Posted on

‘We must redouble efforts’: Study lays bare dire state of deforestation worldwide

Fires are started in the Amazon by ranchers to clear rainforest land for cattle rearing | Credit: luoman

Progress report on New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) – which pledged to end deforestation by 2030 – shows the rate of forest loss is still rising

Back in 2014, a landmark global commitment to end deforestation, restore degraded landscapes, and boost forestlands within 15 years secured the backing of a broad coalition of major companies, governments,…

Source: – Business Green
Author: Continue reading ‘We must redouble efforts’: Study lays bare dire state of deforestation worldwide

Posted on

‘We are running out of time’: Nestlé commits to net zero by 2050

Solar power at a Nestle site | Credit: Nestle

World’s largest food and drink company promises to align with 1.5C pathway by selling more plant-based food and drink, bolstering carbon sinks, and switching to green power

Nestlé, the world’s largest food and drink company, is set to sell more vegan products and develop lower carbon versions of best-selling brands as part of its new plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The food giant, which owns high profile brands such as KitKat, Nespresso, Smarties, San Pellegrino, and Quality Street, already has a Science-Based Target in place to cut emissions from its operations and supply chains in line with a 2C warming trajectory.

But today it announced it wants to “accelerate” action to tackle global warming because “time is running out” to avert the worst effects of climate change.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face as a society,” said Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO. “It is also one of the greatest risks to the future of our business. We are running out of time to avoid the worst effects of global warming. That is why we are setting a bolder ambition to reach a net-zero future. Deploying Nestlé’s global resources and industry know-how, we know we can make a difference at significant scale.”

Nestlé said it will set out a time-bound plan within the next two years that explains how it will reach net zero emissions by 2050, with interim targets and annual progress reviews to ensure it stays on track.

The company acknowledged that the new goal is likely to require it to “transform” its products to cut their environmental impact, including reformulating recipes and launching new plant-based food and drink options.

“Consumer demand for such products is rapidly increasing, and Nestlé’s core strategy is in line with this shift,” Nestlé said in a statement.

In addition, it said it will scale up agriculture initiatives to store carbon, investing in programmes to train farmers, restore soil health, replant trees, and enhance biodiversity. “All of these initiatives will help build resilient agricultural communities,” Nestlé said.

The company also said that while a third of Nestlé factories already run on renewable energy it will continue to increase the proportion of green power it uses until it runs entirely on renewables.

“To align our goals to the 1.5C pathway, we are transforming our operations,” said Magdi Batato, executive vice president and head of operations at Nestlé. “This will lead to a major shift in the way our ingredients are produced and sourced. We will need our suppliers to embark on this journey with us. The task is huge but we are determined to make it happen.”

Further reading

Source: – Business Green
Author: Continue reading ‘We are running out of time’: Nestlé commits to net zero by 2050

Posted on

Model operation: Gucci claims ‘carbon neutral’ status


Gucci claims it is now carbon neutral | Credit: David Adam Kess

Designer fashion brand slashes greenhouse gases and steps up investment in REDD+ forestry projects to offset remaining emissions

Gucci has today announced it is now a ‘carbon neutral’ fashion brand, having worked to reduce its greenhouse gases and invest $8.4m in offsetting all remaining emissions across its entire business and supply chain last year.

The Italian designer brand said it had been operationally embedding a long-term sustainability strategy into its business for several years, but in view of the “urgent need for climate action” had now taken the additional step of offsetting its remaining supply chain emissions through forestry projects.

Gucci said it was supporting four projects that enable forest conservation around the world through REDD+, the global offsetting mechanism developed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It said that to date it had supported the protection and restoration of around 1,102,000 hectares.

The move will see the company “go far beyond the more conventional offsetting approach”, it said, by covering not just scope 1 and 2 emissions, but all emissions associated with raw material creation and production, as well as product manufacturing. Overall the offsets equate to 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 last year.

The confirmation of ‘carbon neutral’ status forms part of the fashion brand’s 10-year sustainability strategy adopted in 2015 to avoid, reduce, restore, and then finally offset its greenhouse gases, with an overarching aim to slash its emissions by 50 per cent by 2025.

Gucci said it was on track to achieve its 2025 targets, having cut emissions 16 per cent since 2015 across its supply chain – which account for more than 90 per cent of its overall emissions – relative to its growth.

