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June 30, 2015

Sustainable procurement leads to cheaper and greener cleaning services in Portugal

LIPOR, the body responsible for managing the waste produced by eight municipalities in the Porto Metropolitan Area (Portugal), reduced costs and increased efficiency through carrying out a procurement procedure for sustainable cleaning services in 2014. Sustainability criteria were included in all stages of the process, with the contract performance clauses specifically focusing on social responsibility.

Market engagement played a major role in the procurement, which resulted in a two year contract with the service provider that met all environmental and social demands for the lowest price. The dialogue with suppliers enabled LIPOR to find out more about the current solutions available on the market, and the extent to which suppliers were willing to engage in a complex and demanding tender.

The experience is one which LIPOR aims to replicate for future contracts. The take away lessons from the procedure include the importance of setting up a goal focused team to pursue the contract and to define sustainability criteria; monitoring contract implementation every six months to ensure that the service has been carried out to plan; and involving and establishing a dialogue with suppliers right from the start.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.

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category : Topics

June 29, 2015

Chevrolet is using old batteries to save … bats?

Antonio Pasolini
Monday, June 29, 2015 - 12:30am

Human ingenuity and creativity never fail to surprise us. As some of us may be aware, not only are bees dying out in worrying numbers, but bats are also suffering due to increased levels of ​white ​noise.

Perhaps bats do not have the same cutesy image as​ other animals, but they are really important for ecological balance, besides having an intrinsic value as any sentient being​.​ Bats can eat up to 5,000 insects per night, and as pollinators they play an important role in food crops. Pollinators are responsible for one-third of human food crops worldwide.

So, some clever folks at Chevrolet had a brilliant idea to re​-​purpose scrap Volt battery covers to protect bats.

The company has been building structures to protect bats for more than five years and more than 700 nesting boxes have been installed at its 40 wildlife habitat sites and on various public and private lands across the U.S. and Canada.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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June 22, 2015

Biodegradable batteries and induction charging cars: five tech trends to watch

Marc Ambasna-Jones
Monday 22 June 2015 07.00 BST

Earlier this year Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government and now the special representative for climate change, told a climate conference that there should be a greater focus on green technologies to help tackle climate change. While most people would have no problem with this idea, the real issue is which technologies to back. We are not short on innovation.

Over the last 20 years, there have been 1.2m granted patents and published patent applications from across the US, Europe and some world territories, on the clean tech patenting site CleanTech PatentEdge.

Of course, many of these ideas may never see the light of day or are unworkable on a mass scale, so what are the more realistic and practical innovations? We’ve picked out five technologies that are worth keeping an eye on.

Transparent solar cells
An interesting development in alternative energy tech is the transparent solar cell. Imagine a phone or building or car being able to harness energy through its glass. Ubiquitous Energy, a startup born out of MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and now residing in Redwood City, California, showcased its ClearView Power technology to the public for the first time last week.

With a thickness of less than one thousandth of a millimetre, the “glass” (it’s really a film) transmits light visible to the human eye, while selectively capturing and converting ultraviolet and near-infrared light into electricity to power a mobile device and extend its battery life. This, according to Ubiquitous Energy co-founder and CEO Miles Barr, is a key target for the company.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

June 19, 2015

P&G and Sears share their secrets on the path to zero waste

Barbara Grady
Friday, June 19, 2015 - 12:05am

Zero waste has become a clarion call among cities and businesses trying to reach the ultimate in sustainability. Consumers and citizens want it.

In a world running out of space for waste and where the Pope himself has decried a “throwaway culture” and the export of certain waste to Third World countries for disassembly or recycling, zero waste is worthy of pursuit.

Many companies have taken it upon themselves to reduce waste, with some aiming for zero-waste generation. Even some very large companies such as Walmart, and some multifaceted manufacturers dealing with lots of materials, like Procter & Gamble, see zero waste as an achievable goal.

But getting to zero waste is tough, and making the claim of zero waste could be a minefield when vast supply chains or far-flung retail networks are taken into consideration. Proof had better be available, experts warn.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

June 18, 2015

US government clarifies position on electronics rating system

The US government has quashed NGO concerns (CW 9 April 2015) that it will stop using a tool that allows federal purchasers to identify electronics products that meet standards on hazardous substances, by confirming its use in an official document.

