Experts Discuss Tackling Big Problems Through Design at SXSW Eco

Alex Vietti
| Saturday October 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

This post is part of Triple Pundit’s ongoing coverage of the SXSW Eco conference. For the rest, please visit our SXSW Eco page here.

Triple Pundit was one of hundreds of organizations to attend the annual SXSW Eco conference in Austin last week. This post is part of our ongoing coverage.

Triple Pundit was one of hundreds of organizations to attend the annual SXSW Eco conference in Austin last week. This post is part of our ongoing coverage.

On the first day of SXSW Eco, design experts discussed examples of how creative design makes sustainability easy, cost-effective and beautiful. Moderated by Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist for Adobe Systems, panelists from Frog Design, Building Robotics and Levi Strauss & Co. showcased their innovative approaches to solving problems while making their products, services and consumer experiences better.

Denise Gershbein explained Frog Design’s position: They help their customers with global production design that is long-term and systems focused. She explains that cradle-to-cradle and visionary thinking is at the root of their design consultations, and these are the most important attributes that lead the non-linear design process towards solving complex sustainability problems.

In my view, the most interesting component of the panel was Paul Dillinger’s deep dive into the sustainability-driven design tactics he leads at Levi Strauss. He began with the recognition that the fashion industry has a notoriously bad reputation for being highly wasteful and unsustainable, from the mostly unrecyclable materials through the environment-intense chemicals. This is a result of an industry that is primarily concerned with trend relevancy and valuing consumer needs over the bigger picture of eco-consciousness. There is a trend in ‘eco-fashion’ labels, but he notes that the design and marketing approaches they utilize often only address one issue of a very large and complex system, like focusing solely on the use of organic cotton.

He attributed this shortcoming in the fashion industry to the consideration of environmental constraints as barriers to creativity and freedom of design. But in fact, Dillinger, the company’s head of global production innovation, said he uses these as springboards for innovation and sustainability. He feels that the process of unlocking environmental and social qualities that can be built into pieces of clothing is actually more creatively rewarding, and he has seen firsthand how these attributes can create more business and consumer benefits.

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8 Companies Working to Eliminate Hunger

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

a-mission-of-bread-and-hope-lgWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Thursday, Oct. 16, is World Food Day — an annual day of action against hunger. Commemorating the creation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Oct. 16, 1945 in Quebec, Canada, WFD asks people to come together in their commitment to eradicate hunger in their lifetimes.

An estimated 805 million people, one in nine worldwide, live with chronic hunger — a startling statistic that underscores the importance of action on the issue. While spreading awareness on World Food Day is great, it takes year-round action to secure real change. With that in mind, this week we’re tipping our hats to eight companies that are working to eliminate hunger worldwide.

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Dell, Google Technology Inspires Oakland Middle Schoolers

| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments
7th grader Jose Morga explains how his used a Dell Chromebook to design their experiment to test the composting ability of worms in space.

Seventh grader Jose Morga explains how his team used a Dell Chromebook to design their winning experiment to test the composting ability of worms in space.

“Sometimes they just need to bang on something really hard,” principal Claire Fisher explains to me when discussing middle schoolers at Urban Promise Academy and the need to maintain the drums in their music program. The middle school keeps energetic students banging away through a variety of grants, fundraisers, and general elbow grease from a pack of community members who are committed to improving Oakland’s Fruitvale district.

Fruitvale’s BART station gained national notoriety as the location of the fatal police shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant. Urban Promise Academy (UPA, pronounced oo-pah) is a small middle school with a student body that is 87 percent latino or hispanic. Fifty-six percent of the students are English Language Learners, and 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. In short, it’s a group of students who didn’t start out with a lot of advantages. But UPA is not interested in focusing on the past, it is interested in getting these students to “college, career and beyond.”

Part of that preparation means making sure that they have an opportunity to engage with the technology that they’ll need in the future. There are many sections of Oakland where upwards of 50 percent of the residents don’t have computers or internet access at home, so the pressure is on schools to introduce the students to the technology that will help them be successful in life.

UPA has partnered with Dell to put Chromebooks in the classroom.

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What is All the ‘Collectively’ Fuss About?

Leon Kaye | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 4 Comments
Collectively, sustainability, climate change, Vice Media, Leon Kaye, sustainability writers, Jonathon Porritt

Collectively is joining the sustainability conversation, and some are not happy about it.

This week, Collectively.org launched. Described in a press release as a “super brand coalition” platform to “raise awareness and inspire millennials to adopt a more sustainable way of living,” I first thought it was a joke. I rolled my eyes as the email also included a pallid quote from Barack Obama and forwarded it onto the editors here at Triple Pundit with a snicker (which is why, PR people, get to the point right away).

