Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration

June 15, 2020 by  
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Inside Cargill’s experiment to pay farmers for carbon sequestration Heather Clancy Mon, 06/15/2020 – 00:15 Over the past year, agricultural commodities giant Cargill stepped up its global sustainability initiatives substantially, with a series of programs created to support its science-based target of reducing supply chain emissions by 30 percent by 2030.  Like many other food companies, it’s dedicating resources to promoting regenerative agricultural practices among the farmers and seeking ways that farms can profit from their efforts to sequester carbon dioxide. That’s the backstory behind its relationship with the Soil & Water Outcomes Fund , a program intended to support farmers who design and implement initiatives aimed at improving water quality and mitigating flooding and runoff, increasing carbon sequestration, reducing emissions from on-farm operations, and creating or protecting habitat. These include practices such as planting cover crops, reducing tillage and preserving edge-of-field wilderness buffers or wetland. The effort, which includes close to 10,000 acres in the pilot phase this year across 15 farms in Iowa, is administered by the Iowa Soybean Association , promoting the idea with members and advising them on best practices; and investment firm Quantified Ventures , helping with cost-benefit analyses and other operational aspects of the effort, including fundraising. The goal is to include up to 100,000 acres in Iowa next year and expand into at least two more states, according to the companies managing the program. They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Progress against a farm’s individual carbon removal or water stewardship efforts will be measured using COMET-FARM , a carbon reporting and accounting system developed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Division and Colorado State University. “[Farmers] come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do,” said Adam Kiel, director of conservation and external programs at Iowa Soybean. Farmers will be paid between $30 and $45 per acre this season, depending on the outcomes. The metrics for success are being defined by the fund in collaboration with local municipalities that feel the downstream effects of agricultural activities within their watersheds. To be clear, the program isn’t limited to soybean operations but it does require that the approaches being adopted are additive or new — farmers won’t be rewarded for regenerative practices that were already in place. The program started specifically to address water quality measures but evolved to embrace the broader carbon sequestration mandate.     Cargill’s role is twofold: Not only is it encouraging farmers to participate as way of helping address its Scope 3 emissions, it also will buy carbon credits through the fund on an annual basis. “The innovative nature of this program was compelling,” said Ryan Sirolli, director of row crop sustainability at Cargill. While Cargill is the only named company participating in the new fund, Mark Lambert, director of Quantified Ventures, said it is in discussion with other large companies. “We want a diversity of customers,” he said. “We see a variety of opportunities to support sustainability goals.” What does success look like? A program that touches “millions” of acres, he said. Given the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across the global food system , it’s more important than ever to help farmers reap the financial benefits of investing in a more sustainable approach, Sirolli said. “Agriculture is getting absolutely hammered right now,” he said. Aside from this specific effort, Cargill is a founding member of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, which seeks to create a national marketplace by 2020. “We would love to see customers, competitors, others saying, ‘I would love to be in this space,’” Sirolli said. This isn’t the only carbon marketplace scheme in the works — and the model is raising questions about how actions are measured and verified. Startup Indigo Ag, backed by companies including recent investor FedEx , for example, is planning to pay farmers based on how much carbon they have stored in their soil — it collects soil samples to that end. Software company Nori, another rising player, is using blockchain to manage the transactions. An important actor Cargill’s influence on transforming to a more sustainable food system cannot be underestimated — it employs 160,000 people in 70 countries. The footprint of its sustainability activities, detailed in its latest sustainability report published in early June, is extensive. Among some notable highlights of its work: Using digital technologies and barcodes, the company can trace 50 percent of its “sustainable cocoa beans” supply from farm to factory; it’s also using mapping services, which will be important for identifying regions where forests are at risk. The company has reduced its “aggregated gross CO2 reduction” related to its maritime vessels — it owns an ocean fleet of over 600 vessels — by 800,000 metric tons. It’s also working closely with the Global Maritime Forum.  It’s “on track” to eliminate deforestation related to commercial palm concessions in its “third-party supply chain” by the end of 2020.  Cargill also has completed a Brazilian supply chain mapping exercise related to building “deforestation-free” supply chains for soybeans. Earlier this year at GreenBiz 20, Cargill CSO Ruth Kimmelshue acknowledged that progress to protect forests has been tougher within the soy supply chain than it has been for cocoa or palm oil. The company’s overall pledge has been to halve deforestation within its supply chains by the end of 2020 and to eliminate it entirely by 2030. Pull Quote They come to us with a program. We analyze and pay them on a tiered approach depending on what they do. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Natural Climate Solutions Carbon Removal Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now