Last week, the government released instructions for implementing a presidential executive order (13693), which sets out requirements on how federal departments and agencies will increase resource efficiency and improve their environmental performance.

While the executive order did not mention the rating system, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (Epeat), the implementing instructions clarify that it is the only tool that allows the government to meet its sustainability goals for federal agencies.

Furthermore, alternative tools can only be used if the EPA does not have a recommended standard for the product category. The agency already recommends using Epeat on its greener products website.

NGOs, the Electronics Takeback Coalition and the Green Electronics Council [which manages Epeat], were concerned that by “abandoning” Epeat, the government was “opening the door for weaker standards to be used”.

Read more at ChemicalWatch.

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June 18, 2015

Consumers willing to pay sharp premium for wildlife-friendly palm oil, claims study

Mongabay.com
Thursday 18 June 2015

Shoppers may be willing to pay a 15 to 56 per cent premium for palm oil produced without the destruction endangered species’ habitat, asserts a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research, conducted by an international team of scientists led by Ian Bateman of the University of East Anglia, is based on consumer surveys and analysis of the cost of conserving wildlife habitat within oil palm concessions in Sumatra.

It found that the cost of conserving critical habitat could be more than offset by the price premium shoppers claim they would be willing pay for wildlife-friendly palm oil.

“Consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainably grown palm oil has the potential to incentivize private producers enough to engage in conservation activities. This would support vulnerable ‘Red List’ species,” said Bateman in a statement.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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June 16, 2015

Using big data could alert us to risks in the food supply chain

Toby Waine
Tuesday 16 June 2015 11.38 BST

As shoppers, we’ve become used to the reliable presence of brands in supermarkets. The idea of food scarcity and disruption to supplies doesn’t come into plans for our weekly food shop.

But the reality for many global food manufacturers is uncertainty. Chocolate production is one example. Some 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast, grown on farms with only a few hectares of cocoa trees. In China alone, US firm The Hershey Company estimates that sales of chocolate will grow 60% between 2014 and 2019 to a value of $4.3bn. This is partly thanks to a new-found love of chocolate among China’s growing middle classes.

But it’s not just chocolate. The problem is widespread, particularly with ingredients that only grow in specific climates, such as vanilla, tea, coffee and palm oil. Last year, the global coffee market saw shortages partly due to a drought in Brazil. This led to steep price rises and prompted Starbucks to acquire a new 600-acre Arabica farm in Costa Rica to study sustainability issues first hand.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

June 15, 2015

World’s ‘Thinnest’ Light Bulb, Made From Graphene, Debuts

By Wendy Koch, National Geographic
PUBLISHED JUNE 15, 2015

The quest for the better light bulb has taken yet another leap. This time, nanotechnology derives light from atom-thin strips of one of the world’s strongest materials: graphene.


For the first time, scientists say they’ve created a flexible and transparent light source with carbon in its purest form. They say their discovery could also eventually transform computers by using light rather than electronic circuits in semiconductor chips.

“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,” says Columbia University engineering professor James Hone in announcing the findings. He co-authored a study, published Monday on Nature Nanotechnology's website, by a team of researchers from South Korea, Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Stanford University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Their approach is notable even in the rapidly changing world of light bulbs. In recent years, as the United States and other countries have moved to phase out Thomas Edison’s century-old incandescent, the market has moved toward much more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs)—and beyond.

Read more at National Geographic.

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category : Topics

June 15, 2015

The shipping containers tackling South Africa's chronic childcare shortages

Rosie Spinks
Monday 15 June 2015 13.27 BST

Access to affordable childcare is a worldwide problem, particularly so in South Africa where just 16% of all children from birth to age four receives care from a government-regulated programme, according to Unicef.

Matchbox Africa is striving to reverse this shortfall. The Cape Town-based organisation installs repurposed shipping containers in non-white township communities to provide permanent spaces for existing community-run creches. But, unlike other charity projects entering a community and starting from scratch Matchbox taps into an established community network of local caretakers, explains project manager Verena Grips.

