Solutions to Climate Change: A Review of Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken

Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reduce Global Warming, brilliantly edited by Paul Hawken, is just what we need. Its a straight forward narrative providing over 100 solutions to global warming. Simply reducing carbon emissions below an arbitrary percentage, from a randomly selected base year, is not enough to stem the impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Drawdown is the collective work of a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world. They were tasked to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change.

The title of the book is derived from an atmospheric term. According to Paul Hawken, “drawdown is that point in time at which greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis.” Hawken’s goal of the Drawdown project was to identify, measure, and model substantive solutions to determine how much we could accomplish within three decades.

Read more: Pedaling to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Bike to Work Day

Much of the systems, knowledge and technology we need to deploy to create a meaningful drawdown of GHG (greenhouse gases) already exists. Yet, a blueprint to get them to work in unison did not. Until now. Drawdown provides such a roadmap using systems thinking. Hawken sets forth in Drawdown that “we found a plan, a blueprint that already exists in the world in the form of humanity’s collective wisdom, made manifest in applied, hand-on practices and technologies that are commonly available, economically viable and scientifically valid.”

In fact-filled, one-to-three page vignettes, Drawdown offers and ranks its solutions – most feasible today – and projects the potential impact (in gigatons) of reduced CO2 as well as global implementation costs and potential financial savings. Solutions are organized into seven sectors – Buildings and Cities, Energy, Food, Land Use, Materials, Transport and Women and Girls. The solutions presented range from afforestation, electric vehicles and food waste reduction to recycled paper, regenerative agriculture and refrigeration management.

Drawdown is a must read for business, NGO and government leaders regardless of their organization’s sustainability efforts or positioning on climate change. Each solution is described in concise, superb prose that will inspire practical application for any organization interested in reducing its impact on climate change.

What Drawdown makes clear is that no government, NGO, international conglomerate or philanthropist can solve climate change alone. It is going to require an all-of-the-above strategy with worldwide collaboration. Using Drawdown as a playbook, we have an opportunity, as Hawken states, “…to see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius.”

I encourage you to buy a copy of Drawdown, read it and implement relevant suggested solutions. My hope is that, like me, you’ll come away with a sense of optimism and promise dispelling thoughts of doom that we can’t solve the climate crisis.

About Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken has written seven books published in over 50 countries in 29 languages including four national bestsellers, The Next Economy, Growing a Business, and The Ecology of Commerce, and Blessed Unrest. Natural Capitalism, co-authored with Amory Lovins, was read by several heads of state including Bill Clinton who called it one of the five most important books in the world. He has appeared on numerous media including the Today Show, Larry King, Talk of the Nation, Charlie Rose, and been profiled in articles including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Washington Post, Business Week, and Esquire.

His writings have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Resurgence, New Statesman, Inc, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Mother Jones, Utne Reader, Orion, and other publications. He founded several companies including the first food company in the U.S. that relied solely on sustainable agricultural methods. He has served on the board of several environmental organizations including Point Foundation (publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogs), Center for Plant Conservation, Trust for Public Land, and National Audubon Society.

Want to Read More by Paul Hawken

  • The Next Economy (Ballantine 1983)
  • Growing a Business (Simon and Schuster 1987)
  • The Ecology of Commerce (HarperCollins 1993)
  • Blessed Unrest (Viking, 2007)
  • Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Little Brown, September 1999)
  • Carbon, The Business of Life, to be published by Penguin Random House in 2018.

Recent Posts

News Round-Up: Making Climate Change History

There has been a great deal of discussion regarding climate change in the news over the past few weeks.  The climate change debate is not new and unfortunately is not going away anytime soon.

The climate is changing, we have known it for a long time, and we can and must take action to stem the tide.  This Round-Up covers several interesting items related to “the news” on climate change.

 

Feature Story 

 The three-minute story of 800,000 years of climate change with a sting in the tail (Phys.org)

There are those who say climate has always changed, and that CO2 levels have always fluctuated.  That’s true. But its also true that since the industrial revolution, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have climbed to levels that are unprecedented over hundreds of millennia. Here’s a short video to put recent climate change and CO2 emissions into the context of the past 800,000 years. (Tweet about this)

 

Highlighted Stories

  • Thomas Edison – Renewable Energy Visionary (Thought Co) – In 1931, the same year he died, Edison confided his concerns to his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, who by then were retirement neighbors in Florida, “...we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” (Tweet about this)

Additional News

Important Resources

See you next time!

Jeff Foote

 

 

Weekly Round-Up: Combatting Deforestation

What do you think about when you think of trees?

Technology usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

You think of them for the shade they offer, the fruits they bare or even as a raw material for paper! But UK company BioCarbon Engineering recently revealed how quickly hundreds of trees could be planted – how entire ecosystems could be restored – with the use of drones.

Competing in the Drones for Good Competition, they utilized technology as an enabler showing how to reach difficult places and plant trees where they are needed.

The results are a brilliant and creative way to combat deforestation.

Feature Story

Oxford Based Company Plans to Use Drones to Plant One Billion Trees Per year (BioCarbon Engineering)

Can you plant a billion trees in a year? Oxford-based company BioCarbon says it’s not just possible – it’s already under way.

The company’s system works in two stages: first, a drone flies about and maps out the land, gathering intel on terrain, nutrients, and biodiversity.

Next, a planting drone fires biodegradable seedpods at targeted positions. Multiply that by 150 swarms of 6 drones each, BioCarbon believes it could eventually scale to 10s of billions of trees planted each year. (Click to Tweet)

Highlighted Stories

Additional News

Important Resources

Recent Posts

See you next week!

