Thursday, January 31, 2013
Feeding the Future: Five Ways of Increasing Global Food Production
Along with climate change, one of the most pressing problems facing humanity in the coming decades will be food security. How do we continue to feed the world when, according to the UN close to 900 million people are already going hungry, and the earth’s population will have increased by an estimated 2.5 billion more people by 2050?
Not necessarily in any order of preference or priority, here are five ideas currently being floated as ways of increasing food production worldwide;
It’s already a popular delicacy in China, Japan and parts of the Far East, where it’s eaten in the form of seaweeds. Algae has the potential to become a major food source for humans, but animals too.
In fact, it’s usefulness isn’t limited to combating hunger. It can also be used to make biofuel, with far greater yields than land crops such as maize. Being simple single-celled organisms, they can proliferate very quickly in hostile environments that would normally destroy most food crops, such as in saline or polluted water. As global warming appears to be creating more extreme weather conditions and affecting crop yields more and more year on year, this versatility could well prove vital.
Currently around 10% of global cultivated land is planted with genetically modified (GM) crops comprising of the three main foods; soya, maize and oilseed rape. Due to the ongoing concern with GM food, nearly all of this goes into animal feed and not directly into the human food chain. As we struggle to feed increasing populations of the future, the pressure can only increase and we may find GM food gradually introduced directly into the human food chain.
GM is not the only solution though. A team of agricultural scientists from China and the Philippines have developed a series of “green super rice” varieties WHICH produce more grain whilst being resistant to insects, disease, salty water, floods and even droughts.
Like algae, insects are already on the menu among the populations of Africa, Latin America and Asia. People may still be horrified by the thought of eating insects, but bugs are low in fat and cholesterol, rich in protein and high in calcium and iron content. Plans are being drawn up for “micro-livestock” farming, a euphemism for insect farms for the benefit of the squeamish. Researchers are also working on extracting the protein from bugs so we don’t have to actually eat them in order to benefit from their nutritional properties.
No, it’s not McDonalds nor Spam. Artificial meat looks like meat and feels like meat because it is meat, although it’s never been anywhere near a living, breathing creature. Biotechnology has now enabled us to grow or “culture” meat from stem cells in giant vats, with edible tissue produced from laboratories. Nobody knows how the first artificial hamburger will taste. There’s a chance it will taste of nothing, because the distinctive taste of meat is derived from blood and fat to give it colour and taste. Given that it’s complex and expensive work identifying and cultivating the right stem cells to create artificial meat we may not find out for a while.
Reduce Food Waste
According to some estimates, as much as 50% of all food produced in the world goes to waste. Whilst, strictly speaking, reducing food waste doesn’t actually increase global food production, the net effect of cutting back wastage could be even more dramatic than any other method we might use to improve the way food is distributed around the world.
Steve Waller is an environmental blogger on a mission to lower his own carbon footprint and educate his reader’s on how they can do the same. He recently set up the Green Steve Shop, where you can offset carbon as you spend, to this end.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Watershed Payments Topped $8.17 Billion In 2011
17 January 2013 | The number of initiatives that protect and restore forests, wetlands, and other water-rich ecosystems has nearly doubled in just four years as governments urgently seek sustainable alternatives to costly industrial infrastructure, according to a new report from Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace.
“Whether you need to save water-starved China from economic ruin or protect drinking water for New York City, investing in natural resources is emerging as the most cost-efficient and effective way to secure clean water and recharge our dangerously depleted streams and aquifers,” said Michael Jenkins, Forest Trends President and CEO. "80 percent of the world is now facing significant threats to water security. We are witnessing the early stages of a global response that could transform the way we value and manage the world’s watersheds.”
The report, State of Watershed Payments 2012, is the second installment of the most comprehensive inventory to date of initiatives around the world that are paying individuals and communities to revive or preserve water-friendly features of the landscape. Such features include wetlands, streams, and forests that can capture, filter, and store freshwater.
Experts at Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, which tracks a variety of programs that provide “payments for environmental services” or PES, find investments in watershed services emerging in both the developed and developing world as a “powerful new source for financing conservation”—and also a way to provide new “green” income opportunities for rural communities.
The report counts at least 205 programs—up from 103 in 2008—that in 2011 collectively generated US $8.17 billion in investments, an increase of nearly $2 billion above 2008 levels. The report also identifies a raft of new programs gearing up for launch in the next year. “The level of activity is far more intense than it was just a few years ago when we began tracking these types of investments,” Jenkins said.
