The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

December 28, 2020 by  
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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers Holly Secon Mon, 12/28/2020 – 01:30 At GreenBiz, we’ve been reporting on the world of sustainable business for over two decades, but this year has been unlike any other. From an unprecedented pandemic to a global economic downturn to the intensifying impacts of climate change, we can’t say we’ll miss 2020. But there were many valuable lessons learned over the past 12 months.  Some of those can be found in the top GreenBiz stories of the year, as “measured” by reader traffic. While COVID-19 cut through almost all of our coverage — just like it cut through our everyday lives this year — other hopeful stories shined through. GreenBiz readers got excited about climate change solutions that ranged from the new, from the emerging potential of hydrogen as an energy source to changes in plastics manufacturing, to the ancient, such as planting trees. Readers also sought glimmers of hope in this year; you were drawn to stories about COVID-19’s positive impact on air pollution and what the sustainability field can do to be more actively anti-racist and pro-diversity. Without further ado, here are the top 10 most widely read stories and reports from the past 12 months, brought to you by our analysts, editors and other members of the GreenBiz community. And as we look forward to next year, do you have any notes on our coverage — things you want to see more or less of in the upcoming year? Feel free to shoot us an email at editor@greenbiz.com ; we greatly appreciate any and all feedback. 1. Transportation habits are changing drastically. Fleet electrification strategies gained steam throughout the year, with all-electric heavy-duty big rigs, semi-trucks, box trucks, delivery vans and more in the spotlight. Daimler, the largest truck maker in the world, expects to have the 250-mile-range Freightliner eCascadia model in production during 2021. The hottest trend of the year was the electrification of transportation, which is on the precipice of a major upswing: Less than 1 percent of fleet vehicles were electric at the beginning of the year, but that number is expected to grow to 12 percent by 2030.  We named eight of the biggest players in the space so sustainability professionals know what and who to watch out for. From relative giants such as Tesla to newcomers like startup Rivian and Chanje, we stand by this list. READ THE FULL STORY: 8 electric truck and van companies to watch in 2020 .  2. The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders had an unintentionally positive and significant initial impact on air pollution. Over 45 states were under stay-at-home orders at one point in the spring due to the COVID-19 crisis. A resulting drop in regional traffic, along with reduced industrial and commercial activity, led to a significant drop in air-polluting emissions.   These emissions reductions are obviously short-term, unintended consequences of the pandemic. But they show that just as human activities have caused our changing climate and the impacts we’re experiencing today, human activities can also slow and reverse the phenomenon. READ THE FULL STORY: The stunning impact of COVID-19 social distancing on air pollution & To make offices safe during COVID-19, buildings need a breath of fresh air & How coronavirus will affect 4 key environmental issues 3. Clean beauty and fashion are trendy. But the industries need to push beyond recycling. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Lush Close Authorship Some of the biggest contributors to the plastic crisis are the cosmetics and fashion industries.  In the $500 billion-per-year cosmetics space, small-scale packaging leads to large-scale single-use plastic waste. But solutions exist, and we wrote about them. At beauty and hygiene products company Lush, for example, working to implement zero-waste when possible has led to innovation across the board In fashion, similarly, going the extra mile takes an innovative approach. A new technology of this sort, chemical garment-to-garment recycling, was one of your favorite stories of the year.  Investors such as H&M are already forging ahead. READ THE FULL STORY: How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circular processes & Fashion’s latest trend? Why H&M, other big brands are investing in garment recycling 4. What’s next for the chemicals industry amid a growing public backlash against plastics? New types of manufacturing processes with the promise to infinitely reuse plastics. Tupperware’s portable, reusable Tupperware Eco Straw and a new drinking tumbler are both made from a lightweight, phthalate-free circular PP polymer from SABIC. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship SABIC Close Authorship Our story with an inside look into Eastman Chemical’s factory was a hit earlier this year. Eastman is one of the largest U.S. chemical companies, and it has faced criticism in the past few years along with other chemical companies as plastics have grown as an issue in the public’s consciousnesses.  But it claims to have a response to these concerns. That includes two new technologies. Carbon renewal technology, or CRT, breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. Polyester renewal technology, or PRT, involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. In addition, other stories on plastic production piqued readers’ interest. A story about Tupperware’s new sustainable production processes, for example, was one of our most-read articles. Any and all new solutions to the plastics crisis will be welcome in 2021, given that this year has seen record new plastic production thanks to the pandemic. READ THE FULL STORY: Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics & Tupperware inches toward circular processes, one plastic container at a time 5. Planes remain among the most polluting means of transport. Is there a way to reduce their emissions? The largest all-electric plane has just completed a half an hour flight in the United States. Media Authorship MagniX Close Authorship Readers devoured GreenBiz stories on the emerging technologies powering electric aviation and the companies behind them. Though the technology isn’t quite there yet, the certification process is long and the process is expensive, the electric aviation industry is still taking off. That’s because flights under 500 miles are within the range of an electric motor. R oughly 45 percent of all global flights meet this standard — presenting a massive opportunity.  