Archive for April, 2010

Grocery Waste Reduction Targets: Courtauld Commitment [2]

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on April 29th, 2010

Source: Food Climate Research Network


Image: scrapthispack via flickr CC

The Courtauld Commitment (UK) is a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery retail sector.  Phase 2 follows the original Courtauld Commitment (Phase 1), launched in 2005.   At the launch of the Commitment (Phase 2) on 4th March 2010, 29 major retailers and brand owners had already pledged their commitment to this voluntary agreement.  Using 2009 data and working to a 2012 deadline, Courtauld Commitment 2 moves away from solely weight-based targets and aims to achieve more sustainable use of resources over the entire lifecycle of products, throughout the whole supply chain.

The three new targets are:

* Packaging – to reduce the weight, increase recycling rates and increase the recycled content of all grocery packaging, as appropriate. Through these measures the aim is to reduce the carbon impact of this grocery packaging by 10%.

* Household food and waste – to reduce UK household food and drink wastes by 4%.

* Supply chain product and packaging waste – to reduce traditional grocery product and packaging waste in the grocery supply chain by 5% – this includes both solid and liquid wastes.

The original Courtauld Commitment has succeeded in stopping growth in packaging despite increases in both sales and population in the UK. Some 500,000 tonnes less packaging was used over the period 2005 – 2009 – that’s enough waste to fill a queue of refuse trucks, bumper-to-bumper, stretching from Southampton to Newcastle.

Liz Goodwin, WRAP CEO, said: “One of the biggest challenges society faces over the next decade is reducing the environmental impact of the things we buy. This new agreement will bring about changes ranging from more efficient methods of production right through to the impact of household consumption.”


Changing Models: Labour-Intensive Farming

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on April 27th, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From Out of the Demographic Trap: Hope for Feeding the World, by Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360

In Africa and elsewhere, burgeoning population growth threatens to overwhelm already over-stretched food supply systems. But the next agricultural revolution needs to get local — and must start to see rising populations as potentially part of the solution.

“I bring good news from Machakos, a rural district of Kenya, a couple of hours drive from Nairobi. Seventy years ago, British colonial scientists dismissed the treeless eroding hillsides of Machakos as “an appalling example” of environmental degradation that they blamed on the “multiplication” of the “natives.” The Akamba had exceeded the carrying capacity of their land and were “rapidly drifting to a state of hopeless and miserable poverty and their land to a parched desert of rocks, stones and sand.”

Since independence in 1963, the Akamba’s population has more than doubled. Meanwhile, farm output has risen tenfold. Yet there are also more trees, and soil erosion is much reduced. The Akamba still use simple farming techniques on their small family plots. But today they are producing so much food that when I visited, they were selling vegetables and milk in Nairobi, mangoes and oranges to the Middle East, avocados to France, and green beans to Britain.

What made the difference? People. They made this transformation by utilizing their growing population to dig terraces, capture rainwater, plant trees, raise animals that provide manure, and introduce more labor-intensive but higher-value crops like vegetables. For them, “multiplication” of their numbers has been the solution rather than the problem. They have sprung the demographic trap.

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Green Power Systems: Community Renewal

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 26th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From Communities using hydro power to fund green renewal by Paul Miles.

A pioneering community-based hydroelectric energy project in the Brecon Beacons (Wales) is a blueprint for how green energy can provide more than just low-carbon power…

Howell and Llinos Williams are Welsh farmers who have kept sheep on the hills at Abercraf, in the Brecon Beacons National Park, for over 40 years. For at least three generations, Howell’s family has been farming.  ‘Back then, they also did some mining – for coal,’ says Howell. Today, the Williams extract another kind of energy source from the land – hydroelectric power. ‘The best thing is that, unlike coal mining, there’s not much work to do,’ says Howell. The Williams family is now earning more from selling energy than from their 200 sheep.

The Brecon Beacons National Park, covering over 500 square miles and home to some 32,000 people who live surrounded by flat-topped hills and green valleys, is an ideal landscape for hydroelectricity: abundant rainfall rushes in steep streams to the valley floors. ‘High head’ micro hydro schemes have been providing power for half a dozen or so enterprising hill farms for nearly a decade. ‘The farmers are growing electricity,’ says Gareth Ellis, biodiversity officer in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

As part of a new project initiated by Ellis and his colleague, Grenville Ham, the Williams’ farm’s carbon footprint is being monitored. The results show that the green electricity generated by the water turbine means that the farm is ‘carbon negative’ four times over.

Of course, harnessing the power of water is nothing new. The valleys are full of the remains of old water mills, all of which became redundant once the area was connected to the national grid. It was the potential to return to those days of green power for everyone in the park that led Ellis and Ham to help set up a Community Interest Company (a legal structure for social enterprises developed by the government in 2005) called The Green Valleys with the twin aims of reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment.

