Rebuilding recycling to go circular

May 19, 2020 by  
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Rebuilding recycling to go circular Keefe Harrison Mon, 05/18/2020 – 18:18 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 . After the coronavirus pandemic has passed, the world will need solutions to repair our economy in a way that protects both the planet and its people. The circular economy is a solution for our future health and wellness and recycling has a vital role to play. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. As companies ramp up their circular economy goals, they’re often based on the concept that recycling will be the workhorse and catch-net of a bigger system. The truth is, that system is not yet a reality. Recycling isn’t just a thing you do when you’re done drinking your bottle of water or reading the morning paper. It’s a system supported by hundreds of thousands of employees, generating billions of dollars in economic activity, and conserving precious natural resources. However, while it can feel as though it’s a singular service, in fact it represents a loosely connected, highly interdependent network of public and private interests. The U.S. census tells us there are about 20,000 local governments, each independently responsible for deciding what to recycle, how to recycle, or whether to offer recycling services at all. This collection of disaggregated waste management decisions is a challenging start of the “reverse supply chain” that is recycling. The Recycling Partnership’s 2020 State of U.S. Curbside Recycling Report addresses a system that is causing some communities to abandon their programs, but also shows an overwhelming majority of communities across the country still committed to providing household recycling services. Americans continue to value and demand recycling as an essential public service according to The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Earth Day survey. A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The time to transform the way we think about and manage waste is now. Conceptually, recycling is and has been the “gateway” for a circular economy worldview to take hold in our society. In this transition, it’s critically important to seize on the cultural momentum that recycling has inspired, because behavior change takes so much longer than many other solvable challenges in the transition from linear to circular. Citizens can feel disheartened by the realization that our efforts to recycle are often in vain. Consider the following statistics: More than 20 million tons of curbside recyclable materials are sent to landfills annually Curbside recycling in the United States currently recovers only 32 percent of available recyclables in single-family homes If the remaining 20 million tons were recycled, it would generate 370,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs It also would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 96 million metric tons of CO2  equivalent AND conserve an annual energy equivalent of 154 million barrels of oil OR the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off U.S. highways While recycling feels universal, only half of the American population has access to curbside recycling . Before we can implore a public to recycle, they need to be guaranteed the ability to do so. Many communities increasingly pay more to recycle , sometimes double the cost of landfilling  — and many more programs lack critical operating funds. Policy can and should help community recycling programs to improve by addressing challenging market conditions, providing substantial funding support and resolving cheap landfill tipping fees that make disposal options significantly less expensive than recycling. A truly circular economy — one that takes us off the perilous take-make-waste path — can’t be built on the shaky foundation of the current U.S. recycling system just described. It needs to be shored up, supported, rebuilt and reinvigorated. Most important, it cannot work properly without the aligned efforts from all members of industrial supply chains. Recycling is not just something that citizens do to feel good about buying something — it also provides a circular manufacturing feedstock that displaces newly extracted materials. It is needed by manufacturing to make new products, reduce environmental impact and achieve a more positive economic result. This is true for mature industries such as paper mills and aluminum smelters and for developing end markets such as chemical recycling. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Strong, coordinated action is needed in areas including package design and labeling, capital investments, scaled adoption of best management practices, policy interventions, and consumer engagement. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. A three-step plan to ensure recycling supports the circular economy 1. Support for local recycling programs with policies and capital Local political support for recycling needs to be strengthened, such that municipalities are meeting the expectations of most Americans: recycling bins alongside trash cans, the contents of which are being recycled. All this needs to be supported at the federal level with policies that incentivize adoption and reduce confusion around recycling. It also means continued innovation in the collection, sorting and general recyclability of materials, including the building of flexibility and resiliency to add new materials into the system. 2. Significant investment in domestic infrastructure and end markets An extensive series of targeted investments is needed to deliver a deeper integration of circular manufacturing feedstock into the supply chain. This will help provide the carts to collect the recyclables, the trucks to pick them up and the facilities to sort it all out. There also needs to be a deepened commitment to support both existing end markets such as cardboard, bottles and cans, and new end markets, such as chemical recycling, to keep more packaging and materials in the economy and more molecules in motion. As published in The Recycling Partnership’s 2019 Bridge to Circularity Report, $250 million over the next five years could launch an innovation fund to design and implement the recycling system of the future using advanced technology, building more robust data systems and enhancing consumer participation. 3. Broad stakeholder engagement We need more than the involvement of dozens of the biggest companies in the world. When you go to the store, it is not a monolithic experience. We don’t buy all our stuff from one brand, one company or one packaging material. Those leading companies shouldn’t be the only ones taking part in this transition. Every aspect of the recycling system that feeds into the circular economy needs to be involved — from the design of the materials on store shelves for efficient recovery and recyclability to the community, infrastructure and end market components mentioned in the previous two steps. It’s clear that unless stakeholders from across the value chain align and conform to the circular economy, we will not be able to drive the change necessary to move recycling in the United States to that place where no more waste is going to the landfill. It will take bold public-private partnerships and leadership to make lasting improvements. Recycling cannot solve for the circular economy, but the circular economy could solve recycling. Now is the time for action. To learn more from the leaders of the circular economy transition, visit  PYXERA Global . Pull Quote A circular economy is not possible without recycling, yet it can’t happen through recycling alone. The fate of current and not-yet-recyclable materials rests in the hands of a broad set of private sector actors who must adapt to support the transition. Contributors Dylan de Thomas Topics Circular Economy Recycling Paradigm Shift Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock franz12 Close Authorship

