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February 25, 2015

How Walmart's green label aims to drive supplier 'race to the top'

Lauren Hepler
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 3:10am

What do Tide laundry detergent, a poster covered in adorable puppies wearing headphones and a baseball hat emblazoned with the cast of Duck Dynasty have in common?

One, they're all sold at Walmart. Two, the grab bag of products are all made by Walmart suppliers included in an initial batch of 150 companies that earned the right to be included in a new "sustainability leader" section of the mega-retailer's growing e-commerce operation. Those suppliers range from consumer products giants like Procter & Gamble and Unilever to smaller businesses like California-based Musco Family Olive Co.

The new online badging program, announced on Tuesday at a company Milestone Meeting held just south of San Francisco, is an outgrowth of the company's efforts to index supply chain sustainability standards across product categories. About 1,300 suppliers participated in Walmart supplier sustainability surveys last year, and about 12 percent of those companies have received the new sustainability leaders designation, Walmart Director of Product Sustainability Robert Kaplan told GreenBiz.

"What Walmart is very excited about today is using this tool to inspire a race to the top," Kaplan said. "This is about continuous improvement."

Products receiving the sustainability label aren't necessarily sustainable in and of themselves. Rather, the badges denote suppliers that are taking a broader view of sustainability by integrating organizational changes instead of product-by-product incremental improvements — a reflection of Walmart's own quest to drill down into the most meaningful information in the field.

"The Sustainability Leaders badge does not make representations about the environmental or social impact of an individual product," a Walmart document provided to GreenBiz notes, "only that the manufacturer has scored well enough to earn a badge across all of the products they make in that category."

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

February 25, 2015

First International Forum on Sustainable Lifestyles Seeks to Accelerate Transition to Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns

The 1st Dubai International Forum for Sustainable Lifestyles is organized by the Zayed International Foundation for the Environment in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Technical support is provided by the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) Secretariat. It is also supported by the European Commission through the SWITCH-Med Project. The Forum aims to identify the drivers of unsustainable consumption and lifestyles.

"Shifting to more sustainable lifestyles is not only a 'label', found in UN jargon, it is about our daily lives: the buildings we live in, the shopping we do at the mall, the food we have on our plates, the waste we generate, the clothes we wear and the light above our heads," said UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw. "Whether you work in business, in research and innovation, in educating our children or in architectural planning, it is our collective responsibility to make this issue our own."

The forum also looks to find ways around barriers to change by sharing knowledge and experiences, and showcasing initiatives across many areas-such as daily living, the built environment, mobility, consumer goods and services, food consumption, health and wellbeing.

Read more at UNEP News Centre.

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category : Topics

February 25, 2015

Six clean tech innovations you need to know about

Alice Grahame
Wednesday 25 February 2015 07.00 GMT

Businesses wanting to improve their low carbon credentials rely on highly creative people to come up with new ideas. But for those innovators wanting to share their ideas, it can be hard to get projects off the ground. It takes time and money to refine products and business plans – things startups often don’t have. So what help is there for innovators wanting to give up their day jobs and focus on their inventions?

One option is Cleantech Innnovate, a biannual event in London and Glasgow where low carbon innovators pitch for £20,000 and get to meet potential investors. Here are some of the exciting innovations that got caught the eye at the most recent event this month.

1. Steamed up
Originally designed for boats, steam infusion cooks huge quantities of food very quickly and evenly, keeping food nutritious and tasty. It works on liquid foods like sauces and soups by blasting them with steam travelling at three times the speed of sound, heating food from 20C to 80C in only a second, and can cook 1000kg of food in just 10 minutes.

Designed by British engineering company OAL Group, steam infusion has been successfully making ready meals, ketchup, béchamel sauce and minestrone soup. It has been used to feed refugees in northern Iraq and to make a new maize-based nutritional drink called Zambia.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

February 19, 2015

Going Tubeless

From: Catherine Gill, Care2
Published February 19, 2015 09:09 AM

Recently one of the country’s most popular paper goods suppliers, Scott Products, did away with the cardboard inner tube inside of its toilet paper rolls and is now going tubeless. Here’s why that’s good news for the environment.

