Monthly Archives: November 2015

ANOTHER PLANET?

canberraA march expected to attract 200,000 people onto the streets of Paris ahead of crunch UN climate change talks was cancelled by the French government  in light of last Friday’s terror attacks and ongoing security concerns.  But organisers have said it is now even more important for people around the world to come out onto the streets for “the biggest global climate march in history” to protest “on behalf of those who can’t”. There were 2,173 events organised in more than 150 countries around the world on 28 and 29 November. The world’s largest solar-powered boat is en route to Paris for the COP21 climate conference, where it will be moored up as an ‘ambassador vessel’ to draw attention to the key issues of ocean plastic waste and maritime emissions.

The Brazilian government is fining the mining giants Vale and BHP Billiton for a dam burst at their jointly owned mine. The companies face preliminary fines of 250m Brazilian reais (£43.6m; $66.3m). President Dilma Rousseff said the country was “committed in the first place to blame those who are responsible.” On 5 November two dams at the Samarco iron ore mine in southern Brazil ruptured setting off a deadly mudslide. Authorities have confirmed that eight people died and 19 people are still missing. The mud is also being tested for potential toxins from the mine. The companies could face even higher fines from environmental regulators for water pollution and damage to local areas. State prosecutors are also considering whether to pursue criminal charges. Contaminated waste from so-called tailing ponds, mineral waste that was stored in reservoirs contained by the dams, was flowing through two states, interrupting the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people and raising questions about the potential impact of the waste on residents’ health, agriculture and the ecology of the region.  Teams of biologists are rushing to rescue fish from the river that was contaminated by the collapse: Mining company Samarco said in a statement that it was providing logistical support to the so-called Operation Noah’s Ark effort aimed at saving aquatic life from the now-turbid waters of the Doce river. Experts have warned that the ecological harm caused by the 5th November breaches could last a generation. water supplies for over a quarter of million people have been contaminated.

airpollutionThe UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed. Ms Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on “polluting” coal is “perverse”. Only if gas-fuelled power can fill the void created by closing coal-powered stations would coal plants be shut, she said. Environmentalists are concerned little is being done to promote renewables.

Sir David Attenborough is attending the UN climate conference in Paris. He is working with the Global Apollo Programme, a campaign group which supports renewable energy. Attenborough told BBC Breakfast that solar energy needs to “undercut the price of energy obtained from oil and coal.”

UK retail giant Tesco has announced it is donating a further 700,000 meals from its 10 distribution centres to charities in an attempt to reduce the amount of surplus food the company is producing.  Tesco already supplies to redistribution charity FairShare with surplus food from its ambient fresh distribution centres; and the charity will receive a one-off donation of one million meals from Tesco, on top of the original 700,000 meals. FairShare’s CEO Lindsay Boswell said: “Over the last 12 months FareShare redistributed over 2,660 tonnes of food from Tesco – including food donated from the twice yearly Neighbourhood Food Collections – to over 2,100 charities across the UK. Our rewarding and longstanding partnership with Tesco means this latest donation will help us reach – and feed – even more vulnerable people.”

There’s a population crisis all right. But probably not the one you think. While all eyes are on human numbers, it’s the rise in farm animals that is laying the planet waste: Human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year, while livestock numbers are rising at around 2.4% a year. By 2050 the world’s living systems will have to support about 120m tonnes of extra humans, and 400m tonnes of extra farm animals – More from George Monbiot on the Guardian here.