Jeff Foote

World Environment Day: Connecting People to Nature

Connecting People to Nature is this year’s theme for World Environmental Day.  World Environment Day, celebrated each June 5th, was first designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972.  In 100+ countries, this day is the UN’s signature annual event for encouraging environmental stewardship. From your backyard to your favorite national park, nature is closer than you think. It’s time to get out and enjoy it.  Be a part of a world-wide event and share your photos and videos using #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WithNature.

Rocky Mtns naturewaterfall colorado nature

I frequently spend time outdoors to connect with nature.  A hike along the Chattahoochee River or a walk or swim in my neighborhood brings me closer to nature. My travels take me across this country and the globe –  to all the seven continents.

colorado rocky mtns

The Rocky Mountains: the majesty of nature

Recently, I witnessed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  The colonies of aspens, magnificent elk, soaring golden eagles, playful prairie dogs and yes, even snakes, took my breath away.

No matter where my travels take me, I’m always amazed by nature’s grandeur, stunning beauty and the plethora of free environmental services such as clean water and oxygen to soil and pollination.  Today few organizations or individuals directly pay for the environmental services received from nature.  Compounding this free rider status, many of the related externalities (waste) of commerce based on extraction of natural resources are not accounted for on the cost ledger of our organizations. If we don’t start accounting and paying for these environmental services that we all enjoy – how will our quality of life be impacted?  What are the risks to our businesses?  At a minimum, might we all be ignoring an enormous bill that is already past due?

I would argue that the status quo is unsustainable.

As much as 80% of the environmental impact of a brand comes from the activities of our supply chains.  Businesses, NGOs and governments all have opportunities to collaborate with suppliers and partners to protect and preserve the environment.  Here are some questions to consider posing across your supply chain:

  • How can we mimic nature to improve our products and services?
  • Do you collaborate with your key suppliers to measure and set reduction targets against use of energy, water, waste and packaging?
  • What waste streams are generated along each point within your supply chain that should be reduced, eliminated or examined for potential sale or donation to other organizations?
  • Do individual departments set budgets for use of energy, water, office supply use?
  • Does your organization report greenhouse gas related emissions publicly?
  • Are water-related risks or deforestation-related risks publicly reported by your organization?
  • How do you trace the origin of ingredients, raw materials and supplies and manage the quality of your direct suppliers?
  • What benefits do or can your service or product deliver to society?
  • Do your brand managers tour and experience the entire supply chain of your business?
  • What new initiatives should you pursue to help connect with nature as a way to enhance the influence and growth or your brand, while protecting and preserving the environment?

This World Environment Day, I encourage you to take steps to connect your brand, organization and yourself more closely with nature.  If you are not routinely asking questions like those above to your suppliers, my question to you is, what do you have you to lose?

Weekly Round-Up: Recycling – Opportunities to Improve

Below are several articles highlighting opportunities to improve recycling and businesses that are stepping up their game in use of recovered materials to make new products.

What you’re doing wrong when it comes to recycling – Waste Management officials say the Seattle area is considered a national leader with a recycling rate greater than 50 percent. However, that leaves room for a lot of opportunities. “We do a pretty good job but yet, nearly half of what we’re throwing away could be recycled,” says Michelle Metzler, Waste Management’s manager of recycling education programs. “So even though we’re doing better than most of the rest of the country, we still have a lot of opportunities.recycle right

The Recycling Partnership assesses its impactIn its recently released 2016 annual report, titled “How do You Create Impact3,” The Recycling Partnership, the organization has:

  • assisted more than 250 local communities and improved recycling for 19 million households;
  • increased greenhouse gas savings from 43,000 metric tons two years ago to 164,200 metric tons;
  • grown the cumulative tonnage of recyclables recovered from 15,100 tons two years ago to 57,500 tons today;
  • placed nearly 400,000 curbside recycling carts during the last three years; and
  • saved 382 million gallons of water and 2 trillion BTU of energy annually.

The Recycling Partnership has announced its third annual request for proposals to help local governments make the switch to cart-based recycling collection. The national nonprofit will be giving out funds on a rolling process throughout the year. Any county, municipality, solid waste district/authority or tribe with at least 10,000 residents is eligible to apply. For programs with weekly collections, carts must be at least 60 gallons, and at least 90 gallons for biweekly. recycling binAll carts must include embedded RFID tags as well.  The Partnership is offering $7 per household for cart purchases and $1 per household for education. Additional technical assistance and educational materials are worth an estimated $139,000. For Info visit Recycling Partnership.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Recycling Partnership have started a new initiative that will build a roadmap for a stronger American recycling industry.  ASTRX is a systems-level project to increase recycling by strengthening each element of the materials supply chain to create reliable and valuable manufacturing feedstock. For packaging to be recycled successfully, we must consider how it flows through each of the five elements of recycling: end markets, reprocessing, sortation, collection, and consumer engagement. To increase recovery, ASTRX will examine each element of the recycling system, identify barriers to recovering more high quality materials, and develop solutions that support each element and thus help the recycling system as a whole.

P&G and Microsoft Demonstrate How to Move Beyond Recycling – In an article Gina-Marie Chesseman reports Procter and Gamble (P&G) set a goal to send zero manufacturing waste to landfill by 2020. So far, 56 percent of its global production sites send zero manufacturing waste to local landfills. The company works toward its 2020 goal by looking at waste through a new lens. As it states on its website: “The key is to not see anything as trash, but material with potential use.” “We made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to ensure our packaging could be recovered, recycled and reused in our new packages,” Virginie Helias, global VP of sustainability for P&G, told TriplePundit. “We solicited help from multiple partners, built new supply chains and, most importantly, committed to using post-consumer recycled plastic in our bottles.”

