Food waste causes a range of environmental problems when left to rot in a landfill. A staggering amount, 1.3 billion tons of food, is wasted globally every year, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The carbon footprint of all that wasted food is estimated at 3.3 billion tons of carbon equivalent.
Wasted food also means wasted water. The amount of water used to produce food that is wasted is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. That is not good at any time — but becomes particularly poignant during a time when the entire state of California is in its third year of drought. There is also an economic cost to food waste; a $750 billion a year cost.
On to another problem: Conventional plastic is made from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and contributes to climate change. Bioplastics are made from plant material and are an alternative to conventional plastic. However, the multiple steps needed to produce bioplastics means more energy is needed. And the crops used to produce them, like corn, are probably better suited for human consumption.
As a solution, a group of scientists at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genova, Italy, are working on ways to create bioplastic from food waste. Their results were published earlier this summer in American Chemical Society’s (ACS) journal Macromolecules.
Fans of Frosted Flakes and Eggo, two Kellogg Co. brands, who are also champions of sustainability have something to cheer about: Kellogg announced new social and environmental commitments earlier this month.
Among other things, the company committed to responsibly source its top 10 ingredients and materials by 2020. The 10 ingredients include corn, wheat, rice, oats, potatoes, sugar (beets and cane), cocoa, palm oil, fruits and honey. A combination of certification and documented continuous improvement will be used. In addition, Kellogg will validate compliance across all of its direct suppliers by 2015.
Kellogg will work with its global palm oil suppliers to source “fully traceable” palm oil, as stated on its website, from certified sources that are “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.” It will require its suppliers to comply with Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) principles and criteria by Dec. 31, 2015. The majority of palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, and palm oil plantations are causing massive rainforest destruction in both countries.
Dr. Pepper Snapple Group has surpassed several of its environmental targets, as its latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) report reveals. The company that has over 50 beverage brands is really serious about reducing waste. DPS set a goal of recycling 60 million pounds of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic by 2015, but last year recycled 60.7 million pounds.
The company also achieved its goal of an 80 percent recycling rate by 2015 — four years early in 2011. DPS set a new goal of a 90 percent recycling rate of its solid manufacturing waste. It is well on its way to meeting the new goal: In 2013, it recycled over 85 percent of its manufacturing solid waste, a 3 percent increase from 2012. Some of its sites achieved double-digit increases in their recycling rates in 2013. One of those sites is its Miami plant which achieved a recycle rate of 83 percent, up from 61 percent a year earlier.
Through partnerships, DPS is also able to promote recycling: It works with the American Beverage Association to help develop an industry approach to reducing waste. It began partnering with Keep America Beautiful in 2013 to support recycling efforts in communities across the country. Through its partnership, the company donated $300,000 to put recycling bins in public parks, which gives consumers more access to local recycling systems. DPS renewed the partnership for 2014.
Dropbox provides a handy and free service that allows you to share documents, videos and photos with people. Founded in 2007, the site has over 300 million users globally. Its new San Francisco office, which is LEED Platinum certified, will feature a solar energy system designed by UGE, a global distributed renewable energy company. The 25.2 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system will supply enough energy to offset the electricity used in the six-story building designed by William McDonough Partners. The PV system will feature 84 300-watt solar panels.
“On-site renewable energy will power a sustainable future for Dropbox — a visible step forward for an innovative company located in the heart of the tech capital of the world,” Scott Van Pelt, director of engineering at UGE, said in a statement. “UGE’s software tools have played a crucial role in designing efficient solar and wind systems based on site-specific resources, so it’s both exciting and fitting that one of our energy solutions will top the headquarters of a leader in cloud technology.”
Plastic is a part of our lives. It packages many of the food products we buy, encases our electronics and is even found in our cars. Plastic waste causes numerous environmental problems, particularly in the world’s oceans where it makes up about 90 percent of all trash floating around. The biggest plastic waste ocean site is in the North Pacific Gyre. Called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is twice the size of Texas. Since plastic takes a very long time to degrade, some 500 to 1,000 years, it is impossible to completely clean up.
There are two companies that have created a way to reduce plastic waste by eliminating packaging. Stonyfield Farm and WikiFoods have collaborated to provide frozen yogurt encased in edible packaging made from fruit skin. The product is called Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls, and an edible packaging called WikiPearl packages the less than 30-calorie frozen treat. The companies started a test market in March at four Whole Foods stores in the Boston area with six flavors.