“There are so many people who do fantastic jobs working for the white communities in Cape Town, but their own kids are growing up in an environment that is completely un-resourced,” says Grips. “However, in these communities there are also many clever and helpful women, who use their skills as mothers to start locally-run creches to look after unsupervised children while their parents work.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

June 15, 2015

Printed solar cells hold promise for unlit rural areas

[SEOUL] Advances in printed solar cell technology promise clean renewable energy, opening possibilities for 1.3 billion people still without electric power in developing countries.

The technology, which only requires the use of existing industrial-size printers, can produce solar cells that are flexible and inexpensive to transport, says Scott Watkins, director of the overseas business unit of Korean firm Kyung-In Synthetic.

The malleable nature of the paper-thin solar cells makes it ideal for rural communities in remote locations, adds Watkins who spoke at the Smart Villages session of the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul, South Korea on Monday (8 June).

Existing solar energy technology consists of silicon-based panels which are produced in wafers and require a large amount of sunlight to be efficient. Printed solar cells employ a more organic approach that uses perovskites, a mineral made out of a precise mixture of lead, iodine and a simple organic component.

Read more at SciDev. Net.

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June 11, 2015

Palm oil companies exploit Indonesia's people - and its corrupt political machine

Tomasz Johnson
Thursday 11 June 2015 07.00 BST

Throughout Indonesia, a vast archipelago draped across the equator, a human rights crisis simmers.

Over the past two decades, indigenous communities have seen the government hand their land over to private companies. These companies are largely producing one of two commodities: fast-growing timber species to supply the pulp and paper industry or palm oil, a remarkably versatile edible oil.

Despite President Joko Widodo’s promise to crack down on deforestation from palm oil expansion last year, the launch of the mandatory Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification scheme and a raft of voluntary commitments by palm oil companies, destruction and exploitation remain the norm.

The government estimates that thousands of communities are involved in active or latent conflicts with companies, the state and each other as a result. Individuals from Sumatra in the west to Papua in the east have become labourers on their own land. This is also an environmental disaster, as plantations for these crops surge into forests and carbon-rich peatlands.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

June 10, 2015

Ha Noi's Japanese-technology waste treatment plant opened

The Ha Noi People’s Committee inaugurated a waste treatment facility, which works on an environmentally-friendly Japanese technology, at Xuan Son waste treatment zone in Son Tay Town yesterday.

The project, built on a total estimated expenditure of VND47 billion (US$2.16 million), includes a landfill covering around 3ha and has the capacity to treat around 100 tonnes of waste a day, said Nguyen Trong Dong, director of the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

As it becomes functional, the plant will be able to treat solid wastes from the capital’s western region, including Son Tay, Ba Vi, Phuc Tho, Thach That, as well as Dan Phuong, and Quoc Oai districts.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Fukuoka Governor Ogawa Hiroshi noted that Fukuoka prefecture has enough experience in tackling pollution and will cooperate and support Ha Noi in addressing various environmental issues.

Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Ha Noi People’s Committee, elaborated the efforts of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment and the support of local authorities and residents in the construction of the plant.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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June 9, 2015

Sustainable Development Goals are not fit for purpose, experts warn

SPECIAL REPORT/ The United Nations has drawn up a list of 169 targets to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire at the end of this year. Experts have warned that this will stretch development budgets too far, and not provide value for money. EurActiv France reports.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 targets defined by the United Nations (UN) will be presented for adoption at the organisation's New York summit in September.

But the new SDGs, which will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are not to everyone's taste. Critics argue that quality should not be sacrificed for quantity.

Excessive list

The sheer scale of the proposed objectives has already drawn criticism from many quarters. "We can say they are ambitious, too ambitious perhaps, when you consider the failures of the last 15 years," a source from the NGO Aide et Action stated, in reference to the moderate success of the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs were just eight goals and 21 targets.

The new SDGs are not only more numerous, but also more complex and more difficult to implement than their predecessors. One side effect of this abundant new list of targets may be to reduce the priority of issues like poverty, nutrition and education, which were the backbone of the previous MDGs.

Bjørn Lomborg, the founder of Copenhagen Consensus Centre, said, "Promising everything to everyone gives us no direction. Having 169 priorities is like having none at all."