Yes, the “super brand coalition” threw me off, as I envisioned a posse of luxury brands going into the Middle Eastern desert to root out terrorism. But when I scrolled down that same email yesterday, it turns out this is partnership between Forum of the Future and some of the world’s biggest and iconic companies: Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Google, Nike, BT and others are sponsoring this new site while VIRTUE, a division of edgy VICE Media, is curating the site.

And according to sustainability writers out there, that background poses a huge problem for Collectively, and the knives are out. “A slew of major corporations,” and “backed by corporate sponsors,” are among the complaints being lobbed at this new site—as if somehow corporate involvement is a bad thing. The “feel good” stories on Collectively are mocked, and the site is even chided for not covering other stories such as the Aral Sea’s disappearance (shame on us at Triple Pundit, as admittedly we barely covered the disappearance of the world’s fourth largest freshwater lake).

But is the criticism fair, with Collectively not even up and running for a week?

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New Handbook: 100 Percent Renewable Energy Both Practicable and Affordable

| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 11 Comments

WFCE3PolicyCvrAdvances in renewable energy technology, in concert with new triple bottom line-based approaches to government and business, are key enablers of a transition from polluting fossil fuels to locally-appropriate mixes of distributed, renewable energy systems. The renewable energy transition will not only benefit ecosystems and the environment; well designed and executed policies, regulations, public-private partnerships and inclusive, collaborative business models can address societies’ most pressing social and economic challenges as well.

Powering societies wholly on renewable energy technologies widely available today is not only possible, it’s affordable, according to a policy handbook produced by the World Future Council and E3 Analytics.

Appropriately titled, How to Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Energy, the WFC-E3 policy handbook uses eight case studies organized according to four themes – cities and communities; regions and states; national governments; and island governments – to illustrate how innovative policies are promoting and paving the way to “fully fossil- and nuclear-free” societies.

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SC Johnson Rolls Out Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Marketing Strategy in Ghana

Leon Kaye | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments
SC Johnson, social enterprise, malaria, bottom of the pyramid, Ghana, leon kaye, WOW, Yiko Kribo, world health organization

The WOW bundle SC Johnson sells in Ghana

While international marketing executives scratch their heads over how to expand business in a world saturated with products (are Africa, India and Latin America the last frontiers for global business?), more companies may want to focus on socioeconomic, not geographic, markets to find new opportunities. After all, the “bottom of the pyramid,” as in the world’s lower-income wage earners, are as much as 70 percent of the world’s population. Some businesses understand this and sell products accordingly—for example consumer packaged goods companies that sell cleaning products in sachets instead of massive boxes. Now SC Johnson, the Wisconsin-based cleaning products company, is joining this small but growing crowd in Ghana, and contributing to local efforts to reduce the risks of contracting malaria.

The program, nicknamed WOW, launched in 2012, though SC Johnson has researched and tested this business concept for almost a decade. A pilot program in Bobikuma, Ghana, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of the capital of Accra, kicked off earlier this year. With support from Cornell University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this membership-based club allows families to pool their money together to buy cleaning and pest-control products and reduce the transmission of malaria. Besides allowing families to share resources, the communal nature of selling these products allows for sharing tips about keeping homes clean and safe from malaria-carrying mosquitos. Now the program has expanded.

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The Quick & Dirty: Snake Oil Sellers

Henk Campher
| Friday October 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments

3231184805_794c027e52_zShayna Samuels and Glenn Turner of Ripple Strategies wrote a great piece on the reasons why a social mission should be at the heart of your marketing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the mother of cause and brand marketing, Carol Cone, since I landed in the U.S. many years ago – hi mom! And I am surrounded by people chipping away at companies to convince them to bring a social mission to their business and to bring it to life in creative ways. The missing social mission … Having a social mission as a central part of who you are as a business has been at the front of what we’ve been trying to tell companies over here in the sustainability/CSR/purpose/shared value/citizenship/whatevergetsyougoing space.

The one essential thing so many companies miss completely when it comes to a social mission is that it isn’t a choice but a given. You either have a social mission as part of your company identity or you are selling snake oil. Your choice.