FrackOffAfter nearly 5 years Cuadrilla have abandoned their proposed fracking site at Becconsall near Banks, Lancashire. This is the same site that was occupied by protesters on the same day that Cuadrilla admitted causing seismic activity back in 2011. Residents and members of the UK’s very first anti-fracking community group Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF) said: “REAF would like to thank all those who have supported us as we continue our work with other communities faced with the dangers of fracking.” Cuadrilla are still trying to press ahead with two new sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre, in Lancashire. They are trying to overturn Lancashire Councillors refusal by taking an appeal to the planning inspectorate” and “It comes as no surprise to members of REAF that exploratory drilling company Cuadrilla are to abandon the Becconsall site and remove over 150 monitoring stations in the local area. Their failure to comply with time frames and mitigation measures imposed on them by Lancashire County Council has shown their disregard for the planning process and has left locals with many unanswered questions.” Read more…

The world’s most widely used insecticides harm the ability of bumblebees to pollinate apple trees, scientists have discovered. The finding has important implications for agriculture and the natural world, say the researchers, as many food crops and wildflowers rely on bee pollination to reproduce. There is good evidence that neonicotinoids harm bees but the new research, published in the journal Nature, is the first to show a negative impact on the vital pollination services bees provide. However new research has also shown that organic pesticides also increase the risk to bumble bees. Nematode worms, meant o infect and kill pests such as slugs and caterpillars, were found to wipe out up to 90% of bees within four days by scientists at Liverpool John Moores University who led the research.

Our Claire on the London Climate March

Our Claire on the London Climate March

Conservationists are calling for an end to a government cull of tens of thousands of fruit bats in Mauritius that they say is putting the survival of the threatened species at risk. Authorities began shooting 18,000 Mauritius fruit bats (Pteropus niger) on 7 November, despite protests and even though the species is protected on the Indian Ocean island and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the world’s conservation union. The government claims the cull is necessary because the number of bats has soared to almost 100,000 and is causing significant economic damage to the country’s lucrative fruit crops of banana, pineapple, lychee and mango.

The EU has dropped a plan to pressure countries into cutting food waste and marine litter by nearly a third, documents seen by the Guardian show. The law would have obliged countries to reduce food waste 30% by 2025 with national strategies for their retail, distribution, manufacturing and hospitality and household sectors. By 2030, under an aspirational target, countries would also have had to cut common pieces of rubbish found on their beaches by 30%, as well as fishing gear found at sea. But in the new draft of the EU ‘circular economy’ legislative proposal, which could change, references to marine litter have been removed and countries are merely asked to take unspecified “measures” to curb food waste, with no time frames or targets. More on the Guardian here.

Namibian lionFrance has banned the import of lion heads, paws and skins as hunters’ trophies, nearly four months after the killing of Zimbabwe’s most famous lion by an American trophy hunter sparked international outrage. In a letter to the actor and animals rights activist Brigitte Bardot, France’s environment minister, Ségolène Royal, said that she had instructed officials to stop issuing permits for lion trophies and was considering stricter controls on trophies from other species.

Stephanie Choate, a champion angler and a board member of marine conservation body Wild Oceans has been filmed riding on the back of a bluefin tuna holding a bottle of champagne. The fish had been hauled beside a boat.  Choate said ‘its hard to explain the love I have for these fish’ on an Instagram posting. The bluefin population in Nova Scotia has halve din the last 45 years.

The UK could get more than a third of its electricity demand from offshore wind by 2030 while also supporting 50,000 skilled jobs, a new Offshore Wind Vision document has found.  The document outlines a trajectory for offshore wind that will provide the UK with the “best opportunity for cost-effective decarbonisation”. Benj Sykes, co-chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council said: “It is only 15 years since the first UK offshore wind farm – just two 2 megawatt turbines – began operating. Since then the technology has matured rapidly to the point where the UK leads the world in deployment and could readily build 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2030.”

