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News Archives

June 28, 2022

[TOURISM] Palau's world-first 'good traveller' incentive

Despite being home to fewer than 20,000 residents, the Republic of Palau is making an outsized impact to preserve the planet. Not only did the country – made up of 300-plus islands in the West Pacific – adopt the world's first anti-nuclear constitution in 1979, but it also implemented the Palau Pledge in December 2017, which requires international visitors to sign a pledge stamp in their passports that promises the children of Palau that they will "tread lightly" and "preserve and protect" the islands.

Now, as the archipelago opens up to tourism again after two long years of lockdown, a new programme called Ol'au Palau is offering a world-first initiative of "gamifying" responsible tourism, whereby travellers will be offered exclusive experiences based on how they treat the environment and culture, not by how much they spend.

The programme, managed via a custom app that's launching in the coming months, offers points to those who treat the island nation gently and respectfully by making sustainable decisions like using reef-safe sunscreen, visiting culturally important sites (such as the Belau National Museum and Bai, the oldest in Micronesia) and eating sustainably sourced local food.

Guests can then redeem their points to unlock cultural and nature-based experiences that are normally reserved for Palauans and their close friends, such as taking an unmarked hike, swimming at a secret cave, sharing a meal with locals and elders or casting a reel in a secluded fishing spot. It also promises new experiences that may have once been rare for tourists to partake in, including a first birth ceremony, which is an important cultural event.

The idea for the Palau Pledge came about in 2015, by which time tourism had reached 150,000 visitors annually – more than seven times the country's population – many of whom didn't understand the fragile ecosystem or how important sustainability was to residents. While Palauan culture values hospitality and treating visitors with respect, locals could see how under-educated visitors were eroding their environment.

To combat this, Palau needed a way to educate travellers and have them earn the privilege of being a trusted friend, said resident Laura Clarke, who co-founded the Palau Legacy Project in 2020 with Palauan Jennifer Koskelin-Gibbons to spearhead these preservation initiatives. With Clarke's background in marketing and advertising, and Koskelin-Gibbons' work in national preservation efforts, O'lau Palau was born.

In the local language, Palauan, ‘Ol’au Palau’ is a way of calling out to friend to invite them into your space. "So if you're on a beach, for example, and someone calls out 'Ol'au', it means, 'Hey, come over here, come be with us, share our food, come to this thing.' Visitors have a chance to earn that privilege of being a friend by doing certain behaviours," said Clarke.

Why should I go now?
As an economy that relies heavily on tourism, Palau was severely impacted by Covid lockdowns. The country opened back up in April 2022 to fully vaccinated travellers, and residents are eager to re-introduce the world to its remote white-sand beaches and wildlife-rich dive spots, which have earned it the nickname "the underwater Serengeti". A battleground in World War 2, Palau also has both Japanese ship and plane wrecks that draw history-buff divers. In addition, the country recently established the world's first National Marine Sanctuary, banning any type of extraction (including commercial fishing) in 500,000 sq km of ocean, making it an ideal spot to catch a glimpse of one of 135 species of sharks and rays that now thrive here.

"This year has been good. The corals are flourishing and the reefs are beautiful," said Scott Arni, who captains the Palau Aggressor II ship and has led dive expeditions in Palau for 10 years. "The diving has been amazing with loads of sharks and great manta ray encounters at German Channel [a human-made channel within Palau's south-west barrier reef]."

O'lau Palau rewards can be tailored to what the visitor is interested in, whether that's diving, hiking or engaging with the local community. Clarke recommends a 10-day to two-week trip to really get the most out of the programme, especially since travel time to the remote archipelago ­– located 890km east of the Philippines and 1,330km south-west of Guam – can eat into your stay. "You want the first five days to start collecting your points, and you want a good amount of time, like five or six days, to redeem them," she advised.

Travel with no trace
Unsurprisingly, sustainability is core to many businesses here, and Palau's commitment to responsible travel makes it easy to find companies that adhere to green practices at any budget. Plus, staying and dining at these places earns points in the Ola'u Palau programme.