Currently Gucci’s operations, stores, offices, and warehouses source around 70 per cent of their electricity from renewables, with an aim to reach 100 per cent by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the company is also working to shift to greener raw materials, reduce chemical use and slash waste in its production line, it said.

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci’s president and CEO, said the firm was working to reduce its environmental impacts, but that these efforts alone would not be quick enough to address “the reality of our climate and biodiversity crises”.

“A new era of corporate accountability is upon us and we need to be diligent in taking all steps to mitigate our impacts, including being transparent and responsible for our GHG emissions across our supply chains,” he said. “To address the need for urgent solutions, Gucci is setting an ambitious new precedent through our carbon neutral commitment. This is based on a clear strategy to ensure we account for all of our GHG emissions across our supply chain, act to first avoid, reduce and restore, and then offset the unavoidable emissions through important REDD+ projects.”

Source: – Business Green
Author: Continue reading Model operation: Gucci claims ‘carbon neutral’ status

Posted on

Catering giant Sodexo launches planet-friendly menus worldwide

Vietnamese ancient grain bites, one of the Future 50 Foods dishes | Credit: Sodexo

Sodexo to roll out 40 plant-based recipes using ingredients that support a sustainable food system

Catering giant Sodexo has this week launched a new set of ‘planet-friendly’ dishes to be served up in canteens around the world, in a bid reduce the environmental impact of millions of lunches a year. 

The France-based catering provider, which operates at 34,000 sites in 80 countries around the world, teamed up with WWF-UK and stock brand Knorr Professional to draw up more sustainable meal options for diners.

The firm confirmed this week it will now roll out the resulting 40 new plant-based recipes into its kitchens globally, starting with 5,000 locations in Belgium, the US, the UK, and France.

The recipes are based on a Future 50 Foods Report by Knorr Professional and WWF-UK, which identifies 50 foods that are nutritious and have a lower environmental impact than widely-used alternative ingredients. Each of the 40 new recipes contain ‘Future 50’ foods, such as lentils, wild rice, kale, and pumpkin flowers.

“When you see there are more than 20,000 known edible plants on our planet, and yet our food comes primarily from a dozen of them, there is definitely opportunity to change and discover new ways of eating,” said John Wright, SVP of Sodexo’s Food Platform.

The new menu includes dishes such as a Wild Rice Quinoa and Lentil Bowl, a Vietnamese Ancient Grain Bites Plate, and a Tuscan Chickpea, Polenta and Rapini Bowl.

“It’s vital that we change the way we produce and consume food, moving away from an over-reliance on animal protein – carbon heavy foods which require vast amounts of space, water and feed to produce – towards more plant-based diets,” said Sarah Halevy, WWF-UK’s sustainable diet manager. “Joining forces with chefs and the food industry is an important step, which allows consumers to choose sustainable dishes, helping to drive the change that we desperately need to happen.”

The launch of the Future 50 menus builds on existing efforts by Sodexo to slim down the meat and dairy content of its menus, in light of scientists’ warnings of the hefty carbon impact of livestock agriculture.

Sodexo has previously worked with WWF-UK to produce a ‘Lean & Green’ range of sustainable meals, made of up traditional dishes such as Lancashire hotpot re-worked to contain less meat and more vegetables and pulses. It has also piloted the use of smart meters in its kitchens to help chef track and reduce food waste.

Source: – Business Green
Author: Continue reading Catering giant Sodexo launches planet-friendly menus worldwide

Posted on

Utilities are getting in on the microgrid action to make communities more resilient

In Bronzeville on the South Side of Chicago, ComEd, the electric utility that serves 4 million customers in Chicago and Northern Illinois, is installing America’s first utility-operated microgrid cluster.

The Bronzeville Community Microgrid is part of a smart-city (PDF) or smart-community concept that is developed using artificial intelligence algorithms and enabled through the internet of things.  

Increasing energy resilience

Microgrids are a portion of the electric grid that can operate either in conjunction with or as an island from the broader grid, particularly during disruptive events.

The Bronzeville Community Microgrid uses locally sited energy resources to ensure that homes, businesses and public institutions continue to receive power, even in the event of outages, and is capable of “islanding,” or operating singularly independent of the grid. 

These energy resources include solar PV and energy storage, which will be controlled by an innovative microgrid master controller technology, developed with the support of a grant from the Department of Energy.