READ THE FULL STORY: 6 electric aviation companies to watch & 7 urban air mobility companies to watch 6. Humanity’s destruction of biodiversity fosters the conditions for emerging diseases such as COVID-19. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship Mathisa Close Authorship If this year has shown us anything, it’s that the health of our planet and the health of humans are inextricably linked.  Research suggests that outbreaks of animal-borne and other infectious diseases such as Ebola, SARS, bird flu and COVID-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, are on the rise. Meanwhile, humans have continued destructive practices such as deforestation and agricultural expansion. Case in point: The world has lost 60 percent of all wildlife in the last 50 years while the number of new infectious diseases has quadrupled in the last 60 years. These stories hit home with readers this year, and we’ll continue to cover stories in this vein, because we expect to see more events like this in the future. READ THE FULL STORY: Biodiversity, pandemics and the circle of life & Destroying habitats has opened a Pandora’s box for new diseases to emerge 7. Coal-fired power plants are closing, and those economic and social ecosystems are collapsing around the country. A just transition to renewable sources such as hydrogen could ease the pain . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Burbank Water & Power Close Authorship Hydrogen is still an emerging source of renewable energy. But it’s a massive opportunity: It’s the most abundant element in the universe, and capturing hydrogen is simple, in theory. Old coal plants could be easily transformed into new hydrogen plants to produce GHG-free energy, according to some industry insiders, while providing good jobs for hard-hit communities. READ THE FULL STORY: You say old coal plant, I say new green hydrogen facility 8. Agriculture as a climate change solution rather than a cause of climate change Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship l i g h t p o e t Close Authorship We all want an agricultural system that can enough food for the growing global population sustainably. But certain agricultural practices that aim to increase crop yields such as clear-cutting release greenhouse gases that had been trapped in the soils into the atmosphere. The practices of “regenerative agriculture” promise to do the opposite: these farming and grazing practices rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. Our stories on the topic struck a chord with you this year.  In 2020, food companies delved even deeper into how agricultural practices can sequester carbon in the land rather than release it. Two of the world’s largest food companies, General Mills and Danone North America, have set specific targets and worked to extend their support to farmers in their supply chains that are picking up these practices this year. These new programs have already been implemented for oats and wheat farmers who want to participate across a range of experience, ages and farm sizes. READ THE FULL STORY: General Mills, Danone dig deeper into regenerative agriculture with incentives, funding 9. Planting trees isn’t exactly the next big thing — or is it? Companies are investing in nature-based climate change solutions such as planting trees to draw down carbon. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship dennis_wegewijs Close Authorship Our inside look at two exciting tree-planting initiatives resonated with you this year. One is a hot new tree-planting startup whose investors include an Uber founder and whose buyers include Microsoft and Shopify resonated with you this year.  The startup, Pachama, has a unique value proposition: it offers a verified marketplace for carbon credits. That’s crucial for companies who want to buy credits after committing to going carbon neutral and even carbon-negative. Pachama both sells carbon credits by working with land managers who are using carbon-sequestering practices, and verifies the quantity of carbon they’re storing via a unique combination of satellite images, LiDAR and machine learning. Still, “if the planet continues waking up to the reality of climate change and the urgency of action, we believe that carbon markets will continue to expand,” Diego Saez-Gil, the founder of Pachama, said. Meanwhile, SilviaTerra, another cleantech startup, has been able to create a “basemap” of  every acre of forest in North America, down to the species and size of every single tree. To do this, SilviaTerra used machine learning to build the map, based on satellite and sensor data from sources such as NASA. It lays critical groundwork for landowners to participate in markets for carbon storage and other ecosystem benefits.  Companies like these will be crucial to watch in the next year, as carbon credit markets continue to grow. READ THE FULL STORY: Why Silicon Valley is taking a big interest in trees   10. Proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement that surged into the public eye this summer took on the sustainability space. Shutterstock This summer, the U.S. experienced a long-overdue racial reckoning. Following the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, white America received a reality check about the racism and discrimination happening in this country. The worlds of clean energy, corporate sustainability and cleantech were not spared. Some key themes that emerged among the GreenBiz readership this year included solidarity and environmental justice, the movement that advocates that low-income and marginalized communities and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to adverse environmental impacts.  READ THE FULL STORY: How racism manifests in clean energy & How sustainability professionals can uplift the Black community Topics Leadership Corporate Strategy Social Justice Carbon Removal COVID-19 Transportation & Mobility Plastic Carbon Pricing Aviation Food & Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The top stories of the year ranged from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matter Movement to new renewable energies. GreenBiz collage. Close Authorship