Let’s go back to the beginning of almost every company that exists today: You can find a clear social mission at the heart of why they started as a business. I’m not going to spend any time on the easy ones like TOMS or Tesla — they are still young and new enough to remember, and their business model is still fresh enough as a reaction to a social need. But the same goes for those large companies that have been around for ages. Take a company like Tesco that was founded with a simple social purpose of getting affordable surplus groceries to the poorest communities as close to their homes as possible. AT&T can trace its roots back to the Bell Co., which wanted to help connect people — sounds like Facebook today. BASF can trace its roots back to bringing light to the previously dark town of Mannheim. Cargill helped farmers store their grain in more effective ways through grain flat houses. Bank of America was founded to help new immigrants as most existing banks in America refused to provide them with basic services. And so the list goes on and on — social mission at the heart of where most companies started.

And then so many lost their way.

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The Growing Challenge of Water Procurement

3p Contributor | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

8359980055_2af1ef6424_zBy Graham Russell

Most sustainability professionals would agree that, in the long run, making adequate supplies of fresh water readily available to the world’s entire population is probably the most difficult resource-related challenge we face, especially in light of the weather uncertainties posed by global climate change. There is an essentially fixed amount of fresh water in the world, and for all practical purposes there are no substitutes for its role in keeping humans and animals alive — not to mention growing the increasing amounts of food required for a growing global population.

Water is a strategically important issue for both developed and emerging countries. It is estimated that 780 million people around the world lack access to clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing. This results in millions of deaths a year from waterborne diseases, almost all in developing nations, and billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

In the developed world, the challenge is how to make clean water available in adequate quantities in the right place at the right time, a problem that has become known as the water/energy nexus: that intricate relationship between these two critical resources in which each needs the other in enormous quantities. It is estimated that nearly half of the water consumed in the U.S. is dedicated to cooling systems in thermoelectric power plants that produce electricity. In California nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity consumption goes toward water-related uses (purification, storage, transportation). In China, the South/North Diversion Project to bring water from southern rivers to the drier, more industrialized northern regions – a matter of national strategic economic interest – has resulted in one of the world’s largest engineering projects that is likely to cost over $100 billion when completed.

Superimposed on these global and national water challenges is the fact that nearly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, compared with about 54 percent in 2014. Ensuring adequate supplies of water for both their residents and their industries therefore becomes a strategic competitive advantage issue for city managements. They will have to step up their water stewardship programs in the form of better forward planning to secure adequate supplies, improved maintenance of distribution systems to prevent leakage and main breaks, and pricing and incentive systems to encourage conservation and more efficient usage.

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Creating Constructive Futures in Business and Beyond

3p Contributor | Friday October 10th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bath Water Lily By Giles Hutchins

Business strategist, Peter Senge, notes that our world today is shaped not by individuals alone but by networks of businesses and institutions, and that these organizations are grounded in an old logic which needs to radically shift for the times we now live in.

New horizons are created through new ways of thinking, perceiving and attending to ourselves, each other and wider life. It is up to the individuals within these organizations to co-create a new logic. This shift in logic is what Senge says is the biggest challenge facing organizational management and leadership today.  Without this radical shift in thinking we will be unable to transform successfully towards a sustainable future; in other words, we will utterly fail in our evolution.

The logic of yesterday is of top-down, hierarchic, command-and-control, risk-adverse, competition-oriented, short-termed maximization, control-based thinking best suited to the Industrial Age. It is a mechanistic worldview based on reductionist logic that fragments reality into abstract definitions, silos and objects to be quantified, measured, controlled and then maximized, while largely overlooking the interrelated, fluid, connective, collaborative, participatory nature of nature.

In drawing inspiration from nature, we may step beyond our narrowed-down view of life and recognize the intrinsic patterns and reciprocal relations in our midst. These patterns can often seem confusing or complex for our reductionist minds, yet for our intuitive logic they are quite natural to cohere with – we are, after all, part of nature. Such patterns and flows are, by their nature, regenerative and sustainable.  In applying this inherent logic of life, we no longer need to superficially bolt-on sustainability initiatives to unsustainable modus operandi. In going with the flow of nature, we redesign for resilience, ensuring sustainability – in all sense of the word – is ingrained in how we operate and innovate.

For Senge, creative orientation is what facilitates our shift beyond yesterday’s flawed logic. Creative orientation helps us address our many practical problems as opportunities for transformation, rather than risks to be mitigated or problems to be worked around. Real life challenges are what afford us the opportunities to transform to more resilient ways of operating. Through humility, openness and playfulness, creative orientation brings a radically different mindset beyond the hyper-competitive, quantized linearity of old. It is a ‘learning-through-doing’ approach to prototyping by collaborating amongst diverse stakeholders. Here, future outcomes are beyond pre-definition: It is the co-learning journey rather than the pre-defined destination that brings transformative value to the organization and wider ecosystem of partners involved; real benefits beyond ‘doing less bad.’