The first goal of the initiative is for responsibly-sourced seafood to comprise 50 percent of the company’s inventory by 2018. Part of that goal will be sourcing over 15 percent from fisheries or farms certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).
Hyatt has already been partnering with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to stop sourcing very vulnerable seafood species. With WWF’s help, the chain conducted an assessment of global seafood procurement processes at its hotels and identified steps it could take to improve the sustainability of its seafood sourcing practices.
One step it will take is to focus first on certain species including salmon, shrimp, grouper, Chilean sea bass and tuna. Another step is instituting a complete ban on procuring and eating shark fin at all of its restaurants and food and beverage outlets around the world. This step builds on its 2012 commitment to remove shark fin from all restaurant menus. Hyatt will also have employees involved in food and beverage offerings at the company’s owned and managed full-service hotels undergo a sustainable seafood training program developed with WWF. All of these initiatives will be measured with WWF analysis and recommendations.
Massachusetts is about to test drive a law to deal with the mounting issue. Back in January, the state government announced that a statewide ban on commercial food waste would take effect on Oct. 1, 2014. Regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), the ban requires any entity disposing of at least 1 ton of organic material per week to either donate or re-purpose the useable food. The remaining food that can’t be used will be either sent to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility and converted to energy or to composting and animal-feed operations.
Residential food waste from small businesses is not included in the ban which affects about 1,700 businesses and institutions across the state.
Kimberly-Clark is a big company with well-known brands like Scott, Depends and Huggies. It has also made some real strides in sustainability, as its latest annual sustainability report shows.
The company achieved a 26.4 percent reduction in water use in manufacturing in 2013, beating its 2015 goal of 25 percent. The report attributes the reduction to a more efficient manufacturing footprint, water conservation programs, and upgraded water and wastewater systems.
All totaled, Kimberly-Clark completed six major water reduction projects last year. For example, it made upgrades to the wastewater system at its Northfleet Mill that allows more than half of the wastewater to be recycled and reused.
When it comes to sourcing, Kimberly-Clark has also set lofty goals. The target is to source 100 percent of its wood fiber from suppliers who have achieved third-party certification of their forestry activities by 2015. Clearly, the company can meet those lofty goals as it met its target in 2012. A 2016 target is to achieve 100 percent chain of custody certification. All of the Kimberly-Clark tissue mills in North America and Europe are already chain of custody certified, along with about 50 percent of its mills in other regions. By 2025, the company plans to source 90 percent of the fiber in its tissue products from environmentally-preferred sources, including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood fiber, recycled fiber and sustainable alternative fibers. It has already sourced 71.7 percent from environmentally preferred sources.
Local authorities in Beijing announced that the city will ban coal sales and use by 2020 to reduce air pollution, Xinhua News Agency reports.
Six Beijing districts will stop using coal and will close coal-fired power plants by 2020. Coal use is expected to drop to less than 10 percent by 2017. Other fossil fuels, including fuel oil, will also be banned.
Coal burning accounts for 22.4 percent of Beijing’s PM 2.5, small airborne particles that contribute to smog. Coal use also accounted for 25.4 percent of Beijing’s energy use in 2012.
The main driver for coal reduction is air pollution, which is notoriously bad in Beijing. Back in February the Guardian reported that Beijing spent a week “blanketed in a dense pea-soup smog.” Beijing’s concentration of PM 2.5 particles rose to 505 micrograms, far above the 25 micrograms the World Health Organization recommends as a safe level.
In 2013, 92 percent of Chinese cities didn’t meet national ambient air quality standards, and coal burning is responsible for almost half of China’s overall PM 2.5 pollution.
Recycling old materials is built into Bacardi Limited, the largest privately-held spirits company in the world, and is part of the company’s history. Bacardi founder, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, opened his first distillery in 1862, and repurposing old whiskey barrels was part of his original plan. Flash forward to the present, and Bacardi is still recycling. Bacardi Bottling Corp.’s 92-acre Jacksonville, Florida site recycles materials used to bottle Bacardi rum. The site is the only bottling plant for Bacardi rum branded products sold in the U.S. A variety of materials are recycled at the bottling plant including glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and wastewater.