For the most part, the watershed investment programs documented in the report involve relatively simple exchanges, but the return on investment can be considerable.
For example, authorities in China are providing new health insurance benefits to 108,000 residents in struggling communities that lie upstream of the bustling southern coastal city of Zhuhai in exchange for adopting land management practices that will improve drinking water for the region. The program is just one among many such efforts underway in China, which emerged in the Ecosystem Marketplace report as the world leader in using investments in watershed services to deal with water challenges. In fact, China accounts for 91 percent of the watershed investments in 2011 documented in the report.
China has the lowest amount of freshwater resources per capita of any major country in the world, according to the World Bank, and water scarcity and water pollution already cost China 2.3 percent of its gross domestic product. “Water insecurity poses probably the single biggest risk to the country’s continued economic growth today, and the government has clearly decided that its ecological investments will pay off,” the Forest Trends report states.
On the other side of the world, officials in New York City were faced with the prospect of spending billions of dollars on new water treatment infrastructure. They opted instead for a much cheaper program that compensates farmers in the Catskills for reducing pollution in the lakes and streams that provide the city with its drinking water. The effort has been credited with, among other things, keeping safe drinking water flowing from city taps throughout Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath—filtration plants and water infrastructure require electricity to function, while natural ecosystems function throughout even the longest power outages.
But China and New York City are not alone in grappling with major water-related challenges. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that in the last five years almost every region has experienced water deficits and at least 36 states will face some type of water shortage in 2013. Ecosystem Marketplace documents 68 watershed payment programs in North America and 18 more in development that respond to these challenges. Leading the charge are Oregon, Washington state, and also Minnesota.
Meanwhile, in the developing world, 700 million people in 40 countries face water shortages. Today, one third of the World Bank’s loan portfolio involves water projects. And though investments in watershed services are growing rapidly, they are tiny compared to the estimated US $1 trillion per year that will be needed through 2025 to meet water supply and sanitation demands. Analysts at Ecosystem Marketplace note that devoting even a small fraction of these investments to “green” solutions that protect water at its source—compared to “gray” solutions like water treatment facilities—could generate huge returns by simultaneously providing water security along with a host of environmental and social benefits.
Inventorying Investments in “Natural Infrastructure”The Ecosystem Marketplace inventory of watershed investments reveals a wide array of creative and innovative approaches around the world where, faced with major water challenges, “leaders and communities have opted to invest in our natural infrastructure and reward the people who protect it.”
- In South Africa, a US $109-million investment in rooting out water-hogging invasive plants—a single eucalyptus tree can guzzle 40,000 gallons of water a year—currently employs 30,000 previously unemployed people and has returned an estimated US $50 billion worth of water- related benefits, such as vastly improved stream flow.
- In Sweden, a local water authority found it cheaper to pay for a program to establish blue mussel beds in Gullmar Fjord to filter nitrate pollution than build a new treatment facility on shore.
- In Latin America, the trend in water programs is to offer compensation other than cash for protecting water resources. In Bolivia’s Santa Cruz valley, for example, more than 500 families receive beehives, fruit plants, and wire (which is used for, among other things, fencing to keep livestock away from rivers and stream banks) in return for their water protection efforts.
- Fukuoka City in Japan has no major water supply within its boundaries, so it is supporting a water source conservation fund that pays for forest management and land acquisition in a nearby watershed that supplies the city with its drinking water.
- In Uganda, a beer brewer is paying for the protection of wetlands to retain their valuable capacity to maintain a steady and abundant supply of clean water. A similar project is in development in Zambia, funded in part by SABMiller subsidiary Zambian Breweries PLC.
- In Kenya’s Lake Naivasha basin, a consortium of large-scale horticulture operations, ranchers, and hotel owners near the lake are providing smallholder farmers with vouchers for agriculture inputs in exchange for implementing practices that can reduce farm run-off, which damages irrigation systems and harms biodiversity and landscape beauty. Farmers are using the vouchers to buy high-yield crop varieties that provide more profits as well as food for their families.
Investing in a Portfolio of Ecosystem Services“The benefits from these watershed programs extend far beyond water: they support biodiversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide income for the rural poor,” said Genevieve Bennett, lead author of the report and a research analyst with Ecosystem Marketplace.