Each year over 17 billion toilet paper tubes are thrown away, and most end up in landfills. To put that in perspective, this amount of waste is enough to fill the Empire State Building…twice! And did you know that in New York City alone, 14,000 toilet paper inner tubes are thrown away every 15 minutes? In fact, just the tubes from toilet paper rolls account for millions of pounds of waste each year.

Since first putting out toilet paper in the 1980s, Scott Products has become the top supplier. Therefore, the company’s move to go tubeless carries even more environmental significance because it sets a precedent. What if every toilet paper manufacturer ditched the inner tube? Imagining the benefits of that is exciting for all of us environmental activists out there.

What if we were to expand on this strategy beyond just toilet paper? Many other products contain a wasteful component that can be eliminated in order to help save our planet. What if paper towel companies did this as well? Each year billions of paper towel tubes end up biodegrading in landfills, but they don’t need to be there.

Read more at Environmental News Network.

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category : Topics

February 19, 2015

EU introduces new rules to make cooking greener

The sale of energy-wasting ovens and cooking hobs will be banned across the European Union after the latest set of rules to make household appliances more efficient takes effect on Friday, (20 February).

The European Commission said on Wednesday (18 February) that getting rid of inefficient appliances would cut consumer energy bills by around 50 euros ($57) per year, while the savings from the rules across the bloc would run into billions.

The policy, known as ecodesign, is intended to reduce fuel imports and CO2 emissions.

Industry bodies representing European appliance makers, such as Bosch Siemens Haushaltsgeraete and Philips, were involved in consultations and have welcomed the new rules, which will apply to new ovens and hobs.

But critics have portrayed ecodesign as another example of Brussels bureaucracy. Last year, rules limiting the power of new vacuum cleaners were whipped up into a media frenzy dubbed Hoovergate.

Read more at EurActive.

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category : Topics

February 18, 2015

Apple Halts Production at 15 Facilities for Environmental Violations

Apple suspended production at 15 facilities that violated its environmental rules in 2014, according to the company’s Supplier Responsibility 2015 Progress Report.

Last year the tech giant conducted compliance audits at 633 facilities — a 40 percent increase from 2013.

Three of the sites were suspended for repeating a violation of no or inadequate environmental impact assessment approval. Once the EIR reports were complete and approved by the local environmental protection agencies, the facilities resumed production.

Another five were suspended for releasing waste air without treatment. Apple says the violating sites installed equipment to filter discharged air and put monitoring protocols in place.

And seven were suspended for directly discharging wastewater into storm pipe or sewage systems without treatment. Apple says the seven were required to implement wastewater collection and treatment systems before production resumed.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

February 17, 2015

Scientists reveal revolutionary palm oil alternative: yeast

Oliver Balch
Tuesday 17 February 2015 11.37 GMT

The ubiquity of palm oil, which appears in everything from margarine to lipstick, is now widely recognised. So too are the detrimental effects of palm oil plantations on the world’s remaining rainforests. So why do we keep using it?

The simple answer is it’s just too good at what it does. Its versatility comes down to two main stellar properties: an exceptionally high melting point and very high saturation levels. Some vegetable oils get close to one of the two, but none to both.

Now researchers at the University of Bath believe they may have hit on an alternative: yeast. A three-year research programme between the university’s biochemistry and chemical engineering faculties has successfully cultivated an oily yeast that matches palm oil’s key properties almost identically.

