McDonald’s new paper straws: thick, soggy, hard to recycle

August 7, 2019 by  
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Looks like the shakes at some McDonald’s restaurants aren’t the only things that are thick. Word is the fast food chain’s paper straws introduced a year ago to keep in tune with “protecting the environment” are hard to recycle , because they are too thick and become soggy in drinks. The new paper straws were introduced in 2018 after a trial basis to 1,361 McDonald’s franchises located throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Related: McDonald’s creates McHives to raise awareness of the world’s decreasing bee populations. The problem with these straws was first reported by the U.K.’s The Sun newspaper, which published an internal McDonald’s memorandum stating the fast food chain’s paper straws “are not yet recyclable and should be disposed of in general waste until further notice.” “While the materials are recyclable, their current thickness makes it difficult for them to be processed by our waste solution providers, who also help us recycle our paper cups,” a McDonald’s spokesman told the U.K.’s Press Association news agency. Although the original plastic straws could be recycled more easily, the European Union along with the British government has opted to move to banning plastic straws by 2020 and wants chains like McDonald’s to halt using such products. “The government’s ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic , and I’m proud that we’ve been able to play our part in helping to achieve this societal change,” Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland, said in a press release at the time. Not surprisingly, the new paper straws haven’t been much of a hit from the get-go, according to other reports. For example, many social media users have been busy commenting that the paper straws get too soggy in drinks. Additionally, a formal petition asking McDonald’s to return to its former plastic straws has garnered more than 50,000 signatures. Via CNN Image via Meghan Rodgers

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Vuntut Gwitchin is the first indigenous nation to declare a climate emergency

May 28, 2019 by  
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Last week, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation became the first indigenous tribe to declare an official climate emergency . Like other nations that have made similar declarations, the announcement is not backed with funding but rather is an official call to action. Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm is hopeful that the declaration will spur a domino effect among indigenous groups and lead to an Indigenous Climate Accord. “The indigenous peoples have been left out of the Paris Climate Accord,” Tizya-Tramm said. “We’ve gotten a nod in the preamble, but where are the national and international public forums for indigenous voices?” Related: In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency In June, the Gwitchin Steering Committee is planning an Arctic Indigenous Climate Summit and hopes that many different groups will come together to discuss their shared climate problems and possible plans of actions that are stronger than even the Paris Agreement . The Vuntut Gwitchin is a northern tribe in Canada’s Yukon territory, where melting icecaps are an unavoidable daily truth. “We’re seeing it in the priming of furs, in the emptying of lakes, in the return of animals , such as, this year, the geese coming before the black ducks, which we hadn’t seen before,” Tizya-Tramm said. “It’s about bringing that to the rest of the community, nationally.” Few media outlets reported on this major declaration from May 19, but indigenous groups have been prominent climate activists across the globe, including leading pipeline protests at Standing Rock and leading water justice actions. Traditional knowledge will likely be a critical ingredient for determining solutions to reduce the climate crisis, but international discussions largely ignore indigenous voices. Other nations to declare climate emergencies include the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and the Czech Republic. + Vuntut Gwitchin Via Earther Image via Bureau of Land Management

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In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

May 7, 2019 by  
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In a victory for peaceful protest and the planet, the United Kingdom parliament is now the world’s first national legislative body to proclaim a climate change emergency. The decision comes on the heels of major protests by Extinction Rebellion that snarled London traffic for a week last month. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed the emergency declaration. “Today, we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you,’” Corbyn told parliament . “By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world.” Related: Extinction Rebellion LA protests climate change by supergluing themselves to Universal globe The declaration was one of several demands made by Extinction Rebellion. Extinction Rebellion’s other demands call on Britain to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025 and for citizens’ assemblies to be responsible for working out these initiatives, rather than the powers-that-be. Michael Gove, environment secretary under conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, acknowledged the danger of climate change. “Not only do I welcome the opportunity that this debate provides, I also want to make it clear that on this side of the house, we recognize that the situation we face is an emergency,” Gove said . “It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet.” Gove and Corbyn both vowed to confront Donald Trump on his environmental stance when the U.S. president visits the U.K. in June. Many municipalities and regions of the U.K. have also declared climate emergencies, including Scotland, Wales, Manchester and London, noting that the clock is winding down for Earth’s inhabitability by humans. As one sign hoisted by a Scottish school child during last month’s protests said, “Dinosaurs thought they had time, too.” Via Reuters , The Guardian Image via David Holt

