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Friday, April 20, 2018

Americans waste about a quarter of the food they buy, and the environmental consequences are staggering

Americans waste about a quarter of the food they buy, and the environmental consequences are staggering

by Christopher Mooney

a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables on display in a store

The mass quantities of food Americans waste every year has staggering environmental consequences, according to a study published Wednesday.

“Our data suggest that the average person in the United States wastes about a pound of food per day,” said the University of Vermont’s Meredith Niles, one of the study’s authors, along with researchers at the Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire.

That totals about 25 percent of all food, by weight, available for consumption in the United States — or about 30 percent of all available calories, the researchers estimate — a figure that’s larger than previous attempts to measure food waste.

The environmental costs of that wasted food are tremendous: 30 million acres of cropland (about the land area of Pennsylvania), 4.2 trillion gallons of water and nearly 2 billion pounds of fertilizer. Fertilizer contains compounds that can run off farm fields and compromise water quality.

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The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, did not calculate the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. But prior research has suggested wasted food, like all food production, also contributes to the warming of the planet, because agriculture is a key source of the fast-warming gases methane and nitrous oxide.

The report is the latest evidence that if the world is to manage a growing population and the massive changes that population is making to the global climate, it will have to significantly reshape its food system to use fewer resources to feed more people — efficiency that probably would require wasting far less food.

The new research is based on a massive survey of Americans’ eating habits, cross-referenced with other federal data sets and amplified by modeling tools, so as to determine how much food we waste and how much environmental input that translates into.

The amount of total food wasted is undoubtedly larger than the researchers calculated, as the study focused only on waste by consumers at home or when eating out. Waste within the agricultural system before food reaches a home or restaurant was not included, nor was food wasted at supermarkets.

“What we’re reporting is about 25 percent of the food that’s available for consumption gets wasted,” said the Agriculture Department’s Zach Conrad, the study’s lead author. “And there are some other data sets that are showing, that across the entire food system, it’s about 30 to 40 percent.”

“Food waste is a big deal,” said Timothy Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and a Princeton University researcher who reviewed and commented on the study by email. “It results in large increases in land use demands, other inputs, and greenhouse gas emissions.”
If anything, Searchinger said he was “puzzled” that the estimates for the amount of land used to grow wasted food were not even higher in the study.

The research also contains a potentially controversial finding among those who focus on promoting healthier diets — as well as among environmental advocates who regularly attack the beef industry for its large environmental footprint.

Namely, the research finds the most wasted foods are actually the healthiest: fruits and vegetables. These represented 39 percent of the food wasted per person.

“Higher quality diets actually result in higher amounts of food waste, and that largely has to do with the fact that those diets have more fruits and vegetables in them,” Niles said. “And it is the most wasted food that we found in our study.”

Dairy and beef were the second and third most wasted foods, respectively.

Searchinger partly questioned this finding, noting “fruits and vegetables have high weight (due to the water content) and high loss and waste rates, due to spoilage and imperfections in appearance.”
“One element of a healthier diet is less beef consumption,” he wrote. “Because there is also significant wastage of beef and because beef uses so much land (although mostly pasture), there is a good chance that if you factored in pasture savings, the healthy diet would waste less land. ”

Although the study did not present explicit public opinion data on why people waste food, for fruits and vegetables in particular it is often the perception that they are flawed, or have gone bad. For other types of food, Niles cited issues ranging from large portion sizes to confusion about expiration dates.
Niles and Conrad said the solutions to food waste include educating people — for instance, teaching that a bruised banana can still be eaten — and a lot more meal planning.

What is clear, given the numbers here, is we cannot hope to feed even more people on Earth, with less of an environmental impact, if we cannot get food waste under control.

“We think it’s really important to pursue efforts for nutrition and improving environmental outcomes simultaneously,” Niles said. “As we improve our diet quality we should be thinking about the multiple strategies we have to make sure food isn’t getting wasted at the same time.”

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Scientists investigating a plastic-eating microbe accidentally improved it

Big story that has serious potential for dealing with 8.3 trillion kilograms of plastic we've produced over time.  We'll look to get this team on a show.

Great follow up to yesterday's show with Plastic Bank.  Amazing group.  Plastic is now a currency and an economic engine. 

Scientists investigating a plastic-eating microbe accidentally improved it

Some rare good news in the fight against plastic pollution: Scientists working with a plastic-eating microbe discovered in Japan two years ago accidentally created a mutant enzyme that sounds like an environmentalist's dream, the Guardian reports.

The enzyme breaks down the PET—polyethylene terephthalate—used in plastic bottles even more efficiently than the original microbe, which had evolved to eat the waste it encountered around an Osaka recycling plant.