The Green Valleys is helping communities to develop community-owned micro hydro schemes by bringing together landowners and local residents and providing access to expertise, grants and loans. Sixty-three schemes are in the pipeline. ‘In three years’ time we’re aiming for 20 per cent of the region’s electricity to be from hydro and within 15 years we want all of Brecon Beacons to be carbon negative,’ says Ham.

Read the full article by Paul Miles.


Transport as SocioCultural Force

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 23rd, 2010

Source: Going Solar Transport Newsletter

From Mutual Benefits and Close Connections: Baseball and America’s Streetcars in the 19th Century, TR News, January-February 2010.

In the late 19th century, public transit via streetcars regularly intersected with baseball, with mutual benefits. Unlike many other enterprises, streetcars served a practical purpose for baseball—delivering large numbers of people to the games easily, quickly, and cheaply. Collaboration between baseball and streetcars therefore was consequential for both. […]

Baseball became an important way of filling streetcars with “happy-faced occupants.” The comparatively young sport had mushroomed in popularity, and streetcar companies grasped that providing access to the games could enhance their own business. One streetcar executive commented that it was important “to keep in with the baseball people”. Earlier in the century, railroads had established a pivotal relationship with baseball. Trains made it possible for teams to travel hundreds of miles to compete and to bring the games to an expanding pool of spectators. Streetcars, however, could offer a transportation benefit that steam locomotives could not, by carrying spectators directly to the ballparks, further expanding the fan base for games. […]

The streetcar industry, and the role of streetcars in taking fans to baseball games, would continue to grow in the early decades of the 20th century. Eventually many of the vehicles would be supplanted by other mass-transit options, like subways and motorized buses. Still in its infancy in the late 19th century, the automobile likewise would become a formidable competitor.

Nonetheless, the streetcar deserves recognition as the forerunner of those more modern modes and for its crucial contribution to bringing previously far-flung locales closer together. For baseball, streetcars played an important role in diversifying the attendance at games. In addition, hefty investments of money and infrastructure by streetcar executives contributed in the long term to establishing ballparks as permanent fixtures on the American landscape.

These contributions underscore the lasting impact of streetcars on baseball’s growth as a socio-cultural force, even though the clang and clatter of a trolley is no longer instantly and widely associated with the crack of a bat and the cheers of a crowd rooting for the home team.

The study of streetcars in the 19th century illustrates transportation’s time-honored influence not just on destinations, such as ballparks, but on everyday life.


SoupCycle & Community Supported Agriculture

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 22nd, 2010

Source: Springwise

SoupCycle is a bicycle-based delivery service for organic soup, made from locally grown produce and delivered each week to subscribers.

Three soups are typically on the menu in any given week at SoupCycle. Consumers who live or work in the Portland, Oregon, company’s delivery area begin by checking out the selections for the following week and placing their order by midnight on Friday; rustic bread, salad and dressing are also available. With a list of subscribers in hand, SoupCycle then buys the necessary produce from local farmers. On Monday it cooks up those ingredients into delectable soup, and then on Tuesdays it begins its weekly deliveries, with a different delivery day for each area. Each of SoupCycle’s trailers can carry some 40 soup containers, 40 bread loaves and 20 salads at once.

Since SoupCycle first launched about a year and a half ago, it has delivered more than 10,000 orders of soup, spent USD 33,000 with local farmers and saved 3,000 gas-powered miles by using bicycles instead. Some 300 subscribers now enjoy its weekly deliveries.

See the original post on Springwise.


Plastic Bag Tax: Consumption Drops By 19 Million

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 21st, 2010

Source: Treehugger


Image: samuel mann via flickr CC

From Plastic Bags Used in DC Drops From 22 Million to 3 Million a Month by Brian Merchant.

Washington DC’s 5 cent tax on plastic bags, instated just this past January, has already proven to have a phenomenal impact: the number of plastic bags handed out by supermarkets and other establishments dropped from the 2009 monthly average of 22.5 million to just 3 million in January. While significantly reducing plastic waste, the tax simultaneously generated $150,000 in revenue, which will be used to clean up the Anacostia River.

The Washington Post reports:

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), sponsor of the bag tax bill, said the new figures show that city residents are adapting to the law far more quickly than he or other city officials had expected.

The tax, one of the first of its kind in the nation, is designed to change consumer behavior and limit pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Under regulations created by the D.C. Department of the Environment, bakeries, delicatessens, grocery stores, drugstores, convenience stores, department stores and any other “business that sells food items” must charge the tax on paper or plastic bags.

I love this–I really do. A simple 5 cent tax–with revenues going towards an environmental cause voters rallied around–and consumer behavior is changed for the better in a truly big way. I love that 5 cents, which makes up a tiny percentage of total cost of your purchase even if you were just buying a bag of chips and a beverage, was enough to make consumers reconsider taking a plastic bag.

We’re going to have to wait to see if this trend continues, of course, but the results are nothing short of stunning so far–there are 19 million less plastic bags in a landfill because of this tax.

Let’s hope other municipalities–and dare I suggest, states?–are paying attention.

See the full article by Brian Merchant on Treehugger.