June 6, 2020 by  
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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now William Ginn Sat, 06/06/2020 – 02:00 This is an excerpt from ” Valuing Nature ” by William J. Ginn. Copyright 2020 William J. Ginn. Reproduced here with permission from Island Press, Washington, D.C.  Resistance to change is universal. For example, despite more than 30 years of good science and best practices that support conservation agriculture in the United States, less than 5 percent of U.S. soy, wheat, and corn farmers use cover crops, and only 25 percent have adopted crop rotation and conservation tillage practices, even though the country is losing more than 10 billion tons of soil each year as well as more than $50 billion in social and environmental benefits. One challenge is the increasing percentage of farms owned by investors who lease land year to year to the highest bidder, which gives farmers little incentive to invest in conservation practices that might take years to be fully realized. Nevertheless, [The Nature Conservancy (TNC)], along with a consortium of farmers’ groups and a contingent of seed and fertilizer companies, has set a goal of getting half of the country’s wheat, soy, and corn crops into conservation tillage by [2025] (PDF). To achieve this goal, the same kind of incentives, extension services, and creative financial mechanisms being advocated for in the developing world are going to be needed in the United States too. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Although big-picture interventions are often understood in theory, the capacity of farmers to implement these solutions on the ground is often quite limited. Nearly everywhere these challenges exist, we need to dramatically increase the number of intermediaries who can help farmers through the difficult but necessary transition to new cropping and livestock-raising systems. It is all high-risk business, and as such, it is not always successful. Several years ago, TNC entered into an agreement with an agricultural consulting company in Argentina with the objective of helping farmers improve sheep-grazing practices. Years of overgrazing had left the region’s grasslands substantially degraded; in fact, at one point in the early years of Patagonia’s colonization, more than 45 million sheep roamed free. Today, the region is home to between 5 million and 8 million sheep, but even that number may be too many. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. The restoration plan, called the Patagonia Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard, or GRASS for short, incorporated conservation science, planning, and monitoring into the management plans of wool producers. The idea was not new: rather than grazing sheep in one place continually, they are moved in and out of different pastures depending on the conditions of the grasses. This practice encourages more diversity of native grass species and expanded yields from the revitalized pastures. Done well, ranchers, sheep, native plants, and animals can thrive together. But what motivates ranchers to make these investments in better management and fencing? The basic business idea of GRASS was to improve management practices on ranches and produce a certified wool product that would attract buyers willing to pay more for sustainably grown wool. The program attracted two early adopters, Patagonia, Inc ., a brand committed to sourcing their raw materials sustainably, and Stella McCartney , a high-end clothing manufacturer and daughter of Paul McCartney. Prior to this venture, both companies had been buying their wool primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but for Patagonia in particular, a shift to sourcing from Argentina provided a nice opportunity for alignment with their brand. Dozens of ranches signed up to participate, and many saw measurable yield improvements, even though the initial wool purchases were small. Despite the program’s early successes, the program became unraveled when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released video footage of alleged animal abuse occurring at some of the ranches. As chief conservation officer of TNC at the time, I can say that I was not very happy with these practices, but I thought some of the allegations were overblown. For example, PETA considers docking tails of sheep to be inhumane, yet it is long-standing practice that arguably improves the health of animals. Nevertheless, both Patagonia and Stella McCartney abruptly ended their contracts with GRASS, and without a market partner, the program has failed to scale to a commercial model. Although any improvement in grazing is useful, the expected impact across the landscape now seems a distant objective. Because feeding the world is an absolute imperative, farmers, investors, and aid organizations continue their quests for new models of sustainable intensification that will both feed more people and restore the soils and hydrological systems that are essential to agriculture. Providing capital in a way that reaches the hundreds of millions of small farmers across the globe as well as the necessary skills and technical expertise is a challenge that will remain for years, but business opportunities abound. Our shared natural assets — soil, water, and a stable climate — will only increase in value as the world demands more food. Pull Quote Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Topics Corporate Strategy Food & Agriculture Biodiversity Books Food & Agriculture Conservation Conservation Finance Collective Insight GreenBiz Reads Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flock of sheep in Patagonia, Chile. Shutterstock gg-foto Close Authorship