Researchers, who inadvertently improved the enzyme while investigating how it evolved, say the tweaks enable it to begin digesting plastic more quickly. It now takes just a few days to start breaking down plastic, and researchers say more tweaks could make the process super-fast, reducing both plastic waste and the need to create more plastic.

"What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic," says lead researcher John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth.

"It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment." Experts not involved in the research say it sounds extremely promising, though it may be a while before the enzyme can be used as a large-scale solution to plastic pollution, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable, and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms," notes RMIT University chemistry expert Oliver Jones. (Researchers were depressed to discover the true extent of the Pacific Garbage Patch.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Formula E Receive’s Blessings From Pope Francis/RNN

We've been reporting to you on Formula E for years.  Does not get much better in life than to be blessed by the pope. Pope Francis is a true guardian of our environment and angel of change.

What a week’s it’s been and what a week it’s going to be.
If you missed it, his Holiness Pope Francis last Wednesday welcomed a selection of drivers competing in the ABB FIA Formula E Championship to his residence in Santa Marta ahead of the first-ever E-Prix on the streets of Rome that took place this past Sunday.
Over half the grid and the fully-electric Formula E car made the short trip to Vatican City, prior to the inaugural race in the Italian capital on Saturday for the CBMM Niobium Rome E-Prix presented by Mercedes EQ – round seven of the 2017/18 ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
Alongside Founder & CEO of Formula E Alejandro Agag – as well as ACI President Angelo Sticchi Damiani – the drivers, team representatives, and the official championship car were given a private Apostolic Blessing before attending the papal audience. Now, what could have been better than that? Well maybe it would have been fun to see his Holiness give up the Pope Mobile in exchange for a couple runs around St. Peter’s Square in the electric Formula E car itself, who knows Formula E might be open to Team Vatican.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Investing in Virtue Is Hard When So Few Companies Measure Up/Bloomberg

Great article.  In life it is not easy to be virtuous, either.

Then comes the difficult part of trying to make money.

It’s not easy being a socially conscious investor. To see why, look no further than Facebook Inc.
By any reasonable ethical standard, the social media giant doesn’t measure up. The Cambridge Analytica debacle and its aftermath revealed that Facebook is collecting far more information on its users -- and even non-users -- than it let on. And, as my colleague Shira Ovide pointed out, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg had the opportunity to come clean last week during two days of congressional testimony, he ducked questions about how the company operates.
Facebook’s wily ways appear to be catching up to it. According to a March 21-23 Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 41 percent of Americans “trust Facebook to obey laws that protect their personal information.” An April 8-9 SurveyMonkey/Recode poll askedrespondents which technology company they least trust with their personal information among Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Lyft, Microsoft, Netflix, Tesla, Twitter, Snap and Uber, and 56 percent chose Facebook. The runner-up was Google, with just 5 percent.  
Given all the questions surrounding Facebook, investors may be surprised to learn that its stock is commonly held by so-called socially responsible funds, which invest in companies deemed to be good citizens.
The biggest such exchange-traded fund -- the iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social ETF, with $1 billion in assets -- bills itself as an “exposure to socially responsible U.S. companies” and urges investors to use the fund to “invest based on your personal values.” The fund has a 3.5 percent allocation to Facebook.
Facebook is also among the stocks held by the second-largest socially responsible ETF, the iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF, with $679 million in assets. The fund holds roughly 100 large- and mid-cap stocks “screened for positive environmental, social, and governance characteristics.” Facebook accounts for only 0.09 percent of the fund, but it’s sobering to think that there isn’t a worthier company among the hundreds of candidates. 
So how does Facebook make the cut? It turns out that socially responsible investing isn’t necessarily just about picking the most virtuous companies. MSCI Inc., for example, looks for industry specific environmental, social and governance policies that have historically made money for investors. The idea is to simultaneously invest in responsible companies and beat or match the return of the broader market.
And MSCI has delivered. The MSCI KLD 400 Social Index has beaten the S&P 500 Index by 0.5 percentage points annually from May 1990 to March 2018, including dividends -- the longest period for which returns are available. The MSCI USA ESG Select Index has trailed the S&P 500 by just 0.2 percentage points since June 2004.


David Katz

It‘s our mission to stop Ocean Plastic by gathering a billion people together to monetize waste while improving lives. The Plastic Bank is a root cause solution to prevent the flow of plastic into our oceans.


Favourite quotes 

”You have the ability to CHOOSE who your children’s parents will be.” 

”The journey is the destination.”

David Katz is a dynamic, inspirational speaker described by many as “the best in the sustainability industry.” He is globally renowned for The Plastic Bank’s solution to make plastic waste a currency that transcends poverty while stopping the flow of plastic into our oceans. Salt Magazine’s list of The World’s Top 100 Compassionate Business Leaders recognized David as #4 between Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Elon Musk.