The technology has been identified by a wide range of experts as being able to provide a higher level of resilience in terms of withstanding catastrophic events as well as allowing for quicker recoveries when the worst occurs. This will provide a higher level of electrical and community resilience, but also help develop and demonstrate the technologies that will enable the entire grid to be more sustainable and resilient.

Clustering microgrids together

This project will not be simply one microgrid, but rather it will be able to cluster with an electrically adjacent microgrid serving the Illinois Institute of Technology.

By making it possible to share resources between the two microgrids, the project will provide a higher level of service to those relying on both microgrids. This modular grid design can provide higher levels of resilience during power outages and instill greater trust within the communities that rely on it, while also helping integrate renewable generation.  

As part of the first phase of the Bronzeville Community Microgrid completed in 2018, ComEd installed solar PV and battery storage within the microgrid. When completed next year, it directly will serve about 1,000 residences, businesses and public institutions within the microgrid footprint, including the headquarters of the Chicago Fire and Police Departments. 

Beyond the customers it directly serves, the grid will help form an oasis that will allow first responders to deploy resources such as fresh food and medications to the broader region during a disruptive event. 

Increasing community action

Installing a microgrid can help create a more connected community where customers are able to fully leverage state-of-the-art technologies. In Bronzeville, a coalition of community stakeholders, government leaders and the electric utility has come together to develop a vision for and implement programs associated with the Community of the Future. Bronzeville is known for its significant role in the development of American music, literature and civil culture. 

The installation of advanced energy technologies, such as the microgrid cluster in Bronzeville, is part of a broader story about residents’ growing interest in STEM principles that can be applied to making their communities more sustainable and resilient. 

STEM in action

It helps to show that STEM principles are not abstract but can be used to develop technologies that can mitigate the effects of climate change.

The positive impact of such higher levels of service will be experienced, of course, only to the extent that communities can access them. 

It spurs other micro projects such as the mobility pilot program being implemented in Bronzeville, which leverages electric vehicles to serve senior residents’ transportation needs. By linking these projects with the electrical resilience associated with microgrids, communities become more confident about relying upon electric vehicles to meet their needs. 

The work being done in Bronzeville shows the value that can emerge when members of the community, local governments and electric utilities work together to ensure that all in the community have the power they need to live.

Author: Continue reading Utilities are getting in on the microgrid action to make communities more resilient

Posted on

A seemingly insatiable appetite for food startups

This article has been adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Sign up here

Tyson Foods is at it again.

Last week, the giant animal protein company’s venture arm disclosed an early-stage investment (although it didn’t disclose the amount) in San Francisco-based New Wave Foods, which produces plant-based shellfish.

New Wave’s first product, a shrimp substitute, is made from sustainably sourced seaweed and other plant proteins. The company hasn’t announced its Series A funding yet but expects to do so “in the near future,” and the product itself is due on the market in early 2020.

This represents Tyson Ventures’ fourth publicly disclosed investment in an alternative protein company. It also has put money into Mycotechnology (mushroom-based ingredients), and cell-based meat producers Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies. Meanwhile, the company’s sustainability chief Justin Whitmore is preparing the launch of Tyson’s own alternative protein brand, Raised & Rooted, in 5,000 retail stores by the end of this month.

The financial incentive for Tyson to do this is very clear: the market for plant-based ingredients could grow to $13 trillion by 2025. That’s one healthy appetite.

Indeed, I feel somewhat elated when I consider the frenzy of entrepreneurship focused on addressing systemic issues within the food and agricultural sector. According to figures from AgFunder, agtech venture investments mushroomed more than 40 percent in 2018 to $17 billion across 1,422 deals. The biggest hunger for these sorts of startups comes from the United States and China.

The menu of options for sating that appetite is expansive — ranging from alternative protein companies such as the ones that have caught Tyson’s interest to the ones that are offering samples of their wares at events such as the recent Hacking Food conference in San Francisco.

I’m particularly intrigued by the ones addressing one of the biggest systemic issues the world faces, food waste, so it was with interest that I read the news about a new accelerator ReFED is running for food recovery ventures — those specifically focused on supporting nonprofits.

The first cohort for the Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, backed with resources from the Walmart Foundation and +Acumen, includes 10 U.S. organizations (selected from more than 125 applicants). They each get $30,000: one “winner” will receive $100,000 more at the end of the three-month program.

