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Sustainability

Environment

How Companies Are Innovating Food Waste Solutions

January 14, 2019
food waste solutions

Food waste is an enormous problem in countries around the globe. In the United States alone, it is estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste — much of it perfectly fresh and edible that is discarded just because it doesn’t look like the ideal apple or pear. How are companies innovating food waste solutions?

Solutions in the Home

Many tech start-ups are working toward mass marketing techniques that will help reduce food waste in the home and on the supply chain as food moves from fields to manufacturing plants to grocery stores and then finally your fridge. How many times have you bought meat or produce, only to have it go bad within a day or two of purchase? The sheer amount of time that food spends in transit plays a large part of that, and tech and transportation startups have started to fight back.

BluWrap, for example, uses cells to monitor the oxygen content in shipping containers. By keeping the O2 level low, they can increase the food’s freshness window, enabling it to stay fresher while in transit. BT9 XSENSE is using IoT sensors and real-time cold-chain management to maximize quality and identify problems before the food ever reaches the grocery store. There is even a device that you can buy for your refrigerator that absorbs ethelyne gas — which is the gas that makes fruits and vegetables ripen — reducing food waste by preventing your produce from spoiling in the fridge.

Solutions in the Neighborhood

Good food is wasted every day, even though there are families who might not have any food in their fridge, whose kids rely on free breakfast and lunch at school to get a hot meal every day. Programs like Copia are hoping to change that. The work with facilities that cook a lot of food on a daily basis — like hospitals, restaurants, and cafeterias — to take their excess food to families that need it.

Getting seasonal produce is often a problem, especially in food deserts that might not have anything but a convenience store to do a grocery shopping. Startups like Leafy Green Machine, in conjunction with the Farmhand Connect smartphone app, are working toward creating closed-loop self-sustaining hydroponics that can be set up in a shipping container, moved anywhere and even monitored remotely to ensure a healthy and bountiful harvest.

Many smaller companies have realized what a big problem food waste is in our country, and have recognized that nothing is going to change until we take steps to change it, so they’re making inroads into the industry on a small scale that is growing larger by the year.

Solutions on a Larger Scale

What about all the food that goes to waste that isn’t fit for consumption? Produce that has spoiled in the fields or meat that has been contaminated by listeria or e.coli? It might not be edible, but it doesn’t have to be wasted. Some innovative companies are starting to take some of this spoiled food that would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators generating more greenhouse gasses, and are turning it into fuel.

The food waste is put through an accelerated composting process, which turns it into a semi-liquid state that the folks at Waste Management call engineered bioslurry. From there, it is put into an anaerobic digester which is filled with bacteria that replicates the kind of decomposition that happens when the food is dumped in the landfill. This process produces methane, which can then be used to power a generator. One example generator exists in Freetown, Massachusetts. At full capacity, this single generator can power roughly 40 percent of the local grid.

This is just an example of what the technology can do on a small scale. Imagine what it could do if one or more of these generators were placed in every major city. They are also planning to incorporate technology that will allow customers on the local grid to use the methane gas produced to heat their homes, which could reduce local dependence on electricity or natural gas.

 

There is no one perfect solution for food waste. It is something that we will need to approach from multiple angles, which is precisely what these innovative companies are doing. We will all have to make an effort to reduce food waste. Whether that means investing in a startup that is doing just that or merely resolving to shop only at local farmer’s markets to minimize the distance that your food travels before it reaches your table is entirely up to you. There are steps that we can all take to reduce our food waste, but it will take everyone working together to stop the massive amount of food that is wasted around the world every single day. Start small, by composting, recycling or looking into green solutions in your area.

Environment

2018 Environmental News and Recap

December 31, 2018
environmental news

The future of the planet isn’t often a positive topic of discussion, and it’s admittedly easy to see the negatives. As fluctuating temperatures, unseasonable weather and natural disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires grow more common, it seems our current course is taking us toward even greater environmental disaster.

In truth, there’s still time to change the future’s trajectory, and politicians and entrepreneurs have made incredible progress in the renewable energy sector and other areas of restoration and conservation. 2018 was a pivotal year for the planet, and we’ll recap some important environmental news everyone should know about.

Compromised Ecosystems & Alternative Materials

The non-biodegradable properties of plastic make it an enormous threat to marine life. Many animals are unable to differentiate the material from their food, and an estimated 90 percent of seagulls have shards of plastic in their gut. In consideration of the unsettling fact that nine million tons of plastic enter oceans every year, the number of affected seabirds will only continue to grow, representing an enormous disruption in the ecosystem with severe consequences.

