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October 28, 2014

New tool aims to help companies measure social impact of products

Jacobine Das Gupta and Charles Duclaux
Tuesday 28 October 2014 14.13 GMT

Consumers are acutely aware of the provenance of the goods they purchase. They have greater access to product information than ever before, and are empowered to make more responsible purchase decisions.

Increasingly, businesses find that consumers favour products with ethical or environmental attributes and there is now evidence that a majority are also willing to pay more for them. A study by marketing research group Nielsen found that 55% of online consumers across 60 countries would pay a premium for ‘green’ or socially responsible goods.

Clearly therefore, there is now an opportunity for businesses to develop products and services that have demonstrable ecological or social benefits.

As consumers, we are accustomed to seeing ‘eco-labels’ on products and services. These are typically based on life cycle assessments (LCAs) that quantify the environmental impact of a product. These LCAs are being used to address issues such as climate change or water usage, and are based on a scientific approach, calculation models, and defined measurement units.

In contrast to the range of methodologies used to assess a product’s environmental impact, there is still a scarcity of tools and metrics to estimate the social impact of these products. A cross-industry social impact assessment method for products has not existed, even though many companies have implemented important social initiatives across their supply chains and operations.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 21, 2014

Waste-free, Willy Wonka packaging is coming but are consumers ready for it?

If Willy Wonka did packaging, it’d probably look something like the WikiPearl ? a soft, durable and water-resistant edible membrane, made from natural food particles, designed to protect a bite-size portion of food that it’s encasing. Created by David Edwards, a Harvard professor and biomedical engineer, the intention of the WikiPearl (formerly WikiCell) is to kill the packaging and make its relationship with food symbiotic.

“It’s important we don’t only look at this as a way to reduce plastics in packaging, but also in the context of how nature creates its own biodegradable packaging, like the skins of fruits,” says Eric Freedman of WikiFoods. The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has collaborated with the organic dairy business Stonyfield to apply the WikiPearl technology to yogurt. The Frozen Yogurt Pearls (think, small scoops of ice cream) come in coconut, peach and strawberry flavoured skins and are being sold at selected Whole Foods stores in the US.

According to the government’s waste advisor Wrap, households in the UK threw out 4.2m tonnes of food and drink waste in 2012. Rethinking packaging is a popular topic of conversation for sustainability wonks and designers. Recently, the Swedish duo Tomorrow Machine showcased a series of utopian packaging that included a container that dissolves with its contents. They have previously designed a wrapper that transforms into a bowl when water is poured on it. Tomorrow Machine’s founders admit that it will be a several years before such concepts are adopted commercially, so while we wait to be able to wash our packaging down the sink with plate scrapings, we’re encouraged to masticate as well as reduce, reuse, recycle.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

October 16, 2014

Eco-design should consider how users maintain non-electrical products

The lifetime environmental impacts of non-electrical consumer products, such as clothes, could be cut by over 40% if consumers maintained them in a more environmentally friendly manner, new research suggests. The study found the impacts of eco-designed products fell significantly when user guidelines were included in the eco-design.

‘Eco-design’ is an approach that considers the environmental impacts of a product during its entire life-cycle, from the choice of materials and manufacturing method, through to its eventual means of disposal or reuse. It aims to produce the most sustainable products and manufacturing processes with the lowest environmental impact. This study believes that communicating maintenance procedures to consumers should form part of the eco-design process.

EU directive 2009/125/EC defines the eco-design of energy-related products (ErPs), such as
televisions and light bulbs. It is often assumed that non-ErPs, such as cutlery or clothes, do not use much energy during their usage. However, ErPs are often used to maintain (e.g. wash) non-ErPs. As such, maintaining non-ErPs has important environmental impacts which depend on user behaviours. This study assessed how eco-design could improve the environmental impact of two common non-ErPs: a kitchen knife and a women’s jacket.

Read more at Science for Environment Policy, European Commission.

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category : Topics

October 14, 2014

Manufacturers Begin Process to Overturn California’s Plastic Bag Ban

Plastic bag manufacturers can now begin collecting signatures for a vote to overturn California’s ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, the Associated Press reports.