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Rebuilding recycling to go circular

Reusable packaging in the time of COVID-19

May 18, 2020 by  
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Reusable packaging in the time of COVID-19 Tom Szaky Mon, 05/18/2020 – 01:00 The novel coronavirus had cases on every continent except Antarctica when it was declared a global pandemic March 11. The crisis was brewing long before, and the United States federal emergency and stay-at-home orders would come after, but it was in that official moment of alarm that consumer behavior, and business’s response to it, changed across the country. Almost immediately, reusables and durable items took a spotlight as potentially undesirable . The socially sanctioned practice of bring-your-own shopping bags and coffee mugs came to a halt and was enforced at retail locations , as did the use of glass and durable tableware in bars and restaurants before dine-in service stopped. Even in states that previously had instituted bans on single-use items such as plastic bags ( temporarily lifted  with new bans on their reusable counterparts ), there has been a swap to disposables, thought to be more sanitary than durable products and packaging intended to be used many times, sometimes by many people. In an evolving age of contagion, we are still only beginning to understand the perception of reusables is that they are vehicles for a virus. But reuse in and of itself isn’t the problem here; it’s the way it’s done. Reusable packaging is faced with proving its trustworthiness alongside disposables in a world that is standing six feet apart in the grocery aisle. Take the dentist. Year-round, people young and old go for routine check-ups and surgeries administered by tools and equipment that come in contact with pathogens and people potentially infected with serious diseases. It’s a practice that often draws blood, and yet, the items are used over and over again, on many folks, and everyone’s OK with it. The reason for this is trust. Despite that most of us will never see it in action, we trust the tools are being sterilized properly. If we didn’t have faith in this, we’d choose another provider or stop going to the dentist. Reusable packaging is faced with proving its trustworthiness alongside disposables in a world that is standing six feet apart in the grocery aisle. Trusting others to be clean and safe on your behalf is a liability that can result in someone getting sued, or sick, which is why many consumers are opting for goods in single-use packaging and some eateries frown upon patrons taking leftovers home in their own containers in “normal times.” Disposable packages are painted as sterile, while durables are tainted with suspicion. To be clear, unless explicitly labeled “sterile,” single-use is no more safe, as both are potentially exposed to different elements in packing, pallet and transport. They are touched by many people, and the independent organizations setting the standards and monitoring respective microbial limits vary. But trust is a risk, and businesses championing reuse that are able to meet people where they are, COVID-19 notwithstanding, stand to benefit. The sort of systems-thinking that considers the consumer and their values now and beyond this time of uncertainty creates value through a sense of community and meaningful connection that’s both scalable and adaptable. At the start of this pandemic, our new Loop platform was at the center of some of this discourse, the returnable, refillable packaging model a subject of wonder. In a world where consumers are anxious and making purchases with safety, ease and comfort top of mind, could a zero waste, circular shopping platform of returnable glass, metal and plastic containers survive? Now, we can report that our sales for April nearly doubled what we did in March, half of which was spent out of an official emergency. Our bestsellers were refillable Clorox wipes (the “disposable” sheets recyclable through TerraCycle) and Häagen-Dazs ice cream in insulated metal tubs. Media Authorship TerraCycle Close Authorship All of the essential things people are buying (and bought in frenzy at the start: cleaning supplies; personal care; soap; pasta) are on Loop, and we’ve found consumers are comfortable with the reuse aspect, as the service is conveniently delivered by our logistics provider UPS, offers items in beautiful packages and was contactless prior to the pandemic. Consumers can toss their empties in the Loop Tote with the same ease as throwing an item in the trash, and don’t need to do any cleaning themselves. Unlike the durable coffee cup systems and reusable bags hibernating now, health and safety protocols and industrial cleaning processes are in place in our reuse system. Interestingly, as consumers look for a connection to what they buy and a meaningful way to shop, we are seeing competitors in the coming of COVID-19: the actual, modern-day milkman . Home delivery is important to consumers, as is shopping positively in a retro-style model, so if not for the social impacts, the no-contact and returnable packaging system is appealing. From its initial launch to Paris, France and in 10 states in the Northeastern United States, Loop recently announced its expansion to all 48 contiguous states and is slated to officially go live nationwide this summer, which means more people soon will be able to order. The next phase of the shopping platform, currently all digital commerce, will be to integrate in retail locations, where consumers can return empty containers and shop for refills in-store. We can’t project how or when retail will return to “normal,” or what a new normal will look like. But by having met people where they are at home and online and establishing trust in a difficult situation, we anticipate consumers will continue to engage with Loop in a post-social distancing world. Brands and retailers working towards plans for circularity can gain tangible returns even (or especially) now by reaching people through continued investment in their present and future. Putting this on the backburner in a health crisis is short-sighted. With so much to fear today, the opportunity to trust is one that consumers desire, and businesses are in a position to give. Pull Quote Reusable packaging is faced with proving its trustworthiness alongside disposables in a world that is standing six feet apart in the grocery aisle. Topics Circular Economy Design & Packaging Circular Packaging Reuse Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock 5PH Close Authorship