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The top 2020 trends in sustainability, according to GreenBiz readers

The best eco-friendly gifts for your grandparents

November 30, 2020 by  
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There’s no denying the holiday season is upon us. Whether that makes you ripple with excitement or reluctance, we have help for at least one of your holiday woes — what to buy the grandparents. Grandparents are notoriously difficult to buy for, but keep in mind that many of our loved ones enjoy useful household goods and homemade goodies. As a bonus, these ideas are even good for the Earth! Homemade bread There are endless variations of homemade bread, from cinnamon rolls to a pumpkin loaf. Make it with wheat flour or cater to gluten-free needs. Add seeds or nuts. Mix in some flax, chia or hemp — and don’t forget to add love! Make your homemade gift pretty with a beeswax or cloth food wrap, either of which can be reused again and again. Alternately, place it into a reusable produce bag that they can take to the grocery store later. Related: 9 sustainable living tips to take from our grandparents Aprons At the grill or over the stove, aprons take a beating. Supply grandma or grandpa with a new linen apron from Son de Flor . Linen is made from flax, a plant that is gentle to the environment. In addition to enriching the soil , flax requires less energy and water to manufacture into material than cotton. Even better, linen is completely biodegradable. Earth Polo For a classic polo that honors the planet, lean into the Ralph Lauren Earth Polo . Give grandpa one of 13 color options, all manufactured using an innovative fabric made entirely from plastic bottles. In addition, the rich colors are achieved using a waterless process . Organic handmade pasta Even if you haven’t mastered the art of making handmade pasta yourself, you can give the gift of organic food. Semolina Pasta uses semolina milled from organic durum wheat and makes its pastas in Los Angeles. Organic semolina is non-GMO and is grown sans pesticides or fertilizers. The mill sells by-products to the dairy industry, and there is nearly zero waste in the Semolina Pasta kitchen. For $25, you can put together a gift box filled with three pasta shapes of your choosing. Upcycled cribbage board For the grandparent who enjoys classic game time, give the gift of cribbage with the added benefit of reusing materials off the street. The Upcycled Cribbage Board from Art of Play is made from maple and other hardwoods. The unique inlay in the top is created using upcycled skateboards . Eliminating plastic in the design, the pegs are made of metal and can be neatly stored in a compartment on the bottom of the game board. Eco-friendly cookbooks Chelsea Green publishing not only provides a variety of unique cookbooks, but it is a leading publisher of books on all topics related to sustainable living. All books and catalogs are printed on chlorine-free recycled paper , using soy-based inks whenever possible. They are also printed in partnership with North American printing shops. Plus, Chelsea Green is 100% employee-owned. Here are a few of the popular book options that the grandparents in your life might appreciate. The Fruit Forager’s Companion provides insight for making use of fruit often left hanging on the branch. The art of fermentation has perhaps never been more in the spotlight, for the simple fact that fermented foods are good for your gut. Check out Koji Alchemy for recipes and processes related to koji. Also take a look at Wildcrafted Fermentation , a guide to lacto-fermentation using wild edibles. For grandparents committed to a restrictive diet for health or other reasons, consider The Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Family Cookbook , which is loaded with recipes that might even get the grandkids excited to roll up their sleeves and start cooking. Buckwheat pillow If your grandparents have the common issue of neck pain and trouble sleeping, a buckwheat pillow may be the solution. The heavy, firm Slumbr Ara Buckwheat Pillow offers personalized support with a design that is shaped by pushing around the buckwheat hulls. Once situated, the pillow retains its shape for consistent support through the night. Laundry kit Laundry is a fact of life, so a gift that makes the process more efficient is thoughtful for your recipient and the planet. LooHoo Wool Dryer Balls Gift Set includes three all-natural dryer balls that help dry clothes faster, and more economically, by saving energy. Wool is locally sourced near the business location in Maine. The gift set also includes a package of SoulShine Soap Company’s all-natural laundry soap, which comes without any wasteful plastic jugs. In addition, there is an equally Earth-friendly stain stick. The entire bundle comes in a box made from recycled cardboard and is plastic-free. Mason Bee Barrel Animal and nature enthusiasts will love this adorable Mason bee barrel via The Grommet . Not only is it visually appealing, but it provides a home for mason bees, which are crucial to planetary health. In return for a safe home, the bees will pollinate nearby flowers and gardens. Frog/toad house for garden If your grandparents enjoy their pond, this Ceramic Frog & Toad House is the perfect complementary item. The ceramic is made from natural materials and is 100% recyclable, giving a home to frogs and toads without damaging the ecosystem in which they thrive. Knitting needle system Keep those hand-knitted sweaters coming with this Adjustable Straight Knitting Needle System . The repetitive action of knitting can be hard on hands, especially when the yarn continuously slips down the needle. This rosewood knitting needle system uses a stopper and spring-loaded slider to keep the stitches at the top of the needle for easier, more enjoyable knitting. Images via Pixabay, Unsplash, Son de Flor, Ralph Lauren, Semolina Pasta, Art of Play, Slumbr, LooHoo and The Grommet

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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