For those looking for luxury, Koskelin-Gibbons recommends the oceanside Palau Royal Resort on Malakal Island. Her pick for travellers on a budget is the family-run VIP Hotel, located in the heart of the country's commercial centre, Koror. Both are part of the Palau Business Pledge (a sub-programme of the Palau Pledge), which means they actively work to minimise their environmental impact while educating guests to do the same through signage and education on the importance of the environment.

Eating local fish and produce is one of the easiest ways to sustainably support the economy. Recently named the country's "national soup", demok, made from taro leaf, coconut broth and land crab, delights both locals and visitors alike. "Not only is it healthy, it's amazingly hearty and lovely after a long day out on the water," said Koskelin-Gibbons. "The family-run Penthouse Hotel Restaurant can make it in a minute and sources the ingredients from their own family members."

Similarly, seafood restaurant Drop Off on Malakal Island displays daily photos of the fisherman who caught your meal (look for shots of the owner, he's a sport-fisherman who brings in the Sunday catch).

To explore the island above and below, Clarke recommends the 100% Palauan-owned Sam's Tours. Not only do they hire local guides for their kayak, hiking and dive excursions, but they also incorporate sustainable practices within their tours (like eschewing single-use plastics and serving locally made lunches), enforce environmental rules and operate with a zero-trace policy.

Know before you go
In addition to vaccination, Palau currently requires visitors to submit a negative PCR or antigen test a few days prior to departure, and to be tested again following their arrival. Palau was one of the last countries to be affected by Covid, with its first case only emerging in August 2021. It is especially vital that visitors remember that there's not a "new normal" here yet, and that the small community is still rightfully wary of exposure.

Nearly 5,000 residents (25% of the population) have contracted the disease, and six residents have died. In such a small community, the impacts are widely felt.

"We are still mourning the loss of those who have died whom we know and care about. Especially in a small community, where everyone knows everyone," said Koskelin-Gibbons. "So please wear your mask and sanitise. It will show you respect the community and are doing your part."

Learn more in details from BBC, 18 May 2022, By: Lindsey Galloway.

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category : Topics

June 12, 2022

[MONEY] Vocal for local: Indians turn environment lovers, prioritise spending on sustainable products

Indians want to leave an impact on the planet by prioritizing spending on sustainable products and contributing to local businesses, as per the American Express Trendex report. 87% of Indian respondents always or often purchasing sustainable products and 97% interested in spending money on items that will have a positive impact on local businesses and communities, which is highest amongst all the other surveyed countries.

High spends on low carbon
The survey further reveals 98% of Indian respondents want to spend money on items that will help build low-carbon communities around the world. 97% think all products should be required to be environmentally friendly while 96% think about the impact on the planet when making purchase decisions.

Encouragingly, 92% of Indian adults surveyed are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products with growing awareness on the benefits of sustainable products. For 43% of Indian adults surveyed, increased product availability and a better understanding of the product benefits are key motivators to purchase sustainable products in the future while for 37%, it is a better price point.

What we want
Giving back to the environment - 98% Indians surveyed wish companies would make it easier for them to reduce their carbon footprint whereas 97% of surveyed Indians will be more loyal to a company/brand that works to address environmental issues.

Preferring sustainable products -92% of Indian adults surveyed are willing to pay a premium for sustainable and 94% of those Indian adults that would pay a premium say they would pay at least 10% more for sustainable products while 29% are ready to pay 50% more for sustainable products and 23% of them even higher than 50%.

In terms of categories, 96% of Indians surveyed, one of their goals in 2022 is to make more sustainable choices when purchasing clothes, tech products, eating food and while traveling and 86% of them have already started shopping at second hand or consignment retailers rather than purchasing new items to reduce environmental impact. When making decisions about where to dine out, more than half (55%) of Indians surveyed consider the number of plant-based options available at a restaurant.

Endorsing for sustainable products- About 97% of surveyed Indians would like to shop more with a company that takes action to reduce the impacts of climate change and are more likely to trust brands that work to address to environmental issues.

Awareness about sustainable issues - Indian adults surveyed have become more focused on a variety of sustainability topics this past year with air-pollution (96%) and recycling, renewable energy and climate action (95%) gaining the most interest.