P&G recently partnered with TerraCycle and SUEZ to produce a shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic. The bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo will debut this summer in French retailer Carrefour. And the rollout will eventually represent the world’s largest production of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled beach plastic.

“Microsoft started nine years ago using compostable products and went to fully compostable dining ware in July 2008,” Mohan Reddy Guttapalem, Microsoft senior facilities manager, told TriplePundit. Microsoft’s Redmond campus achieved gold-level zero waste certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council.

The company managed to divert at least 90 percent of its food, office and construction waste from landfills. And employee-driven reuse, recycling and composting programs helped the company reach its milestone. Microsoft also likes to conduct complete audits frequently, including periodically auditing waste streams and an annual audit of its waste-hauling vendor, Guttapalem said. The company then tailors its “outreach programs to the employees based on the results.”

Target offers car seat recycling program. Target is encouraging parents not to throw away car seats after they have been outgrown by their children. The retail store chain is offering a car seat recycling program beginning April 17, according to Parents magazine. Target, in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle, will accept car seats through April 30. toddler in car seatParents should bring that obsolete car seat to the store, drop it in a bin located either in the baby section or near the front. Then, locate a Target associate to receive a coupon for 20 percent off any car seat through May 31. Shoppers can buy the car seats in-store or online at Target.com. The recycled car seats will be converted into new products.

Why OEMs are bringing more recycled plastic into devices. According to HP’s latest sustainability report, the company incorporates e-plastics from used ink and toner cartridges back into new cartridges. It also uses other post-consumer plastic sources, including beverage containers. The report also noted that it used 6,200 metric tons of post-consumer plastic in PCs and displays in 2015, although it didn’t indicate whether the recycled content came from recovered e-plastics or other sources. HP isn’t alone in incorporating recycled resin in its devices. Dell has for years incorporated post-consumer e-plastics in its products. During the 2016 fiscal year, Dell used 3.4 million pounds of post-consumer e-plastics in its products, up about 55 percent from the year before.

SUBTITLE C: REGIONAL MEGA-FACILITIES ARE THE FUTURE OF COMMERCIAL COMPOSTING. Ultimately, the rates (costs to residents and businesses) associated with manufacturing compost from organic waste will always be higher than landfilling, even with economy of scale. Commercial composting is a manufacturing process that can take up to 120 days or more. The sheer time difference between landfilling and composting a ton of organic material is enough to multiply the cost of managing it exponentially. Also, compost manufacturing is different from most manufacturing because the cost of making the product exceeds the value of the product in the marketplace.  This is because compost competes with chemical fertilizers even though it shouldn’t since the benefit of fertilizers is mostly short term production gains, whereas compost provides soil health first, creating a healthy microbiome for long term production gains.

Whatever the solution is to the question of how we responsibly and economically manage our waste, we are bound to be more successful and innovative if we think backwards before we think forwards.  What were the lessons learned from RCRA and the consolidation of the landfill industry?  How can we implement and fund organic waste recycling programs using the lessons learned from curbside recycling?  I’ll end with a great quote by author Ronald Wright “Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”

Dozens dead after dump site landslide in Sri Lankan capital.  At least 29 casualties have been confirmed after a landfill landslide in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, and some estimates say that up to 100 people may still be missing, as reported by NBC News and other media outlets. More than 1,000 emergency workers have been brought in to the crisis area, though a military spokesperson told Reuters it is unlikely they will find any survivors. The incident occurred on April 15 during Sri Lanka’s new year celebrations and damaged an estimated 145 homes. Geological investigators believe that the landslide was caused by a methane explosion, as reported by The New York Times. Residents in the Meethotamulla area had been calling for the closure of this 300-foot-high site for multiple years. The Sri Lankan government has announced that the site will now be closed, as reported by BBC News.

Last year, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) released a report that linked 750 deaths to dumpsites in less than a year and outlined strategies for beginning to close the world’s 50 most egregious examples. ISWA is turning its attention the Estrutural landfill in Brazil’s capital first — one of multiple challenging sites in the country— and the urgency of this need has been recently demonstrated in other countries as well. At least 113 people were killed by a landfill landslide in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month.

As outlined by ISWA, closing these dumpsites will also help countries work toward achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. If allowed to continue in their current states, these sites could comprise 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Out of the 50 largest ones, 38 are also in coastal areas and are sources of the ongoing marine pollution crisis that has drawn attention from Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Now is the Time to Make Earth Day Everyday

In a recent blog post, Jason Clay of World Wildlife Fund made some interesting historical references to the conditions of our world dating back to the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970.   Since 1970 the human population doubled.   The non-human vertebrate species’ populations declined by an average of 58 percent.  The global average temperature increased by about one degree Celsius. In 1970, the US imported about $54 billion worth of goods and services.  That number rose to $2.7 trillion in 2016.

Manhattan skyline

Manhattan skyline in 1974, photographed by Alexander Hope for Documerica. Courtesy of the National Archives

By 1970 millions of Americans were fed-up with the state of the natural environment.  Civil society was ripe for activism and government solutions. They were ready for business and commerce to clean up their acts.

Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI (D)) understood this disgust along with the rising demands of citizens.  He proposed a national event to galvanize action – Earth Day.  “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.”

NYT first Earth Day

A throng of thousands along New York City’s 5th Ave., as far as the eye could see, came out for Earth Day 1970 demonstrations receiving front page coverage the next day

Clearly, we’ve made great progress since the first Earth Day. But so much still needs to be done.  I’d venture to say, focusing on just one day falls short of the vision of the father of Earth Day.

