perform light duties over short distances with many stops; this use pattern perfectly suits electric cars. The announcement comes at a time when Biden has been busy signing several executive orders that could help alleviate the dire climate crisis. On his first day in office, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline permit and started the process of having the U.S. rejoin the Paris Agreement. Biden also set up a team of experts to formulate a comprehensive plan on how to deal with the climate crisis. Despite all this, substantial change remains a wait-and-see game for observers. While replacing all federal vehicles with electric ones might seem ambitious, it is a move that could help the country start cutting its emissions .  Via Electrek Lead image via Gage Skidmore

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Hyper-efficient prefab home hovers above a wetland in Minnesota

January 28, 2021 by  
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Minneapolis-based prefab purveyors Alchemy Architects has completed the Lake Elmo weeHouse, one of the newest additions to its growing portfolio of weeHouses, a series of eco-friendly homes built with the firm’s patented prefabricated housing system. Named after its location in Minnesota, the Lake Elmo weeHouse demonstrates efficient and space-saving design by fitting three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open layout in 990 square feet without compromising a sense of spaciousness or views. The home is elevated above the ground on helical piers embedded 22 feet underground to minimize site impact. Completed in 2019, the Lake Elmo weeHouse was commissioned by clients who split their time between Australia and Minnesota. As a result, the architects wrapped the home in low-maintenance and durable weathering steel as well as black cedar cladding to recede the building into the forested landscape. The simple, boxy design responds to the project’s constraints that include a modest budget as well as a maximum zoning height of 16 feet above the flood plain, which was also a major factor of the project. Related: Alchemy Architects build tiny prefab weeHouses that connect with nature Surrounding views of the forest and the need for privacy from neighboring plots informed the placement of Lake Elmo weeHouse’s many windows, including the full-height glazed doors that slide open to connect the living spaces to a wide, enclosed deck for a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience. A spacious entry porch provides additional elevated outdoor space. Inside, the bright, light-filled interiors provide a striking contrast with the dark, weathered steel facade. A kitchen located in the open-plan heart of the home draws the eye with its silver accents, while a built-in bench provides views of the wetland at the end of the hallway. To minimize visual clutter, mechanical equipment is tucked underneath a trap door in the kitchen. In-floor hydronic heating keeps the home warm and cozy during Minnesota’s long winters.  + Alchemy Architects Photography by Brooks Geenen via Alchemy Architects

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Hyper-efficient prefab home hovers above a wetland in Minnesota

Biden to issue new directives on climate change

January 27, 2021 by  
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President Joe Biden is expected to issue additional executive orders by end of the day today that will kickstart the process of combating climate change . Part of the directives will be an executive order requiring federal agencies to determine how expansive a ban on new oil and gas leasing on federal land should be. Others include preserving 30% of federal lands and waters and making the climate crisis an issue of national security. President Biden campaigned on the promise of turning around the climate situation in the country. The directives to be issued today will mark the beginning of the process. However, even as the president and his team implement measures to combat climate change, experts say that executive orders can only do so much. Related: Biden signs executive order to rejoin Paris Agreement According to Jonathan H. Adler , a law professor at the Case Western Reserve University, the administration will need the goodwill of Congress to get any significant environmental policies in motion. The president has previously said that he has a $2 trillion climate change agenda , which he intends to implement over his tenure. At the moment, Congress is only slightly tilted toward Democrats; however, some of the issues within his agenda may still prove hard to pass. Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, was among the group that delivered Biden’s climate policy blueprint. Profeta said, “The Biden administration can do quite a bit to start to put the country on the right trajectory with its own authorities.” On his first day in office, President Biden signed several executive orders, including ending the Keystone XL pipeline project based on environmental concerns. The new executive directives will now call on agencies to consider how much federal land and waters should be reserved from mining and other economic activities. The president is also expected to sign an order to preserve 30% of federal land by 2030. He could also create a task force focused on reducing emissions nationally, and he is likely to sign an order to make climate change an issue of national security. Via The New York Times Image via Will Myers

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Sneci houseboat leaves no footprint while floating on Lake Tisza

January 27, 2021 by  
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Sneci isn’t your typical summer home, considering it doesn’t even come with a foundation. Then again, a foundation isn’t needed for this floating escape located on Lake Tisza in Hungary. The clients, Réka and Balázs, live in a small apartment in Budapest where they enjoy an active social and professional calendar. But when they went looking for a place to get away from the hum of busy days, they sought out a unique summer experience. That launched the idea of a small houseboat where they could fully immerse themselves into a region they love. The couple took their idea to Hungarian architect Tamás Bene, who said, “As an architect, I found it highly interesting to conceptualise and design a living space that has no tangible groundwork or foundations.” In order to match the houseboat with the area, Bene considered the massive, humanmade lake, which also acts as a nature reserve housing copious wildlife , including over 100 species of birds. With this in mind, Bene said, “We aimed to design a boat capable of assimilating into these surroundings, one that may become part of this scenery.” Related: Rental houseboat in India celebrates fire, water, air and earth elements The design is heavily inspired by traditional fishing boats in the area. Structurally, Sneci is composed of aluminum, which extends to the exterior of the structure with aluminum cladding surrounding the vessel. Complementing this material choice is the heat-treated thermowood that adorns the roof, decking and rear wall. Inside, the comforts of home include a kitchenette with seating that folds down to create a double bed. Natural light flows into the space through a panoramic window, large porthole windows and a sliding door that provides access to the back deck. In a marriage of coziness and natural elements, the interior walls are clad with a combination of redwood and thermowood. The tiny, floating home is powered by two solar panels mounted to the roof. These solar panels provide sufficient off-grid electricity to power the front and rear headlights, interior lighting and a small fridge. + Tamás Bene Via Dezeen Images via Balázs Máté

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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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