GenZ/millennials more sustainability conscious - 57% surveyed GenZ/millennials respondents are more likely to plan on purchasing sustainable products this year to help reduce their environmental impact. 72% GenZ/millennials Indians surveyed are more likely to talk to their children about environmental issues.

The American Express Trendex is a trend index that tracks how consumers, small businesses, and and merchants are feeling about spending, saving, travelling and more. Data is sourced monthly in the United States and biannually globally, including in the UK, Australia, Japan, Mexico, India, and Canada. This study has an overall sample of 7,996 Global Adults.

Lear more at The Economic Times, 5 May 2022.

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category : Topics

June 9, 2022

[FOOD] We Need Sustainable Food Packaging Now. Here’s Why.

Every day, hundreds of millions of single-use containers, cans, trays, and cutlery are thrown away around the world. While packaging is an essential component of the food sector and the only solution we have to facilitate food transportation, food packaging waste is also one of the most harmful aspects of this industry. We outline the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular materials used to wrap groceries and takeaway foods and explore innovative sustainable food packaging that could revolutionise the market and protect the environment.

Why Do We Use So Much Food Packaging?
In ancient history, humans used to consume food from where it was found. There were no grocery shops, takeaway and delivery services, and almost no imports and exports of food on a global scale. But things changed rapidly in the 20th century. Suddenly, countries began shipping produce from one end of the world to the other; supermarkets in the US started selling Southeast Asian tropical fruits; China depended on Brazil for its soybean supplies; and European countries were importing coffee from Africa. The emergence and subsequent surge in international shipping of food staples led to a revolution in the packaging sector.

Since food needed to travel long distances to keep up with global demand, it became crucial to find ways to ensure food remained fresh and undamaged at the time of consumption. Packaging turned out to be the best way to extend food shelf-life as it retarded product deterioration, retained the beneficial effects, and maintained the nutritional values, characteristics, and appearance of foods for longer times.

Materials that have been traditionally used in food packaging include glass, metals (aluminium, foils and laminates, tinplate, and tin-free steel), paper, and paperboards. Plastic, by far the most common material used in food packaging today, is also the newest option. Since the plastic boom in the early 1980s, new varieties of this material have been introduced in both rigid and flexible forms, slowly replacing traditional materials due to their versatility, easy manufacturing process, and cheap price. Of all plastics produced worldwide today, nearly 40% are used for food and drink packaging.

But food retailers are not the only industry that contributed to the rapid acceleration in plastic and packaging production. Consumer habits changed drastically within the restaurant industry too. The first takeaway options were already available in the 1920s, but it was not until after World War II that consumers started appreciating the convenience of drive-throughs and other take-home options. In America, fast food chains such as In-N-Out Burger and McDonald’s were responsible for the industry’s boom and with the expansion of the transportation industry, delivery options also began expanding around the world. This inevitably led to a massive influx of food packaging solutions that allowed consumers to pick up pre-cooked dishes and consume them elsewhere.

Most of the containers that we have today are single-use, non-compostable, and difficult to degrade because of food contamination. Both the restaurant and retail industries are major contributors of food packaging waste. Finding a balance between food protection and environmental consciousness undoubtedly requires huge efforts. Given the increasing consumer (and manufacturer) awareness of the environmental and health impacts of non-degradable packaging, in recent years the packaging industry has been seriously looking at alternative, more environmentally friendly materials as well as ways to reduce packaging where it is not absolutely necessary. Restaurants, in particular, have seen sustainable packaging options widely expanded to include compostable and recyclable packaging. According to Globe News Wire, the biodegradable packaging market will reach a value of USD$126.85 billion by 2026.

Where Does All the Food Packaging Waste Come From?
Single-use packaging is taking a huge toll on our environment. Almost all food containers we see in grocery stores – typically made of glass, metal, plastic, or paperboard – cannot be reused for their original function, such in the case of aluminium cans and most plastic bags. However, food contamination is a big consideration. Though some types of packaging might be suitable to be reused, some experts have raised hygiene concerns in replacing single-use food service ware with reusable items, both within the food retail and the restaurant industries.