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In a world first, the UK declares a climate emergency

Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

March 21, 2019 by  
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A new study reveals that hen harriers are being killed at an alarming rate on U.K. grouse moors. Scientists found that gamekeepers are eliminating these birds , which are on the verge of extinction in England because they hunt red grouse. Conservationists have been tagging hen harriers in the U.K. for several years and discovered that 72 percent of the birds involved in studies have come up missing. The researchers believe the majority of these birds were killed illegally. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species Sadly, 83 percent of juvenile hen harriers in this region do not make it through their first year. In comparison, 65 percent of juveniles do not survive in other areas of the country. In areas completely devoid of grouse moors, those numbers drop to less than 50 percent. According to The Guardian , hen harrier numbers have dropped dangerously low in the U.K., despite the fact that there are acceptable habitats for large numbers to survive with ease. Not only is there plenty of food for the birds of prey, but there are also few predators with which to compete. Even still, only seven of the 58 birds in the study were alive by the end of 2017. Five of the deceased birds uncovered in the study, which spanned a decade, died naturally. Four others sustained injuries consistent with hunting and were considered to be illegally killed. The great majority of the missing birds, however, vanished without a trace. Only a small percentage of these disappearances can be attributed to malfunctioning tags; the rest are believed to be victims of hunting . “Carcasses were rarely recovered, presumably due to suspected illegal killing and carcass disposal,” the study revealed. In order to boost population numbers, a new program was just passed to rear juvenile hen harriers in captivity. Researchers with Natural England plan to find juvenile birds in the wild, raise them in captivity and later release them far from grouse moors. The new hen harrier plan has been met with some resistance by conservationists , though a court just ruled in favor of its legality. Via The Guardian Image via Rob Zweers

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Hen Harriers on the verge of extinction due to gamekeepers killing illegally

Trader Joe’s ditching single-use plastics for more eco-friendly options

March 11, 2019 by  
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An increasing number of grocery stores are ditching single-use plastics to help curb the amount of synthetic materials that end up in landfills around the world. Trader Joe’s is the most recent business to reduce plastic use in stores across the country, a move that comes after a Greenpeace initiative that garnered close to 100,000 signatures. In 2018, Trader Joe’s vowed to use more sustainable packaging to help decrease the 1 million pounds of waste it generates annually from plastics. A big chunk of that waste comes from single-use plastic bags , which the outlet has already stopped offering to customers. The company has also stopped using plastic in the produce section, replacing the traditional bags with biodegradable alternatives. Related: Cove launches the first 100% biodegradable water bottle “As a neighborhood grocery store, we feel it is important for us to be the great neighbor our customers deserve. Part of that means better managing our environmental impact,” Trader Joe’s Kenya Friend-Daniel shared. Plastic waste is a growing issue for countries around the globe. Only a quarter of plastics manufactured in the states are recycled, despite the fact that it takes significantly more energy to make plastic from scratch. If we increased recycling efforts up to three quarters, then we could save around a billion gallons in oil production and free up some 44 million yards of landfill every year. Trader Joe’s is not the first business to get rid of single-use plastics and hopefully will not be the last. Several grocery retailers in the United Kingdom have also removed single-use plastics from their stores. McDonald’s has also vowed to replace its packaging with sustainable materials within a decade, while Evian will go completely plastic free by next year. Reducing our reliance on single-use plastic is the first step in eliminating plastic waste , which often ends up in the ocean. With more and more companies like Trader Joe’s ditching single-use plastics for more eco-friendly options, we can only hope that other businesses will follow their lead and cut down on plastic use at a larger scale. Via Eco Watch Images via Shutterstock

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Trader Joe’s ditching single-use plastics for more eco-friendly options

Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

March 1, 2019 by  
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A new study shows that close to 2,000 sites across the U.K. have poor air quality due to excess pollution. The cities most affected by high levels of toxic gas were in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, all of which were tested well beyond what is considered safe. One of the main culprits behind the alarming numbers is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is considered one of the most harmful of urban pollutants. Kensington, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster all tested high in nitrogen dioxide in 2017. This gas irritates lungs and creates breathing issues. One of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide is vehicle emissions. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Earlier this week, London’s mayor announced a pollution alert as residents in the country enjoyed a rare warm spell for February. The warning was the first of its kind since last summer and was precipitated by light winds and lack of storms, which usually help drive away harmful gases. While poor air quality is a major issue across the country, London is about to initiate a plan to help clean things up. The city is establishing an ultra-low emission area in central London that will vastly improve air quality. The initiative is expected to remove around 45 percent of emissions by this spring. The researches who conducted the study are part of a group called Friends of the Earth. Based on their findings, the group called for better emission standards throughout the country and are urging ministers to tighten up government control. “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air,” one of the researchers, Simon Bowens, explained. Air pollution has been previously linked to major health problems in human populations, including heart disease, dementia and even miscarriages. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, which can damage lungs and even impact intelligence levels. If London’s new program is successful, hopefully other cities will follow suit and start improving air quality before it becomes an even bigger problem. Via The Guardian Images via Foto-Rabe

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Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

Poor air quality found at over 2,000 sites across the UK

March 1, 2019 by  
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A new study shows that close to 2,000 sites across the U.K. have poor air quality due to excess pollution. The cities most affected by high levels of toxic gas were in Wales, England and Northern Ireland, all of which were tested well beyond what is considered safe. One of the main culprits behind the alarming numbers is nitrogen dioxide, a gas that is considered one of the most harmful of urban pollutants. Kensington, Chelsea, Leeds and Doncaster all tested high in nitrogen dioxide in 2017. This gas irritates lungs and creates breathing issues. One of the main sources of nitrogen dioxide is vehicle emissions. Related: Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok Earlier this week, London’s mayor announced a pollution alert as residents in the country enjoyed a rare warm spell for February. The warning was the first of its kind since last summer and was precipitated by light winds and lack of storms, which usually help drive away harmful gases. While poor air quality is a major issue across the country, London is about to initiate a plan to help clean things up. The city is establishing an ultra-low emission area in central London that will vastly improve air quality. The initiative is expected to remove around 45 percent of emissions by this spring. The researches who conducted the study are part of a group called Friends of the Earth. Based on their findings, the group called for better emission standards throughout the country and are urging ministers to tighten up government control. “It’s unforgivable that across the UK there are nearly 2,000 locations over air quality limits, leaving millions of us breathing dangerously polluted air,” one of the researchers, Simon Bowens, explained. Air pollution has been previously linked to major health problems in human populations, including heart disease, dementia and even miscarriages. Children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution, which can damage lungs and even impact intelligence levels. If London’s new program is successful, hopefully other cities will follow suit and start improving air quality before it becomes an even bigger problem. Via The Guardian Images via Foto-Rabe

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UK bans pet stores from selling puppies, kittens

January 3, 2019 by  
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In an attempt to protect animals from exploitation, the United Kingdom has passed a new law banning third-party commercial retailers from selling puppies and kittens. The U.K. government wants to crack down on “puppy farms” and make things more difficult for dealers who seem to have no regard for animal welfare. There was overwhelming public support for the ban of third-party sales, and Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley says the new law “is part of our commitment to make sure the nation’s much-loved pets get the right start to life.” Now, U.K. residents looking to purchase a furry friend must go directly to the breeder or a rehoming center instead of a pet shop. Veterinarian Marc Abraham, the founder of Pup Aid, says that the new law is a victory for grassroots campaigners — as well as the U.K.’s dogs and cats — and it will make breeders more accountable. Abraham also says that the ban will make it more difficult for anyone to sell illegally smuggled puppies and kittens. Related: California bans all puppy mills and requires all pet stores to sell rescue animals Animal welfare groups have also praised the new law, with one of the country’s best-known animal shelters, the Battersea Cat and Dogs home, endorsing the ban. This legislative change comes in the wake of the RSPCA asking the public for information about two people who were caught on closed-circuit TV abandoning a dog, all the while driving off and ignoring the dog’s plea to return to the vehicle. The video clip of the abandonment — which took place in early December in the town of Trentham (about 150 miles northwest of London) — has gone viral on social media. “To see the poor dog in such obvious distress, jumping up at the car as it drives away, is just heartbreaking,” said RSPCA inspector Natalie Perehovsky. “I can’t understand how someone could do this.” Via HuffPost Images via Shutterstock