There’s hope for the future as a greater number of people adopt eco-friendly alternatives to plastic. Society’s growing awareness of the issue has led to an increase in the popularity of bamboo straws and compostable utensils made from cornstarch, simple solutions which divert massive amounts of waste from the ocean. Many cities, states and countries are beginning to restrict plastic bags, and Prime Minister Theresa May has outlined a plan to ban plastic straws.

The Global Food Supply and New Strains of Crops

Rising temperatures linked to climate change could hurt crop yields on a global scale. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study claiming that for every degree (Celsius) the Earth warms, corn yields would decrease by an average of 7.4 percent. Wheat yields would drop by an average of 6 percent, soybean yields by 3.1 percent and rice yields by 3.2 percent — all disconcerting to think about.

As temperatures rise, however, scientists continue to develop new strains of crops to deal with climate extremes. They’re preparing for a future where intense changes in temperatures and weather conditions cause short-term droughts and other issues that compromise agriculture. That said, everyone can do their part, and those who make a vegetarian diet part of their New Year’s resolutions are helping to decrease greenhouse gases and extend the global food supply.

Climate Refugees and Renewable Energy Initiatives

Researchers estimate two billion people will have to flee their homes by the year 2100 due to rising sea levels. The problem will reach the U.S. in susceptible states such as Florida. Around the world, flooded coastlines will force refugees to search for safety on higher ground. Charles Geisler, the lead author of the study, predicts other conflicts such as the issues policymakers will inevitably face when they have to address migration for displaced families.

While the study is troubling, countries across the globe have organized renewable energy initiatives with the potential to change the future. In places such as Tunisia, Wales and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, politicians and entrepreneurs have planned ambitious projects and programs to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Through solar, wind, geothermal and tidal technology, they intend to make a massive transition toward clean energy.

Climate-Related Illnesses and Wind Farms

Heat stress related to global warming, the spread of infectious diseases, extreme weather events and malnutrition are going to increase, according to the World Health Organization in a 2017 report. They estimate that death rates as a result of climate change will exceed a quarter of a million each year by 2050, a grim portent of what’s to come if policymakers don’t act to implement eco-friendly programs. Fortunately, some countries have taken note.

China’s air quality is notoriously poor, and the pollution is often harmful to the health of those who live there. As the world’s leading contributor of carbon emissions, this seems inevitable. Despite its reputation, China has developed the Gansu Wind Farm Project, a series of large-scale wind farms which will help the country move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, averting some of the short- and long-term consequences associated with dependence on fossil fuels.

A Better Balance With the Planet Is Possible

More than that, a better balance with the planet is plausible. Eco-friendly solutions such as alternative materials and renewable energy initiatives are promising, and as scientists develop new strains of crops, it’s clear we’re capable of adapting to the challenges that lie ahead. These challenges are inevitable.

Despite excessive waste, rising temperatures and sea levels, a compromised food supply and climate-related illnesses, not all the environmental news this year was negative. As countries acknowledge the threat of global warming and act with a greater awareness of their impact, the world is changing positively.

Environment

The Top Sustainable Beauty Brands

December 27, 2018
sustainable beauty brands

This is the fifth and final part of our series looking into environmental issues with the beauty industry, areas it’s excelling in sustainability and where we can expect to see sustainability efforts improve in the future. You can find the previous post here. Hope you have enjoyed reading!

 

You’ve decided to switch to sustainable beauty to benefit your health and the planet we all share. Good for you, eco-warrior!

Followers of this series already know some handy tips and tricks for making your daily beauty routine greener. Still, companies that have already gone the extra mile in implementing sustainable practices deserve some major props and increased patronage (although I’m not an affiliate with any of these brands — just a fan of sustainable companies). Read up on some top sustainable beauty brands that can make your grooming more Earth-friendly.

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Environment

Sustainable Cosmetic Packaging Revolutionizing the Beauty Industry

December 24, 2018
sustainable cosmetic packaging

This is the fourth of a five-post series looking into environmental issues with the beauty industry, areas it’s excelling in sustainability and where we can expect to see sustainability efforts improve in the future. You can find the previous post here.

 

While environmentally friendly personal care companies originally marketed primarily to those with a hippie or new age mindset, today, beauty product manufacturers who ignore trends toward sustainability risk becoming obsolete. Conscientious consumers, especially millennials and Gen Zers increasingly demand products that treat the planet kindly. As science develops ever more eco-friendly packaging materials, cosmetic manufacturers benefit both the Earth and their bottom line by utilizing these innovations to decrease their carbon footprint.