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Earth School offers kids interesting science lessons online

June 3, 2020 by  
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Kids stuck at home due to coronavirus have another opportunity for quality online learning. Earth School, a collaboration between TED-Ed (TED’s youth and education initiative) and the United Nations’ Environment Programme, is releasing 30 short videos to teach children about connections between nature and many aspects of society. The videos started dropping on Earth Day , April 22. Since then, the collaborators have released one video daily. The last video will be posted on June 5, World Environment Day. The videos will remain online and can be viewed consecutively or randomly. Related: Take a virtual dive with NOAA More than 30 organizations helped create the videos. The World Wildlife Fund, National Geographic and BBC contributed high-quality video footage, articles and digital interactive resources. The 30 video lessons fall into six categories: The Nature of Our Stuff, The Nature of Society, The Nature of Nature, The Nature of Change, The Nature of Individual Action and The Nature of Collective Action. The producers designed them to appeal to science-curious kids with topics like the lifecycle of a T-shirt, whether we should eat bugs, where does water come from and tracking grizzly bears from space. A press release stated the program’s three goals: to help kids and parents sort through a myriad of options to find a solid, reliable science source; to keep kids interested in nature even while they’re stuck inside; and to ease the load of harried parents who suddenly find themselves in charge of their kids’ education 24/7. Watching these videos will help children understand their roles as future stewards of our troubled planet. The last two weeks of instruction offer concrete ways kids can improve the world individually and collectively. As the press release explains, “We aim to inspire the awe and wonder of nature in Earth School students and help them finish the program with a firm grasp of how deeply intertwined we are with the planet.” + Earth School Image via Lukas

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Off-grid cabins in Brazil offer remote eco getaway

June 3, 2020 by  
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While some people may find social distancing a bit inconvenient, others may have found a new way to live — and vacation. For those who are looking to continue to enjoy solitude, but in an amazingly natural landscape, Brazilian firm  Arquitetura Rural  has just unveiled two off-grid  eco cabins  located deep in a very remote Brazilian forest. Both of the eco cabins were designed for a sustainable farm located in the remote Brazilian region of Rio do Coco. The region is known for its lush forest landscape, meandering river and stunning wildlife. To better accommodate nature lovers to the area, the EcoAraguaia Farm of The Future tasked the team from Arquitetura Rural with designing two  solar-powered  eco cabins that would fit in harmony with the surroundings. Related: Embrace sustainable travel in this solar-powered A-frame cabin The first cabin, the OCA, is 904 square meters. Inspired by indigenous Brazilian architecture, the cabin is a two-story rounded volume with open sides. Made out of  sustainably-sourced local wood  from a native Brazilian tree called Cumaru, the cabin is set off the ground on stilts to protect the landscape and encourage natural ventilation and temperature control. The interior of the space, which features a large open layout, is clad in teak wood. The cabin’s roof is covered in natural palm tree fibers, which also offer optimal protection from inclement weather and provide shade for the interior spaces. The second  cabin design , the TABA, is the smaller of the two. At just 322 square feet, the cabin can accommodate up to two people. However, the farm plans to build several modules of the TABA, all connected by an elevated wooden deck. The cabin design features two large windows, which frame the incredible views. Built by local craftsmen, both of the cabins will operate completely  off-grid . Water used in the cabin is pumped from the local river, called Rio do Coco. Energy is generated by solar panels, which generate sufficient power while the sun is shining. At night, the cabins are illuminated by candles and lamps, which apart from saving energy, also keep the curious wildlife such as jaguars, howler monkeys and birds at bay. The cabins are also installed with green sanitation systems designed to operate on a zero-waste output. There is a special composting mechanism that turns  organic waste  into compost, which is then used as fertilizer for growing food. This system is used to care for the farm’s organic banana trees and papaya and sweet potato plants. + Arquitetura Rural Images via Arquitetura Rural