David has made appearances in the award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean, the reality TV show Dragons Den and countless news interviews. He performs globally, with frequent keynotes for Sustainable Brands, World Forum for Circular Economy, and the Entrepreneurs Organization. David has also spoken at various corporate events for organizations such as Unilever, Seventh Generation, Dow Chemical, and World Vision. Katz delivers a genuine paradigm shift that inspires his audience to see opportunity, where others see problems.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Don’t Be Fooled: Annual Fees on Electric Vehicle Drivers Are Not “Fair/Sierra Club

You have important decisions to make on buying your next car.  We hope you are fully considering hybrids and EV's.  Here's some good clarification on how states benefit financially from these models (and, of course, greatly on the environmental and health side).

In 2015, only a handful of states had fees on electric vehicles (EVs). Today, there are 17 states with newly adopted annual registration fees and nine additional states are considering them -- but don’t be fooled: These fees are unfairly punitive for drivers, while barely making a dent in state coffers.
To cover up their own failure to act, some states are trying to create punitive fees for families that drive electric vehicles. This isn’t a solution. It’s punishing people and families who are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and drive some of the most efficient and fun cars out there. States must act to care for our roads, highways, bridges, and their maintenance, but not on the backs of families who choose to drive electric vehicles.
Right now, states are trying to impose fees that would charge drivers anywhere from $50 for plug-in hybrids to $200 for fully electric cars. This would be, on average, charging these families $23 more than everyone else. Turns out, EV fees aren’t so fair. 

Recent analysis by Drive Electric Minnesota looked at the combination of taxes paid by all vehicles and found that EV owners usually pay just as much or more in state vehicle taxes as their fossil fuel counterparts.
Vehicle ownership and operation contribute to multiple state-revenue streams, not just the gas tax. EVs currently contribute more in excise tax and state sales tax than gas-fueled vehicles, as those taxes are based on a car's retail value, which is generally higher for EVs than other cars. For example, the fully electric Nissan Leaf S sells for $30,680, and a basic Tesla S goes for $68,000. 

Beyond traditional transportation taxes and fees, EV drivers also contribute to electricity sales taxes. Our friends at Acadia Center recently released a policy paper that digs into that and related topics.
Additionally, drivers of gas-fueled cars are not charged a fee on the public costs of the pollution they create, including to our climate and our public health. It is rather disingenuous to claim seeking “fairness” for the costs of road usage but then not to seek fairness for the costs of unhealthy air that harms everyone.
The gag is up. So much for creating a “fair” system.

Perhaps most important is that these proposed taxes won’t even make a dent in the budgets that these legislators are claiming they would fix. Maine has an annual $159 million funding gap for roads and bridges, and the proposed fees (the highest in the country) would raise only $2.9 million in 2020 -- recovering only a tiny  percentage of its budget deficit. Utah has fewer than 5,000 registered EVs. If its proposed budget passes, it would bring in an additional $400,000 in revenue  -- only .02 percent of a $2 billion dollar budget shortfall

Even in California, the new EV fee is expected to generate only about $200 million over the next decade.
In 2017, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down its state’s EV fee, ruling the tax unconstitutional and unjustified. Had H.B. 1449 passed, the fee would have only brought in a million dollars annually to fill a $900 million deficit -- helping offset a mere 1 percent of the deficit. Despite last years’ defeat, Oklahoma lawmakers are giving the proposed fee another go in the 2018 legislative session.
It’s no coincidence that this attack comes at a time when EVs are just starting to take off within the larger auto industry. Reportedly, Koch Industries has spent nearly $10 million dollars annually on a campaign to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government support for electric vehicles because of the risk EVs pose for the fossil fuel industry. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing state-legislation machine funded by the Koch brothers and several other multinational corporations, introduced a resolution to discourage states from providing subsidies for EVs at its States and Nation Policy Summit.
When oil tycoons consider a rise in EV drivers to be a threat to their wallets, you know EVs are taking off.
The truth is that the EV fees popping up around the nation are neither fair nor effective at closing budget deficits. They are, however, likely to affect EV adoption and slow their benefits from being enjoyed by all when the need to incentivize and accelerate the switch to cleaner cars is strongest.

These fees function as a “gas ceiling,” a systemic barrier faced by people who can’t or don’t want to afford punitive fees. People with lower income are disproportionately impacted by air pollution, which includes womenpeople of color, and the physically disabled. All people deserve to get from point A to point B without suffering from harmful exposure to dirty air -- not just the people who can afford the extra costs of emission-free driving.  