As you might expect, most are from big cities, from coast-to-coast, but one of them represents an Arizona town near Tucson with roughly 20,000 citizens. Here’s a quick scan of the chosen, listed alphabetically:

  • 412 Food Rescue in Pittsburgh, which uses an app to coordinate the distribution of unsold food from retailers to hunger organizations who feed people in need
  • Boston Area Gleaners, focused on facilitating donations of surplus commodity crops direct from the farm to food banks
  • Brighter Bites, a Houston-based nonprofit that specializes in fresh, seasonal produce
  • Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which is working on technology to help move more than 100 million pounds of donated local produce from Nogales (a major port of entry) to food banks around the United States
  • Eat Greater Des Moines in Iowa, which uses refrigerated vans and routing software for food rescue and delivery
  • Philabundance, a Philadelphia-based food bank that delivers to 90,000 people every week
  • Plentiful, a technology firm in New York that has created a reservation system for food pantries
  • Replate in Berkeley, California, which is working on an app for coordinating on-demand pickups and deliveries of surplus food
  • Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, which provides rescue services and consulting resources to organizations seeking to reduce their own food waste in 16 U.S. cities, including New York
  • Seeds That Feed, a nonprofit in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that arranges for direct-to-door produce and “healthy” food donations to home-bound and at-risk individuals

Cross-sector ideas for curbing food waste will be on the menu during one of three invite-only Summit events at the VERGE 19 conference in Oakland, California, from Oct. 22 to 24. The early bird savings rate expires Sept. 27. Don’t miss out.

Author: Continue reading A seemingly insatiable appetite for food startups

Posted on

Dig for legitimacy: The case for good ESG in mining

Environmental and social governance (ESG) has, for a long time, been a woolly issue for the mining industry. Chiefly because there were no hard and fast rules on how to implement ESG policies, nor any penalties for failing to do so, many mining companies felt they legitimately could ignore ethics and sustainability.

But it seems that the balance is finally starting to tip in favor of “good” ESG. Perhaps most significantly, money is starting to talk.

Institutions are putting pressure on extractives companies to prove projects are sustainable, and customers are asking for evidence of ethical practices. And while the burden currently rests on larger companies to set an example, smaller miners across the supply chain are also starting to face sharper scrutiny of their ESG practices.

Corporate values

There is a growing expectation that the interests of communities that stand to be affected by mining are seen to be given fair weight. This means tailoring practices espoused in corporate values statements to the priorities of community stakeholders, rather than doggedly adhering to policies formulated in the boardroom.

Examples of blind policies include commitments to train local people to become mine workers when it may be more useful to teach portable skills — especially if the mine may not make it into production or risks being shut down — or building a health center, when there is a more urgent need for sanitation to reduce causes of disease.

To achieve this, companies need open feedback channels with key community representatives, not just politicians. Cornish Lithium, a privately held exploration company focused on the environmentally sustainable extraction of lithium from geothermal brines in Cornwall, southwest United Kingdom, has approached this by participating directly in every possible level of community activity. Adopting a “good corporate citizen” ethos, the company attends local business fairs, village fetes, parish and council meetings to answer questions and deliver presentations about its operations.

The company’s geologists also go into local schools and colleges to educate young people about the project and the wider benefits of pursuing geology as a career.

But putting every corporate philosophy into practice is challenging, especially as emphasis has shifted to the actual outcomes of ESG policies rather than the length of environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) reports.

One way of ensuring that decisions are made in the interests of all stakeholders is by handing the power to make those decisions over to external bodies. London-quoted Central Asia Metals (CAML), a copper, zinc and lead producer with operations in Kazakhstan and North Macedonia, has established a nonprofit, the Kounrad Foundation, named after the company’s copper project in central Kazakhstan.

Dedicated to supporting the community around Kounrad, the foundation is run by local representatives and allocates the funding it receives from CAML (0.25 percent of Kounrad revenues) to causes it believes will benefit the most.

Beneficiaries of the charity include local pediatric support, social welfare programs, recreational activities, military veterans, education, sport and medical initiatives.

Approaches such as CAML’s foundation have proved an effective route for companies to obtain the goodwill of host communities — the “social license to operate” — by giving local decision-makers responsibility for how financial rewards from projects are used.


One of the most noticeable trends in mining in the last 20 years has been the hardening of government ESG requirements into mandatory obligations, both in mining companies’ home countries and the jurisdictions where they operate.

In the United Kingdom, for example, the Bribery Act 2010 allows British law enforcement to prosecute officers of U.K.-based companies who commit relevant offenses in other jurisdictions, regardless of whether “facilitation payments” are considered an acceptable part of local business practice.