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How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circularity

May 12, 2020 by  
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How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circularity Katrina Shum Tue, 05/12/2020 – 01:30 This article is part of our Paradigm Shift series, produced by nonprofit PYXERA Global, on the diverse solutions driving the transition to a circular economy. See the full collection of stories and upcoming webinars with the authors  here . Commerce as we know it is going through a rapid evolution. The convergence of new technology, emerging social platforms, constrained natural resources and the evolving values of each new generation is changing the way we do business — whether it’s the sharing economy, the rise of products as a service or the retail shopping experience itself. But the accelerated growth of the retail industry has come at a cost. There’s no doubt about it — we are in the midst of a plastic pollution crisis. We’ve all seen the viral images of turtles with straws stuck up their noses, or whales washed up with bellies full of plastic bags. And one of the biggest contributors to this plastic crisis is the space we operate in: the cosmetics industry. By nature, cosmetics packaging is small and intricate, made up of many parts that are difficult to clean after use, resulting in the majority of this packaging going directly into landfills. Consider that the cosmetics industry brings in a booming $500 billion every year and imagine the waste created by default. But it doesn’t have to be like this. As businesses, we can manufacture and sell products with no packaging, create closed-loop recycling systems and collaborate with suppliers to create innovative solutions for reducing waste — all while thriving. A family-owned and operated bath and beauty business, Lush began as a single storefront in Poole, England in 1995. With no money for fancy wrapping or individual molds, Lush co-founders Mark and Mo Constantine would hand-pour soap into upcycled drain pipes or lunch pails, then cut slices for customers to order. These humble beginnings ignited a continual cycle of innovation that has driven the brand forward for more than 30 years and continues today with the evolution of more “naked” products that require no packaging at all. As a vertically integrated business at Lush, we’re in a unique position to embed our values and zero-waste philosophy throughout our value chain. The global packaging industry is set to reach over $1 trillion by 2021. What if businesses invested that money into the products themselves rather than what is wrapped around them? The waste hierarchy is well known, yet we struggle as businesses to follow it — pushing blame on cost or customer convenience. How do we start with refuse, rethink and redesign in our products and packaging, before we step down the hierarchy? How can we tackle reuse and recycle in a way that is both meaningful and impactful? Designing for sustainability and zero waste can be challenging with multiple stakeholders and competing interests throughout the lifecycle of a product. Who designs the product may be different from who makes it, who sells it or how it’s used. Different business models and organizational structures can be conducive to supporting zero-waste, closed-loop goals. As a vertically integrated business at Lush, we’re in a unique position to embed our values and zero-waste philosophy throughout our value chain. We still invent our own products, manage our own supply chains, grow some of our own raw materials, own and operate our manufacturing and distribution facilities and run our own retail shops. Now in 49 countries around the world, Lush has the creativity and agility — along with a strong base of customers who share our values — to push boundaries, innovate, make mistakes, learn, evolve and bring to market packaging-free products that prove what is possible. As businesses that bring products and packaging into our customers’ homes, the private sector has a responsibility to think about how we lead the transition toward zero-waste living. Whether you work in product innovation, packaging or marketing, we each have an opportunity to change the habits and the dialogue in society around waste in our everyday living. Over recent years, we have significantly expanded our naked or packaging-free range by reformulating products to reduce their water content, resulting in solid versions of products such as shampoo, shower gels, body lotions and toothpaste. We invented our shampoo bars back in the late 1980s and in the last five years alone we have sold over 6.5 million shampoo bars in North America, saving 19.4 million plastic bottles from being produced. That’s about 535 tons of plastic avoided, or about the weight of five blue whales. With a growing range of naked products came an opportunity to evolve a new retail experience with the rollout of Naked Shops in Milan, Berlin, Hong Kong and Manchester. Naked Shops are our way to re-imagine what a store without any packaging could look like. How do you list ingredients without a label? How does the customer find directions on how to use the product? Leveraging technology, we have developed the Lush Lens App, which allows customers to use their phones to scan products and get the typical information they would find on a physical label, along with engaging and interactive content about the ingredients and stories behind them. Moving down the waste hierarchy is reduce, reuse and then recycle. When it comes to packaging, reduce and reuse can present simple cost savings. Reducing the thickness of bottles or minimizing the use of unnecessary packaging can reduce the cost of resin and materials. Promoting reuse