Our reliance on fossil fuels and the inefficient use of most, if not all, energy continues to make the most significant impact on the environment. Energy is the life blood of our economy.  But extraction, refining, generation and transmission of most of our energy sources creates enormous amounts of waste, emissions of particulate air pollution and heat trapping greenhouse gases.  Yet, many of these externalities are not accounted for on the cost ledger of our businesses or personal budgets.

What does the American public think?  According to a March 2017 Gallup Poll, 59% of Americans believe the environment should be prioritized over energy production.   This is not an unreasonable expectation.  Just think about the amount of solar energy hitting the earth each day. If properly collected, stored and transmitted, solar energy could provide more than is needed to meet our daily energy needs.

LED bulbs avoid the use of significant amounts of energy.  They reduce maintenance costs and eliminate mercury associated with fluorescent bulbs.

Imagine if procurement officials from colleges and universities gave preference to recycled materials and low carbon commitments in setting selection criteria for goods and services?

Would energy efficiency and use of renewable energy increase significantly if fossil fuel energy use by industry and commerce were listed on the loss side of balance sheets?

Senator Nelson said, “The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity…that’s where all economic activity and jobs come from.”

This Earth Day, by all-means, plant a tree, organize a clean-up, recycle.  Better yet, organize efforts to make long-term commitments to reduce the impact of your organization.   What material impact does your company have as a result of the use of energy, water and waste generation across the entire supply chain?  Do you measure it?  Do you set expectations for your suppliers to reduce natural resource use? Can you meet and exceed the environmental expectations of your customers?

If not, I encourage you to set stretch, time-based goals. Work to make the change you want to see in your organization and the world.  Look for opportunities to embed sustainability measurements, goals and requirements across all functions of your organization and with all your suppliers and customers.

If you don’t do it.  Who will?Gaylord Nelson quote

Clean Your Plate! There are Starving People in…America

According to the relief agency Why Hunger?, 42.2 million people in the US live in food-insecure households.  That’s 1 in 8 of our fellow Americans frequently struggling to get enough to eat.  According to the National Association to End Senior Hunger, 5.8 percent of seniors or 10.2 million individuals age 60 or older in the United States face the threat of hunger. Food insecurity affects seniors, soldiers, families, young people.  It’s rural, it’s urban, it’s ethnic.  It’s unacceptable.

Did you know, as much as 40% of calories society grows and produces does not end up in people’s stomachs?  Each person wastes 36 pounds of food per month according to the USDA.  According to NRDC waste is especially prevalent in restaurants, where diners leave about 17 percent of their food uneaten. Even though seafood is a popular menu item, nearly 47% of the US supply is wasted each year.  Average college student wastes more than 140 pounds of food per year.

food waste in binThe causes on each side of the food insecurity/food waste coin are serious and systemic.  Lack of measurement, processes and traditions that encourage overconsumption as well as concerns about liability can all hinder efforts to prevent wasting of food and matching leftover nutritious food with those in need.  Could we put a significant dent in the food security challenges facing our neighbors if we strove to prevent the wasting of food and reducing our food waste?

According to EndFoodWaste.org, at least 20% of all produce is wasted just because of size, shape, color, or appearance that fail to meet the visual specifications of traditional retailers and their customers.  Ugly fruits and veggies often have the same nutritional value of produce found in traditional markets.  food waste applesFor a list of local programs and retailers providing or considering offering sale of nutritious, if visually unique produce visit  EndFoodWaste.org.

It is difficult to manage something if we don’t measure it.  Preparing that wonderful banquet, five-star meal or dining hall dinner generates significant prep waste, too many uneaten portions, not to mention, oodles of doggie bags full of eatable leftovers.  If you operate a food service business or restaurant, there are several waste prevention programs available that can help you measure waste and identify savings opportunities.  The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve website is full of practical case studies and tools to help reduce food waste.

According to ReFED, waste occurs throughout the supply chain, with nearly 85% occurring downstream at consumer-facing businesses and homes. ReFED is a collaboration of over thirty businesses, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States. ReFED has identified 27 of the best opportunities to reduce food waste through a detailed economic analysis.  They estimate that we can reduce US food waste by 50% by 2030.

Have you considered partnering with a local foodbank?  Feeding America’s nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs supports efforts that improve food security; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry.  Find Your Local Food Bank

What would motivate you to take steps to prevent wasting of food; reducing your portion size (as it were) at the local landfill; share with others some of the excess of your bounty; and find a beneficial use for the organic material you generate in your daily life?  Would you be willing to measure consumption and waste and set goals for continuous improvement at home and work?

What more can we all do to eliminate food insecurity and prevent the wasting of food?  How can we work together to match the demands of the hungry with the over-supply from our supply chains, cafes and kitchens? Preventing of food waste and donating usable leftovers can and must play a bigger role in reducing hunger and food insecurity.  Your mother was right.  Clean your plate, there are starving children out there.

Celebrating International Day of Forests: A Special Round-Up on Deforestation

March 21 is International Day of Forests – The theme of the 2017 International Day of Forests celebration is “Forests and Energy” to increase awareness of forest-energy interconnections and strengthen engagement between forest and energy practitioners and policymakers. Individuals, groups, governments and businesses are encouraged to organize and partake in awareness raising and activities regarding the importance of preserving and protecting forests such as tree planting efforts.