Bennett said work is already underway to tap these synergies and make conservation even more lucrative by combining investments in watershed services with payments for other types of ecosystem services. For example, in Vietnam, tourism operators make investments in watershed conservation that are based, in part, on the estimated values of a pristine landscape for the tourism industry. In the US state of Georgia, the Carroll County government has created stream-bank mitigation credits on land that was originally acquired to protect key water source areas. And in Indonesia, watershed investments have been packaged with credits for conserving carbon stored in forested areas.
One disappointing finding, according to Forest Trends, was the limited participation of the private sector in paying for watershed services—despite the fact that a majority of the Global 500 companies report experiencing water-related challenges. Forest Trends identified only 53 programs that included private sector participation, the majority of which involved beverage companies. Instead, most of the programs tracked in the report are operated by NGOs or governments.
“It may be that many companies are waiting to see programs become better established,” Bennett said. “Unlike the carbon trading world, water lacks well-established tools and standards that help companies to understand and mitigate their risk, and that seems to be a major hurdle.”
Overall, Bennett and her colleagues believe the market for investments in watershed services is primed for considerable growth, particularly as economic conditions improve. They find evidence indicating that China’s “already massive investments” will increase significantly, along with investments in Latin America and the United States.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Topic: GreenChill: A Partnership with Food Co-ops to Curb Refrigerant Emissions
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2013
Time: 2:00 pm (Eastern time)
The problem of refrigerant emissions is a costly one for grocers and a harmful one for the environment. Grocers collectively spend at least $200 million every year on unnecessary refrigerant leaks.
In this webinar, EPA’s GreenChill expert Keilly Witman and GreenChill partner Hanover Food Co-op’s Tom Guillette, will discuss how co-ops can save both money and the environment by reducing refrigerant emissions. The GreenChill program offers practical tools and solutions to calculate the cost to your bottom line, best practice guidelines to tackle the problem as well as awards and recognition for progress.
Participants will learn:
- The widespread problem of refrigerant emissions and its financial and environmental impact
- How the EPA’s GreenChill program helps co-ops reduce refrigerant emissions
- Benefits and tools available through EPA’s GreenChill program
- Tom Guillette, Facilities Manager, Hanover Consumer Co-op Society, Inc.
- Keilly Witman, Program Manager, EPA GreenChill Program
To join the webinar:
events/webinars/1807-11713- epas-greenchill-program-a- partnership-with-food-co-ops- to-curb-refrigerant-emissionto register!
Environmental professionals are acutely aware of the issues facing their own environmental programs. But what 2012 events triggered industry-wide challenges? And what does that mean for the regulatory landscape and environmental trends going forward? What if the industry's impacts and trends - along with insights from some of the nation's leading environmental professionals - were captured in one industry resource?
Enviance's new e-book captures data and insights from 485 leading environmental professionals to provide a rich industry profile of what occurred industry-wide in 2012 and what will be trending in 2013. You will gain insights from leaders at Verizon Wireless, Sears, The Ritz Carlton, Duke Energy, Entergy, First Energy, KPMG and many more. You will also learn more about:
• Key outcomes of 2012's environmental challenges
• Developing trends for 2013 and what they mean for you
• Insights and testimonials from leading environmental professionals
information provided by Enviance to Sustain2Green
Topic: Ensuring Refrigerant Leak-tightness During Equipment Installations
Date: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Date: Thursday, February 7, 2013
Time: 2:00 pm (Eastern time)
GreenChill will be hosting a webinar on February 7 that focuses on the importance of ensuring refrigerant leak-tightness during equipment installations. Our speakers - Bruce Hierlmeier (Zero Zone), Travis Lumpkin (Hussmann), Scot Martin (Hill PHOENIX), and Dustan Atkinson (Kysor-Warren) - will introduce participants to the GreenChill Best Practices Guideline for Ensuring Leak-Tight Installations of Commercial Refrigeration Equipment. Key issues related to the practical application of these guidelines will also be discussed.
To join the webinar:
2. Select "Enter as a Guest". It is important that you select the option to enter as a guest.
3. Enter your name.
4. Click "Enter Room".
5. Click "OK".
1. Call the toll free call-in number: 1-866-299-3188
2. Use Conference Code: 202 343 9742#
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Volvo increases uptime with wireless connection
Volvo Trucks has developed a new GSM-based system that allows the workshop to check a truck’s condition remotely – a development that promises increased uptime and lower maintenance costs. The system is scheduled for release in Europe in 2013.
The new remote services are possible thanks to the latest version of in-truck Telematics Gateway – TGW. This allows the Volvo workshop to monitor the vehicle’s wear and condition and also read trouble codes remotely, using the GSM network.