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How Carbon Projects Can Bring Story to Your Sustainability Program

3p Contributor | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority is the site of one of the Terrapass landfill methane capture projects

The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority is the site of one of the Terrapass landfill methane capture projects

By Kathryn Sarkis, TerraPass

Balancing emissions with carbon offsets can do more than help your company take responsibility for its carbon footprint; it can also help build a stronger brand that has good story to tell. Carbon offsets come from a variety of different project types such as methane capture at landfills and agriculture operations, to transportation and forestry projects. Carefully choosing what emission reduction projects to support can create a story that reflects your company’s overall mission and vision and brings added value to the brand for both customers and management.

So how do you find the right emission reduction project to support? Regardless of the project type you need ensure that you are looking for a project that is of the highest quality. Carbon programs such as Verified Carbon Standard and Climate Action Reserve ensure that carbon credits are real, additional, and permanent by using accepted methodologies for validating projects. The programs’ continuous monitoring ensures that a project performs as expected while registries track and clarify ownership to ensure no double counting. Once you are assured that you are looking at carbon credits that come from a verified, validated and tracked project the fun can begin.

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Follow the Liters Campaign Brings Water Filters to Rural Kenyan Schools

RP Siegel | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments

SImakina1 editThe Simakina Primary School is located on a remote dirt road that has been ravaged by the trucks that come to collect the sugar cane that grows in fields that surround the school for miles. The school has 520 students plus another 72 in early childhood development (ECD). Classrooms are crowded and spare. There is no electricity, though wires run from poles along the edge of the property. The children come from farm families, who mostly work in the cane fields, though some grow vegetables that they sell in market stalls in the nearby town. Most of them are barefoot, though a few wear plastic clogs.

There is a drilled well on the corner of the school property. The water has never been tested. A young girl lowers a plastic bucket on a rope into the water, then fills a jug which she carries on her head to one of six small buildings a hundred yards or more away.

We are there early. Kids mill around on the field. It somehow has the feel of summer camp. After introductions,  Viola Adeke, the local area coordinator for Vestergaard explains in enthusiastic Swahili how the filters work. I can pick out the words maji safi, safe water. The teaching is done in a call-and-response manner, the children chanting the answers in unison. They already know the names of the diseases, in English: malaria, cholera, typhoid, bilharzia and they call them out as if reciting a nursery rhyme.

Viola demonstrates one of the seven units being donated, showing the brownish liquid obtained by back-washing the filter and comparing it with the clear water obtained from one of the four spigots that encircle the  bright blue plastic device. “Which one is safe, she asks? The children all point at the clear one.

“Always use the clean, filtered water to drink. Also use it to wash your hands, brush your teeth and to wash fruits and vegetables with.”

After the presentation, I spoke with a young girl named Melvin. She said she got sick with diarrhea and missed three days of school plus an additional day for a doctor’s visit. She did not like this because it caused her to fall behind in her studies. She has a brother and a sister in school and both of them have lost time due to illness as well. She says that she feels safer now with a LifeStraw filter at home and another one at school.

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Not Your Grandparent’s Workplace: What Makes Millennials Tick

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments

Join TriplePundit, SAP and our special guests for a Twitter Chat about millennials and social entrepreneurship. Follow along at #SAPsocent on October 23 at 9 a.m. PST/Noon EST.

woman on computer
The global workplace is a changing dynamic these days, and no sector of the population knows this better than the millennial generation. Born at the tail end of the 20th century, a time best known for the advent of the clunky but versatile personal computer, the Walkman and equally hefty video cassette recorder, millennials have inherited a global workplace that belies a the personal me-ism of yesterday’s standards.

In fact, the workplace of today is increasingly more diverse, digitally adept and technically focused than ever before. And the 20 to 35 year-olds that are currently driving that innovation, says Nicolette Van Exel, SAP’s head of the Emerging Entrepreneur Initiative, know this high-paced arena is no longer their grandparent’s marketplace.

“[This] millennial generation grew up with access to information like never before,” said Van Exel. “It is a very, very conscious generation.”

The use of mobile devices like the cell phone, laptop and iPhone were really coming into prominence as this generation was heading off to school. By the time they were entering college, social innovations like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn were becoming a versatile part of school curricula. So for the millennials, technical innovation and social networking have an integral role not only in today’s marketplace but in the millennials’ vision of what really is important to their world. And as van Exel explained, that goes beyond the more rudimentary focus of the standard 9-to-5 job that dominated the economy in their grandparents’ age.