Teenager Is on Track to Plant a Trillion TreesNational Geographic’s Laura Parker reports on a teenager and his environmental group.  Starting his project as a nine-year-old, Felix Finkbeiner aims to restore the world’s forests. Finkbeiner is 19—and Plant-for-the-Planet, the environmental group he founded, together with the UN’s Billion Tree campaign, has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations. The group has also pushed the planting goal upward to one trillion trees—150 for every person on the Earth.

The organization also prompted the first scientific, full-scale global tree count, which is now aiding NASA in an ongoing study of forests’ abilities to store carbon dioxide and their potential to better protect the Earth. In many ways, Finkbeiner has done more than any other activist to recruit youth to the climate change movement. Plant-for-the-Planet now has an army of 55,000 “climate justice ambassadors,” who have trained in one-day workshops to become climate activists in their home communities. Most of them are between the ages nine and 12.

The Earth Has Lungs. Watch Them Breathe – By Robert Krulwich – What a difference a leaf makes! Well, not one leaf. We have 3.1 trillion trees on our planet—that’s 422 trees per person. If we count all the leaves on all those trees and take a look at what they do collectively to the air around us, the effect—and I do not exaggerate—is stunning. I’ve got a video from NASA. When you see it, I think your jaw is going to drop—just a little. It tracks the flow of carbon dioxide across the planet over 12 months, starting in January. Most of the action takes place in the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where most of the land is, and so that’s where most of the trees are. The biggest temperate forests are in Canada, Siberia, and Scandinavia.

That’s what the NASA video shows us: We can see the Green Machine turning on, then, a few months later, turning off. When it’s on, when the leaves are out, those ugly, poisonous-looking swirls of orange and red vanish from the sky. The machine works. And this happens every year. It’s as though the Earth itself has lungs.  But for all of its lung power, CO2 concentrations keep building in our atmosphere. We’re apparently pouring so much CO2 into the sky that the trees can’t keep up. Twelve thousand years ago, the Yale study says, there were twice as many trees on Earth. Apparently, we need their help. We need more trees. We really do.

The Nearest Forest is Farther Away Than You Thought – By Kastalia Medrano – New analysis of American deforestation offers a surprising stat: The average distance to the nearest forest increased by nearly 14 percent in the last decade. To put it another way, the total forest cover lost is comparable in size to the state of Maine.  The forest cover is also vanishing at a rate more than a full order of magnitude greater than we previously thought. A pair of researchers made the discovery by analyzing forest attrition — the complete removal of forest patches, including small ones — across the continental United States.

Two Redwood Trees

Redwood Trees Providing Canopy

The western part of the country especially was shown to have vastly accelerated rates of attrition.  A study detailing the research was published recently in the journal PLOS ONE. The focus for this study was on four primary drivers: commercial logging, agriculture, urbanization pressure, and forest fires.

More Companies Reporting Progress toward Deforestation-free Supply Chains Recent years have witnessed a groundswell of private sector commitments to reducing deforestation linked to the agricultural commodities that underpin vast corporate supply chains. A growing number of companies have been sharing their progress toward those pledges, according to the latest annual report from Forest Trends’ Supply Change initiative. The report, Supply Change: Tracking Corporate Commitments to Deforestation-free Supply Chains, 2017, looks at 447 companies that have made 760 commitments to curb forest destruction in supply chains linked to the “big four” agricultural commodities: palm, soy, timber & pulp, and cattle.

“Corporate commitments to deforestation-free supply chains continue to gain momentum as stakeholders demand more sustainable businesses and products. As companies move to address these demands – and the ever-growing threats to their supply chains, including climate change – we’re learning that meeting these goals is easier said than done,” said Stephen Donofrio, Senior Advisor for Supply Change. “It requires a reformulation of an entire complex system – from suppliers to retailers, among many other non-corporate actors.” The report, which examines 718 companies that Supply Change has identified as “exposed” to the big four commodities, include:  Commitments on palm and timber & pulp continue to lead the way, thanks in large part to more well-established certification programs and scrutiny around palm oil-driven deforestation. Commitment rates remain considerably lower for soy and cattle, which is troubling given their outsized contribution to tropical forest loss.

HSBC overhauls deforestation policy after Greenpeace investigation – HSBC has launched a new zero-deforestation policy after a Greenpeace investigation found a link between the banking corporation and organizations destroying Indonesia’s forests and peatland.  The new policy requires its customers to commit to protecting natural forest and peat by 30 June 2017 by publishing their own forest protection policies. It also says the bank will no longer provide funding to companies involved in any kind of deforestation or peatland clearance, breaking its links with destructive palm oil corporations. More than 200,000 people around the world signed a petition to put pressure on HSBC thanks to a Greenpeace campaign that also encouraged people to send emails directly to the bank’s CEO and protest outside high street branches.

Prince of Wales brokers pact to end cocoa deforestation – By Terry Slavin. The world’s biggest buyers, producers and retailers in the cocoa supply chain met in London recently to sign a statement of collective intent to end deforestation in the global cocoa supply chain. The agreement, the first of its kind covering the global cocoa supply chain, was brokered by the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit and signed by 12 of the biggest companies in the supply chain, including Cargill, Olam, Ferrero, The Hershey Company; Mars, Mondelēz International and Nestlé. The 12 companies hope to unveil a joint framework at COP 23 in Bonn in November. Crucially, ministers and senior government representatives of the two leading cocoa producing countries, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK attended.

The Prince of Wales told participants: “It is clear that the private sector has a critically important part to play in saving our remaining forests, particularly through tackling the deforestation that has too often, alas, been associated with global commodity supply chains. The commitments made in this regard over recent years by a number of the world’s major companies, including some of those represented in this room, are hugely encouraging. But we all know that delivery on such commitments can be challenging, to put it mildly, and that the list of commodities covered remains far from complete.