options such as reusable containers or reusable giftwrap can generate initial revenue and help reduce packaging costs if we set up the means for them to be properly reused. When it comes to recycling, businesses can affect the larger systems level by sourcing post-consumer recycled content (PCR). Generating significant demand and putting our dollars toward PCR content rather than virgin resources provides the market signals and funds necessary to support all players in the recycling and processing of those materials. For the products that do still require packaging at Lush, we have been sourcing 100 percent PCR content for all our plastics and 100 percent recycled paper for over a decade. Our buyers have had firsthand conversations with paper mills about the real struggles of keeping the recycled content supply chain in operation; they have heard these conversations evolve over the years without adequate demand for PCR content. We have worked for over a decade to find, connect and support suppliers and processors throughout the chain who can source, grind, process and extrude packaging that meets FDA and other quality requirements. As businesses, we can all play a role in supporting a circular economy at the macro level by simply sourcing recycled content. In addition to supporting at the macro level, businesses also have an opportunity to create circular systems for their own packaging and provide customers with a direct and transparent way to ensure their packaging is being properly processed and recycled or repurposed into new items. Lush started the Black Pot program in 2008 when global recycling rates were very low. Through this program, customers can bring back five empty black pots from any of our products in exchange for a free face mask. Black pots, the packaging for some of our haircare, skincare and shower products, returned by customers are shipped back to our factories where they are consolidated and sent to be chipped, washed, pelletized and remolded into new black pots. The reverse logistics (the process by which we recapture the value of post-consumer material) for this program has not been easy. It challenged us to rethink our black pot supply chain that had been set up in Asia. Through many conversations, we developed meaningful partnerships with local processors in Vancouver and Toronto, located within hours of our factories where our products are made. By fostering these relationships, we were able to localize our supply chain and keep our black pot recycling program within North America. With limited promotion, the program currently has a 17 percent return rate, which allows each new black pot to be made with roughly 10 percent resin from old pots and the remainder from 100 percent PCR resin. In addition to customer-facing programs, businesses also have an opportunity to initiate waste reduction and circularity programs upstream with their network of suppliers. As we have been tackling zero-waste goals in our manufacturing and distribution facilities at Lush, we recognized the need to engage our suppliers in reducing the amount of unnecessary packaging materials they send into our facilities. Including packaging questions in traditional supplier surveys and focusing on reuse opportunities with local suppliers is a good place to start. Over the past few years, we have found various reduction opportunities by simply initiating conversations with suppliers and sharing our zero waste goals. We’ve eliminated the soft plastic baggies that used to cover each of our reusable metal shampoo and lotion containers, we have worked with suppliers on larger volume containers to eliminate many smaller containers, and we’ve successfully tested a few reuse programs with local suppliers. One recent win was a cardboard box reuse program with our black pot supplier. Through our annual waste audits, we noticed that cardboard was 47 to 55 percent of the discarded material being generated in two of our production rooms. Our cardboard box reuse program allows us to reuse boxes an average of five times, saving roughly 9,000 kilograms of cardboard annually with the potential for 17,000-plus kilograms more. While reducing cardboard may not look good in the way companies typically calculate and communicate waste diversion percentages, reducing the overall discarded materials is the right thing to do and has encouraged us to rethink how we measure and value true waste reduction and reuse efforts. At Lush, we look to nature for inspiration. Similar to keystone species within larger ecosystems, we see the opportunity to be a catalyst for change and have a disproportionately positive impact on our industry to transform bathroom habits and routines around the world. Whether it’s working with our network of suppliers or bringing packaging-free products to market, as businesses we can all have a positive ripple effect in all that we do — in the decisions we make, the ingredients we put into our products, the people we do business with and the voices and values we amplify. In truth, it’s not the easy way. But if all of us use our business influence for good to raise awareness about waste issues, challenge industry working groups and support advancement of government policies, then we collectively can have a much greater positive impact on creating a cleaner, more sustainable world. T o learn more from the leaders of the circular economy transition, visit  PYXERA Global . Pull Quote As a vertically integrated business at Lush, we’re in a unique position to embed our values and zero-waste philosophy throughout our value chain. Topics Circular Economy Design & Packaging Supply Chain Paradigm Shift Cosmetics Circular Packaging Supplier Engagement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Lush Close Authorship