Another concern is the extent of the finances needed in order to achieve such a long list of targets. Estimated at $135 to $195 billion per year for the eradication of poverty, and $5 to $7 trillion a year for infrastructure investments, the cost of the new SDGs would massively exceed the current global development aid budget.

Read more at EurActiv.com.

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June 9, 2015

Malaysian government announces impressive green public procurement target

The national government of Malaysia has set ambitious sustainable development targets, including committing to 20 percent of all government procurement being green by 2020. Unveiled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Raza, the proposed reforms are outlined in the document the 11th Malaysia Plan, which covers the period 2016 – 2020.

Through embracing green procurement, the government hopes to encourage greater sustainability within the private sector and stimulate production of green products and services. "Government Green Procurement (GGP) will be made mandatory for all government ministries and agencies. The GGP will create the demand for green products and services, encouraging industries to raise the standard and quality of their products to meet green requirements," states the document.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.

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June 8, 2015

From oil to algae: eco-friendly asphalt could be the route to greener roads

Rich McEachran
Monday 8 June 2015 13.38 BST

The process of surfacing a road isn’t complicated. Layers of asphalt, which is composed mostly of bitumen (a byproduct of crude oil distillation), are poured over an aggregate of crushed stone and sand; the asphalt acts as a glue, binding the mixture together to form asphalt concrete.

Maintaining the roads, however, is a costly job. According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance it would cost more than £12bn to restore all road networks in England alone to a reasonable condition.

Simon Hesp, a professor and chemical engineer at Queen’s University in Ontario, believes standard industry asphalt is not sustainable. “The problem with the composition is that it’s poorly controlled … it uses materials with poor performances,” he says. Hesp says the presence of certain oil residues lowers the quality of the concrete and is a key reason why roads are failing and many potholes need to be filled and cracks fixed.

But there’s not just a maintenance cost. Asphalt, dependent as it is on the oil industry, is resource- and energy-intensive, which is why the race is on to develop a greener alternative.

In Sydney an experiment is under way using printer toner waste blended with recycled oil to produce an environmentally friendly asphalt. And in the past few years there have been studies into the development of non-petroleum bioasphalts.

Read more at The Guardian.

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June 7, 2015

Paint companies commit to comply with phase-out deadline for leaded decorative paints

QUEZON CITY, June 7 -- The results of a new study that detected high levels of toxic lead -- a brain-damaging chemical -- in solvent-based paints applied on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools and other child-related facilities, drew positive reactions from paint companies who committed themselves into shifting to non-lead materials.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a not-for-profit watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, released the “Lead in New Enamel Household Paints in the Philippines: The 2015 Report” last Thursday at an event attended by over 100 people, including educators, parents and representatives of the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, Philippine Institute of Architects, Philippine Medical Association and the San Juan Division of City Schools.

As per laboratory analyses conducted in Europe, 97 out of the 140 solvent-based decorative paints (69 percent) -- mostly made by smaller manufacturers—had lead levels above 90 parts per million (ppm). Sixty-three of these paints contained dangerously high lead concentrations above 10,000 ppm, with four brands containing lead between 102,000 to 153,000 ppm, the report noted

The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO), signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2013, provides for a 90 ppm total lead content limit in paints and directs a phase-out period until 2016 for leaded decorative paints and until 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

Read more at Philippine Information Agency.

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June 5, 2015

How the apparel industry is cleaning up textiles

Amanda Cattermole
Friday, June 5, 2015 - 1:15am

Since 2013, Greenpeace’s “Detox” campaign against apparel companies successfully has catalyzed new approaches to eliminate hazardous chemicals from products and supply chains. It's not just activist pressure, but also the desire within the industry to do good, that is driving the reduction of hazards in everything from children’s clothing to sportswear.

Efforts to reduce hazardous chemicals and environmental pollution in the manufacturing supply chain include the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, the Outdoor Industry Association’s Chemicals Management Module and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals’ Roadmap to Zero.

Restricted substances
Traditionally, such efforts have centered around Restricted Substance Lists, which have been used in the textile industry since the late 1990s. They contain restricted chemicals that are usually, but not always regulated. These chemicals can be used in manufacturing and be present in consumer products, as long as the amount is not greater than the allowable limit.