Early laboratory tests in a shake flask show that the yeast Metschnikowia pulcherrima – historically known for its use in South Africa’s wine industry – can produce up to 20 grams per litre of oil, giving it a similar lipid profile to palm oil. Among its other selling points, M. pulcherrima can be found pretty much anywhere, including on a huge variety of tree leaves, fruits and flowers. Initial bio-prospecting efforts have turned up strains in Vietnam, South Africa, Italy, France – and fortuitously even on the University of Bath’s own campus.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

February 16, 2015

Turning our mountains of food waste into graphene

Rich McEachran
Monday 16 February 2015 10.02 GMT

Blended cocoa beans, rice, fruit skins, leeks and asparagus sounds like it should be a recipe for a disastrous smoothie. But these are just some of the wasted foodstuffs that are being treated and converted into materials, with environmental benefits.

Scientists at the City University of Hong Kong have found that they can turn coffee grounds and stale bakery goods – collected from a local Starbucks – into a sugary solution that can be used to manufacture plastic. The food waste was mixed with bacteria and fermented to produce succinic acid, a substance usually made from petrochemicals, that can be found in a range of fibres, fabrics and plastics.

Meanwhile, engineers at the Colorado School of Mines have discovered a way to turn banana peels, eggshells and rice husks into glass. By blending, drying and pounding it into a fine powder, and with a little help from the magic of science, they found the mixture could provide some of the metal oxides required in the composition of glass. Ivan Cornejo, a professor at the university, told the Denver Post at the time that such an innovation could reduce the need to mine for silica, one of glass’s primary components.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

February 14, 2015

Japan, EU to harmonize vehicle safety standards

Japan, the European Union, Australia and other economies will adopt common benchmarks for automobile safety as early as the spring of next year, a move likely to free up international trade in new cars by shortening inspections.

A broad agreement covering 40 of roughly 60 points on safety inspection checklists is expected to be reached at a meeting of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations in Geneva next month.

South Africa, Russia and Ukraine have also expressed a readiness to join the deal. The U.S. is set to remain an outlier in vehicle safety standards, while China, the world's biggest market for autos, has indicated that it will not join.

The agreement would include such criteria as seat belt strength and the stiffness of the hood, or bonnet, a factor in pedestrian safety. With common standards, cars bound for export would need only domestic safety inspections, obviating the need for another round of checks after shipment.

Read more at Nikkei Asian Review.

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category : Topics

February 13, 2015

Japan Has More Car Chargers Than Gas Stations

by Timothy Coulter
9:00 AM TLT
February 13, 2015

There are more electric-car charging points in Japan than there are gas stations.

That surprising discovery comes from Nissan Motor Co., which reported that the number of power points in Japan, including fast-chargers and those in homes, has surged to 40,000, surpassing the nation’s 34,000 gas stations.

The figure shows that in the relatively brief time since electric vehicles were introduced, the infrastructure to support them has become bigger than what the oil industry built over decades in the world’s third-biggest economy -- at least by this one measure.

Why that matters is obvious. Nissan’s battery-powered Leaf can travel 84 miles (135 kilometers) on a charge, and the anxiety of being stuck away from home without power has restrained consumer demand. As the charging network expands and batteries become more powerful, that concern will wane.

“An important element of the continued market growth is the development of the charging infrastructure,” Joseph G. Peter, Nissan chief financial officer, told analysts on a conference call.
As charging stations become more common, electric-car support services are also emerging.

Open Charge Map, for example, operates an online listing of public charging points worldwide. A mobile app combines the data with GPS technology to guide drivers to the nearest site.

Of course, gas stations typically have multiple pumps and can serve more vehicles in a day than an electric-car charging point.

Read more at BloombergBusiness.

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category : Topics

February 12, 2015

Plastic waste heading for oceans quantified

By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent, San Jose

About eight million tonnes of plastic waste find their way into the world's oceans each year, say scientists.

The new study is said to be the best effort yet to quantify just how much of this debris is being dumped, blown or simply washed out to sea.

Eight million tonnes is like covering an area 34 times the size of New York's Manhattan Island to ankle depth.

The details were released at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr Jenna Jambeck, the study’s lead author from the University of Georgia, had another way to try to visualise the scale of the problem.