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Episode 190: Ambition, angst and action at Climate Week, Danone CEO prioritizes biodiversity

September 27, 2019 by  
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Tune in for a recap of news and conversations during more than 300 events linked to the UN General Assembly. Plus inside PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Program and a peek into Engie Impact.

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Episode 190: Ambition, angst and action at Climate Week, Danone CEO prioritizes biodiversity

Endangered green and loggerhead turtles make Mediterranean comeback

August 17, 2018 by  
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For 10,000 years, green and loggerhead turtles have been nesting on the Mediterranean coast of Cyprus. In the last 100 years, they have been hunted to the brink of extinction. Thankfully, due to pioneering conservation efforts made by Cypriot marine biologists, these endearing reptiles have seen a promising bounce-back in numbers, pulling them away from the brink of extinction. Related: Turtle hatchlings spotted on Mumbai beach for the first time in nearly 20 years For thousands of years, the turtles have hatched on Cyprus’s Lara Beach, fighting the waves as they make their way to the ocean and begin their lives. The reptiles return 20 to 30 years later to lay eggs and bring about the next generation of turtle hatchlings. This phenomenon is a result of the turtles’ own biological programming, which calls them back to the same beaches that their ancestors chose long ago. Conservationists have been working tirelessly to save the endangered green and loggerhead turtle populations for four decades. Their efforts began in 1978, when only 300 turtle nests remained on Cyprus’s shores. The result is “quite spectacular,” according to Andreas Demetropoulos, founder and co-head of a turtle conservation program overseen by Cyprus’s Fisheries and Marine Research Department. His program reported approximately 1,100 nests last year alone, over three times as many as there were at the program’s beginning. Related: Sea turtles appear to be “bouncing back” from the brink of extinction The green and loggerhead turtles only nest in two countries, Turkey and Cyprus. Of the 1,500 egg-laying female green turtles, approximately 200-300 return to Cyprus to lay their eggs. More than twice as many loggerhead turtles do the same. To protect them, Cyprus’s government began its conservation program long before any other EU country, and in 1989 it passed legislation that protected two beaches that the turtles use as hatching grounds. Prior to this, residents would use the beach without regard for the turtles, but in the intervening years a conservationist culture has arisen. According to the program’s other co-head, Myroula Hadjichristophorou, “When people come [to the beaches] with their families, their children, they see the babies coming out of their nests, this is something that they will never forget.” + Sea Turtle Organization Via Phys.org

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Hefty EnergyBag Program: Keeping Plastics out of Landfills

August 3, 2018 by  
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When China’s plastic ban went into effect in January of … The post Hefty EnergyBag Program: Keeping Plastics out of Landfills appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Vegan Dining Trend Inspires Fresh Vocational Program

July 31, 2018 by  
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Some students training for work in the food industry want … The post Vegan Dining Trend Inspires Fresh Vocational Program appeared first on Earth911.com.

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How to Start an Office Recycling Program

January 25, 2018 by  
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Launching an office recycling program may seem like a monumental … The post How to Start an Office Recycling Program appeared first on Earth911.com.

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