Another big hurdle that companies studying sustainable food packaging alternatives are trying to solve is over-packaging. Nowadays, food retailers tend to encase products in multiple layers. More often than not, food items such as fruit and vegetables are placed on a tray, wrapped in paper or plastic, and then placed into a paperboard box. On top of that, consumers might opt for a plastic bag to carry groceries home, adding to the already huge pile of waste generated from a single trip to the supermarket. Additionally, conventional materials are still extremely widespread worldwide despite a multitude of new sustainable alternatives entering the market every year. A 2021 survey found that over 80% of food packaging examined is not suitable for recycling.

Detail-oriented societies such as Japan – where quality, presentation, and customer satisfaction are particularly valued – are among the biggest culprits in terms of unnecessary packaging and waste generation. The United States alone produces an estimated 42 million metric tons of plastic waste each year – more than any other country in the world. Most of it occurs in grocery shops. A Greenpeace UK report found that every year, seven of the country’s top supermarkets are responsible for generating almost 60 billion pieces of plastic packaging – a staggering 2,000 pieces for each household. And in the European Union, the estimated packaging waste per capita in 2019 was 178.1 kilogrammes (392 pounds), with paper and cardboard making up the bulk of it, followed by plastic and glass.

While grocery stores are a major contributor to food packaging waste, the bulk of it is actually made up of waste from meals to go and restaurant delivery services. The takeaway industry is notorious for generating huge amounts of unnecessary waste. Eateries often wrap their food in aluminium or plastic foil or opt for Styrofoam containers, while beverages often come in their own carrier bags. In addition, most takeaway food comes with plastic cutlery, napkins, and straws. All these single-use plastics and packaging make up nearly half of the ocean plastic, a 2021 study found.

Several experts also point out that packaging waste from disposable takeaway containers and cutlery skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, as restaurants stepped up delivery services during the long months of lockdowns imposed around the world. In Hong Kong – a city with a population of nearly 7.5 million people – the pandemic outbreak in 2020 fuelled the use of more than 100 million disposal plastic items per week as food orders surged 55% compared to 2019 figures. In the US, plastic waste increased by 30% during the pandemic. This extensive increase in plastic consumption has resulted in an estimated 8.4 million tonnes of plastic waste generated from 193 countries since the start of the pandemic, 25,900 tonnes of which – equivalent to more than 2,000 double-decker buses – have leaked into the ocean, according to recent research.

What’s more, the issue with food packaging does not stop with waste generation. To produce plastic food packaging and drink bottles, gases need to be fracked from the ground, transported, and processed industrially, contributing millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. A large portion of which is methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide.

Comparing Conventional Food Packaging Materials
As we have mentioned before, plastic is by far the most popular food packaging material and yet aluminium, glass, and paper are still widely used. But why is there such a big variety and how do these types of packaging compare to each other?

Plastic is not only the most inexpensive and lightweight packaging material on the market, but because of its chemical composition, it can also easily be shaped into different forms and thus accommodate a huge range of food items. While some types of plastic packaging can be reused, styrofoam-like containers – mostly used in restaurants for takeaways and deliveries – are often impossible to recycle because of food contamination. Furthermore, most plastic items are designed for single-use, which makes this material even more problematic.

Furthermore, its production contributes high quantities of pollutants to the environment. For every kilogramme of fossil-based plastic produced, there are between 1.7 and 3.5 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Plastic production utilises 4% of the world’s total fossil fuel supply, further emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Glass guarantees protection and insulation for food items from moisture and gases, keeping the product’s strength, aroma, and flavour unchanged. It is also relatively cheap and easily reusable. However, the fact that it is easily breakable, heavy and bulky, and thus costlier to transport, makes it a less favourable alternative to plastics.

Glass containers used in food packaging are often surface-coated to provide lubrication in the production line and eliminate scratching or surface abrasion and line jams. While the coating increases and preserves the strength of the bottle, fossil fuels that drive this process as well as evaporation from the glass itself release polluting particles and CO2 gases into the atmosphere.

Aluminium is a great impermeable and lightweight packaging material, yet it is more expensive, requires hundreds of years to break down in landfills, and is more challenging to recycle than other alternatives because of the chemical processes it undergoes to be laminated, which make material separation an intricate operation.