Prior to its zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) fee, Georgia was one of the nation’s most thriving ZEV markets. When the state legislature repealed its $5,000 tax credit in 2015 and imposed a $200 annual registration fee (the largest fee levied on ZEVs to date in the U.S.), sales of ZEVs tumbled by almost 90 percent.
Growth of the EV market is critical for states to meet their responsibilities to provide their residents with healthy air to breathe and a healthy planet to inhabit. At a time when every federal and many state environmental protection policies are under attack  -- from emissions standards being rolled back to ending funding for research on toxic chemicals that harm children's health -- we must resist any effort that works as a barrier to expanding zero-emission transportation and instead advocate for fair, effective policies that expand access to cleaner cars and cleaner air. People must be incentivized, not penalized, for switching to cleaner vehicles. 

And we know these incentives work. Recently, New York Governor Cuomo announced that EV sales rose more than 60 percent in New Yorkt in 2017 over 2016 after a consumer EV rebate of up to $2,000 per driver was launched in early 2017.
If state legislators don’t want to prioritize fair fiscal laws, clean air, or closing budget shortfalls in meaningful ways, then they are forcing our hand. We are left with no choice other than to ban the sale of all gas-powered cars. Just joking! (...or are we?)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Celebrate Earth Month!

We will begin to run this year's articles on Earth Month as we focus our shows on the same for April.

From coast to coast, Canadians are taking action for the planet.
April is Earth Month, and we’re excited about all the upcoming events and activities. There are plenty of ways to get involved – how will you take part this year?
Forty-two years ago, Earth Day was established to create awareness and appreciation of our precious – and increasingly fragile – planet. Celebrated on April 22nd, Earth Day has over a billion participants around the world. Individuals, businesses, schools and governments commemorate what has been achieved and discuss what remains to be done to protect Earth. And even better news - over the years, Earth Day has evolved into Earth Week and Earth Month.
April is now set aside for a discourse on all things Earth. But why should we have to wait until April to have environmental dialogue? After Earth Month is over, it would be great if we could establish every month as Earth Month, and everyyear as Earth Year, and keep environmental discussion in the media. 
Undoubtedly, the most important and exciting changes are the ones the last far beyond April. The first Earth Day, in 1970, inspired the U.S. Congress to pass and strengthen Clean Air and Water Acts, and to create the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor environmental issues and establish environmental policy and laws. In 1990, the first International Earth Day brought pressure on many governments to take part in the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and to tackle issues such as climate change, the growing scarcity of water and the loss of species. Earth Day has been perhaps most successful at changing behaviour and attitudes, and provoking policy change.
In Canada, activities range from large public events, such as the Earth Walk in Victoria, Earth Day Festivalat Fort Edmonton Park, and Party for the Planet at the Toronto Zoo, to thousands of smaller events organized by individuals, schools, employee groups and community groups.  In the United States, events include the Earth Day Eco Event in San Francisco and the Mobilize the Earth festival in Washington, D.C. Check out Green Living’s list of events for activities near you, or start your own! (For inspiration, check out Earth Day Canada’s action guides and the EPA’s planning toolkit.) The events don’t stop in April – if you’re in the Toronto area, plan to attend the 9th Annual Earth Day Canada Gala, June 6th at the Drake Hotel.
The international Earth Day Network inspires over a billion people in 192 countries to participate in activism and environmental protection. Earth Day Canada (EDC) is a national non-profit group, founded in 1991 to provide Canadians with tools and knowledge to lessen their environmental impact. The group has been coordinating Earth Day/Earth Month events and creating successful campaigns. This April, EDC invites you to take up a new habit that is good for the planet and good for you, from detoxing your personal care routine to eating more plant-based meals. Pledge to take up an action for Earth Month today, or share your personal eco-commitments via EDC’s Facebook page or Twitter, and with us.
Kids across Canada can also act for the planet. Started in 1994, EDC’s EcoKids is a free environmental education program for Canadian elementary schools. Celebrate Earth Month with your young ones by choosing one or more of the following actions, complete with tools and tips: save the birdsplant for the planetbring your own bottle or upcycle your recycling.
We would be remiss not to mention the 6th annual Green Living Show, held April 13-15 in Toronto. It’s Canada’s largest green consumer show, where you can shop, taste and discover. Have fun with the whole family and discover ways to reduce your environmental footprint for Earth Day and beyond. Check out Earth Day Canada’s EcoKids Zone, presented in part by RBC and Elmer’s. It’s jam-packed with fun, entertaining activities and performances geared to make a lasting impact on how kids think about the planet. While you’re at the show, get water-wise and buy a rain barrel from; proceeds support Earth Day Canada.
Earth Day is the perfect occasion to reflect on how to protect our planet. On April 22, we will stand united for a sustainable future and demand change. How will you celebrate Earth Day, Earth Month or Earth Year? E-mail