“With these new communication facilities on board the trucks, the workshop receives continuous information about wear in a number of components,” explains Christian Gustavsson, head of service at Volvo Trucks.
The new system allows the workshop’s service technicians to check how much mileage the truck has covered and how quickly the various components are being worn out. After this, the workshop can plan the servicing according to the individual vehicle’s actual needs.
“This will increase uptime and minimise the risk of unplanned stoppages by the roadside. This promotes security and reduces administration for the haulage firms, at the same time as their customers can count on high reliability,” relates Christian Gustavsson.
Remote communication between truck and workshop is a complement to the service schedule. If a truck is driven in a different way compared to the original plan, the service intervals may end up being too frequent or too far apart. When the workshop receives data about the actual wear rate, it can adjust service intervals to suit the truck’s actual needs.
“Many of the parameters are difficult to calculate. A truck driven in tougher than average conditions wears out certain components more quickly, while a truck operating in calmer conditions may still have a lot of wear left in the same components when the scheduled replacement date arrives. This in turn means uncertainty for the haulage firm,” says Christian Gustavsson.
Minimises unplanned stoppages
If the truck is used in a way that differs from the use that was planned for in the original service schedule, the workshop receives information about this.
“For example, the workshop can be alerted to brake pad wear. As a result the worn parts are replaced in time, they don’t give up when you’re out on a long-distance trip,” says Christian Gustavsson.
“It’s a win-win situation. It’s far more efficient both for the haulage firm and the workshop if it’s possible to avoid unplanned workshop visits.”
Download the future via GSM
With TGW it will be possible to have remote updates of parameters and, in the future, it will be possible to update entire software packages in the truck. Initially the system will encompass a limited number of parameters but within a few years, according to Christian Gustavsson, Volvo Trucks will develop a far wider range of such facilities with the aim of improving haulage firm uptime and reducing operating costs.
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Visit http://www.thenewsmarket.com/volvogroup to access broadcast-standard video about the Volvo Group’s various production plants and products. You can download graphic images in the form of MPEG2 files or order them on Beta SP tape. Registration and video are free to the media.
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Volvo Trucks provides complete transport solutions for professional and demanding customers, offering a full range of medium to heavy duty trucks. Customer support is secured via a global network of 2,300 dealers and workshops in more than 140 countries. Volvo trucks are assembled in 16 countries across the globe. In 2011 more than 115,000 Volvo trucks were delivered worldwide. Volvo Trucks is part of the Volvo Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, aerospace components and services. The Group also provides solutions for financing and service. Volvo´s work is based on the core values quality, safety and environmental care.
Recently, the long-established American chemical company DuPont announced earlier that it has broken ground on what will be one of the first and largest cellulosic ethanol biorefineries in the world. Not only is this a major step for progress in the country’s quest for renewable energy, but it also establishes a precedent for localizing jobs and cash-flow centering around an industry of national importance. A precedent that has been long-awaited.
The facility, located in Nevada, Iowa, is expected to be completed in mid-2014, and will use corn stover (the non-edible stalks and leaves) to produce completely renewable biofuel. Expected to produce an annual 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol, the plant will provide a much-needed source of alternative energy right in the U.S. – one that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gas by an expected 85 percent without depleting food reserves, unlike its previous corn-based starch ethanol counterpart.
This is exciting news for many reasons. First, a move toward sustainable biofuel could mean less American dependence on foreign countries for oil, which is always a good thing. Second, it means more state independence with less need for coal importation. And finally, it indicates a possible decrease in the controversial fracking process (hydraulic fracturing), all of which have both economic and environmental effects.
As this Union of Concerned Scientists study points out, 38 states were importing coal, both from other states and other countries in 2010, with Iowa listed as one of the states most dependent on coal imports. Creating their own sources of renewable energy could help these states keep more money within their local economies, not to mention reduce the need for the environmentally harmful practice of coal mining, which is known to cause air pollution, water contamination and erosion.
But most importantly, and on a larger scale, the U.S. could greatly reduce its dependence on foreign oil by increasing its internal biofuel production. Triple Pundit reports that the United States uses around 140 billion gallons of gasoline annually – a dependency that resulted in a $265 billion dollar trade deficit with our foreign petroleum trade partners in 2010, according to the United States Department of Commerce. A 30 million gallon biofuel factory may seem like a comparable drop in the bucket, but it is a step towards energy autonomy for the U.S. With reports from the Environment News Service that 25 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plants are currently under construction in Hugoton, Kansas and Emmetsburg, Iowa, the DuPont biorefinery seems to be just the latest in a growing movement toward renewable power which could keep millions of dollars flowing within the country, rather than out to foreign lands, each year.