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The fashion industry is unsustainable — here’s how journalism is inspiring activism to improve it

May 15, 2020 by  
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The fashion industry is unsustainable — here’s how journalism is inspiring activism to improve it Kirstie Dabbs Fri, 05/15/2020 – 01:43 The fast fashion industry has long been critiqued for unsustainable practices and unethical working conditions. From global cotton supply chains to pollution from textile factories, the need to improve the industry in favor of both people and the planet is pressing.  Bard MBA student Kirstie Dabbs spoke recently with author Elizabeth Segran about their shared passion for building a sustainability-centered future for the fashion industry. They discussed the unchecked growth of the fashion industry’s business model, possibilities for regulations, and how to inspire systematic change in global fast fashion.  Segran writes about design, with a particular focus on the fashion industry as a senior staff writer at Fast Company Magazine . She also recently authored a new book, ” The Rocket Years: How Your Twenties Launch the Rest of Your Life .” In it, she discusses how all kinds of decisions that we make in our 20s — from career to love to family — have the greatest impact on how our lives play out. There are 8 billion humans on this planet, but a lot of the data suggests that we’re making about 100 billion articles of clothing for them. Kirstie Dabbs: What inspired you to begin writing about the fashion industry and climate change? Elizabeth Segran: In a lot of ways, the work I did for “The Rocket Years” is extremely relevant to the conversation about the fashion industry and climate change. The decisions young people make, the activism they pursue and the ways they think about building a career can all center around trying to solve some of these problems and having a real impact.   Collectively, young people need to be involved in being part of the solution here. I have a lot of hope that we can change this industry, which is causing so much disruption to the planet. Dabbs: As you dug into the fashion industry’s environmental footprint, what were some discoveries that jumped out at you? Segran: I was really surprised about exactly how much we’re overconsuming in the world of fashion. There are 8 billion humans on this planet, but a lot of the data suggests that we’re making about 100 billion articles of clothing for them. Plus, if you think about how those clothes are spread out around the world, people in many places don’t own that many clothes. So the vast majority of the clothes being manufactured are going to countries like the United States. Then, when you think about how many resources go into making every single garment, including the $5 shirt from H&M, it adds up. There’s an enormous cost in natural resources like cotton and wool, and there’s a massive impact on the climate because a lot of carbon is involved in manufacturing nylon and polyester.  There’s just so much waste in this industry. Clothes are made at such low cost that we go into a store or we go online, and we fill our carts with clothes that look fashionable right now but that we essentially treat as disposable. In a few months, maybe a few years, all of those clothes will end up in the trash. Dabbs: Can you speak to the discrepancy between the population growth rate and that of the fashion industry? Segran: The first part of the problem is that fast fashion has created a new way of interacting with clothes that make them pretty much disposable. The second part of the problem is that companies are measured by how quickly they can grow — investors want to see constant growth. This means that, for a fashion brand to continue growing, it either needs to sell clothes to more customers or needs to sell that same customer more clothes.  The fashion industry is growing at a rate of about 3 to 4 percent a year , but the human population is only growing at a rate of about 1 percent . We can see why we’ve gotten to the point of such massive overconsumption. Dabbs: How do you hope to inspire systemic change through your work? Segran: Sustainability reporters like myself have been talking about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and over many years there’ve also been reporters consistently writing about human rights abuses in the fashion industry. It’s so clear now that those two things are connected. A lot of environmental destruction happens when we’re using inexpensive materials, and on the other side of that, we’re also using inexpensive labor to keep costs low.  I’ve written a lot about how farmers, particularly in India and Bangladesh, who are responsible for so much of global cotton production, are exposing themselves to toxic chemicals. A lot of the time, those chemicals end up in the ground water and poison entire villages. That’s one of the human costs we see along the chain in order to get these inexpensive materials.   Even if you ask a brand to regulate its environmental impact throughout its supply chain, that brand may just not have access to information about what’s happening lower down in the supply chain. There’s also the factory part to consider. We know that conditions in factories in many parts of the world are terrible, but because people are so desperate in those countries for work, they’re willing to work under awful conditions for very low wages. All of that for a $5 shirt we aren’t going to wear many times.   I’m asking consumers who read my stories to think about how they participate in this system. A lot of people struggle to understand exactly how the supply chain works, so I’m educating them about where abuses are happening and how they can call out companies for their bad practices.  It’s also my job to find out about companies that are doing things slightly better so that consumers can use what I call wallet activism to have an impact on the market. Investors and companies see what the trends are in terms of consumer spending and may adjust their behavior to respond. Dabbs: Is there a case for regulating the global fashion industry? Segran: This is a really important topic and one that I don’t think has been wrestled with enough. Part of the reason that the fashion industry is still largely unregulated is that the supply chain is really spread out. There are brands that don’t even know what the conditions are in factories because they work with middlemen who help them source products. Even if you ask a brand to regulate its environmental impact throughout its supply chain, that brand may just not have access to information about what’s happening lower down in the supply chain. So this is actually a very complex issue. Plus, even today we don’t have very good ways to measure environmental impact. We know that the industry is creating a lot of waste, but we’re not exactly sure how much. On the other hand, we’re beginning to use more circular models, where you might buy an article of clothing and after wearing it for a couple of years, send it back to be recycled and turned into new garments. Developing interesting models through innovation is a great way to move the industry forward. This Q&A is an edited excerpt from the Bard MBA’s May 1 The Impact Report podcast. The Impact Report brings together students and faculty in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program with leaders in business, sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Pull Quote There are 8 billion humans on this planet, but a lot of the data suggests that we’re making about 100 billion articles of clothing for them. Even if you ask a brand to regulate its environmental impact throughout its supply chain, that brand may just not have access to information about what’s happening lower down in the supply chain. Contributors Katie Ellman Topics Retail Supply Chain Circular Economy Fashion Supply Chain Waste Collective Insight The Sustainable MBA Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Milos Vucicevic Close Authorship

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Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook?