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Environment

How to Identify Sustainable Beauty Products by Their Ingredients

December 20, 2018
sustainable beauty products

This is the third of a five-post series looking into environmental issues with the beauty industry, areas it’s excelling in sustainability and where we can expect to see sustainability efforts improve in the future. You can find the previous post here.

 

Many people know that switching to sustainable beauty products helps the environment, but did you know it may improve your health as well?

As many of the chemicals typically used in cosmetic production have yet to undergo rigorous testing, no one truly knows the impact these synthetic substances may have on health. But we do know that the skin absorbs chemical additives like a sponge. So avoiding personal hygiene products laden with chemical additives and preservatives just makes sense.

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Environment

How Did Sustainable Beauty Begin, and What Are the Current Trends?

December 17, 2018
sustainable beauty

This is the second post in a five-part series environmental issues with the beauty industry, areas it’s excelling in sustainability and where we can expect to see sustainability efforts improve in the future. You can find the previous post here.

 

In today’s electronically connected world, consumers have greater access to information about the products they use than ever before. As a result, manufacturers face increasing public pressure to abandon wasteful production practices and embrace cleaner, greener alternatives.

The beauty industry stands at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Consumers criticize non-essential items most harshly. While few people encounter public scorn for activities such as driving — which pollutes heavily but remains a necessity — choosing to patronize beauty brands accused of unsustainable practices has long raised eyebrows. Cosmetics manufacturers continue to experiment with new techniques to create products that enhance beauty without destroying the planet.

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Environment

Common Beauty Industry Environmental Issues

December 13, 2018
beauty industry environmental issues

This is the first of a five-post series looking into environmental issues with the beauty industry, areas it’s excelling in sustainability and where we can expect to see sustainability efforts improve in the future.

 

More people than ever before recognize the importance of going green to humankind’s continued existence on this planet and with good reason. The most recent National Climate Assessment strongly suggests that failing to take immediate action to address climate change will cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

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Environment

How Climate Heroes Are Saving Our Planet

December 6, 2018
climate hero

Most people accept climate change as a reality and one of the biggest collective challenges humanity has yet to overcome. With few exceptions, the general public sees climate change for what it is: a threat.

Though many people understand the danger climate change poses to the planet and both human and non-human lives, the concept can seem abstract at times. Unless you’re a prominent environmentalist or study climate science yourself, you may not be familiar with the world’s climate heroes. These individuals are taking direct action to stop environmental destruction in its tracks.

Who are today’s climate heroes? What role do they play in stopping climate change? And how can the average citizen contribute? Humanity’s ability to create big environmental change relies on the answers to these important but often overlooked questions.

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Green Technology

Waste Companies Turning Food Waste to Energy

November 26, 2018
food waste to energy

About one-third of the food the world produces each year for consumption by humans gets wasted or lost. In fact, they throw away up to $2,200 in food per year. This creates a financial burden for families as well as waste companies and municipalities that must determine what to do with all this waste. New York City, for example, spends about $400 million each year shipping the waste it collects to landfills and incinerators across the country.

This wasted food also has a significant environmental impact. It represents a lot of wasted resources — not just the food itself, but also the land, water and energy it took to produce it. Food decomposing in landfills also releases a gas composed of approximately 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide, both of which contribute to the greenhouse effect. Landfills are responsible for about 14 percent of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.

There are various efforts underway to prevent this food waste and its negative impacts. In 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the nation’s food waste reduction goals, which aimed to cut waste by 50 percent by 2030.

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Environment

Making Fast Food Chains More Sustainable

November 19, 2018
sustainable fast food chains

Fast food chains rule the casual eating landscape in the United States and around the world. Companies like Taco Bell and the omnipresent McDonald’s regularly feed enormous proportions of the population — around 84.8 million U.S. adults every day, according to some estimates — in part due to their ability to supply meals quickly and cheaply.

Considering their prevalence in society, it doesn’t seem like fast food chains are going anywhere anytime soon. Accordingly, many people wonder whether these chains can adjust business practices to fit growing demands for ethically sourced food.

Fast food companies impact the sustainability of the food supply, since their practices may differentiate lucrative farming practices from unsuccessful ones. Let’s look at how fast food chains impact the environment and consider how they could become more sustainable in the future.

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