Britain will enter the Paris climate change talks this week with its credentials as a responsible, low-emission power generator in tatters. That is the stark conclusion of one of the country’s leading energy experts, Professor Stuart Haszeldine of Edinburgh University. Haszeldine believes George Osborne’s last-minute decision to axe the government’s £1bn support for a scheme to capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from power stations was a final act that utterly undermined British negotiators’ status in Paris. More here.

imagesJapan is set to resume whaling early next year, after a break of more than 12 months, in defiance of an international court of justice ruling that it cease the practice. The Japanese government says it has taken into account the court ruling and its “scientific” whaling programme will catch only a third of the minke whales it caught under its previous programme – 333 instead of 1,000 – which it halted in March last year. Japan’s international whaling commissioner, Joji Morishita, said in a letter that his government had “sincerely taken into account” recommendations of the International Whaling Commission’s scientific committee. He said Japan’s new programme “does not require any substantial changes” and confirmed whaling would resume.

Shifting disease patterns, extreme weather events and degraded air and food quality are examples of how climate change is already killing tens of thousands of people each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned . The UN agency said the upcoming global climate change conference in the French capital, Paris is an “important opportunity” to protect the health of current and future generations. Climate change is “the defining issue for the 21st century,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The UN agency estimates that seven million people died from diseases related to air pollution in 2012, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. It also predicts that between 2030 and 2050, an additional 250,000 people will die from malaria, diarrhoea, heat stress and under-nutrition. WHO will be in Paris for the global climate change conference, known as COP21, which kicks off at the end of the month.

We Remember

Nick Alexander, the Eagles of Death Metal’s Merchandising Manager.

Nathalie Jardin, who ran the house lighting at Le Bataclan and known by her nickname “Natalight”

Thomas Ayad, 34. International Product Manager for Mercury Records France

Guillaume B. Decherf, 43. Journalist for celebrated French music and culture magazine, Les Inrockuptibles

Marie Mosser, 24. Digital Marketing executive at Mercury Records France

Manu Perez. Music industry marketing executive who worked at Universal Music France for over a decade

 

The UK Festival Awards 2015 – and the winners are …..

Beautiful Days wins Best Grassroots Festival at the Festival Awards! Kendal Calling wins Best Toilet! Isle of Wight Best Family Festival and Best Headline Performance for Fleetwood Mac!  Arcadia Spectacular at Glastonbury wins Best Use of New Technology for turning used chip fat into raving flames! Yes, the UK Festival Awards are done and dusted for another year, all hosted by Huey Morgan at the London Roundhouse – and the very worthy winners are:

ukfa2Best Toilets Kendal Calling

Anthem of the Summer Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk

Best Use of New Technology  Arcadia Spectacular at Glastonbury

Best Brand Activiation Virgin Trains

ukfa4Extra-festival Activity Award  The Big Feastival

Concession of the Year  The Beakfast Club

Best Line Up Latitude

Best headline performance  Fleetwood Mac at the Isle of Wight Festival

Best Hospitality  Wilderness

Best Grass Roots Festival  Beautiful Days

ukfa1Best Emerging Talent Festival  Liverpool International Music Festival

Best Non Music Festival  Erotica Britannia

Best Overseas Festival Annie Mac Presents Lost & Found

Best Family Festival  Isle of Wight Festival

Best Dance Event  Creamfields

Best Metropolitan Festival  Liverpool Sound City

Best New festival Wildlife

Best Small Festival Festival No 6

Best Mediu Sized Festival Y-Not

Best Large Festival Bestival

Outstanding contribution to festivals  Peter Gabriel

March for the planet on November 29th

29nov_climate_march_460_220150904-peoplesclimaterally-melbournevancouvercanberraottowa

European Festival Awards – the nominees are revealed

Disco Ball World RecordThe shortlist for the European Festival Awards has been revealed. More than 800,000 votes were cast by fans from 50 different countries for the 7th edition. And those nominees are:

Best Major Festival in association with Charge Candy

Deichbrand Festival (Germany)

Dour Festival (Belgium)

Exit Festival (Serbia)

Graspop Metal Meeting (Belgium)

Mysteryland (Netherlands)

Pinkpop (Netherlands)

Rock Werchter (Belgium)

Sziget Festival (Hungary)

Tomorrowland (Belgium)

Untold Festival (Romania)

 