“The quantity entering the ocean is equal to about five plastic grocery bags full of plastic for every foot of coastline in the world,” she told BBC News.

Unseen pollution

Researchers have for some time now reported on the mass of plastic caught up in ocean currents, just going round and round.

What is slightly shocking about this new study, also published in Science Magazine, is that it helps quantify all the plastic in our oceans - not just the material seen floating on the sea surface or sitting on beaches.

The newly published estimate is 20 to 2,000 times greater than the reported mass of plastic trapped in high concentration in ocean gyres.

It is clear now that large quantities of debris must be hidden on the seafloor or have been weathered into tiny fragments that are just not apparent to casual surveys. The latter are being ingested by marine animals with unknown consequences.

Read more at BBC News Science & Environment.

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category : Topics

February 9, 2015

Would you buy a 'biodiversity-friendly' product?

MANILA, Philippines – Soon, consumers may find Philippine products labeled with a sticker certifying them as "biodiversity-friendly."

The government is hoping to launch a certification scheme to promote this new green label for products and enterprises in the Philippines.

A Joint Administration Order (JAO) between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, then Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) is now in the works and is set for release within the year, said Joy Reyes Eugenio of the Biodiversity Partnerships Project under the DENR.

The JAO "Adopting Biodiversity-friendly Business and Enterprise Framework and Criteria" hopes to encourage entrepreneurs, indigenous peoples, local government units, people's organizations, and consumers to promote an economy that values biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability.

A labeling or certification scheme is essential for this to happen.

"It will distinguish these products above the rest as safe for biodiversity. It's like you're putting a premium on the product. There's already a niche market for eco-friendly products," Eugenio told Rappler.

A draft of the JAO obtained by Rappler defines "biodiversity-friendly" enterprises as enterprises that "promote the sustainable use of biological resources; create wealth and value; and open opportunities for the equitable sharing of benefits among stakeholders."

Read more at RAPPLER.

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category : Topics

February 9, 2015

APP gets 'moderate' grade for forest conservation

By Vaidehi Shah Monday 9 February 2015

Indonesia’s Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP) has made “moderate progress” on fulfilling its ambitious Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) announced two years ago, but the company must do more to stop deforestation in its concessions by third parties, protect peatlands, and resolve social conflicts.

These are the findings of a new audit report released on Thursday in Jakarta by international non-profit Rainforest Alliance, which was asked by APP to assess their efforts to implement its forest policy, which pledged to preserve forested areas and peatlands, respect community rights, and ensure that third-party suppliers also practice responsible forest management.

After looking at APP’s operations from February 2013 to last August, Rainforest Alliance said that APP had delivered on commitments such as stopping deforestation, peatland canal construction, and the use of natural forest pulpwood fibre.

APP had also done well in holding its existing suppliers to guidelines for responsible fibre procurement and processing, and ensuring that future suppliers would do the same.

However, there were also several areas where only limited progress had been made, the report showed.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

February 9, 2015

EU aids shoppers to steer clear of harmful palm oil

By Ruth Evans

New food labelling rules on giving consumers in Europe more information should help to protect the world’s tropical forests and the climate.

LONDON, 6 February, 2015 − A European Union decision to give consumers more information about the food they buy could mean good news for tropical countries whose forests are threatened by the expanding trade in palm oil.

Palm oil is found in 50% of supermarket products, such as soaps and shampoos, and in many sorts of food. But the EU requirement that food products containing the oil must now be labelled clearly should help to dispel doubts about the damage it can cause.

Producing the oil often involves felling virgin rainforest, reducing biodiversity and destroying the habitat of endangered species such as orangutans, elephants and tigers, and ruining the livelihoods of local people.

It also involves the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when carbon-rich tropical forests are cleared for plantations.

Read more at Climate News Network.

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category : Topics

February 9, 2015

Online Toolbox for Safer Chemical Substitution

The EPA, the University of Wisconsin Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have launched an online toolbox to help companies use safer chemicals.