An example of mandatory ESG policy in action in a host state is the requirement in Nigeria for mining companies to negotiate and sign Community Development Agreements (CDAs), before commencing any development activity.

This obligation to secure a CDA is set out in Nigeria’s Minerals and Mining Act 2007, which states: “The Community Development Agreement shall contain undertakings with respect to the social and economic contributions that the project will make to the sustainability of [the host] community.”

Environmental considerations, too, have become much more embedded in the mining industry’s culture than they were 20 years ago due to policy shifts and many companies’ increasing focuses on corporate social responsibility.

Governments of most countries where mining projects are located require detailed ESIAs before they grant environmental permits and NGOs are much more focused on environmental issues, prompting companies to be proactive about their environmental decisions. 

To reduce its environmental impact, ASX-listed Infinity Lithium, which is developing the San Jose lithium project in Extremadura, western Spain, has opted to use more benign reagents than those typically employed in converting lithium metal into commercial chemical products.

The company plans to use sodium sulphate and potassium sulphate, a fertilizer, during the roasting phase of its conversion process, and water during the subsequent leaching phase, rather than sulphuric acid a far more environmentally deleterious reagent widely used by lithium producers. The potassium sulphate will then be almost 100 percent recycled, which limits its consumption substantially, according to Infinity.

Such decisions improve the environmental profile of San Jose, and the company hopes that such pre-emptive measures will stand it in good stead, as environmental regulations on industrial operations in Europe become increasingly strict.

Aside from environmental legislation, until fairly recently, there has been little rigor in the way non-mandatory codes are applied, and even less understanding about what to look for as evidence of good ESG.

There has also been criticism that different sets of international principles are disconnected and enforced by too many disparate organizations when they are not required by national law.

Bodies such as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) through its Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) initiative and the World Gold Council through its Responsible Gold Mining Principles are lobbying for insurance providers to take responsibility for enforcing standards, by requiring clients to uphold ESG principles in order to receive cover.

Competitive advantage

Two decades ago, most mining companies assumed that ESG could be addressed after what they considered to be more pressing concerns, such as securing assets, exploration activity, financing and construction. 

Today, ESG is becoming part of the regular workstream for some of the larger mining IPOs.

ESG also comes up in investor roadshows, where the focus can vary from cursory “checkbox” inquiries, to forensic interrogations.

When faced with ambiguous queries, mining companies should illustrate clearly what ESG risks they have identified and what they have done specifically to mitigate these.


While it is becoming accepted that good ESG reduces project risk, demonstrating its value as a financial metric continues to be difficult.

Some companies approach this by modeling the financial impact of closing a mine for an extended period following an accident, or during a blockade by unhappy communities. 

It also has been suggested that ESG risk needs to be thought of in the same way as other technical risks. No mining company would operate without a health and safety manager, for example, but relatively few employ proper community engagement staff.

Points to remember when approaching ESG 

1. Data

While many mining companies still come in for criticism on ESG, it is not always the case that they are doing it badly; sometimes, they are just not reporting their activities in a way that satisfies external monitors.

Management teams need to ensure they generate the right sort of data to inform their reporting, especially as guidelines continue to be updated.

2. Strategy

Management plans need to be iterative and flexible enough to adapt to changes in project technicalities or the priorities of the host community or government. 

Governments can be both capricious and inflexible, but this is a risk mining companies need to accept.

3. Cycle-proofing

Resource cycles can make it difficult to deliver on promises, but every effort needs to be made to maintain community relations, regardless of commodity price movements.

4. Push for best practice

The mining sector currently lacks a level playing field when it comes to ESG. This should be an impetus for wider adoption of better practices, rather than a motive for rejecting ESG.

Author: Continue reading Dig for legitimacy: The case for good ESG in mining

Posted on

Restaurants are helping to drive carbon farming practices

Restaurants always have played a large role in shaping how eaters view food. They help remind consumers how food is produced and where it comes from. Their influence sometimes can bring about green trends in cooking and no-waste practices, but the full potential of the industry to help create a more renewable food system is yet to be realized. Zero Foodprint is an organization aiming to tap into that potential of restaurants to educate consumers.

Food Tank had the chance to talk to Anthony Myint, co-founder of Zero Foodprint and iconic restaurants such as Mission Chinese Food, Commonwealth Restaurant and The Perennial.