Best Medium-Sized Festival in association with Eventbrite

Wish Outdoor (Netherlands)

Telekom Volt Festival (Hungary)

Solar Weekend (Netherlands)

Sea Dance Festival (Montenegro)

Positivus Festival (Latvia)

Open Air St. Gallen (Switzerland)

Main Square Festival (France)

Lovefest (Serbia)

Les Ardentes (Belgium)

Electric Castle Festival (Romania)

 

Best Small Festival

Amsterdam Woods (Netherlands)

B My Lake (Hungary)

Festival Tauron Nowa Muzyka (Poland)

Happiness Festival (Germany)

Into The Great Wide Open (Netherlands)

Jazz In The Park (Romania)

Mini-Rock Festival (Germany)

Plai (Romania)

Vestrock (Netherlands)

Your’In Festival (Belgium)

 

Best New Festival

Amsterdam Woods (Netherlands)

Creamfields Ibiza (Spain)

I Love Techno Europe (France)

Krakow Live Festival (Poland)

Lollapalooza Berlin (Germany)

Parookaville (Germany)

Untold Festival (Romania)

 

Best Indoor Festival

Hideout Festival (Croatia)

Incubate Festival (Netherlands)

Le Printemps De Bourges (France)

Les Heures Ind (Belgium)

Les Transardentes (Belgium)

Lokerse Feesten (Belgium)

Mayday (Germany)

[Pias Nites] (Various Countries)

Progpower Europe (Netherlands)

TIMAF (Romania)

 

Festival Anthem Of The Year

Alt-J – Let Hand Free

Florence + The Machine – Ship To Wreck

Hozier – Take Me To Church

Major Lazor – Lean On

Pattie Smith – People Got The Power

Rudimental – Never Let You Go

Tame Impala – Let It Happen

The Prodigy – Day Is My Enemy

Wanda – Amore

Years and Years – King

 

Newcomer Of The Year in association with Eurosonic Noorderslag

Annenmaykantereit

Hozier

Ibeyi

Jack Garratt

James Bay

Kate Tempest

Royal Blood

Run the Jewels

Wolf Alice

Years & Years

 

Best Headliner

Alt-J

Chemical Brothers

Florence & the Machine

Foo Fighters

Kendrick Lamar

Kylie Minogue

Marteria

Muse

Robbie Williams

The Prodigy

 

Best Line Up

Best Kept Secret (Netherlands)

Glastonbury (United Kingdom)

Graspop Metal Meeting (Belgium)

La Route Du Rock (France)

Lollapalooza Berlin (Germany)

Oya Festivalen (Norway)

Primavera Sound Festival (Spain)

Rock Werchter (Belgium)

Roskilde (Denmark)

Sziget (Hungary)

 

Artists’ Favourite Festival

BBK Live (Spain)

Best Kept Secret (Netherlands)

Exit Festival (Serbia)

Highfield (Germany)

Latitude (United Kingdom)

Les Viellies Charues (France)

Lowlands (Netherlands)

Pukkelpop (Belgium)

Rock Werchter (Denmark)

Sziget (Hungary)

 

Promoter Of The Year in association with Bucks New University

Green Man Team (United Kingdom)

Ejekt (Greece)

Festival Republic (United Kingdom)

FKP Scorpio (Germany)

Hörstmann Unternehmensgruppe (Germany)

ICS (Germany)

From The Fields (United Kingdom)

Live Nation (United Kingdom)

Live Nation (Belgium)

Primavera (Spain)

 

Agent of the Year

Emma Banks (CAA)

Alex Bruford (ATC Live)

Isla Angus (Earth Agency)

Jason Edwards (Coda)

Mike Greek (CAA)

Natasha Bent (United Artists)

Nick Matthews (Coda)

Rob Challice (Coda)

Solomon Parker (Coda)

Tom Schroeder (Coda)

 

Green Operations Award in association with Yourope and the GO Group

Ieper Hardcore Fest (Belgium)