Aluminium is commonly used to make cans and bags of crisps as well as takeaway items such as trays, plates, and foil paper, but various nonrenewable resources are required to create the material. Its production is the result of mined bauxite that is smelted into alumina through an extremely energy-intensive process that also requires huge amounts of water. Emissions deriving from aluminium production include greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, dust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and wastewater.

Paper and Paperboard
Despite no longer being the most popular food packaging materials, paper and paperboard are still widespread mainly because of their low cost. However, while there are some great reusable and often biodegradable packaging options, paper containers are nearly impossible to recycle when used to wrap food items. Not only because they lose strength from food condensation, it is also less safe to do so due to food contamination.

Surprisingly, paper requires even more energy to produce than plastic, sometimes up to three times higher. It takes approximately 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce 200kg of paper, the average amount of paper that each of us consumes each year. That is approximately the equivalent of powering one computer continuously for five months. Furthermore, various toxic chemicals like printing inks, bleaching agents, and hydrocarbons are incorporated into the paper during the packaging’s development process. These toxic substances leach into the food chain during paper production, food consumption, and recycling through water discharges.

Innovative Sustainable Food Packaging Alternatives
As we have seen, despite the advantages that make it extremely convenient for food suppliers to use them, some of the most popular food packaging materials are undoubtedly detrimental to the environment. And yet, it is not all bad news.

According to the latest Eco-Friendly Food Packaging Global Market Report, the global sustainable food packaging market is expected to grow from USD$196 billion in 2021 to over USD$210 billion in 2022 and up to USD$280 billion in 2026. Indeed, an increasing number of companies and startups – mostly located in North America – are investing time and resources in the development of alternative packaging materials which are easy to recycle, reuse, compost, or biodegrade and thus have a very minimal environmental footprint.

As is the case in many other sectors, the food industry is undergoing a revolution in terms of finding sustainable solutions to reduce its impact on the environment and meet sustainable consumer demands. Startups and packaging companies have developed incredibly innovative and sustainable solutions to the classic food packaging materials and while they are still used in very small quantities around the world in comparison to glass, plastic, and paper, they have the potential to radically transform the sector.

Some examples include sustainable food packaging made with cornstarch, popcorn, and mushrooms, as well as innovative and biodegradable cutlery, plates, and containers realised with agro-industrial waste such as avocado pits.

From Earth.org, 15 May 2022, By: Martina Igini.

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category : Topics

June 5, 2022

June 5th is World Environment Day 2022

World Environment Day on 5 June is the biggest international day for the environment. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and held annually since 1974, the event has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet. This year, World Environment Day 2022 is hosted by Sweden. “Only One Earth” is the campaign slogan, with the focus on “Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature”. With over 150 countries participating, this UN international day engages governments, businesses, civil society, schools, celebrities, cities and communities, raising awareness and celebrating environmental action

2022 A historic milestone
2022 is a historic milestone for the global environmental community. It marks 50 years since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, widely seen as the first international meeting on the environment. The 1972 Stockholm Conference spurred the formation of environment ministries and agencies around the world and kickstarted a host of new global agreements to collectively protect the environment. It was also where the goals of poverty alleviation and environmental protection became linked, paving the way for the Sustainable Development Goals. At the Stockholm Conference the idea of World Environment Day was formalized, with the first one being celebrated in 1974. In early June 2022 the high-level Stockholm 50 international meeting will be held in Sweden, a few days before World Environment Day. The communications around these events are connected and will be mutually reinforcing. There is a circularity in this year’s World Environment Day; 50 years ago the theme of the Stockholm Conference was also “Only One Earth”. The message is as important today as it was then.