May 15, 2020 by  
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Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook? Joe Snider Fri, 05/15/2020 – 01:29 Here is what we know, or think we know, about COVID-19: it can spread through the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , it is thought that the COVID-19 virus can spread “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.” According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health on March 17, these respiratory droplets seem to be detectable in the air for as long as three hours. Here is what we also know about hospital buildings and the way they are designed: Ventilation is an important aspect for the design of medical facilities, embraced to prevent the spread of airborne disease. As engineer Gregory Hudson notes in his article ” Ventilation Strategies for Healthcare Facilities ,” “Appropriate ventilation, when properly applied and designed, can limit the spread of airborne pathogens throughout a healthcare facility.” The question then becomes, if ventilation can help prevent the spread of airborne pathogens, and we work really hard at designing and implementing ventilation in medical facilities, might there not be strategies we could or should be implementing in other facilities that could be part of the many-pronged approach to limiting the spread of the coronavirus? The reality is that at some point we will reopen society, our economy and therefore our buildings, with the coronavirus still very much a highly contagious threat. For the sake of this discussion, we will focus on commercial buildings because ventilation systems in residences can vary widely. In most buildings, air comes into a space through some kind of a ventilation system. That air is usually a mix of recirculated air and fresh outdoor air. In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. In most cases, that air is coming in cooled or heated as well and combines the functions of both conditioning and ventilating the space. Most commercial building codes require a minimum amount of outdoor air to be coming into different spaces in a building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)  has a detailed standard that is the reference for many of us in the field ( ASHRAE 62.1 ). This standard is updated regularly. However, just because there is a minimum doesn’t mean that a space can’t exceed minimum code requirements. Based on the above information about droplets and medical facility design, it is a logical step to look at the possibility that in non-medical buildings that need to be occupied right now, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more; if possible, add more fresh outdoor air; and increase filtration. Another reason to ask ourselves what we can be doing to improve indoor air quality right now is because poor indoor air quality is not good for people’s lungs, and it is well documented that healthy lungs are positive when someone does get sick with this virus. Many buildings designed in recent years according to the LEED or WELL building standards already adhere to higher thresholds of outdoor air flow and other strategies to improve indoor air quality for occupants. The following is a list of best practices that the building owners and facilities managers can be doing to enhance the indoor air quality of our spaces where people need to be now, and/or prepare for when we will be together again. For currently unoccupied buildings, it makes sense to explore many of these strategies while a building is unoccupied so that everything is in the best working order when people return. Give your building a tune-up Just because a building was designed for proper air flows doesn’t mean it is still operating that way. Over time, systems can slip or people can do things such as close vents that are supposed to be left open. Through the process of Testing, Adjusting and Balancing (TAB), technicians determine what the appropriate air flows are supposed to be in different spaces, then go through to verify that the spaces are achieving those airflows. If they aren’t, they are corrected. It is essentially a tune-up for the building’s ventilation system. This can help to ensure all spaces are properly ventilated and in the process possibly help your building operate more efficiently. Increase air circulation and outdoor air As part of the TAB process, depending on how the system is designed, technicians can measure and possibly even adjust the amount of outdoor air coming into the building. Based on how COVID-19 behaves, as noted above, and how we ventilate for pathogens in medical facilities, it seems logical that moving more air and providing more outdoor air would be beneficial. In fact, the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19 ) specifically mentions “Increase ventilation rates” and “Increase percentage of outdoor air.” Note, we are heading into cooling season in most parts of the country, so people wonder, “Won’t I use more energy having to condition more outdoor air and why is the green guy recommending that?” In reality, green buildings are a balancing act, and not all about energy. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of “green building” includes healthy people as well. Use spaces designed for better ventilation Ventilation in a building is determined space by space. A corridor has less fresh air than a meeting room because people are not staying in that space for any measurable period of time. So in any building, there are likely to be better-ventilated spaces. Where might those be in your building, and how might you consider what spaces to be in with that knowledge? For example, we are working on a police facility. That facility has a crime lab that is negatively pressurized where all air in the room is exhausted (meaning none of it is recirculated). Perhaps that space would be a better space for a meeting for these first responders than the conference room, which has much less overall ventilation than the lab. Change out filters or even improve them Regular filter changing should be part of any regular building maintenance plan. Often this can get overlooked or slip on maintenance schedules. Make sure your building filters are not old. Old, dirty filters can slow down air movement, thus reducing the ventilation rates. In addition, consider adding a higher level of filter. Both the LEED rating systems and the WELL standard use MERV-13 (or better) as the guidance for top-level filtration. There can even be ways to add on things such as high-efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters or ultraviolet light for greater levels of filtration and decontamination. Is it time to replace an old unit? If you are inching towards a unit replacement, now just may be the ideal time. First of all, many older buildings were not designed with ventilation systems that meet even today’s minimum standards. A new system retrofit can achieve that. Also, if your building is unoccupied at the moment, it is a great time to be changing out equipment and not disrupting workflows. Getting the ventilation systems up to current standards before employees return could be helpful as we continue to combat the spread of this disease. What are occupants experiencing? It is easy for many of us in the building professions to forget that at the end of the day, it is the occupants for whom we are designing, constructing and maintaining buildings. Another green building and efficiency tool is the use of a survey. A simple occupant comfort survey can help identify issues from poor airflow to major issues such as mold. Again, as the building is unoccupied, it might be the ideal time to do a survey and explore or fix issues as there would be little disruption to workflow. Reduce toxic indoor contaminants Lastly, as we generally have become suddenly and acutely aware of respiratory health, we need to acknowledge the negative impact to respiratory health that so many materials and products used in our buildings can have. Going forward, consider implementing policies for the use of greener cleaning products, integrated pest management programs that use fewer toxic chemicals and lower-emitting paints and sealants, all of which contribute to healthier indoor spaces. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. The LEED and WELL building standards include these and many other strategies for improving the indoor air quality that so many of us sit in day after day that can have lasting impacts on our respiratory health. It has become clear that COVID-19 won’t be defeated with any singular silver bullet, at least until we get to a vaccine, which is estimated to be 18 months away or more. But a combination of best practices — hand washing, social distancing, etc. — is clearly the approach for now. The indoor environments we provide can help with our health and spread of disease, not only now, but even in the future to help things such as basic colds, the flu or other health issues for people. As the delicate balance between health and the economy has come into sharper focus than any of us could have imagined, it is worth noting that long before COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente noted it is estimated that work absenteeism costs U.S. employers $1,685 per employee each year. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Please note I am not a medical professional. I am an architect. I study buildings, not the specific ways diseases spread, nor the human body’s response to those diseases. I have been reaching out to the medical community, and I will update this article with new information as I receive it. This article originally appeared on Medium. Pull Quote In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. Topics COVID-19 Buildings COVID-19 HVAC Health 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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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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How cosmetics retailer Lush is making purposeful profit through circularity

