Climate change may one day affect the foods we eat: A new study led by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that crops which provide dietary zinc and iron to a big part of the global population will have significantly reduced concentrations of both nutrients. The researchers estimated that 2 billion to 3 billion people around the world get 70 percent or more of their dietary zinc and iron from grains, and this is particularly true in developing countries where zinc and iron deficiencies are a major problem. An estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, which causes a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, according to the study.
Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Two billion people, more than 30 percent of the world’s population, are anemic, many due to iron deficiency. Zinc deficiency is a serious health concern and in children can cause growth retardation. In both adults and children, it can cause loss of appetite and impaired immune function, according to the National Institutes of Health. Children in developing countries with zinc deficiency are at risk of contracting infectious diseases and even dying from them.
Can a very popular shoe company make strides to be more sustainable while continuing to grow? The latest Sustainable Business Performance Summary by Nike, Inc. proves that a company can grow while doing good for the environment. The summary outlines all of Nike’s sustainability achievements, which include energy, waste and water reduction. Those achievements include a 26 percent energy use reduction per unit processed in major global distribution centers from 2011 to 2013. The company also achieved a 16 percent energy use per square foot in corporate offices from 2011 to 2013.
Carbon reduction is another achievement outlined in the summary. By the end of 2013, the footwear company achieved a 13 percent reduction in carbon emissions per unit, towards the goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2015. Nike reduced carbon emissions per unit in Nike Brand footwear manufacturing by 17 percent from 2011 to 2013, and reduced carbon emissions per unit in inbound transportation by 29 percent from 2011 to 2013. In addition, the company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8 percent from 2011 to 2013 while achieving a revenue growth of 26 percent.
Subway is a major fast food chain with more than 41,000 restaurants in 106 countries. CNBC calls it the “largest restaurant chain in the world.” Despite its large size, the company isn’t afraid of an increase in the federal minimum wage. Subway CEO Fred DeLuca recently said during an interview with CNBC that he is “not concerned” about the federal minimum wage increasing.
When he “started in the business, the minimum wage was $1.25,” and he has “seen an enormous number of wage increases,” DeLuca told CNBC. He added that increasing the federal minimum wage “won’t have a negative impact hopefully, and that’s what I tell my workers.” That is a bit of a change from 2013 when Deluca told CNBC that “doing a sharp raise all at once is a bad idea.” However, he added that “minimum-wage workers deserve to make more and a little bit of an increase makes sense to me.”
Recently, Subway has been embroiled in controversy concerning a food additive and a recent CNN report. The report found that individual Subway franchises have been found violating pay and hour rules in more than 1,100 investigations from 2000 to 2013. CNN looked at data from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and found the investigations combined have “about 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations and resulted in franchisees having to reimburse Subway workers more than $3.8 million over the years.” The report notes that Subway has over 26,000 locations throughout the U.S. and “each franchise owner is treated essentially as a small business.”
As we all know, coal is dirty. It is a fossil fuel and has a big environmental impact, as the Environmental Protection Agency outlines. When coal is burned greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, are released. Mining, cleaning and transporting coal also generate emissions. Large amounts of water are used to remove impurities from coal at the mine, and coal-fired power plants use large amounts of water for producing steam and for cooling. Then, there is mountaintop removal — which blows the tops off of mountains to get to the coal lying beneath.
Stanford University clearly understands just how dirty coal is because its board of trustees, acting on a recommendation from the university’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL), announced that it will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. Specifically, Stanford will not make direct investments of endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose principal business is coal mining for energy use.
The resolution means that Stanford will not directly invest in about 100 publicly-traded companies whose primary business is mining coal, and will divest of any current holdings in those companies — making it the first major university to divest from coal. In addition, Stanford will recommend to its external investment managers they they avoid investments in these companies.
Parts of the U.S. are experiencing drought, including California. Other parts are experiencing floods, while others are also experiencing extreme weather events. How resilient are the world’s 50 most important cities? That’s what Grosvenor, a U.K. development and management group, wanted to find out.
The findings have been published in a recently released report, which ranks cities based on their vulnerability and adaptability. There are five categories for both vulnerability (climate, environment, resources, infrastructure and community) and adaptability (governance, institutions, technical capacity, planning systems and funding structures).
The most resilient cities are in Canada, with Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary in the top three spots. “Canadian cities have a strong combination of low vulnerability and high adaptive capacity,” the report states. Canadian cities also have a “high level of resource availability,” plus they are “well governed and well planned.” Although American cities are more vulnerable than Canadian cities, they have a capacity to adapt, which puts five (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta) in the top 10 of most resilient cities. The report points out that the strong adaptive capacity “suggests that U.S. cities will continue to see a pattern of effective public intervention, but often only after a major shock has occurred.”
