Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
We open Snippets with a series of articles that look at the increasing gulf between the haves and the have nots. In other words, the combined annual income of the world’s 100 richest people is enough to end global poverty four times over. Let us stress that is annual income not their combined overall wealth - one year’s income surrendered would change many peoples outlook on life very quickly.
As if we didn’t know it already this same group of wealthy people are getting even wealthier at the expense of those that work for these large corporate organisations. In the third quarter of last year corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% over the prior year. Meanwhile separate government readings show that total wages have fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP, wages previously almost always accounted for at least half of GDP.
Our next story looks at sustainability in the workplace and who cares more; women or men. Unsurprisingly women care more and this also extends to non-work related activities. Women tend to feel that positively impacting on society is more important than actual job criteria. Data indicates 69% of women say they feel personally responsible for getting involved in order to improve society whereas only 52% of men do (still over 50% can’t be all bad).
To put it simply, sustainability is a team sport. As always many hands make light work and very little can be achieved by only one person. As discussed in the article, adopting a teamwork approach within a company gives a greater rate of success in achieving goals and real material outcomes can be made. This article takes an in depth look at some of the improvements McDonald’s have made in the American market. Further, we look at improvements that a North American University (Arizona State) have made on the sustainability front, but first we need to consider some facts and figures. ASU has 13,000 staff, 72,000 students (13,000 residential) with 1,500 acres of land and $1.8 billion in revenue (bigger than a lot of communities in New Zealand). Again some good things are happening with a handful of dedicated staff but it’s going to take buy in and efforts from everyone to achieve their goal of zero waste by 2015.
Staying with the sustainability theme, we now look at a report that suggests a circular economy could save more than $700 billion if recycling was incorporated into business models. The report focuses on three areas; clothing, food and drink (along with associated packaging). Some of the steps suggested are increasing the amount of clothing collected and reused/remade which could generate $71 billion worth of materials saved or if a different material were used for the packaging of beer (instead of plastic) the cost of beer could be reduced by a fifth per hundred litres. Anyone visiting a sporting or entertainment event at one of New Zealand’s stadiums may have already made a judgement on the use of plastic containers and beer but still some common sense ideas put in place would make a huge difference.
Following on with sustainability based news, we now look at including sustainability to make a balanced purchasing decision. Price is only one of many factors that should be considered, social, economic and environmental outcomes all come together to form sustainable purchasing. Although cost is important when purchasing goods or services the real question is what the true costs are? Factors such as acquisition cost, use, disposal and efficiency costs should all be considered.
In our next two stories we look at the true cost of clothing and in this case focus on Puma branded clothing. Puma wanted to understand whether its efforts to develop more sustainable clothing products were making a positive difference after all environmental impacts were taken into account across the full life cycle of the product. Greenhouse gases, water, land use and air pollution were all factored in the true costing exercise. Puma are certainly taking the sustainability route seriously and have just introduced a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ sportswear line; each product is entirely biodegradable or recyclable. To ensure products are recycled, bins in stores will be used to collect products at the end of their usable and wearable life cycle and then taken to reinvent them into other products. This is a very exciting phase of clothing development which we hope other brands will embrace.
Turning to food production we look at how the horse meat scandal in the UK and Europe has heightened consumer's awareness of the intensive way livestock is farmed to produce cheap meat for markets and how much damage is being done to the environment through these practices. New Zealand is not immune to these environmental problems, the right balance needs to be struck between food production, environmental and general wellbeing sooner rather than later.
We finish up by looking at rice and potato production in rural India, through the process of a particular farming technique called ‘System of Rice [or root] intensification’ or SRI Rice. The use of this technique has seen rice and potato yield records broken. The process involves starting with fewer more widely space plants, using less water, actively aerating the soil and applying lots of organic fertilisers. As with anything new that has had surprising and positive results, but will need more studies completed to prove its validity. Hopefully over time results can be verified and proven to work in a positive way and the lack of chemicals used in this farming process can only be seen as a positive step.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.