“We’ve always believed that restaurants could do more than serve food,” Myint says to Food Tank. “The restaurant industry is by far the biggest sector in the food system at $799 billion in the United States — larger than farming and retail. And more than just financial capital, I’d argue that chefs have the most cultural capital and agility as well.” Zero Foodprint is all about redirecting a small fraction of that capital to help fund the transition towards regenerative agricultural practices, and many world-renowned chefs already have signed on.

According to a recent article from Science Advances, agricultural management practices that draw carbon from the atmosphere and place it into soils have the potential to be key in the fight to reverse climate change. These practices have been described as “carbon farming” by many organizations, including the California Water Science Center, the Western Australian Government and in the Journal of Environmental Management.

Myint tells Food Tank, “For reference, if the U.S. restaurant industry added a 1 percent charge at restaurants and sent it towards carbon farming in the food system and other environmental projects, it could fund practices that would offset half of the U.S. gasoline consumption. The practicality and scalability of carbon farming is the biggest climate opportunity and probably the biggest story in food.”

Myint tells Food Tank, “I mean, I am not sure if my staff is showing up to work tomorrow or if my orders are going to arrive or if customers will come or if I’ll make payroll this month. Most chefs are not even looking two months ahead, much less to the next generation.” Zero Foodprint aims to find a practical way for any restaurant to get on board that doesn’t add to their already-full plates.

Every Earth Day, Zero Foodprint brings together chefs and restaurants from all over the world to go carbon neutral. By donating $1 per diner, restaurants can offset their carbon emissions for the day by helping fund the transition to regenerative agriculture. This year, some of the world’s best restaurants participated, including noma, Chez Panisse, Eleven Madison Park, Saint Peter and Attica.

Having many of the world’s top chefs supporting the fight for sustainable agriculture could have a massive influence on where the industry is heading. Myint tells Food Tank, “If 10 celebrity chefs started really working on climate change, soon it would be 1,000. The industry is simply waiting to be activated.”

Myint also co-founded The Perennial Farming Initiative with partner Karen Leibowitz to help steer the food system in a regenerative direction by using agriculture to sequester carbon (the capture and long-term storage of carbon dioxide) and fight climate change.

Focusing on healthy soils may bring about a more holistic view of not only what we’re eating, but how it was produced, which could help make positive changes in the food system from the ground up. “The solution isn’t using the chard stems and stem cell burgers, it’s shifting millions of acres, billions of dollars and trillions of pounds of organic matter,” says Myint to Food Tank.

Author: Continue reading Restaurants are helping to drive carbon farming practices

Posted on

4 reasons why urban landscapes are a linchpin for climate resilience

Outdoor landscapes are a vital component of our cities. Whether it’s outside a home, a store, an office, or a manufacturing plant, the landscape is a property’s primary interface with the community and the environment. Properly designed and managed using sustainable landscape strategies, these outdoor areas can help communities weather droughts, mitigate floods, sequester carbon, improve human well-being and more.

We can build sustainable landscapes, by which I mean landscapes in balance with local climate and ecology that actively contribute to watershed health. Key elements of sustainable landscapes include:

  • Building healthy soils
  • Preserving vegetative cover
  • Using climate-appropriate plants
  • Conserving water and other resources

This could include strategies such as removing turf, building rain gardens or installing permeable pavement or rain tanks.

To achieve sustainability, we need to make some changes

Take California, my home state, as an example. California has notoriously variable precipitation patterns, and this is increasing with climate change. We are seeing longer and hotter droughts, and more intense storms; and more dramatic fluctuations between these two extremes. This means that our cities are facing increasing threats of water shortage on one hand, and flooding on the other.

Our current urban landscapes, marked by big lawns and paved areas, don’t do much to alleviate these problems. In fact, in many cases, they exacerbate them. Thirsty turf grass requires a lot of irrigation, especially in the peak of summer when it’s dry and hot, and water is in shorter supply. Over half of urban water use in California (PDF) goes to landscape irrigation, and that portion is higher in the summer. Vast expanses of pavement — parking lots in particular — leave no place for rain water to go but down the drain, which has limited capacity to handle intense storms, leading to flooding and pollution.