October 28, 2020 by  
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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 – 01:30 It may be a little early to start writing about trends for 2021, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s on my mind? Carbontech, a category of climate tech I’d love to see break through next year. It’s the exciting idea that we can take something that could be considered waste, draw it out of the atmosphere and turn it into a source of revenue or economic growth. There are signs that give me optimism. This morning, digital payments company Stripe announced a plan to let its merchant customers divert a portion of their revenue to carbon removal projects. The move follows Stripe’s own pledge to put $1 million into four “high potential” projects earlier this year, and the two initiatives are related. The specific technologies that Stripe is funding are carbon-sequestering cement (CarbonCure), geologic storage (Charm Industrial), direct air capture (Climeworks) and ocean mineralization (Project Vesta). “Stripe’s climate initiative is a gift because it removes all barriers to positive action,” wrote Substack CEO Chris Best, a beta tester, in a statement. “This program makes it easy, and valuable, to do the right thing. We’re proud to be part of it.” All of the popular newsletter platform’s writers have the opportunity to participate. Makes me want to host my own personal blog there. Lest I forget, another well-known commerce player, Shopify, last month picked carbon removal and carbontech as a focus for its Sustainability Fund, which commits $5 million annually to climate-tech solutions. Some companies it is supporting are the same as Stripe (CarbonCure, Charm Industrial and Climeworks). It is also including ocean sequestration in the mix through its support of Planetary Hydrogen. And it is also letting merchants add options for offsetting that buyers can select during transactions.  Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Rising corporate support of carbontech and carbon removal technologies writ large is one of the biggest reasons driving my optimism that the market is about to take a turn.  Last week, for example, Microsoft announced one of its most unusual investments yet, as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to become a “carbon negative” company. It plans to supply Alaska Airlines with sustainable aviation fuel for the three most popular routes flown by its employees between Seattle and Silicon Valley, via a partnership with SkyNRG, which produces it from waste oil and agricultural residue. That’s right: Microsoft is buying jet fuel.  MInd you, those jets will still need to use regular fuel in combo with the sustainable stuff, but the strategy will help Microsoft reduce emissions from those flights (it’s also working on an accounting standard for helping do this), and we all know the aviation sector will be really tough to decarbonize. This is a much needed commercial boost, optically speaking. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft also joined the Northern Lights project in Norway, which is seeking to standardize methods for capturing carbon emissions at industrial facilities in Europe, turning them into a liquid and transporting it to a place where it’s pumped and stored under the ocean floor. The initiative — a collaboration of Norway’s government along with oil giants Equinor, Shell and Total — is moving into a commercial phase. The nature of Microsoft’s involvement isn’t entirely clear, but one thing being explored is how the software company’s analytics technology can help create blueprints for the techniques being used to capture CO2 (so they can be replicated elsewhere) and for creating new value chains for transporting and managing it.  Corporate interest is on the rise Carbontech is very much in the spotlight at this week’s VERGE 20 virtual event, in sessions dedicated to moonshots and emerging technologies. According to a comprehensive market report published this week by the Circular Carbon Network (CCN) and discussed during the conference, the pace of activity picked up dramatically in the past decade — of the roughly 330 innovators working on carbon removal or turning carbon into value, more than 65 percent of them were started after 2010. About 50 percent of the 107 companies that CCN tracks closely are already generating revenue. I’ll bet that’s more than you thought.  The investment dynamics are intriguing: CCN’s research uncovered 135 companies in this space that have raised $2.2 billion; its own Deal Hub tracker recovered deals worth $714 million in the past year, a significant pick up of activity, according to the organization’s report.  “What you are seeing is an accelerating pace of interest and activity,” said Nicholas Eisenberger, managing director at Pure Energy partners and co-founder of CCN, who spoke about this topic during a carbontech market update at VERGE 20. “This market is going to either be very large or ginormous.”  Here’s another big takeaway from my conversation last week with Eisenberger and his colleague Marcius Extavour, executive director of the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, one of the managing organizations for the CCN: Deals with corporate investors are increasingly attractive to carbontech entrepreneurs. And vice versa. CCN is tracking 61 multinational companies (as of this writing) involved in everything from research and development (the most common intersection) to buying and selling CO2 derivatives (buying it for food and beverages or selling carbon credits). Aside from Microsoft and the to-be-expected oil companies, others on the list include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Interface, Lafarge, Nike and Starbucks. “This space is about climate, it’s also about a climate solution. It’s also an example of a climate solution that can support economic growth,” Extavour noted, pointing to the carbontech evolution. Hence, the corporate interest. The extent to which COVID-19 infrastructure investments and economic recovery plans are linked with climate action is also likely to increase corporate involvement, especially outside the U.S., where some investments already have been linked to these metrics, such as the bailout of Air France, Extavour added. How ginormous could the carbontech market get? According to nonprofit Carbon180, the total addressable market for products that could be affected is $6 trillion — with the biggest opportunities for using “waste CO2” found in transportation fuels and building materials. Captured carbon also could be a resource for food, fertilizers, polymers and chemicals. (Before you ask, very few innovators that CCN is tracking are focused on enhanced oil recovery applications.) Helping entrepreneurs commercialize carbontech more quickly is the mission of the new three-year Carbon to Value Initiative created this summer by the Urban Future Lab at New York University-Tandon, Greentown Labs and the Fraunhofer USA Technbridge (with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Consulate General of Canada in New York). Whew.  Lo and behold, C2V last week added the first corporate members to its leadership council with representatives from Johnson Matthey, W.L. Gore and Associates, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, NRG and Suez. (Extavour and Eisenberger are also on the council, as is Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180.)  Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at NYU Tandon, said carbontech entrepreneurs haven’t benefited broadly from attention by the investment or mentorship communities that have shown up to support other climate-tech sectors such as energy or transportation. “Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way,” she said. “They’ve been very well supported recently, by some really excellent NGOs, but we bring commercial chops to the table.” C2V is accepting applications for its first startup cohort (supported from May to November 2021) through Jan. 27. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said there are four sorts of solutions types C2V hopes to catalyze: capture mechanisms; transformative process innovations; utilization methods that use CO2 as a feedstock fuels, building materials and so forth, and storage approaches (including those focused on important natural solutions such as sequestration). By mentoring carbontech entrepreneurs, C2V hopes to send a “market signal” for broader commercial and government support, Reichert said. “This is such a multidimensional problem that we need to tackle it from a multi-industry and multidisciplinary approach,” she said. By the way, there are still three days left of VERGE 20, with plenty of sessions about carbon solutions, including one of the most popular approaches — tree planting, conservation and cultivation initiatives. If you’re missing out, register here . Pull Quote Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Topics Innovation Carbon Removal Carbon Capture Carbontech VERGE 20 Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Climeworks plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

Kraft Heinz sustainability chief reflects on ‘interdependence’