The RSL is a tool to help brands meet regulatory compliance requirements and is typically implemented in three steps:

1. Establish the allowable limit in the product.

2. Train and educate manufacturers to implement the RSL.

3. Verify through product testing.

Because restricted chemicals may be used in manufacturing, there is always the possibility that hazardous chemicals may end up in discharge water.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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June 4, 2015

APRIL, RGE finally commit to zero deforestation

By Vaidehi Shah
Thursday 4 June 2015

After years of being shamed as industry laggards in tackling deforestation, Indonesian paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Limited (APRIL) and its parent conglomerate, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) group, have finally committed to zero deforestation across their supply chains.

RGE on Tuesday unveiled a new sustainability framework which pledges that all pulp and paper companies under the group and their third-party suppliers will stop clearing natural forest until assessments to set aside land that is carbon-rich forest or has a high conservation value have been carried out.

The framework also promises that future plantation development will only take place on land that is not considered ‘High Carbon Stock’ - an industry classification that assesses the carbon contained in vegetation, soil, and biomass - so that carbon-rich areas can be conserved.

Furthermore, no development will take place on forested peatland, which are carbon-rich wetlands. Indonesia’s peatlands store an estimated 60 billion metric tonnes of carbon, and when they are drained to make way for plantations, they dry out and are vulnerable to catching fire - the root cause of the annual haze pollution that plagues Southeast Asia.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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June 3, 2015

How to do 'more and better with less'

By Vaidehi Shah
Wednesday 3 June 2015

The world’s population is expected to soar from 7 billion today to almost 10 billion by 2050. If society has not changed the way it produces and consumes things by then, it will require resources from three planets to survive and this will surpass the earth’s ability to sustain life, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UN agency warns that many of the earth’s ecosystems that provide water, food, and energy are already near critical tipping points today. This is why living within planetary boundaries is the “most promising strategy for ensuring a healthy future”, says UNEP.

This year, for this year’s World Environment Day on June 5, UNEP has chosen to put the focus on sustainable consumption and production, and breaking the link between economic growth and negative environmental impacts.

To achieve this, businesses have a role to play by doing “more and better with less”, as UNEP puts it in its campaign message. This involves developing new business models that aim to reduce waste, improve energy efficiency, and recover resources back from products at the end of their life cycle.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

June 2, 2015

Companies call for tougher sustainability standards for palm oil

Alison Moodie
Tuesday 2 June 2015 00.32 BST

Businesses are often urged to adhere to tougher green standards. But on Monday, 16 companies rallied together with investors and NGOs to call for more oversight for palm oil production, which is a huge contributor to deforestation.

Big-name companies such as food and beverage multinational PepsiCo, retail giant Walmart and coffee chain Starbucks, as well as numerous investors and NGOs, signed a letter, released Monday, urging the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to enforce stricter standards.

“As an international certification scheme, the RSPO is uniquely positioned to support, promote, and enforce the widespread uptake of responsible and sustainable production practices across the palm oil industry,” the letter states. “Given current shortcomings of RSPO certification, however, purchasing RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) does not sufficiently address critical sustainability concerns in the palm oil supply chain.”

Palm oil is the cheapest vegetable oil on the market, and is used in approximately 50% of consumer goods from cosmetics to packaged foods. Imports to the United States have jumped 485% in the past decade, and this increased demand has led to the rampant destruction of rainforests and the displacement of local communities to make way for palm oil plantations, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia. Most worryingly, by razing rainforests to farm the oil, companies are releasing dangerous quantities of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, making palm oil production a big contributor to climate change.

Read more at The Guardian.

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June 2, 2015

PM launches country's first green public transportation system

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Monday launched the country’s first public transportation system using environment-friendly technology.

He said the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Sunway Line, developed by the Prasarana Group and the Sunway Group, was a public transportation project of international standard and a pride of the nation.

“This project fulfills the desire of the government to develop an efficient, reliable and convenient public transportation system,” he said when launching the line near Petaling Jaya.

Najib also launched an electric bus, which made its way into the Malaysia Book of Records as the country’s first electric bus deployed on the public transportation system.

The prime minister said today’s achievement reflected the use of smart technology in the effort to ease traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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