And until now, one of the important omissions from that list was cocoa, which is why today’s announcement is so very heartening.” The statement commits the companies to work with public, private, and civil society partners to develop a common vision and joint framework to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa sector by 2018. Among other commitments, the companies will work with producer country governments to “professionalize and economically empower farmers and their families, and deepen support for inclusive and participatory development of cocoa-growing communities, with a strong focus on gender empowerment.”

Exclusive Look Into How Rare Elephants’ Forests Are Disappearing – By Laurel Neme – A high-stakes game playing out in a remote biodiversity hot spot pits the palm oil industry against the ecological integrity of the last place on Earth where critically endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans live side by side. At issue is destruction of Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem—a UNESCO World Heritage site at the northern end of Sumatra—principally by forest clearing for oil palm plantations. Roughly the size of Massachusetts, the Leuser’s 10,000 square miles straddle two provinces, with 85 percent in Aceh and the rest in North Sumatra.

Sumatran Elephant

This little one gets a nudge as they cross a river in the Leuser Ecosystem.
PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL HILTON FOR RAN

The region encompasses Sumatra’s largest intact rain forest and a mix of habitats, from high alpine meadows to peat swamps. Palm oil—the basis of products such as cosmetics and shampoos, processed foods and biodiesel—is versatile and has a long shelf life.  But oil palm plantations gobble up forest—and not always legally. A new report by the NGO Rainforest Action Network details the illegal razing of lowland forest, critical habitat for 22 Sumatran elephants, by oil palm grower PT Agra Bumi Niaga (PT ABN). The clearing likely also affects tigers and orangutans that depend on this forest. The Rainforest Action Network is a San Francisco-based NGO with a 30-year history of campaigns targeting major corporate brands implicated in forest destruction, human rights abuses, and climate change pollution.

Successful Forest Protection in DRC Hinges on Community Participation – By John C. Cannon The tens of millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo who depend on the forest must be considered to keep the world’s second largest rainforest intact.  The Democratic Republic of Congo’s extensive forests seem like a bright spot in an otherwise-troubled country. With forests covering an area larger than Colombia, DRC has managed to sidestep the surge in losses that forest-rich countries in South America, Southeast Asia and elsewhere in Africa have suffered. It has become an important country partner in the UN’s REDD+ program. Short for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries,” REDD+ promises DRC hundreds of millions of dollars for environmental and development work, coming from the governments of Norway, Germany, France, the U.K., and the EU.

In exchange, the country’s leadership has agreed to preserve the country’s stockpile of carbon tucked away in the vegetation of its forests, estimated to be around 22 billion metric tons (48.5 trillion pounds).  The goal now is to maintain DRC’s status as a high-forest, low-deforestation country, while proving to the continent and the world that a strategy as global as REDD+ can work. REDD+ has potential to slow the emissions from forest destruction and provide poor countries with funds for development, but as research in DRC and elsewhere is proving, it will only do that if it’s implemented properly.

The solution is far from one-size-fits-all, researchers say, and it will depend on the earnest commitment of local communities. For DRC, as the light of economic and political stability flickers on the horizon, the question is more basic. The country’s forests have survived decades of dysfunction, conflict and failed governance.  Now, they stand on the leading edge of a global climate solution. They’re attracting the attention of donor countries and at the same time international corporations looking for new places to develop while also bringing the promise of economic prosperity. Will they survive this ‘success’?

Drought and forest loss cause vicious circle in the Amazon – If dry seasons intensify with man-made climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss increases even more and could put the Amazon rainforest further at risk, an international team of scientists found. Despite a trend of boosting forest areas around the globe, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest increased in 2016 for the fourth consecutive year.  Researchers at the German Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) found the Amazon rainforest could be exposed to higher risks of dieback if dry seasons intensify and rainfall decreases.

This could lead to a vicious dieback circle, they said in a study published in Nature Communications. “The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” said lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp, who conducted the study at PIK. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts,” she said. “So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on.

Yet the consequences of this feedback between the plants on the ground and the atmosphere above them so far was not clear.” The researchers found the close relationship between deforestation and drought could put the Amazon further at risk. When it rains, trees absorb water through their roots and then release it back to the atmosphere. Tropical forests produce most of the water they need themselves: they pump moisture which then rains back to them.

deforestation amazan

Yet logging and warmer air – due to greenhouse gas emissions – reduce precipitations and hinder the moisture transport from one forest area to the other, affecting even remote areas. “Then happens what we call the ‘cascading forest loss,'” said co-author Anja Rammig from the Technical University of Munich, who is currently working as a guest scientist at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. A fifth of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest, says the conservation group Cool Earth.

Small farmers play big role in felling Peru rainforest: satellite maps – By Chris ArsenaultDeforestation in the Peruvian Amazon has risen this century – destroying an area of rainforest 14 times larger than Los Angeles – with small farmers behind most of the cutting, according to a new analysis of satellite maps. Small farmers account for about 80 percent of Peru’s forest loss, the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), a Washington, D.C.-based research group, said on Wednesday. “One of the big findings of this report is that deforestation is not driven by sexier issues such as large-scale oil palm (plantations) or dams, but widespread small-scale agriculture,” said Matt Finer, MAAP’s director. Small producers clearing forests for farms or cattle grazing along with logging roads and illegal gold mining have caused Peru to lose 1,800,000 hectares of Amazon rainforest since 2001 and the trend is steadily increasing, the analysis said.