Off Festival (Poland)

Open Air St. Gallen (Switzerland)

Shambala (United Kingdom)

Tollwood Festival (Germany)

 

The shortlist of the YES Group Health & Safety Innovation Award will be announced on the night of the award ceremony along with the winners of the Excellence and Passion Award and the Yourope Lifetime Achievement Award (in association with PlayPass and PayPal)

Sustainability Leaders Awards 2015: The Winners

slawinners2

Sustainable Business of the Year – Willmott Dixon

Sustainability Leader – Estelle Brachlianoff, Veolia

Carbon Management – National Grid

Energy Management – Heathrow Airport

Employee Engagement & Behaviour Change – Tesco with Global Action Plan

Sustainability Product Innovation – Genesis Biosciences

slawinnersSustainability Product Innovation: Energy Efficiency – Lontra

Sustainability Professional – Anthony Kingsley, Vacherin

Sustainable Business Models – Mud Jeans

Sustainability Reporting – Marks & Spencer

Sustainable Packaging – LINPAC Packaging

Sustainable Supply Chains – KPMG

Waste & Resource Management – DS Smith

Water Management – Southern Water

ANOTHER PLANET?

parigi-570x350On November 29th at 12.00 noon in London we have the best moment of the decade to pressure our leaders to avoid catastrophic climate change. Together we can rise to the challenge and make this the biggest climate mobilisation ever. If you’d like a free t-shirt to wear at the LONDON march, please click here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/climate-march-tshirt

blackfishFinally, it’s a move we have all been waiting impatiently for: SeaWorld San Diego is to pull the plug on its orca show. Announced online Monday in a document posted by the company, SeaWorld has said that as of next year, its killer whale performances will be phased out. But unfortunately, that does not mean an end to orcas in captivity: These acts will be replaced with some kind of educational experience involving the animals, albeit supposedly in a more true-to-life setting. As before, SeaWorld claims that the intention is to inform and inspire, not treat the intelligent mammals as circus animals. The decision follows a series of blows to the organization. SeaWorld quickly fell out of favor after the release of a harrowing documentary film called Blackfish, which exposed the dark truth of the supposedly conservation-centered industry. Although there were many who argued that the documentary was inaccurate and misleading, the message spoke to people and there was a large amount of public backlash. Just six months after a publication demonstrated that orcas in captivity do not live as long as their wild counterparts, the state of California banned the captive breeding of these animals in October of this year. As part of this long-overdue ruling, SeaWorld San Diego was given the green light for a $100 million (£65 million) expansion to its killer whale tanks, although the company said they would still battle the California Coastal Commission’s decision. Now it seems they have finally backed down, and instead will invest a chunk of this money on developing a resort in the park in collaboration with Evans Hotels. orcaWhile this is fantastic news, the fight is certainly not over yet. Other states still permit the captive breeding of orcas, so until this practice is stamped out completely, we can expect to see the exploitation of these animals for entertainment purposes. SeaWorld is moving forward with plans for a Middle East expansion, the company has said. “We are making progress,” CEO Joel Manby said of the plans during a third-quarter earnings call with investors. “I don’t want anyone to think they’ve stopped.” He added that the company’s yet-unnamed partners on the project had traveled to Orlando, Florida, for a meeting last month. SeaWorld announced last year that they were looking into opening a new location in the Middle East, which has less of a stigma against whales in captivity, following a downturn in U.S. attendance and continued backlash over the alleged mistreatment of their orcas. http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/seaworld-finally-ending-killer-whale-shows0 and https://www.thedodo.com/seaworld-middle-east-expansion-1439983520.html