October 28, 2020 by  
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Kraft Heinz sustainability chief reflects on ‘interdependence’ Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 – 01:00 Food company Kraft Heinz has been relatively quiet about its corporate sustainability strategy in the five years since it was formed through the merger of food giants Kraft and Heinz — stepping out in early 2018 to provide an update . In September, the maker of well-known brands such as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Planter’s Nuts and Heinz Ketchup — which had $25 billion in revenue last year — spoke up again with a second combined report that shows it stalled on 2020 goals for energy and water through last year (it will miss both) and doubles down on work to create circular production processes for packaging (it’s ahead of schedule and will introduce the first circular Heinz bottle in Europe next year). Kraft Heinz also updated its commitments with new targets pegged to 2025. Here are some of the latest commitments, along with perspective on progress so far: Procure most electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and decrease energy usage by 15 percent. The company didn’t previously have a renewables target, but it has been emphasizing a goal to reduce energy consumption (per metric ton of product produced) by 15 percent, which it had hoped to achieve by this year. Through 2019, it managed a 1 percent reduction against a 2015 baseline. Decrease water usage by 20 percent at high-risk sites and 15 percent overall by 2025 (per metric ton of product made). The company had hoped to reduce consumption by 15 percent by this year, against a 2015 baseline, but it actually increased water use by 1 percent per metric ton of product produced.   Decrease waste by 20 percent across all Kraft Heinz manufacturing operations by 2025. That’s a higher percentage than its previous commitment, which focused on waste to landfill. The company actually increased waste to landfill by 16 percent through 2019 but is has pledged to focus more closely on “a strong byproducts plan, product donation strategy and improved forecasting.” Make 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging by 2025. Through 2019, it has achieved 70 percent. Kraft Heinz is undergoing an assessment so it can set a science-based target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Emissions have increased since its 2015 baseline, although the company managed a 5 percent cut from 2018 to 2019. Responsible sourcing is a big focus , with the company aiming for 100 percent sustainably sourced tomatoes by 2025, 100 percent sustainable and traceable palm oil by 2022, and 100 percent cage-free eggs globally by 2025 (among other ingredients). Rashida La Lande, general counsel at Kraft Heinz, took on responsibility for the company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy at the end of 2018. I caught up with her recently for a brief conversation as the company disclosed its new target, chatting about how best practices from the previously independent companies have been shared, how the pandemic has affected progress and what’s to come for sustainable agricultural practices. Below is a transcript of that discussion, edited for style and length. Heather Clancy: It seems unusual for a general counsel to have this role. What prompted the decision to make it part of your responsibilities? Rashida La Lande: I think it was a couple of things. There are some general counsels that have it. It sometimes falls within corporate affairs, sometimes it falls within procurement. I think for depending on where you see it, it kind of reflects the way that the company might focus on the issue. From our perspective I think it reflects several things. One, it reflects the fact that it’s a passion of mine. It’s something I view, and I think is important. And I think at the time our CEO wanted to make sure that someone who was passionate about it and had real sense of the business and the industry was leading it. The environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result. In addition, when we look at ESG, I think the fact that it’s within legal also reflects the heavy importance that we put on its governance. From the governance part of it — meaning the reporting level of the board, the oversight, the disclosure — we really truly do believe that what you track, what you measure, what you report on, what you compensate on are the things that you see effectively change. So, of course, the environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result. Clancy: How is your team blending the legacy knowledge of the two separate programs at Kraft and Heinz? La Lande: That’s a really good question. Business continuity was the primary focus of the merger and of aligning the two companies. And they had very different sustainability programs at the time. Right now, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that the ESG focuses on the key parts of our enterprise strategy so we put the time and resources behind our commitments and where we think we can drive the biggest change. With the merger, we’re able to assess what each company was doing and how they were thinking about it. Frankly [we could] identify where we can take the things that they were doing best and then identify the things that each side needed to do better. So, for example, we had strong sustainable palm oil sourcing programs on the Kraft side whereas on the Heinz side there was a really strong focus on agricultural and sustainable agriculture commitments stemming from ketchup and our use of tomatoes. … Both companies had really strong histories of philanthropical support, Heinz in particular with the relationship it had in Pittsburgh. And so it’s coming together and really thinking about as a food company how can we best talk about food insecurity and feeding people globally, which is something that really gels from both companies’ background. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Kraft Heinz Close Authorship Clancy: How has the pandemic changed the focus of the Kraft Heinz ESG team? La Lande: It really put a focus on how much of a global company we are and our interdependence through all of our systems, businesses, units and people. And frankly, it has highlighted some of the ways that our global ESG perspective [is a strength] for us as a company and how important it is for our strategy. One of the things that we have been talking about since I started working on ESG is how important it is for us to support our community in their time of need. So we really looked at places where we’ve got employees and factories and consumers and customers, and we started to do more programming around not only the food insecurity but also making sure that we were available to people at the time of the disaster. So when the pandemic hit, it really caused us to quickly recognize that how we were thinking about this already, in terms of community, disaster relief and feeding people, put us in a really unique position to be impactful and to think about the global need that was going to be coming from the pandemic. So, we committed to provide meals to those in need and trying to do what we could to eliminate global hunger. And the pandemic just punctuated the need. At this point, to date, we’ve donated more than $15 million in financial and product support to help people all across the globe access the food that they need. And we’ve done it both in a fast time, mobile way as well as [through] a local touchpoint where we have business and community impact. Clancy: I know I’m jumping around a little bit. That’s the nature of having only a few minutes with you. What is the company’s policy for protecting biodiversity? La Lande: Right now, we’re working to update our sustainable agricultural practice by the end of 2020. We’re doing the work with a very seasoned agricultural team … primarily coming from the Heinz side but not exclusively. We have a strong history of sustainable agriculture. We’re working with developing that program further based on input from our growers and our suppliers, the farmers that we buy from. And we even have an upcoming “In Our Roots” program where we’re going to be working with suppliers to ensure that all of their agricultural practices satisfy our customer needs for safe food and traceable origin, [and] satisfy consumer demands for reliable supply, particularly of affordable nutritious food. We focus on promoting and protecting the health and welfare and the economic prosperity of the farmers, the workers, the employees and the communities within our supply chain. We’re very focused on minimizing our adverse effects on the Earth’s natural resources and biodiversity. We think those are the ways that we’re going to contribute, and that’s what we’re focusing on as we develop this program. We expect to roll it out more effectively — more widely, I should say — in 2021. Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear. Clancy: Will regenerative ag be part of that? La Lande: I think that is one of the things that we’re talking about, but I think we’ll have an ability to think more specifically about it once we make a more specific announcement in 2021. Clancy: Fair enough. How does Kraft Heinz blend environmental justice considerations into its ESG strategy? La Lande: Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear. Working and partnering with our supply chain to make sure that they have the training and expertise and understanding of our expectations. And verifying our ingredients, where they come from, what the impacts of our operations are. Through all of this, we think we’re better able to ensure that our environmental impacts are not so delineated by socioeconomic or demographic lines and instead really focus on how we can impact and have good stewardship worldwide. That’s why you see one of our key pillars being environmental stewardship as a global strategy. Clancy: You probably have 18 priorities or probably 18 million priorities. But what do you feel is your most important priority in this moment? La Lande : My goodness. I do have 18 million priorities. But for me, I think in this moment in the pandemic it’s really the focus on feeding people. There is a lot of hardship that people are facing. Unfortunately, I think there’s going to be more hardship kind of globally before we [as a society] get ourselves out of the position that we’re currently in. So I think while everything that we’re doing is extremely important, I think the day-to-day needs that we’re seeing and addressing those needs for people have to be at the forefront of what we do and have to be our first commitment. Pull Quote The environmental and, of course, the social are hugely important to us but we really start from the perspective of how can we design policy and reporting to maximize our result. Our main focus is on being good stewards of the environment, sourcing responsibilities, tracking and verifying where our ingredients come from, making our concerns and commitments with our suppliers and our supply chain very clear. Topics Food & Agriculture Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kraft Heinz general counsel Rashida La Lande leads the giant food company’s corporate social responsibility and ESG strategy. Courtesy of Kraft Heinz Close Authorship