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the statewide law ? the first in the US ? that institutes a plastic bag ban beginning in 2015 for grocery store carry-out bags and creates a mandatory minimum 10-cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

October 13, 2014

Why Procter & Gamble is resetting its sustainability goals

By Joel Makower
Published October 13, 2014

Today, Procter & Gamble is updating its sustainability commitments, expanding some of its efforts and dialing back on another. Behind that announcement is a larger story about how the world’s largest consumer packaged goods story is viewing sustainability these days.

Setting sustainability goals for a multinational company can be tricky stuff. How high can you set the bar and still set yourself up for success? And what if you reach your goal ahead of schedule ? do you raise the bar? What if you’re not making the progress you hoped ? do you lower the bar? Four years ago, P&G set a series of 10-year goals. As it nears the halfway point, it’s a good time to reassess.

As part of its assessment, P&G is adding four new 2020 goals, aimed at expanding its efforts in water conservation and improving the environmental sustainability of its packaging. It is also revising an existing goal to drive more innovation on renewable materials.

Read more at GreenBiz.com.

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category : Topics

October 9, 2014

Vietnam seeks solutions to polluting paper factories

More than 90 per cent of paper factories in Vietnam operate with substandard waste water treatment systems or have no such system, creating pollution in localities where they are located.

Paper production, which requires 200-500 cubic meters of clean water to make one tonne of paper, is a huge consumer of water and is one of the biggest environmental polluting industries.

However, the majority of paper factories do not have waste water treatment systems which can meet standards, because they don’t want to spend money on waste water treatment work.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) said it would apply more drastic measures to stop the use of outdated equipment that causes pollution. It will also require companies to install waste water treatment systems.

An official of the ministry said a new circular stipulating the standard energy consumption levels for some key industries, including paper and pulp production, will be released in 2015.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

October 7, 2014

Plastics recycling and cutting through the “green smoke”

Willow Aliento | 7 October 2014

There’s an elephant in the room of the waste-to-energy industry: the majority of megawatts generated still come from burning fossil fuels, in the form of plastics, according to director and co-founder of Plastic Forests, David Hodge, who will be a panellist at the Australian Waste and Recycling Expo this week in Sydney.

Mr Hodge’s company aims to reclaim a significant part of those resources through a world-first process for upcycling plastic film, including plastic shopping bags and packaging films, into a range of useful products including electrical cable covers, root guards for trees and garden edging.

The company began as a project within Global Renewables in Sydney, one of only two Australian firms taking “red bin” general household waste ? including organics for compost, batteries, aluminium and plastics ? and processing it into a number of streams of recyclables.

Mr Hodge said the company found that out of the 250,000 tonnes a year of waste it was processing from three Sydney council areas, about 10 per cent comprised plastic films. A lengthy research and development process was carried out, resulting in the creation of a new independent company with a facility based in regional Victoria.

The new company produces upcycled plastic products under the Green Mongrel brand as well as pelletised plastic for other manufacturers.

Read more at The Fifth Estate.

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category : Topics

October 7, 2014

Nobel Prize Goes to Inventors of LED Lights

This year's Nobel Prize for Physics goes to three scientists for their work on the LED light bulb, "an invention of greatest benefit to mankind."

In the early 1990s, they overcame decades of unsuccessful efforts to produce bright blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), paving the way for a fundamental transformation of lighting technology.

"Their inventions are revolutionary. While incandescent light bulbs lit the 20th century, the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps," says the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize.

Read more at Sustainable Business.com.

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category : Topics

October 2, 2014

California Says Goodbye to Plastic Bags

SACRAMENTO, California, October 2, 2014 (ENS) ? California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

Hawaii has had a de facto statewide ban for nearly two years, but because each of the four major islands is a county, the bag bans were approved county by county.

Senate Bill 270 will phase out single-use plastic bags across the entire state of California.

The measure takes effect on January 1, 2015 in grocery stores and pharmacies. Beginning July 1, 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores will no longer be able to hand out single-use plastic bags.

Plastic bags cause litter, slow sorting and jam machinery at recycling centers. They kill birds, turtles and marine mammals that become entangled or mistake the bags for food. Plastic composes 90 percent of all floating debris worldwide.

Read more at Environment News Service.

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category : Topics


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