Investment analysts conclude that greener businesses rule

February 25, 2020 by  
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Investment returns on firms driving the transition to a green economy are easily outstripping those of their fossil fuel competitors, new analysis suggests.

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Investment analysts conclude that greener businesses rule

When it comes to messaging, it’s all about ESG

February 25, 2020 by  
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For the last two years, I’ve been scratching my head about something: Americans have made it very clear that they want to buy from good companies. And when you ask them what’s good and who’s good they give a range of answers that lump together “good for the planet” and “good to people.”

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When it comes to messaging, it’s all about ESG

It will take more than EV promises from car companies to limit climate change damage

December 24, 2019 by  
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This next decade is crucial for the transition away from gasoline, and electric vehicle makers and climate-minded politicians are not going far enough.

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It will take more than EV promises from car companies to limit climate change damage

It’s not too late to address blind spots in the environmental movement

December 7, 2019 by  
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People of color, who are often the most impacted by the climate crisis, must be part of the environmental movement and the transition to a clean economy.

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It’s not too late to address blind spots in the environmental movement

Holiday Inn hotels will phase out mini shampoo bottles

August 1, 2019 by  
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The owner of Holiday Inn, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), has pledged to do away with the convenient but wasteful mini shampoo and soap bottles that are a staple in its 843,000 guest rooms. IHG owns more than 5,600 hotels around the world and announced that it will phase out the small plastic bottles and opt for bulk-sized containers for all its hotels by the end of 2021. According to the corporation, it uses over 200 million mini plastic bottles every year. Keith Barr, CEO of IHG, said, “Switching to larger-size amenities across more than 5,600 hotels around the world is a big step in the right direction and will allow us to significantly reduce our waste footprint and environmental impact as we make the change.” Related: Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste IHG is the first global hotel corporation of its size to make this promise. According to Barr, the announcement is also related to the national and local governments’ inability to pass stricter sustainability regulations. “We collectively as an industry have to lead where governments are not necessarily giving the leadership to make a difference.” In addition to its interest in sustainability, the corporation’s board is also looking to attract more customers who are increasingly concerned about the environment. According to a survey sponsored by Hilton, a third of customers researched the company’s sustainability policies before booking a room. As a result, Hilton announced a pledge to cut its carbon footprint in half and double its investments in social good. In addition to eliminating the small plastic bottles, IHG is working to phase out plastic straws by the end of 2019. A similar pledge was also made by the company’s competitor, Marriott International. At least a third of IHG’s properties have already started using the bulk-sized toiletry dispensers, and the rest are working on the transition. The full phase-out will be completed by 2021. + IHG Via NPR Image via Melanie

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Holiday Inn hotels will phase out mini shampoo bottles

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