Edie.net reports that it is “difficult to say” whether or not the UK will hit its 2020 renewable energy targets, according to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, after a leaked letter revealed there could be a massive shortfall. The UK has legally-binding targets to source 15% of the UK’s final energy consumption from renewable sources in 2020. Within that goal, the UK has set itself subtargets of 30% of electricity from renewables, 12% of heat, and 10% of transport fuel. However, in a letter sent by Rudd to fellow cabinet members, and leaked to the Ecologist, Rudd reveals she expects the UK to miss its targets by around 25%, equivalent to a 50 TWh shortfall. By comparison, the entire renewable electricity output in Q2 2015 was less than 20 TWh. More than three quarters of the UK public support the use of renewable energy, according to the latest opinion poll from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The newest edition of DECC’s quarterly Public Attitudes Tracking survey questioned a representative sample of 2,121 households in the UK, with 76% saying they “support” the use of renewable energy for providing electricity, fuel and heat. Just 5% of respondents “oppose” renewables.  Public support for green energy has never fallen below 75% since the survey was first taken in March 2012. Up to 84% of the British public would like to see subsidies given to programmes that reduce energy waste, according to a new poll by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU). The ComRes poll of more than 2,000 British adults found that 79% currently support subsidies insulating homes and 77% support subsidies for measures that cut energy waste in power transmission.

A major glacier in Greenland that holds enough water to raise global sea levels by half a metre has begun to crumble into the North Atlantic Ocean, scientists say. The huge Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland started to melt rapidly in 2012 and is now breaking up into large icebergs where the glacier meets the sea, monitoring has revealed. The calving of the glacier into chunks of floating ice will set in train a rise in sea levels that will continue for decades to come, the US team warns.

The EU has warned the Obama administration that a global climate deal at the Paris summit must be legally binding, after the US secretary of state John Kerry said that it “definitively” would not be a treaty. “The Paris agreement must be an international legally binding agreement,” a spokeswoman for the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete , told the Guardian. “The title of the agreement is yet to be decided but it will not affect its legally binding form.”

beesThe European Food and Safety Authority (Efsa) has removed barriers to the relicensing of glyphosate, a best-selling herbicide, despite World Health Organisation (WHO) warnings that the substance is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The ruling opens the door to a new 10-year licence for glyphosate across Europe, although the authority set a threshold for exposure to the substance of of 0.5mg per kg of body weight for the first time. “Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential,” the Efsa assessment found. And Friends of the Earth (FoE) have lost their High Court battle in the UK to stop permission being granted for farmers to drill oil seed rape coated with two neonicotinoid pesticides this autumn. Enviroment Secretary Liz Truss had earlier usedher powers to partially lift a EU ban.

Warmer seas are making sharks less aggressive and smaller. Scientists in Australia who studies the Port Jackson shark said that warmer seas and ocean acidification reduced shark’s ability to smell and hunt.

The 15 operational carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects worldwide will capture 28 million tonnes of carbon this year alone, a new report from the Global CCS Institute has found. According to the report,  global CCS schemes will store and capture 40 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2017, when 22 projects will be online. This has the same reduction effects as removing eight million cars from the road.

Eight of the world’s 10 most polluting countries are expected to double their collective renewable energy capacity in the next 15 years, a new study from the World Resources Institute (WRI) has found. WRI’s analysis, Assessing the Post-2020 Clean Energy Landscape, looks at plans from eight of the 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters — Brazil, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the US — concluding that their cumulative clean energy supply will jump from approximately 9,000 TWh in 2012 to 20,000 TWh in 2030.

640px-FHM-Orchestra-mk2006-03 (1)England’s arts and culture sector has saved 12,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £2.3m in the last two years thanks to an ambitious sustainability programme organized by Arts Council England and green charity Julie’s Bicycle. More than 700 arts and cultural organisations have signed up to the Environmental Sustainability Partnership programme, which requires participants to track their energy and water usage and implement an up-to-date environmental action plan. 98% of reporting Arts Council funded organisations (700) were involved by 2015 compared to 14% in 2012. According to an update on the programme, emissions from the sector fell by 5% a year since 2012, despite overall growth. “The results indicate that the country’s arts and cultural sector is now leading in sustainable behaviour change,” reads a statement from Art Council England and Julies Bicycle. More here and on the Julie’s Bicycle website here.