2022: Emergency mode
The world is facing three major environmental crises: climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and pollution and waste, driven by human activity and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. The world’s most vulnerable communities are often the most impacted by the environmental crisis. Of the 7 million people who die annually as a result of air pollution, a disproportionate number are children and the elderly, and most are in the developing world. In 2020, climate shocks forced 30 million people to flee their homes – around three times more than those displaced by war and violence. By 2050 the number of people displaced by the environmental crisis could be as high as 200 million per year. Tackling these crises is critical to saving lives and improving the future of billions of people. Addressing the UN General Assembly in January 2022, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, said: “We must go into emergency mode against the climate crisis. The battle to keep the 1.5-degree goal alive will be won or lost in this decade. And we are far off-track.” He added, “We need an avalanche of action.” This is a messaged backed up by Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director. She said: “2022 is all about shifting into emergency gear for people and planet.” She underscores that we need to recognize “both our impact and dependency on nature gives us the best chance of not just surviving but thriving on this delicate and beautiful planet.”

Act for our common home!
There is #OnlyOneEarth and protecting it is a global challenge and responsibility. We have the solutions, knowledge and technology to limit climate change and avoid ecological collapse but we need to act collectively. We need to rethink the way we live and the way we consume. Climate change does not respect borders and pollution is a global challenge that requires a global response. Ecosystem restoration, a key part of the climate solution, is critical to addressing poverty and enhancing human and ecological resilience. While our individual consumption choices do make a difference, it is collective action that will disrupt the status quo. We need to collectively make immediate and transformative change and advance to a more sustainable and just Earth, where everyone can flourish.

#OnlyOneEarth Campaign
“Only One Earth” was the slogan for the 1972 Stockholm Conference; 50 years on, this truth still holds – this planet is our only home. With nature in emergency mode, the #OnlyOneEarth campaign, which is part of World Environment Day 2022, wants you to celebrate the planet through collective environmental action. #OnlyOneEarth advocates for transformative environmental change on a global scale. The campaign shines a spotlight on climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution while encouraging everyone, everywhere to live in harmony with nature. The campaign will provide case studies and promote best practices, helping governments, businesses, institutions and individuals to scale up environmental action, supporting the significant, urgent change we need. Along with individual lifestyle actions, the campaign will focus on pushing the levers of power and finance to support real solutions for people and our planet. Humanity must urgently work together to share equitably Earth’s resources and protect and restore the natural world on which our societies and economies depend.

Earth Action Numbers Tactic
From April to June, individuals, businesses and community groups will be encouraged to share on social media and our website how they’re helping to safeguard the planet. Using the hashtag #OnlyOneEarth, they’ll be encouraged quantify exactly what they’ve done, helping to set a tangible example for others. Earth Action Number examples: • 60 bags of collected trash, 3 primary school classes, #OnlyOneEarth • 10,000 commuters moved through the city, 5 electric buses, #OnlyOneEarth • US $3 million worth of pension funds divested from fossil fuels #OnlyOneEarth • 2 electric firefighting trucks #OnlyOneEarth To align with the Stockholm 50 (S 50) communication plan, World Environment Day 2022 will follow a thematic rollout of communications: - APRIL 2022: FINANCE, TECHNOLOGY and BUSINESS ACTION - MAY 2022: CITIES, COMMUNITIES and YOUTH ACTION - JUNE 2022: MULTILATERAL ACTION

Sweden as host
World Environment Day 2022 will be an opportunity to showcase some of Sweden’s pioneering work on the environment over the past 50 years. UNEP will work with Sweden to showcase these innovations through a series of written stories and short videos that will be shared online.

Key Audiences World Environment Day is for everyone. However, 2022 will emphasise youth and civil society as drivers of environmental action, with governments, cities, financial institutions and industries as the duty bearers who can advance and implement progress and sustainability at scale. Individuals can be drivers of change through their support for businesses and governments. The actions of these larger entities can have a transformational impact, potentially locking in sustainable consumption and production behaviours for the decades to come.

Partnerships, collaborators, and coalitions
Collaboration will scale action for World Environment Day 2022. By reaching out to strategic organizations around the world, maximizing collaboration and creating mutual value, World Environment Day 2022 can create powerful and diverse coalitions that cut through regional, demographic and generational barriers. This can help galvanize the push for transformative action by businesses and governments.

For more information on World Environment Day 2022: https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/
For more information on this news: https://www.oneplanetnetwork.org/news-and-events/news/june-5th-world-environment-day-2022

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