The OECD Substitution & Alternatives Assessment Toolbox includes resources relevant to chemical substitution and alternatives assessments. Alternative assessments are processes for identifying, comparing and selecting safer alternatives to replace hazardous chemicals with the objective of promoting sustainable production and consumption.

The Toolbox has four resource areas:

- Alternatives Assessment Tool Selector
- Alternatives Assessment Frameworks
- Case Studies and Other Resources
- Regulations and Restrictions

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

February 5, 2015

Plastic waste dominates seafloor litter in Mediterranean and Black Sea surveys

Researchers have trawled coastal areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea for waste and found up to 1211 items of litter per km2. Plastic bags and bottles were some of the most commonly found items. They present the results in a recent study, which they say supports Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) implementation, as well as efforts to discourage plastic carrier bag use.

Marine litter has a range of damaging impacts. For instance, marine creatures can become entangled in floating nets or eat the litter. Floating litter can also transport non-native species into new environments and tiny plastic fragments, ‘microplastics’, have been shown to be long-term sources of pollutants, such as phthalates.

This study, conducted under the EU PERSEUS project1, assessed marine litter on the seafloor of five areas in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea — three gulfs in Greece, one gulf in Cyprus and one bay in Romania.

The researchers say this study highlights the need for action to tackle marine litter and is relevant to ‘descriptor 10’ of the MSFD. This is one of eleven qualitative criteria describing ‘good environmental status’ listed by the Directive and states that ‘Properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to the coastal and marine environment’. An important first step in satisfying this descriptor is to quantify marine litter. There is only limited information on quantities in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, however.

The study trawled the seabeds of the five areas for litter at a total of 94 sampling stations in early 2013. The researchers point out that rocky areas cannot be trawled, and that they focused on fishing grounds with sandy or muddy floors.

Read more at "Science for Environment Policy": European Commission DG.

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category : Topics

February 5, 2015

Sustainable Purchasing Guidelines Launched

The Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council today will release to the public its Guidance for Leadership in Sustainable Purchasing v1.0.

Already, 80 organizations including Ecolab, Lockheed Martin, Office Depot, the US General Services Administration and the EPA, with more than $100 billion in purchasing power, have signed up for the Pilot Program, which will run February to July 2015.

The Guidance v1.0 Pilot Program is an intensive training, collaboration and feedback period designed to engage purchasers and entities affected by the guidance — such as suppliers, standards developers, certifiers, and public interest groups — in improving the guidance.

Guidance v1.0 helps organizations optimize the environmental, social, and economic performance of their supply chain, while also promoting innovation and transparency in the broader marketplace, SPLC says.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

February 3, 2015

Bigbelly wants to be more than a smart trash company

Heather Clancy
Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 1:00am

Solar-powered trash compactors made by Bigbelly are a familiar sight on the streets of big cities including Amsterdam, Boston, Chicago, Dublin, Hamburg, New York and Stockholm.

Indeed, the company said it ended 2014 with more than 1,500 customers on its account list — in 47 countries. That’s roughly 30,000 bins worldwide.

If you’ve never seen a Bigbelly “can,” the sleek design is pretty distinctive, with the usual signage encouraging people to place trash or recyclables inside instead of dropping them on the ground. The solar panels are embedded in the top, gathering energy even when there’s no direct sunlight. Here’s the clincher: Each unit has a capacity of up to 150 gallons. That's over four times the capacity of a traditional 35-gallon trash can. Built-in sensors detect when a container has reached capacity.

The 12-year-old company’s original sales pitch centered on helping municipalities, business districts, and university administrations reduce the number of trash pickups required on routes. That’s one reason that Waste Management jumped on board as a key distribution partner.

Looking ahead, however, Bigbelly’s aspirations rise far above smarter waste management. It is endowing its trash systems with additional sensors and wireless communications technologies that enable it to collect and communicate a variety of useful data points both about the system itself, as well as the surrounding environment, said BigBelly CEO Jack Kutner.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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