A new European Commission initiative, to be launched next year, will make it easier for smaller energy efficiency projects, such as building renovations, to get EU funding. The plan, “a matter of priority”, is mentioned in a leaked draft of the executive’s forthcoming State of the Energy Union report. It is being finalised after EU leaders broadly agreed the Energy Union strategy to bolster the EU’s resistance to shortages and fight against climate change. According to the draft report – which could feed into future legislation – most member states need to “accelerate their ambition levels” to hit their 2020 goals.

Safely obtained biogas from human waste could generate electricity to power all of the households in in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined, if researchers can harness the correct innovative technologies. That’s according to a new report from UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, which estimates that biogas extracted from worldwide human waste could have a value of up to $9.5bn as a natural gas equivalent. The Valuing Human Waste as an Energy Resource report states: “Rather than treating our waste as a major liability, with proper controls in place we can use it in several circumstances to build innovative and sustained financing for development while protecting health and improving our environment in the process.” The report notes that dried fecal matter – which releases biogas that is approximately 60% methane by volume when broken down in an anaerobic system – has energy content similar to coal and charcoal and could replace up to two million tonnes of charcoal-equivalent fuel, preventing deforestation.

The first mass production hydrogen cars, billed for more than a decade as a clean alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles but only glimpsed as concepts at automotive trade shows, have arrived on British roads. Leading the charge are South Korean manufacturer Hyundai, with a £53,000 “crossover” – a squashed SUV that looks like a normal car, and the world’s biggest carmaker, Toyota, with a futuristically styled saloon priced at £66,000. Honda has promised to launch its model in the UK during 2017.

It is now harder for UK citizens to hold government and polluters accountable for damaging the environment than it is for people in China, the head of a leading environmental law firm has told the Guardian. Changes to the costs and administration of environmental legal challenges in the UK could potentially “chill the ability of citizens to bring cases” to protect the environment, said James Thornton, chief executive of NGO ClientEarth, ahead of delivering the annual Garner lecture to a host of environmental leaders on Wednesday. In the lecture, Thornton will criticise government proposals to dramatically increase the amount for which charities and individuals are liable if they lose an environmental case deemed to be in the public interest.

BBChuwSupermarket Morrisons’ efforts to encourage customers to buy wonkier-shaped vegetables have been branded “pathetic” by the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The BBC show Hugh’s War on Waste  saw the broadcaster giving away oversized and curvy parsnips outside a Morrisons branch in Wimbledon, to highlight the food waste he says is caused by supermarkets’ excessively exacting cosmetic standards. In response the supermarket undertook a trial of selling wonky courgettes alongside so-called ‘class one’ courgettes, but found the ‘ugly’ ones sold much more slowly.   “When you see the frankly pathetic little trial that Morrisons did with those courgettes, where they put some really substandard squashy ended ones in one pile next to some gleaming perfect ones at the same price, would you believe, people went for the really lovely ones? That’s not what we’re asking supermarkets to do,” Fearnley-Whittingstall told the Guardian in an interview. A Morrisons’ spokesman said customers had “voted with their feet”, and the only wonky veg that sold well in a trial in its Milton Keynes store was when bagged up and sold at a reduced price as a ‘value’ option. However the company told the Guardian that before the end of the year it would begin permanently selling lines of wonky potatoes, carrots, onions and parsnips at cheaper-than-normal prices across its stores. Image: Photograph: Alex Hudson/Keo Films/BBC.

The Crystal is a new all electric building that uses solar power and a ground source heat pump to generate its own power. The Wilkinson-Eyre designed building showcases state of the art technology to make buildings more efficient and acts as a hub for debate on sustainable urban living. The venue’s energy management system, designed by Siemens, controls all of the electrical and mechanical systems in the building – including the 17KM of piping used for the ground source heat pumps – and 60% of outgoing heat or cooling energy is recovered. The venue has no heating costs – and uses special glass to manage temperatures both in summer and winter, and specially designed lighting to reduce power use.