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Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

August 28, 2020 by  
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On the edge of the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, an AIA award-winning home has hit the market for $5.35 million. Designed by PUNCH Architecture and built by Bugbee Custom Homes, this custom, 3,270-square-foot residence embraces the breathtaking desert landscape with carefully framed views and an indoor/outdoor design approach. The luxury Montana Court home is built largely with natural, modern materials and is topped with solar panels as well as a living roof. Recognized by the American Institute of Architecture’s Las Vegas chapter for its architectural innovation and design, the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath luxury home keeps the spotlight on the southern Nevada desert landscape with a restrained palette and contemporary aesthetic. The two-story home is built into the mountainous landscape and blends in with the desert with a natural materials palette, which will develop a patina over time. According to the real estate firm, The Ivan Sher Group, this site-sensitive approach is an exception to the typical Las Vegas luxury home, which tends to stand out from the background rather than complement it. Related: Sustainable desert home has a small water footprint in Nevada “This is a home for those who fully appreciate nature and the outdoors, in addition to the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip,” said listing agent Anthony Spiegel. “There are panoramic views of Blue Diamond’s stunning mountain and desert scenery, and at night you can see millions of stars light up the sky. This home is also nearby one of the top biking trail systems in Southern Nevada, allowing residents the convenience to ride at any time.” Located in the small town of Blue Diamond, the Montana Court home is nestled among Joshua and Pinion trees, cacti, creosotes and rock formations in a setting that offers complete privacy in the outdoors. The exterior is wrapped in weathered steel that will evolve as the home ages. The home also includes a 1,200-square-foot garage, outdoor shower, barbecue area, fire pit and multiple sheltered outdoor spaces that seamlessly transition to the indoors through full-height glass doors. + 4 Montana Court Listing Images courtesy of The Ivan Sher Group

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Award-winning solar home with spectacular desert views asks $5.35M

KFC confirms suppliers’ chickens suffer from footpad dermatitis

July 31, 2020 by  
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A recent report released by fast-food giant KFC shows that three out of 10 chickens sold by the restaurant suffer from footpad dermatitis. This is a condition typically caused by keeping chickens in a poorly ventilated environment or a lack of proper hygiene. The condition is characterized by severe inflammation, which may lead to mobility problems in chickens . Although this condition affects about one-third of the chickens served by KFC, it does not pose any danger to human consumers. KFC executives chose to lay the statistics bare so that they can make improvements and keep tracking the progress in the future. According to the data collected by surveying KFC chicken suppliers in the U.K. and Ireland, the number of birds affected by severe inflammation had fallen from above 50% to just 35% in the past 4 years. The fast-food chain plans to continue reducing the number of birds affected by this condition. Related: KFC partners with Beyond Meat for vegan chicken nuggets Most of the chickens raised for KFC are fast-growing breeds that take about one month to mature. The desire to have the chickens mature fast leads to more health complications in the chickens. Further, rearing more chickens in limited spaces also makes it impossible to maintain the ideal conditions for the birds. The same data released by KFC has also shown that 1 out of 10 of its chickens suffer from hock burn, which is caused by ammonia from the waste of other birds. This data goes to show that a lot has to be done to improve the conditions under which KFC chickens are kept. The report found that most KFC chicken suppliers maintain a mortality rate of 4% of all the chickens they keep. According to the U.K.’s Red Tractor, all chicken suppliers in the industry should maintain a mortality rate of less than 5% . Although KFC suppliers fall below the cut, more needs to be done to reduce the rate as much as possible. Paula MacKenzie, general manager of KFC U.K. and Ireland said, “This report sends a clear message to everyone — our suppliers, our teams and our stakeholders — on exactly what we are looking for in terms of welfare improvement. We know that what gets measured gets managed, and the figures in this report represent a solid benchmark against which we can track our future progress.” KFC will remain in the spotlight in the coming months, with many people interested to see the improvements that will be made in the near future. The company says it will be shifting to slow-growing birds in a bid to minimize the mortality rate and reduce sickness within the birds. + KFC Via The Guardian Image via Capri23Auto

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UNStudio to transform Gyeongdo Island into a sustainable tourism destination

May 28, 2020 by  
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UNStudio has unveiled a masterplan to transform South Korea’s Gyeongdo Island into a new, 470,000-square-meter leisure destination that puts the spotlight on nature. The design celebrates the island’s natural beauty by orienting development around carefully framed landscape views — a design approach borrowed from ancient Korean garden design. The high-density development, which ranges from an affordable family resort to private villas, will follow passive solar and bio-design principles to minimize energy use. Commissioned by client YKDevelopment, the redevelopment of Gyeongdo is part of a plan to turn the island into “Asia’s number one marine and coastal tourism destination”. Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongdo sits 2 kilometers southeast of the city of Yeosu, the main tourist hub in the Namhae region that is renowned for beautiful, green islands and ocean views. UNStudio’s masterplan aims to highlight the island’s rich biodiversity by creating three developments along the island, each informed by a distinct garden concept with different trees, flowers and other vegetation. Related: UNStudio installs new energy-generating facade for solar producer Hanwha’s HQ Built on either side of a “green backbone” for conservation, the three developments will be nestled within areas of reconstructed forest. The three neighborhoods include the Gyeongdo Gateway at the island’s main entrance; the Sunrise Waterfront on the east side of the island; and Sea Breeze Coast at the island’s southern point. Gyeongdo Gateway will house the main port, a cable car station, marina and bridge, an entertainment center, shopping mall and a waterside boardwalk. The quieter Sunrise Waterfront will serve as the island’s “leisure heart” and will include a four-star hotel and condos. The Sea Breeze Coast neighborhood is located in the most secluded part of the island and will offer a five-star hotel and a series of private villas. All of the buildings will be thoughtfully embedded into the landscape to follow the natural terrain and passive solar principles. Visitors and residents will have access to a seamless public transportation system to easily and sustainably move about the island. + UNStudio Images by Plomp (NL) and Flying Architecture (CZ) via UNStudio