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20 Years Later, a Generation of Rwandans Inspires the World

| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: This is part two in an ongoing series on Rwanda’s progress. Click here for part one, or follow the series here.

bakunzi

Winning art submission for The Peace Project, by Jean Bosco Bakunzi.

Twenty years ago, Rwanda was the site of what has been called the most hellish 100 days of the 20th century. Today, it is a place of pervasive progress and limitless promise. Visit the shopping malls amidst Kigali’s rapidly maturing skyline, or test the farthest reaches of its country-wide fiberoptic connectivity. Once brushed aside for its seemingly delusional aspirations to become East Africa’s Singapore or Silicon Valley, Rwanda’s message is now loud and clear. Rwanda is serious about its perhaps-no-longer-so-lofty dreams.

But, is it really safe? This is still the most common question I hear from foreigners, not only from the Global West, but from neighboring East Africans as well. Having lived in several major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and now San Francisco, I’m not sure I’ve had a safer home than the friendly hillside neighborhoods of Kigali, Rwanda. But don’t take my word for it – ask Rwandans: A 2012 Gallup poll indicates that Rwanda’s citizens feel safer than citizens of any other country in Africa. The same poll ranks Rwanda second globally in percentage (89 percent) of women who feel safe walking alone at night.

Today, Rwanda is arguably the most peaceful, cleanest and least corrupt country in Africa — not to mention one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Note that this is not just another short-lived and superficial demonstration propped up by the notoriously dysfunctional foreign aid machine. Rwanda has adamantly refused to follow in the ruinous path of its African neighbors. Instead, the country has developed much more organically. Pundits can say what they like about President Paul Kagame, but it’s foolish to argue the success of his rogue philosophy of national development by self-reliance.

Perhaps news of Rwanda’s recent progress is not new to you, but have you pondered its full significance within the context of its tragic past?

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Walmart Commits to More Sustainable Food. Is it Serious?

Michael Kourabas
| Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

14010430133_b901245d34_zOn Monday, Walmart held its second semi-annual Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting — webcast live and re-aired the following day — and announced a new pledge to help create a more sustainable food system. Taken at face value, the country’s largest food retailer appears to be making a real commitment to help develop a healthier, more affordable, and less environmentally damaging food supply.  Walmart’s real legacy in this area, though, will be measured by how much concrete action follows its ambitious commitments.

At the outset of the milestones webcast, the company’s CEO, Doug McMillon, proclaimed that in order to meet the population’s increasing food demands, Walmart and its suppliers need to become more sustainable players in the global food supply chain.  According to this new commitment, Walmart will aim to achieve this by ensuring that the food it sells, and the supply chain from which that food comes, is: (i) more affordable (to the environment, society, and customers); (ii) safer and more transparent; (iii) healthier; and (iv) more accessible.

Like many corporate marketing efforts, in both the webcast and the company’s concurrent announcements it is difficult to parse the genuine commitments from the hollow promises; the real passion from the empty rhetoric meant to patronize the most environmentally conscious consumers and NGOs.

To look strictly at its pledges, Walmart sure seems to acknowledge that bold action is required if it is to contribute to reversing the trends of environmental degradation and resource scarcity.  The company, which claims that environmental sustainability is now an “essential ingredient” in its business model, already says that it strives to sell only products that “sustain people and the environment.”

So, how exactly is the company planning to increase the sustainability of the food it buys and sells?

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Sugar in Brazilian Skies: Is Farnesane the Fuel of Airlines’ Future?

Leon Kaye | Thursday October 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Brazil, sugarcane ethanol, Amyris, Total, Gol, farnesane, clean energy, biofuels, Leon Kaye, airline industry, aviation industry

Fueling of a GOL 737-800 with Amyris sugarcane-based jet fuel

The commercial aviation industry has long been unstable and struggled to make a profit, in part because of the volatility of fuel prices. Consolidation and cost-cutting have improved many airlines’ financial performance in recent years, but they are only one epidemic, fiscal crisis or political time bomb from reeling. That is one reason why for several years, many airlines have experimented with adding biofuels to conventional jet fuel in order to harness energy security—and try to reduce those pesky carbon emissions that are difficult for the airline industry to avoid. Now Gol, the second largest airline in Brazil, is testing farnesane, a clear fuel sourced from sugar cane.

The partnership between Gol, Amyris, a California-based biofuels company, and the French energy giant Total culminated in a flight earlier this summer between Orlando and São Paulo, which was powered by conventional jet fuel blended with 10 percent farnesane. For now Gol has commited to using the 10 percent blend on select international flights between the U.S. and Brazil. Then last month a Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Berlin was also powered in part by farnesane.

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