The entire state of California is in a drought. A big part of the state, including the fertile Central Valley, is experiencing the worst category of drought, exceptional. California supplies much of the fruits, vegetables and nuts the nation eats. In inland areas such as the Central Valley, as well as the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, agriculture truly rules.
While people in Southern California and the Bay Area are largely insulated from the effects of the drought, people in the Central Valley are being hit hard. Some wells in the town of Easton, the small farming community in Fresno County where I was raised, are going dry; and two businesses have closed as a result. Meanwhile, farmers are resorting to over-pumping groundwater. They have no choice. They want to survive. America wants to eat.
Agriculture takes up 80 percent of the state’s water supply. Some crops need more water than others. Tree crops, for example, need more water than vineyards. Almonds are one tree crop that is experiencing great growth, fueled in part by studies that show the health benefits of eating almonds and past drops in the price of raisins. As a result, almonds are California’s largest export; state farmers grow 80 percent of the world’s supply, and 99 percent of all almonds grown in the U.S. hail from California. However, the drought is certain to affect the almond industry. As an opinion piece by Market Watch points out, “This unprecedented drought threatens to slam the brakes on one of the state’s fastest-growing crops and biggest moneymakers.” When the 2014-2015 crop goes to market next year, consumers will certainly be hit with higher almond prices.
Kimberly-Clark produces mainly paper-based personal care products, including popular brands such as Cottonelle, so it’s only fitting that the global company focuses on sustainable forestry.
Its latest corporate social responsibility report lists short- and long-term goals to make its products more sustainably produced. One of the short-term goals is to source 100 percent of its wood fiber from suppliers who have achieved third-party certification by 2015. It has already achieved this goal. Two of K-C’s long term-goals also involve sustainable forestry, including obtaining 90 percent of the fiber in its tissue products from environmentally-preferred sources by 2025. At the end of 2013, K-C was at 71.1 percent. Second, the company planned to transition to at least 50 percent of wood fiber sourced from natural forests to alternative fiber sources by 2025. At the end of 2013, K-C achieved 24 percent reduction of fiber sourced from natural forest.
K-C states it will not knowingly use conflict wood, illegal fiber or fiber procured from special forest areas, including endangered forests. All K-C tissue mills in North America and about 50 percent of mills in other regions are chain-of-custody certified. The goal is to achieve 100 percent chain-of-custody certification for all of its mills by 2016.
In its latest corporate social responsibility report, Hyatt Hotels revealed a new set of environmental goals that it’s calling the Hyatt 2020 Vision.
One of the goals involves sustainable design: Starting in 2015, Hyatt will require all new construction and major renovation projects contracted for managed hotels to follow sustainable design guidelines. Starting next year, all new construction and major renovation projects for wholly-owned, full-service hotels must achieve either LEED certification or an equivalent certification.
The 2020 vision also includes reduction goals: Each of Hyatt’s three regions will reduce energy use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent per square meter. The goal for water-stressed areas is to reduce water use by 30 percent. Additionally, every managed hotel will recycle or some how divert waste from landfills by 40 percent.
Nestle, the global food giant known for its Nestle Crunch Bars, announced its new animal welfare program that will eliminate some common but cruel practices from its global food supply chain. Those cruel practices include confining sows in gestation crates, calves in veal crates and egg-laying chickens in cages. Nestle’s new guidelines also require that veterinary practices be implemented for farm animals that reduce pain or avoid practices that cause pain. Dehorning cows is one example. (Cow horns are removed so they can’t injure other cows.)
The announcement came after Nestle signed a partnership agreement with World Animal Protection International, making it the first major food company to form an international partnership with an animal welfare organization. World Animal Protection has been working with Nestle to improve its Responsible Sourcing Guideline, which all suppliers must follow as part of the company’s supplier code.
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 — $750 billion a year.
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 mean 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.