Cameroon to restore 12 million hectares of Congo Basin rainforest – Cameroon has committed to restoring over 12 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2030 as part of the Bonn Challenge initiative, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has announced. The initiative is a global effort to restore 150 million hectares by 2020, and more than double that to 350 million by 2030. The pledge is the biggest to date in the Congo Basin, home to the world’s second-largest tropical rain forest, and brings the 2020 goal into range with a total of 148 million hectares pledged. Cameroon’s pledge will also contribute to the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), which aims to bring 100 million hectares under restoration by 2030 through the Bonn Challenge and concurrent programs.

Weekly Round-Up: Water Stewardship – Some, for all, forever

Access to clean water and sanitation services are human rights.  And, yet, according to Water for People, 1.8 billion people around the world still don’t have access to safe water. 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation, and more than 840,000 people die each year from water-related diseases.

Each of us lives in a watershed.chickencreek watershed sign The US Geological Survey defines a watershed as the area of land where all of the water that falls in it and drains off of it goes to a common outlet. Watersheds can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into rivers that drain into a bay, where it enters an ocean.

Often it seems we waste water by design.

We flush our toilets with drinking water.

54% of urban water use in the US is for landscape irrigation1.

Water lost due to aging infrastructure in the US is 1.7 trillion gallons annually2.

The estimated cost of upgrading infrastructure: $2 trillion over 25 years2.

As much as 70% – 90% of the world’s fresh water is contained in the ice that cover the Antarctic continent.

As much as 43 gallons of water is used to produce a pound of paper3.

A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers4.leaky water faucet

Fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10% on water bills4 .

The Food Service Technology Center has tools and calculators to help estimate the cost of leaks in restaurants and food service operations.

Stormwater pollution is the #1 source of water pollution in the United States; and the # 1 pollutant in stormwater by volume is sediment.  One gallon of motor oil can contaminate one MILLION gallons of water.

Thirsty business: CDP 2016 Annual Report of Corporate Water Disclosure.  The report and underlying data analysis aim to shine a light on the linkages between water, energy and private sector efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The report, written on behalf of 643 investors with $67 trillion in assets, revealed water-related impacts cost business $14 billion, a five-fold increase from last year.  Additionally, 24% of greenhouse gas reduction activities depend on a stable supply of good quality water with 53% of companies reporting that better water management is delivering GHG reductions.

Liquidity crisisAs water becomes ever more scant the world needs to conserve it, use it more efficiently and establish clear rights over who owns the stuff . “NOTHING is more useful than water,” observed Adam Smith, but “scarcely anything can be had in exchange for it.” The father of free-market economics noted this paradox in 18th-century Scotland, as rain-sodden and damp then as it is today. Where water is in ample supply his words still hold true. But around the world billions of people already struggle during dry seasons.

Drought and deluge are a costly threat in many countries. If water is not managed better, today’s crisis will become a catastrophe. By the middle of the century more than half of the planet will live in areas of “water stress”, where supplies cannot sustainably meet demand. Lush pastures will turn to barren desert and millions will be forced to flee in search of fresh water. But putting food on their tables requires floods of the stuff. Growing 1kg of wheat takes 1,250 liters of water; fattening a cow to produce the same weight of beef involves 12 times more. Overall, agriculture accounts for more than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. And as the global population rises from 7.4bn to close to 10bn by the middle of the century, it is estimated that agricultural production will have to rise by 60% to fill the world’s bellies.

This will put water supplies under huge strain.  Overall about 41% of America’s withdrawals go towards cooling power stations. Climate change will only make the situation more fraught. Hydrologists expect that a warming climate will see the cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation speed up. Wet regions will grow wetter and dry ones drier as rainfall patterns change and the rate increases at which soil and some plants lose moisture. Deluges and droughts will intensify, adding to the pressure on water resources. Late or light rainy seasons will alter the speed at which reservoirs and aquifers refill. A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture (the water content of air rises by about 7% for every 1ºC of warming) increasing the likelihood of sudden heavy downpours that can cause flash flooding across parched ground. This will also add to sediment in rivers and reservoirs, affecting storage capacity and water quality.

US Drought Monitor.  Established in 1999, the US Drought Monitor is a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The map, which comes out every Thursday based on data through the preceding Tuesday, is based on measurements of climatic, hydrologic and soil conditions as well as reported impacts and observations from more than 350 contributors around the country. Eleven climatologists from the partner organizations take turns serving as the lead author each week. The authors examine all the data and use their best judgment to reconcile any differences in what different sources are saying.

Watering Restrictions Currently in Effect in Atlanta Area – Drought conditions across Atlanta and most of Georgia have worsened.  52 counties have moved from Level 1 to Level 2 Response, requiring outdoor water use restrictions. In the City of Atlanta, outdoor landscape watering is only allowed two days a week, determined by odd- and even-numbered addresses. Even-numbered addresses and properties without numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Odd-numbered addresses may water Thursday and Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Even on allowable days, it’s encouraged that watering be limited to when plants are showing stress.

Drought and forest loss cause vicious circle in the Amazon – If dry seasons intensify with man-made climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss increases even more and could put the Amazon rainforest further at risk, an international team of scientists found. Researchers at the German Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) found the Amazon rainforest could be exposed to higher risks of dieback if dry seasons intensify and rainfall decreases. This could lead to a vicious dieback circle, they said in a study published in Nature Communications.

no water - drought

The dramatic effects of drought.

“The Amazon rainforest is one of the tipping elements in the Earth system,” said lead-author Delphine Clara Zemp, who conducted the study at PIK. “We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts,” she said.  “So more droughts can lead to less forest leading to more droughts and so on.” The researchers found the close relationship between deforestation and drought could put the Amazon further at risk. When it rains, trees absorb water through their roots and then release it back to the atmosphere. Tropical forests produce most of the water they need themselves: they pump moisture which then rains back to them.