Production of renewable cellulosic ethanol could also reduce the amount of fracking, an abrasive drilling technique that poses great risk to groundwater sources, necessary to provide more fuel sources. Fracking is used mainly to harvest oil or natural gas, of which we have finite supplies. Creating more renewable fuel could reduce and possibly eliminate the need for this costly practice which has been known to contaminate drinking water supplies.
However, beyond its national significance, the DuPont plant, like its under-construction counterparts, will serve as a boon to many farmers in its surrounding area. Farm Industry News points out that the Nevada facility will source an annual 350,000 tons of corn stover from farms within a 30-mile radius of the plant, pumping money into the local economy while helping farmers deal with what can be a hindrance to their crop production. While a layer of stover is necessary to enrich the soil in cornfields, too much of it can build up and inhibit growth of future crops. By taking this extra, unneeded material off of farmers’ hands, the DuPont factory is providing local growers with another source of income, while increasing their future yields. This essentially makes the cost of fuel production an entirely “Made-in-America” process that benefits our economy rather than putting us further in debt.
Admittedly, the cost of building biofuel refineries is high, but it comes nowhere close to the amount we spend on foreign oil each year. DuPont is funding their own $200 million facility, and with other companies following suit, locally produced cellulosic ethanol seems to represent a less economically burdensome, higher yield, and much more sustainable future for our energy consumption.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a website dedicated to helping consumers find the best airline mileage credit cards.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Sustainability Makes the World Go ‘Round
Going ‘green’ isn’t just some new wave fad – it’s become a way of life for people who want to leave the world a better and healthier place. Nations around the globe – first and third world - have started putting initiatives in place that will help ensure precious resources and the environment are protected for generations to come.
June 5 has been deemed World Environment Day by the United Nations and aims to promote and recognize different organizations and groups that are working toward making the globe a better place to live for all of its inhabitants – humans, animals, plants.
This August, the United Nations Environment Programme gave special recognition to five programs in five different countries for standing out when it comes to raising awareness. Check them out and get inspired to go green in your own everyday life.
1. Fundacion Ecoprogreso - Cartagena, Colombia
This Columbian environmental group went out of its way to protect a mangrove lagoon right outside of the thriving city of Cartagena. Mangroves ecosystems are important to preserve because they act as a natural buffer between the land and water. They help prevent land erosion and act as a home to a variety of marine life. Fundacion Ecoprogreso aims to raise mangrove awareness in the community and promote protecting it.
2. Maji Mazuri Centre International - Nairobi, Kenya
It seems like a no-brainer; everyone should have access to clean, drinkable water. Sadly, however, many people do not have this luxury. The Maji Mazuri Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, has an initiative which focuses on “organizing and improving waste management in Nairobi's informal Mathare settlement.” They sponsor garbage and water clean-ups and community outreach programs that help improve people’s living conditions...
3. Sunshine Coast Environment Council - Sunshine Coast, Australia
It’s no secret that Australians know how to party and what better way to spread environmental awareness than with a big ol’ bash? During the Sunshine Coast World Environment Day Festival more than 7,000 people come to the Sunshine Coast to partake in the fun which includes vendors, entertainment, seminars, and more celebrating all things green.
4. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha - Dhaka, Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, the non-profit group, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, held a solar-powered boat rally and competition to show how going green can affect people’s daily lives. More than 15,000 people attended the event which brought awareness to the importance (and power) of using solar energy.
5. Hand in Hand India - Chennai (Madras), India
India has some of the worst slums in the world, and Hand in Hand India is an organization aiming to turn this statistic around. By teaching communities fundamental skills like waste management and natural resource management, Hand in Hand programs helps people thrive. This year they created a 10,000 sq. ft. traditional Rangoli carpet designed with environmental-based themes to help share awareness.
According to a United Nations press release, World Environment Day (or WED) “aims to be the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action.
“WED activities take place year round but climax on June 5. WED celebrations began in 1972 and have grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.”
The release continues:
“Through WED, the UN Environment Programme is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.”
What do you do in your day-to-day life to give back or help the environment? Which of these programs do you think has the best road map in place to succeed long term?
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping consumers find the best business credit cards to finance their sustainable small businesses.