My detergent product is green, but don’t tell anyone

methodPeople usually like to flash badges and the like, to let the world know when they enjoy some special status. Presumably, the same should hold true for products. If my product has a certifiably desirable characteristic, one would think that I will want to let consumers know about my blessings. Ah – if only the world of brands were so simple. One of the basic components of a brand is that it is meant to send a message to the consumer, which will hopefully resonate with the consumer and lead to a product preference. It is usually the mark itself, as part of the overall brand, which serves as the short-form means for communicating this message. There are instances, however, where an additional sign, such as the form of a third-party certification, may also be applied to a product — but where product owner may choose to forego boasting that his product meets the certifiable standard.

The uneasy branding case for the commercial value of certification was recently discussed in an article that appeared in The Economiston 26 September. Entitled “Green wash: Eco-friendly detergents”, the piece described the aspirations of a Chicago-based company, Method, to become, in the words of one of its founders, “the most sustainable and the most socially beneficial company in the world.” In particular, the company produces detergents and soaps that appear to cause no harm to the environment. The bottles used are 100 per cent recycled plastic, while the company website discloses all of the ingredients, which are themselves subject to review by an environmental research company as well as a non-profit organization, Cradle to Cradle, that provides certification.

So how does Method stack up against its competitors? According to the article, major detergent challengers such as Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson and Clorox have so cleaned up their own products that they are apparently, in the main, eligible for the United States EPA (Environmental Protective Agency) seal of approval as well as for eco-labels from several well-regarded certifiers. However, companies of this type tend not to apply for such eco-labels. Not only that, but many do not provide information about how and why their products and the process of their manufacturer are now greener. The suggested upshot is that, while there may not be a significant environmental difference between the products of Method and those of its competitors, consumers may not have any clue that this is the case.

ecolabelAnd so the question is why such companies forego providing an eco-label and other information about their products. At least part of the explanation seems connected with the size of the current market for which an eco-label and the like may be competitively advantageous. The article states there is ever-increasing consumer interest in buying a green cleaning product, rising from 20% percent in 2010 to almost 30% in 2014. As for price, in 2014, a survey revealed that nearly 30% of consumers would be prepared to pay up to 20% more for a greener cleaning product. Both Method and the consumer product giants can find support for their respective positions on eco-labels based on these data. Let us start with the consumer product giants. While the trend is in favour of greener products, the data suggest that the majority of consumers remain uninterested about whether the cleaning product is environmentally sound, and even less interested in being willing to pay a premium. In the words of the article:

“… the majority are still more interested in how much they [the cleaning products] cost and how well they work. The soap giants have perfected their advertising messages over decades to concentrate on these factors, and are loth to change a successful formula.”

From such a vantage, there is no commercial place, it would seem, for the eco-label.

organic foodAs for a company such as Method, the data would appear to offer an attractive (and growing) niche market, where eco-labels are a central part of the branding message. While the article does not explicitly discuss price points, Method may also enjoy a higher price point for its product (this Kat thinks of the organic food shop around the corner, which seem to combine an array of similarly placed niche products-some with eco-labels, at an elevated price point that leaves Mrs. Kat with a dilemma: “Should I or shouldn’t I?”). Still, given the trends set out in the data, this Kat cannot help but speculate what will happen when a majority of consumers will prefer a greener cleaning product. Should this occur, it would seem that the eco-label would no longer be simply “nice to have”, but a prerequisite for all those who wish to compete in this market. How such changes will require the consumer product giants to find a new branding message, on the one hand, and challenge a company such as Method to compete as a mainstream, rather than as a niche player, on the other, are worthy of further consideration.

Written by Neil Wilkof for The IPKat on 11/12/2015