Visioning the City: FutureEverything Conference Panel

Posted in Events by Rob Eales on April 20th, 2010

If we could co-create the city we wanted, what would it look like? The Visioning the City panel will explore our collective dreams of urban utopia as well as addressing practical plans to understand and improve city life.

FutureEverything is an award winning, world class organisation using mass participation in creativity and social innovation to bring the future into the present. It has a strong global network and international profile, and is recognised around the world for leading pioneering projects and important international debates. The organisation delivers a range of benefits, including mass engagement, awards, international networks, local advocacy, training and thought leadership, on themes including innovation, technology, art, society and the environment. It is embedded in business support networks, and is central to the innovation ecology in the UK.

The Future Everything Conference is a desination for a world-wide community of inspirational people; an engaging, entertaining and essential event to attend. Exploring the interface between technology, society and culture, the internationally acclaimed FutureEverything Conference is the crucible that allows artists, technologists and future-thinkers to share, innovate and interact. Keynote speakers include Keri Facer, Dame Wendy Hall, Ben Cerveny, Nigel Shadbolt and Darren Wershler.

Taking place at Contact on Oxford Road, Manchester, 13 – 15 May 2010


Managing Ecological Trade-Offs: New Analysis Tool

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 19th, 2010

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre


Image: ndrwfgg via flickr CC

From Seeing the Hidden Services of Nature

Following an intense study of agricultural ecosystems near Montreal, a new tool that enables the simultaneous analysis and management of a wide range of ecological services has been developed by Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne of McGill University’s Department of Geography, Elena Bennett of the McGill School of Environment, and (Stockholm Resilience) centre researcher Garry Peterson.

Risk of missing hidden ecosystem services

Environmental management typically focuses on nature’s resources like food, wildlife and timber, but can miss hidden ecosystem services such as water purification, climate moderation and the regulation of nutrient cycling.  The researchers show that ecosystems that maximized agriculture offer fewer hidden ecosystems services than more diverse agricultural landscapes. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on March 1, 2010.  Landscapes that provide a lot of one services, such as pig production, can be costly because they have fewer of the hidden services, such as the regulation of nutrient pollution, which are also important to people, Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne says.  They also show that in some areas high amounts of agricultural production can go hand in hand with the production of other ecosystem services. The researchers framework can be used to help identify “best-practice areas” and contribute to developing effective resource policies.

Trade-offs and costs must be recognized

Bennett believes Quebec manages its environment fairly well, but that there are still trade-offs and costs to be recognized.  The big local message is that in terms of the landscape we have to be thinking about more than just one thing — we can’t just see corn, we have to see deer hunting, nutrients, and tourism, too, Bennett says.  The area surrounding Montreal was selected because it is typical of near-urban agricultural landscapes in many parts of the world.  I hope these methods can be applied to many other landscapes around the world, Peterson says, adding the tool will help decision makers trying to balance the goals of farmers, rural villagers and exurban commuters.

Read the full article.


Glasgow Tram Freighter Plan

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on April 16th, 2010

Source: Going Solar Transport Newsletter

“A new plan for sustainable transport in Glasgow includes a proposal to run trams in the city centre for freight as well as passengers. A similar scheme was attempted in Amsterdam (City Cargo) but failed last year, and the plan’s authors have suggested that this was because there were too few restrictions on road lorries in the Dutch capital to give trams a competitive edge. The plan, ‘Sustainable Glasgow‘, has been produced jointly by Glasgow City Council and the University of Strathclyde. It covers many environmental topics in a bid to deal with the effects of a changing climate, but its transport proposals include a city centre tramway linked to a dedicated bus route along the Clyde Waterfront which could also be later converted to light rail. It is, however, the suggestion that city centre trams could be used to replace lorries making deliveries which is unusual. Urban tramways have not been used to carry freight in Britain for many years, although the former Glasgow Corporation Tramways, which closed in 1962, were among those that did, sometimes using standard railway wagons. The report says: ‘The potential for a mixed use passenger and freight tram system in the centre of Glasgow should be explored. This would initially operate primarily in the pedestrianised areas of the city – thus reducing traffic disruption during the installation of the system, and providing a transport link between Queen Street and Central stations’.” Ref: Railnews (UK), 9/2/10

From Going Solar’s Transport Newsletter #149



Locally Grown Cultural Food: Guides

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 15th, 2010

Source: SustainWeb

Interested in buying cultural food that is locally grown? Now, you have a way to find it!  In Fall 2009, Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) made it easier for Torontonians who are looking for fresh cultural foods ‘from back home’ to find retailers selling locally grown cultural food.  How? By developing the first-ever locally-grown cultural food guides that identify the location of farmers, farmers’ markets and food retailers selling cultural food grown in the Greenbelt and surrounding area. We’ve started with four guides that help Torontonians buy locally grown food used for African/Caribbean, Chinese, Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine.

When you have a choice, cooking with cultural foods grown locally helps the environment, helps local farmers and is more nutritious than buying imported food. And it helps preserve our precious agricultural land, much of it in the Greenbelt.

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