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The many ways fungi are saving our planet

April 10, 2020 by  
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Fungi are living organisms that support the ecosystem of the entire planet. Most people associate mushrooms with fungi, but in reality, mushrooms merely make up the ‘flower’ portion of some species of fungi. Up to 90% of the fungi associated with the mushroom is underground as part of a web called mycelium . Scientists are continually discovering ways fungi enhance the circle of life. The mushroom and mycelium components of fungi are currently a hot topic in the research world, because there are already over 100,000 identified varieties with thousands more being discovered annually. Together, these fungi species are unlocking solutions for cleaning up the environment, developing greener construction and product materials and contributing significant medicinal benefits. What are fungi? Fungi are basically the digestive tract of the planet. As a carbon-based substance, fungi work in conjunction with all living or decaying things. Whether that is a tree that has fallen in the woods or an animal that dies along the side of the road, mycelium works below-ground to facilitate decomposition. Mycelium is a massive filter that removes toxins from the soil , improving water quality as a result. Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable This network also cycles nutrients from one location to another, essentially transporting food and water from one plant to another. It’s also believed they send messages throughout the forest that support the success of other fungi as well as overall plant life. In scientific papers reviewed as recently as two months ago, evidence has come to light indicating fungal fossils may date back at least 715 to 810 million years and possibly even over one billion years ago. Whether that can be proven or not, most scientists accept that fungi have survived on the planet since at least 400 million years ago. Further, researchers give credit to fungi for their critical role in facilitating the continued existence of the planet. Fungi and climate change In addition to supporting the entire plant kingdom, fungi are recognized as a promising weapon in the fight against climate change . While some of these discoveries happen in a lab, others are happening in nature as we go about our daily lives. As outlined in a new documentary, Fantastic Fungi , fungi are indiscriminate in their consumption of organic material. As an example of this cycle, fungi can break down carbon-based diesel oil, growing mushrooms in its wake. Then birds, bees and bugs feed, spread seeds and pollinate as a result, supporting more than just the surrounding area. In fact, many scientists believe mushrooms might be one solution to ending the crisis bees are facing, because mushrooms’ antiviral characteristics may offer protection from damaging chemicals in other plants. Fungi can likely clean up other aspects of the environment, too. According to the State of the World’s Fungi 2018 report , the mushroom Aspergillus tubingensis has the ability to grow directly on the surface of plastic and has properties that actually deteriorate the material. Yes, apparently some mushrooms can eat plastic . Even more amazing is the discovery that fungi were found consuming radiation off the walls of the abandoned Chernobyl plant. In fact, three species were found to be absorbing the radiation and turning it into energy for growth. In essence, they were feeding off radiation. Mushroom waste becomes biofuel Natural waste from mushroom production can also be converted into biofuel . According to research published in Science Advances , the research team revealed that a naturally occurring bacterium called Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum (TG57), isolated from waste generated after harvesting mushrooms, is capable of directly converting cellulose (a plant-based material) to biobutanol, leading to a much cleaner way to produce biofuel and reduce emissions from fossil fuels. Products made from fungi Product manufacturers are also looking toward fungi in material development due to properties that allow them to naturally decompose at the end of their life cycle. Fungi are being used as a substitute for environmental nemesis polystyrene foam , animal leather and chemical-laden building materials. One company, Coeio, has even created a mushroom-infused burial suit, explaining that a human body will break down faster and give back to the Earth sooner while the fungal properties filter out any toxic chemicals the body has acquired while living. Fungi for health Fungi are also in the spotlight for exciting medical advancements, such as treating anxiety and depression with psilocybin . Fungi could also help fight against cognitive decline, according to a recent study . Plus, fungi are already part of our everyday life in ways you may not even recognize. In addition to the mushrooms on your pizza , fungi are important for fermentation, which creates alcohol, leavened bread and much more. The list of possible ways fungi are saving our planet is nearly as long as the list of species themselves. With an increasing interest in research, the possibilities for finding innovative ways to use fungi in the future are exciting and promising. Images via Pixabay

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Is almond milk bad for the environment?

March 30, 2020 by  
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Almonds are a nutritious and satisfying food source. Not only are the munchable nuts a popular snack , but they are also used in a variety of other consumable products, such as almond butter and almond flour, and can be used in a milk alternative for people with dairy allergies or vegan preferences. Almond milk, a supermarket staple, is used in everything from coffee to baking. But like many other crops, the spotlight has been on whether almonds and the increased demand for almond milk are damaging the environment. How is almond milk produced? It’s important to first understand that almond production is a regional issue. In the United States, California grows nearly every almond in the country and also provides more than 80% of almonds shipped around the world. Needless to say, that level of production affects a significant part of the state’s land, economy and resources. The result is an industry criticized for extreme water consumption and pesticide use. Related: How to choose the healthiest, most sustainable milk alternative Water use in the almond industry The main headline on almonds echoes fears regarding excessive water use. The truth is that farming uses water and a lot of it; almonds are no exception. In fact, a single almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce. However, to put this in perspective, a single pound of beef requires a whopping 1,800 gallons of water , proving that raising cattle is much more resource-intensive than growing almonds. Collectively, meat and dairy production in California uses more water than that of all homes, businesses and government buildings in the entire state. Those figures make choosing almond milk over dairy milk much easier. Farmers realize water is a precious resource, and it’s been a topic of conversation for decades. As a result, California almond producers have spent two decades reducing the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33%. Additionally, they are dedicated to further cutting water usage by another 20% by 2025. Farmers achieve this by targeting water usage where it is needed rather than spraying large areas. Technology is helping, too, with computer-programmed water probes that measure moisture levels in the soil and respond accordingly. Pesticides for growing almonds Another concern centers around the use of pesticides in almond production, as pesticides then end up in the soil and water supply. The answer to this problem is a basic one; simply buy organic . Although the transition has been gradual, an increasing number of almond farmers in California are converting to organic growing methods.  Is our obsession with almond milk killing bees? Then there are the claims that almond milk is killing bees , but almonds are important to bees. Not only is almond nectar the first feast bees have early in the year, but the almond groves support roughly 2 million hives from across the country, making it the world’s largest managed pollination event. With the good comes the bad — pesticides are indeed credited with contributing to colony collapse, enforcing the need to grow and buy organic almonds along with other nuts, fruits and vegetables. Almonds and the economy While California remains cognitive of the potential negative impacts of almond production, the benefits appear to outpace those concerns. As far as the economy goes, The California Agricultural Issues Center says the California almond community delivers significant economic value to the state, including providing 104,000 jobs in the state and boosting GDP by $11 billion. Almond milk’s overall impact on the environment While the discussion of almond production is important to whether almond milk is bad for the environment or not, it’s also critical to realize that most almond milk uses very few almonds. Most almond milks are high in added ingredients, like sugars, artificial flavors and thickeners. Almond milk packaging and transport both have a negative impact, and all of the added ingredients make the nutrition benefits of almond milk questionable at best. You can curb the environmental impact of prepackaged almond milk by making your own at home. There are recipes all over the internet that explain how to do so and even offer twists on the traditional almond flavor by using spices and natural flavorings. So to address the question, “Is almond milk bad for the environment?” the answer is somewhat, but the benefits of a healthy snack producing a healthy economy and a healthy bee population outweigh the water consumption issues. Also remember that almonds offer the same environmental benefits of any other tree, cleaning the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Plus, the branches offer shade to the soil allowing for better water retention and less evaporation. When the leaves drop, they add nutrients to the soil through natural composting. In all, the carbon footprint is somewhat small, especially compared to conventional dairy, while the economic, nutritional and environmental rewards are high. Images via Pixabay