ISCIENCES: Global Water Monitor & Forecast monitors fresh water resources worldwide and forecasts changes with their Water Security Indicator Model.  Each month they document current anomalies and provide forecasts with lead times from 1-9 months.

The Coca-Cola Company is the first Fortune 500 Company to replenish all of the water it uses globally. Being a steward means holding something in trust and taking care of it. And that’s really what everyone does with water. Water is a finite resource, but it’s infinitely renewable. And that’s where stewardship becomes very important. At the end of 2015 Coke met its 2020 goal to replenish 100% of the water used across its entire system by replenishing 337.78 billion liters of water to nature and communities. Working with a whole host of different charities and conservation organizations, Coke supported 248 community water partnership projects in 71 countries and over 2,000 communities, which focused on safe water access, watershed protection and water for productive use. In many cases, these projects also provide access to sanitation and education, help improve local livelihoods, assist communities with adapting to climate change, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, engage on policy and build awareness on water issues.

Beer giant AB InBev’s former water guru offers some advice – By Hugh Share – There’s no single definition of “water stewardship.” My view is that it is something to be continually strived for, not something that can be simply achieved, and I’d challenge any company that claims to have achieved it.  When the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) talks about stewardship, it uses the words progression, improvement, direct operations, value chain and commitment. The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) states that its members are aiming to continually improve and to act, engage and influence on matters related to water stewardship. Much like our health, we can’t simply lose weight or apply an intervention and declare we’ve achieved “health.” We must continue to eat well, exercise and maintain ourselves if we’re to stay healthy.  We need more pragmatic thinking that generates real-world results. I’ve seen the same case studies for years, examples that are force-fitted into different guidance documents, over and over again. The bottom line is we all need to talk less, act more and work together — quicker, more efficiently and to scale. See the great tips on water stewardship Hugh has for NGOs, businesses and governments.

Sources:

  1. Hydro Point Data Systems
  2. US Council on Competitiveness: Leverage: Water and Manufacturing.
  3. Environment Canada
  4. US EPA

Weekly Round-Up: Recycling, What Goes Around

Recycling is a series of activities by which material that has reached the end of its current use is processed into material utilized in the production of new products.

This week we’ll take a look at what’s happening within the world of recycling with a special focus on paper.

PAPER RECYCLING  –  Some Basic Facts

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper accounts for about half of all recyclables collected in the U.S., by weight. About forty-three million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in 2013—a recycling rate of about 63 percent.

shredded office paper

Shredded Office Paper

The U.S. paper recovery rate increased by 1.4 percentage points in 2015 to a record-high 66.8 percent. The previous high point of 66.4 percent was recorded in 2011.

The paper recovery rate measured 33.5 percent back in 1990, which was the base year against which the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) began setting its recovery goals.

AF&PA member companies have set a goal to increase the U.S. paper recovery rate to more than 70 percent by 2020. The 2015 numbers point to clear progress towards meeting the goal.

An estimated 58.6 percent of printing-writing papers were recovered for recycling in 2015, which is up from 53.0 percent in 2013 and 57.7 percent in 2014. The actual tonnage of printing-writing papers recovered for recycling declined 3.3 percent in 2015 but domestic purchases of these papers (i.e., new supply) fell by a more substantial 4.9 percent, which caused the recovery rate to increase.

Where Recovered Paper GoesData for the year 2015 indicate that 33.4 percent of the paper and paperboard recovered in the U.S. went to produce container board (i.e., the material used for corrugated boxes) and 11.8 percent went to produce boxboard, which includes base stock for folding boxes and gypsum wallboard facings. Net exports of recovered paper to China and other nations accounted for 39.8 percent of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S in 2015.  There are also some domestic uses of recovered paper outside the paper industry, including as base materials for insulation and molded pulp products.

Interested in starting an office paper recycling program? Download the Workplace Recycling Guide to learn more about how you can involve your office.

RECYCLING IN GENERAL

Find Recycling Locations for Materials from A-Z – With over 350 materials and 100,000+ listings, Earth911.com maintains one of North America’s most extensive databases. To get started, enter in the material you are trying to recycle along with your zip code and click search.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price.  ReStores are independently owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. Proceeds are used to help build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities and around the world. Habitat ReStores divert hundreds of tons from landfills each year, accepting hard-to-dispose-of items including new and used furniture, appliances and surplus building materials. In many cases, pickup service is provided for large items.

ReStore Habitat for Humanity

ReStore Habitat for Humanity in Hall County, GA

How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. It involves a coalition of forward thinking brands who want their packaging to be recycled and are empowering consumers through smart packaging labels. Each How2Recycle label is based on the best availability of recycling data available, as well as critical technical insights from Association of Plastic Recyclers, Recycled Paperboard Alliance, and other insightful industry experts.

RecycleYourPlastics.org is an easy to use resource on plastics recycling for recycling professionals. The site includes resources such as user-friendly tips and tools, best practices, ready access to experts and peers in the recycling world and more.  Funding for RecycleYourPlastics.org is provided by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, representing leading makers of plastic resins.

Quick solutions to the most common recycling mistakesThe biggest contaminants are plastic bags, liquids, food, garden hoses, Christmas-tree lights, wire hangers, electronics, propane tanks, and auto parts.  Recycle plastic bags at grocery store locations that accept them.  If a bundle of recyclables reaches a 10% contamination rate, the manufacturer that purchases the recyclable materials can reject the load and charge back the cost to the sorting center.  When in doubt throw it out.