There is a better option

We can turn our urban landscapes into assets for climate resilience, rather than a source of risk. For example, look below at this side-by-side case study of two residential yards in Santa Monica, California (sustainable landscape on the left, traditional landscape on the right). Nine years of monitoring both landscapes showed that the sustainable landscape uses 83 percent less water, creates 56 percent less green waste and requires 68 percent less maintenance than the more traditional landscaping.

Sustainable landscapes can provide a multitude of benefits (PDF), but I’ll focus on four themes here: drought; flood; carbon; and community.

Sustainable landscapes are resilient to droughts

There are two key ways that sustainable landscapes can make urban communities more resilient to drought: using less water, and capturing water to use later.

Replacing grass with climate appropriate plants (and irrigating those plants properly) can reduce a landscape’s water needs by 70-80 percent. During the last California drought, we saw homes across the state doing this, a trend significant enough to be clear on Google Maps. This was a big part of why California’s urban communities were able to meet, and in fact exceed, the emergency drought mandate of reducing water use by 20 percent.

Sustainable landscapes also can be designed to capture water and hold it — in the soil, groundwater, or rainwater catchment systems — for future use. Building healthy soils allows water not taken up by plants to infiltrate into the landscape, and even down into groundwater aquifers, rather than running off and being lost down the drain. Similarly, rain barrels and tanks can capture roof runoff, which then can be applied back onto the landscape when it’s needed. Research shows that applying these approaches across southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area could increase local water supplies (PDF) by 20 billion gallons each year, roughly the amount of water used by the city of Los Angeles annually.

Sustainable landscapes help reduce flooding and water pollution

As the climate warms, California is experiencing more precipitation in the form of rain (versus snow), and these rain events are growing in intensity. Our urban areas, particularly those in southern California, will need to better prepare for these storms, and in particular improve flood management. As discussed above, sustainable landscapes are great at capturing and holding water; this is also useful formitigating local flooding. If water can run into rain gardens and soak into the soil, that means less water pooling on streets, parking lots and sidewalks. Beyond designing existing green spaces to hold flood waters, reducing the amount of paved area and replacing it with permeable paving or more green space can greatly contribute to local flood reduction.

These strategies also help prevent water pollution in our oceans and stream, because sustainable landscapes can absorb and purify the “first flush” of a rain event, which contains the most polluted water (carrying all the grime and contaminants from our city streets).

Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Water, energy and land use management are all intertwined and deeply connected to climate. Healthy soils rich in organic matter, a key component of sustainable landscapes, can sequester carbon from the atmosphere, providing climate mitigation. Sustainable landscape practices also can reduce energy use (and associated greenhouse gas emissions) because they require less mowing, blowing and green waste hauling than typical grass-dominated landscapes. There is also the energy embedded in water (PDF) to consider — less irrigation (through climate appropriate plants and capturing water for reuse onsite) means less water that needs to be collected, treated and transported to a landscape.

Sustainable landscapes improve community well-being

Finally, sustainable landscapes provide benefits to human-scale benefits to communities, beyond helping them weather droughts and floods. Switching from outdoor areas dominated by grass and pavement to ones with beautiful native plants and expanded natural spaces improves our well-being. For example, research shows the employees who have access to sustainable landscapes at their workplace are happier and more productive. In addition, sustainable landscape practices (especially replacing pavement with rain gardens) can help combat the urban heat island effect, a public health threat growing worse with climate change.

Transitioning to sustainable landscapes in cities around the world requires innovation and collaboration

The challenge (and opportunity) of achieving resilience to droughts and floods, reducing carbon emissions and fostering community well-being is one faced by cities around the globe. These are imperative and deeply interconnected issues, and urban landscapes lie at a critical nexus among them all.

With urbanization increasing rapidly, and climate change impacts manifesting more prominently every year, the call to action is becoming more urgent. Tackling this multifaceted challenge will take the efforts and collaboration of diverse urban stakeholders, from residents, businesses, scientists, city governments and on-the-ground change makers. At the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on water and climate, we have been working for over 30 years on advancing innovative solutions for water-smart cities, including sustainable urban landscapes.

Author: Continue reading 4 reasons why urban landscapes are a linchpin for climate resilience

Posted on

Delivering on the people’s priorities

Brexit or no Brexit, we’re running out of time to tackle climate change, argues the REA’s Nina Skorupska

In this turbulent time we’re living in, it’s no surprise that eight days since taking place, the Spending Round is already a distant memory. What once preoccupied the news for a week if not a month was…

Source: – Business Green
Author: Continue reading Delivering on the people’s priorities