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Is almond milk bad for the environment?

7 tips for a sustainable Thanksgiving celebration

November 25, 2019 by  
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Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate abundance, health and family, so it is the perfect time to focus on the health of the environment — the land that sustains us and makes the holiday possible in the first place. Enjoy your celebration and give back to nature at the same time with these sustainable tips for the upcoming holiday. Remember that each small step has an impact, so look for ways you can make easy, eco-friendly swaps throughout your Thanksgiving festivities. Decorate naturally It’s fun to bring out the fall decor, bursting with color and scents of the season. But before you head down the pumpkin spice aisle at the local store, consider ways you can decorate naturally instead. Pick up gourds and pumpkins for the porch as well as a hay bale and corn stalks to complete the vibe. Everything can go into the composter later in the season for zero waste . Related: 5 tips for beautiful, sustainable Thanksgiving decor Inside the house, craft some homemade grapevine wreaths embellished with mini pumpkins, pinecones, nuts or berries. Take the kids out to collect colorful leaves, acorns and rocks. Press the leaves or put together a Give Thanks paper banner, with each letter spelled out in natural materials . For centerpieces, carve out pumpkins and insert candles or fill a traditional cornucopia of edible goodness. Alternately, use colorful, clear or reflective metal bowls of produce such as lemons and limes, squash or apples. Travel less Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel holidays of the year. The impact of those trips leaves a heavy carbon footprint on the planet. With the fuel emissions of planes and cars, the easiest way to celebrate the day sustainably is to remain close to home. Use the holiday as an opportunity to volunteer at a soup kitchen or gather coworkers and friends without plans for a friendly feast. Get outside Electronics put a drain on natural resources , too, so skip watching the football game (or at least the third one) in favor of playing your own game outside. If you do not prefer contact sports, take the crew out for a nature hike or bike ride. Tour a local park, go for a paddle or cue up the cornhole in the backyard. Not only does time outside mean you’re not consuming electricity, but it’s also good for your health, both physically and mentally. Skip single-use dinnerware One of the simplest ways to reduce waste and pollution is to set the table with reusable plates, utensils and cups. You don’t have to put out china, but skip the plastic foam and plastic-covered plates in favor of the real thing. The same goes for silverware and glasses. Yes, this means you’ll have more dishes, but consider it quality bonding time with family when you work together to clean up everything. Ditch plastic With natural decor and reusable dinnerware, your plastic consumption will be low, but also look out for packaging on the food products you buy, fill water pitchers instead of using bottled water and reuse small cottage cheese, yogurt or butter containers to send leftovers home with your guests. Plan your meal carefully The Thanksgiving feast is a central component of the holiday, with Grandma’s famous yams and your aunt’s homemade pumpkin pie taking the spotlight. Keep looking forward to the favorite family recipes during the holiday, and supplement those must-have items with earth-friendly choices. Make several sides of fruits and vegetables. Also, lessen the quantity of meat, a leading cause of methane pollution for the environment. If skipping the meat isn’t an option for your family, reduce portion sizes and dish out bigger servings of fruits and vegetables. Related: How to host a zero-waste Thanksgiving dinner When it comes to planning the feast, look to your local market or fruit stand. Invest in organic produce and be rewarded with wholesome food that didn’t add toxins to the planet in its journey to your plate. In short, buy local, organic foods as the best choice for the planet. Freeze and reheat leftovers Many of us correlate the holiday with overindulgence, and it’s sometimes hard to avoid when everyone brings their favorite foods. Try to avoid waste upfront with realistic quantities of foods, and do your part to practice self-control when it comes to overeating. Once the meal wraps up, make use of leftovers with a second dinner. Invite friends or colleagues over on Friday for a Friendsgiving. You could also take leftovers to work to share. If everyone is burned out on turkey, throw it into the stock pot along with the leftovers from the vegetable tray for a delicious soup. Another option is to freeze leftovers for a later date. Celebrate the season and the planet with a plan to reduce plastic consumption, limit the impacts of travel and avoid food waste . Happy Thanksgiving! Images via Debby Hudson , Jill Wellington , Nel Botha , Terri Cnudde , Roman Boed and Shutterstock

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