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A third of people in the UK are now eating less or no meat

November 6, 2018 by  
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A new report on food shopping in the U.K. shows that one in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan, and another 21 percent identify as flexitarians. This means that about a third of U.K. consumers have deliberately reduced or eliminated meat from their diets, and it underlines a revolution in the eating habits of U.K. citizens. Vegetarians have a diet that eliminates meat, poultry and fish, while vegans eat a plant-based diet and completely avoid all animal products. Flexitarians eat a largely vegetable-based diet and just occasionally supplement it with meat . Related: Look out, meat industry — flexitarianism is on the rise The report comes from the supermarket chain Waitrose, which studied the food choices of Britons across all British supermarket chains. The study shows that people are thinking about how they can individually counter climate change , and avoiding meat and dairy products seems to be the single biggest way that you can reduce your environmental impact on the planet. Waitrose’s report comes from a poll of 2,000 adults who shop a variety of retailers, plus research of millions of transactions in stores and online. The report found the most likely age range to make the switch to veganism is 18 to 34. “It’s extremely encouraging to learn how many Britons are choosing to reduce their consumption of animal products,” Nick Palmer, the head of Compassion in World Farming U.K., told The Guardian . Palmer added that science shows the healthiest diet is plant-heavy, and when you eat less meat, fish, eggs and dairy, you can help animals , people and the planet. The Vegan Society claimed that the number of vegans in the U.K. has increased 400 percent in the last four years, from 150,000 to 600,000. Last May, Waitrose became the first U.K. supermarket to put dedicated vegan sections in its stores, plus it also launched a line of vegan and vegetarian ready-to-eat meals. Vegan dining has also gone mainstream in the U.K., with many chains increasing their non-meat and non-dairy options. Some restaurants have also created menus dedicated to vegans, as more and more people discover just how amazing vegan food can taste. + Waitrose Via The Guardian Image via Mittmac

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A third of people in the UK are now eating less or no meat

A couple builds a fairytale-like rental cabin near a volcano for $30K

November 6, 2018 by  
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When Caroline and Julien traveled across South America in their Volkswagen Kombi, the couple noticed a dearth of quality accommodations and decided to fill that hospitality gap by building a beautifully crafted rental cabin in Chile . After 19 months of construction, the couple realized their dream on the slopes of the Calbuco Volcano in Ensenada. Designed and constructed for an approximate cost of $30,000, the cozy, handcrafted home — dubbed Casa Nido — has been listed on Airbnb starting at $116 a night . Designing and building Casa Nido was a big adventure for the couple, given that they didn’t know anything about construction before starting. Yet all parts of the cabin , from the design and interior finishes to the electrical wiring and water systems, were carried out by the duo without any outside help. “We are offering tourists and travelers high quality, fully handmade accommodation, somewhere to relax and contemplate far away from consumer society,” said Caroline and Julien. “It is also the ideal place to rethink one’s priorities and experiment, for a given time, what is ‘going back to the essential.’” Inspired by images of fairytale cottages , Casa Nido spans two floors, with a ground floor of 290 square feet and a smaller second level of 129 square feet. The curved roof beam is constructed from plywood, and all the other timber materials are locally sourced, native species. For instance, Patagonian Cypress was used for the windows, doors and furnishings while Manio was used for the outside siding, interior lining and flooring. In addition to a bedroom that sleeps two, the cabin comes with a living room overlooking Calbuco Volcano vistas, a fully equipped kitchen that frames views of Osorno Volcano, a ground floor terrace and a wood-fired hot tub. Related: Award-winning glass cabin is nestled inside an Australian rainforest The cabin is powered by a photovoltaic solar system that provides enough electricity to meet daily needs, while the water is sourced from a nearby natural spring higher up in the valley. Wastewater is treated with a photo-purification system. The couple also plans to build a homemade biodigester to replace the use of gas cylinders for the cabin’s gas system. To wake up to volcano views at Casa Nido, check out the listing on Airbnb . + Casa Nido

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