Analysis by the nonprofit research group Sun Day Campaign finds that renewable energy sources in the U.S. could reach or exceed 16 percent by 2018. That is years before the Energy Information Administration predicts the nation will reach that share of renewable sources. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 predicts that by 2040 renewable energy would only make 16 percent of the country’s net electrical generation. Sun Day analysis finds that renewable energy has increased from less than nine percent in 2004 to almost 13 percent in 2013.
Many rely on EIA data, including policy makers and the media. “Underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. By underestimating the share of renewable sources, “EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections,” Bossong added.
The current drought hitting California makes the nightly news in many of the state’s major markets — and for good reason. It’s the worst drought California has seen for 15 years. The entire state is officially in drought, according to the April 22 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Every area in California is suffering from “moderate” to “exceptional” drought, and most of the state is either in “extreme” or “exceptional” states of drought — the most severe levels. Reservoirs are key for providing water to both cities and farmers. All reservoir levels are low, a weekly state drought brief on April 21 reveals. The San Antonio Reservoir has been essentially dry through the entire winter. Some reservoirs are at basically half capacity, and others are at less than half capacity.
Some cities are having to enact water restrictions or water rationing. The City of Montague is at risk for running out of drinking water by the end of the summer and has requested that residents stop all outside watering until further notice. This is the first time in more than 80 years that this situation has occurred in Montague. The City of San Diego is in “level one” water supply status. According to the city’s website, a level-one status occurs when there is a reasonable probability that there will be a supply shortage and a consumer demand reduction of up to 10 percent is required to ensure that there will be enough supplies to meet anticipate demands. Level-one voluntary restrictions in the city are now mandatory. The restrictions include prohibiting excessive irrigation and not using a running hose to wash down sidewalks, driveways, parking areas or other paved areas unless the hose is connected to a water efficient device like a commercial water brook.
Colgate-Palmolive recently committed to making 100 percent of its packaging fully recyclable for three out of four product categories by 2020. The three categories set to go recyclable are home, pet and personal care. Colgate has also committed to developing a completely recyclable toothpaste tube or package. In addition, the company agreed to increase the average recycled content of its packaging from 40 percent to 50 percent, and reduce or eliminate the use of PVC — a hard-to-recycle resin — in packaging.
As You Sow (AYS) filed a shareholder resolution with Colgate in 2012, asking the company to explore the feasibility of adopting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategy for post-consumer packaging. For those who aren’t familiar, an EPR is a corporate and public policy that shifts responsibility for collecting and recycling from consumers and governments to producers. Canada and several European countries require companies to be responsible for post-consumer packaging by paying some or all of the cots for collection and recycling. Here in the U.S., 24 states have EPR laws on the books that mandate producer responsibility for collecting and recycling consumer electronics.
Unsafe drinking water causes all sorts of problems. Eighty-eight percent of diarrhea cases globally are linked to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene. Diarrheal disease kills 1.5 million people a year, mostly young children.
More than 1 billion people globally lack safe drinking water and over 1,600 children die every day from waterborne illnesses, which is more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Procter and Gamble (P&G) would like to ensure everyone has access to safe drinking water. The global giant’s nonprofit Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) recently provided its 7 billionth liter of clean drinking water to a family of four in Brazil — the nonprofit’s newest location and the largest country of operation in South America. Like many in the region, the only water source for the family is a contaminated river, and it represents one of almost 5,000 households the program will reach in the Brazilian state of Mias Gerais.
CSDW is part of P&G’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to save one life every hour by the year 2020. The program has worked with over 140 partners since it began in 2004, and the 7 billion liters of water it has provided since its inception is equivalent to a liter of clean water for every person on the planet. That amount of clean water has prevented almost 300 million days of diarrheal illness and helped to save over 39,000 lives.
The results of the first comprehensive survey of Illinois’ clean energy sector found that there are currently 96,875 people employed in the sector throughout the state. That is more than the combined total of people working in real estate or as accountants, and enough to fill Soldier Field in Chicago 1.5 times over. The survey was conducted by BW Research Partnership for Clean Energy Trust in partnership with Environmental Entrepreneurs, The Environmental Law & Policy Center and The Natural Resources Defense Council. An interactive website was created to showcase the survey results.