Bacardi also focuses on reducing the weight of its packaging and reducing hazardous waste. Packaging makes up about 57 percent of its spending on raw materials, totaling about 400,000 tons. Packaging is also responsible for half of the company’s extended carbon emissions, which include emissions from its own operations and those of its suppliers. Since 2008, Bacardi has reduced the weight of its packaging by 23,000 tons, a 7.1 percent reduction. The company’s hazardous waste decreased by 1.5 percent in 2013.
Smucker’s latest CSR report states that the company is committed to developing a “fully sustainable and traceable palm oil supply chain.” It set a target that palm oil purchases will come from “responsible and sustainable sources” by December 2015. In 2012, Smuckers began buying palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sources, and received RSPO certification in January 2013.
As a result of the new policy, a shareholder proposal filed by Clean Yield Asset Management and Green Century Capital Management was withdrawn. The food producer is currently valued at $10.8 billion in market capitalization. Its brands include Smuckers’ jams and jellies, Jif peanut butter, Crisco, Folger and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Mars, Inc. has big sustainability goals. Its 2040 target is to eliminate all fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from its direct operations.
One way it is working towards that goal is by investing in renewable energy. It announced in April that it will invest in and build a new wind farm in Texas, which will help it meet its 2015 goal of 25 percent reduction of fossil fuel energy use and GHG emissions. Its fourth annual Principles in Action Summary contains other sustainability targets and initiatives.
Making its supply chain more sustainable is also important to Mars. As a large and global food company, it uses vast quantities of things like palm oil and cocoa. In March, it launched a new Deforestation Policy and committed to a fully traceable palm oil supply chain by the end of 2015. Mars is also the largest purchaser of cocoa from certified sources, and has increased its purchase of certified cocoa to 30 percent. The goal is 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020.
WhiteWave Foods met its 2015 goal to source Certified Sustainable Palm Oil for 100 percent of its liquid creamers in 2012, three years ahead of schedule. The company, whose brands include Silk, Horizon and Earthbound, set the target in 2010. Palm oil is an ingredient used in many of its liquid creamers, and the palm oil industry has a high impact on the environment due to deforestation.
WhiteWave Foods recently released its first corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which goes on to detail other environmental achievements, including reducing packaging, waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Despite production volume increasing in both North America and Europe, WhiteWave has managed to reduce GHG emissions. It cut GHG emissions in North America by by 32 percent per gallon of product while production volume increased by 57 percent since 2006.
Meanwhile, the company also slashed carbon emissions by 39.5 percent per ton of product in Europe, where product volumes have grown by 22 percent since 2007. While cutting emissions, the company also increased onsite renewable energy production by 30 percent and reduced waste sent to landfill by 47 percent in its European operations.
The line contains 78 different products with 19 different styles, including baby clothes. For grown-ups, the line features basics like underwear, leggings, camisoles, T-shirts and long johns. In May, Pact launched a Fair Trade certified women’s T-shirt sold exclusively at Whole Foods. This new line will be sold at retailers across the U.S. including Whole Foods and Amazon.
The Fair Trade certified line is produced in a factory in India. For every purchase of a Fair Trade certified garment, Pact will donate a percentage of the sales to a worker-controlled fund. The workers will vote on how to spend the funds which include a disaster relief fund for factory workers, a scholarship fund for workers’ children, infrastructure improvements in their local communities, or a cash bonus.
Cotton is a major world commodity, accounting for almost half of textile production. Traditional cotton farming is hard on the environment, however, as pesticide and artificial fertilizer use is heavy.
The crop accounts for 10 percent of global pesticide use and is grown in about 80 countries around the world. Cotton also needs much water: An average of 10,000 liters of water is used to grow 1 kilogram of cotton, but it can require three times as much if farming practices are poor. However, through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) farmers are reducing their pesticide, artificial fertilizer and water use.
In 2005, Ikea and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started joint cotton projects, and both are founding members of the BCI. The purpose of the initiative is to develop more sustainable cotton production methods.
BCI started with just 500 farmers and a goal to develop more sustainable cotton production methods. Now, through BCI and its partners, 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan alone are using more sustainable cotton farming techniques, as the latest BCI report shows. Project farmers in Pakistan were the first in the world to produce licensed Better Cotton.