The Illinois clean energy sector will add its 100,000th worker in 2014, according to projected growth rates. Forty percent of Illinois clean energy businesses surveyed plan to hire more workers in 2014, a pace that equates to a job growth rate of 9 percent. Companies working in renewable energy made up 21 percent of the clean energy businesses in Illinois, while 62 percent of clean energy businesses in the state are mainly focused on energy efficiency, including low energy lighting, heating and cooling controls, and smart grid technology.
Illinois efficiency standards require that utilities reduce electricity demand by 2 percent each year but spend less than 2.015 percent of rates paid by customers on efficiency projects. Illinois is the No. 1 state in the U.S. for green buildings.
Bacardi Ltd. is a world famous maker of rum, but the company is becoming known for something else: its sustainability measures. After highlighting significant reductions in water and energy use in its 2013 corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, Bacardi recently announced new energy efficiency measures.
These measures include installing solar skylights, which increase natural light, and ceiling insulation, which helps control temperatures in the company’s warehouses where rum sits inside white oak barrels to process. The company is located in Puerto Rico, a “small Caribbean island with limited resources,” as Julio Torruella, project director for Bacardi in Puerto Rico, said in a statement. Because of the company’s location it continues to look for ways it can get the best use out of the natural resources of the island. Installing skylights is one way that Bacardi can maximize its use of sunlight, the company said.
Bacardi has already reduced energy use by 25 percent since it began tracking its global impacts on the environment in 2006. In addition, the company has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from rum production by 48 percent. One way Bacardi reduces energy use of non-renewable sources and reduces GHG emissions is through the use of renewable energy. Bacardi’s distillery in Catano, Puerto Rico is partly powered by two wind turbines that generate a combined total of 500 kilowatts (kW).
Climate change is making the news for a number of reasons, including Showtime’s new series called “Years of Living Dangerously.” The rise in greenhouse gas emissions is responsible for climate change, and the majority of scientists agree that most of the increase is caused by human activity.
That said, there is a bit of good news when it comes to U.S. GHG emissions. The Los Angeles Times reports that greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. decreased by 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. The report is based on the EPA’s recently released inventory, which cites “multiple factors” for the decrease in emissions — including reduced emissions from electricity generation, fuel efficiency in vehicles, a decrease in the price of natural gas and reductions in miles traveled. Greenhouse gases in 2012, according to the inventory, were 10 percent below 2005 levels. Since 1990, U.S. emissions have increased at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent.
There are many criticisms leveled at Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers. However, Walmart is fast becoming a leader in corporate sustainability. The retailer’s latest announcement is one good example. Walmart recently announced that it will buy LED ceiling lighting fixtures for new supercenters in the U.S., stores in Asia and Latin America, and Asda locations in the U.K. This is the company’s largest purchase of LED lighting.
LED fixtures will use 40 percent less energy and help the company reach its goal to reduce the kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot of energy required to power its buildings by 20 percent globally by 2020. The installation of the LED ceiling fixtures will begin at Asda, Walmart’s stores in the U.K. A total of 200 new Walmart stores will install the LED fixtures over the next two years.
Sales floor lighting accounts for about 90 percent of the total lighting usage in each building. Switching to LED fixtures will reduce energy use by more than 5 percent per store in the U.S. alone and will save an expected 340,000 kWh per store. That equals $34,000 in savings per year in each store — or removing 327,360 metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The LED fixtures are expected to save a total of 620 million kWh over the next 10 years.
For the fifth consecutive month, electricity prices in countries neighboring Germany have decreased, recently released Platts data reveals, due in large part to increased solar and wind generation in Germany.
The Platts Continental Power Index (CONT), described as a “demand-weighted base load average of day-ahead contracts assessed in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands,” dropped steadily in early 2014. The index decreased to €35.06 (or about $48.50) per megawatt hour in March, an 18 percent drop from February. Overall, the index is down by more than 39 percent since peaking at €50.50/MWh in November of last year.
IKEA US announced its investment in a 98 megawatt wind farm in Hoopeston, Illinois. The wind farm, called Hoopeston Wind, is the largest single IKEA Group investment in renewable energy globally. The project is being built by Apex Clean Energy and expected to be in operation by 2015. IKEA Group will own Hoopeston Wind and Apex Clean Energy will manage its operations. Rob Olson, Chief Financial Officer of IKEA US made the announcement at an business executive briefing by companies who have signed the Climate Declaration, which calls on the government to take action on climate change, for members of the Congressional Bi-Cameral Task Force on Climate Change.
“We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimizes our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense,” said Olson. “We invest in our own renewable energy sources so that we can control our exposure to fluctuating electricity costs and continue providing great value to our customers.