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Featured Sustainability

Patagonia Founder Gives Away Company to Fight Climate Crisis

The billionaire founder of popular outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia, announced last week that he is giving away the entirety of his company to fight the climate crisis

Yvon Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, currently valued at $3 billion, to a uniquely structured trust and non-profit organization, created to protect the company’s independence and ensure all future profits are used to fight climate devastation. 

The new structure was specifically designed to ensure Patagonia could avoid selling the company or taking it public, two options which would have likely resulted in a change of values for the environmentally focused brand. 

The company announced, “As of now, Earth is our only shareholder. ALL profits, in perpetuity, will go to our mission to save our home planet.”

Patagonia Shop
© Getty Images

Chouinard also wrote in a statement, “Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say that we’re ‘going purpose.’ If we have any hope of a thriving planet, much less a thriving business, 50 years from now, it is going to take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have. This is another way we’ve found to do our part.”

The eccentric entrepreneur, who turned his passion for rock climbing into one of the world’s most successful sportswear brands, has made his fortune building a clothing brand focused on sustainability and selling high-quality clothes with a lifetime guarantee. 

Chouinard has previously said that he is ‘horrified’ to be seen as a billionaire, after being labelled as such by Forbes magazine, as he has always been more interested in caring for the environment than making money. Previously, Patagonia had committed to giving away 1% of sales each year and in 2018, the company announced that it was solely in business to ‘save our home planet.’’

His subsequent commitment to give away his fortune for the benefit of the planet has been a doubling down on this mission and the move has been lauded worldwide. In particular, Chouinard’s unique decision comes at a time when many of the world’s wealthiest have come under fire for a lack of donations towards charitable causes and their disregard for the climate crisis. 

 

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Community Featured

California Bans Sale of New Gas Cars by 2035

Will gas cars soon become a thing of the past?

Last week, the California Air Resources Board voted to ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035 and set targets that would phase them out from 2026 onwards. 

The rules will go into effect beginning in 2026 and will not impact any cars currently on the roads. Instead, they focus on the sale of new cars in the state. Starting in 2026, 35% of new cars, SUVs and small pickups sold in California would be required to be zero-emission vehicles. That quota would increase each year. By 2035, the idea is that 100% of cars sold in California that year will be zero-emissions cars. For every car that falls short of targets, automakers will be fined up to $20,000

This measure is the first of its kind in the United States and one of the first in the world. California is hugely influential in the climate policy space, especially pertaining to transportation. It’s the country’s largest automotive market, and previous legislation has been followed by over a dozen other states in the country. This one seems to be no exception. CNN was told that New York, Oregon, Washington State, and Rhode Island plan to follow in California’s footsteps and New Jersey and Maryland officials said they were currently reviewing the decision. 

Gavin Newsom comments on the ban of new gas cars
Gavin Newsome © Gage Skidmore

While Congress recently passed a historic climate change bill, that plan alone will not allow America to reach the  2050 emissions-free target scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. President Biden has urged that individual states also take action alongside the bill. California has heeded the call. This policy will cut greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by more than 50% in 2040 from the levels that were expected without the policy, according to the New York Times. 

In an interview, California Governor Newsom called the rule “one of the most significant steps to the elimination of the tailpipe as we know it.” Governor Newsom first signed an executive order demanding all cars sold in the state be zero emissions in 2020, so the vote follows years of work within the state. It was also aided by President Biden, who earlier this year reinstated California’s ability to set its own vehicle emissions standards following President Trump’s reversal of the long-standing rule. However, there are currently 17 Attorney Generals in Republican States that are challenging California’s ability to set their own climate policy. The rule could also be reversed by any future presidents who disagree with President Biden’s assessment of California’s policy autonomy.

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Community Featured

Liz Truss Accused of Having ‘Sewage On Her Hands’ Over Cuts

The exposed cuts could have dire consequences for the party and Truss’ odds of becoming Prime Minister

Another day, another public scandal for the Conservative party. This time, raw sewage has been reported by the public in rivers and seas up and down the country. Liz Truss, who is one of the favourites to replace Boris Johnson as the new Prime Minister, is being blamed as it’s been reported that Truss oversaw a cut to funds that tackles water pollution.

Liz Truss Accused of Having 'Sewage On Her Hands'
One of Britains affected river (FT)

“Liz Truss has sewage on her hands,” says a report from the Guardian. The Environmental Agency announced that Truss was responsible for cutting £235 million from their budget, of which £80 million was for sewage monitors. The reports followed public outrage at the nation’s beauty spots that have been polluted with toxic waste. Those living near Britain’s most beloved beaches are particularly worried about the impact that this will have on their jobs and livelihood, as the pollution is likely to deter visitors from going on British holidays, and so, will cause businesses to suffer. 

Teeside, a town in the North East, is one of the hardest hit locations in this sewage scandal. Mayor, Andy Preston, told the BBC that he is telling people to stay away from the town: “It’s never a good time to tell people to stay away from the coast, especially in the summer when our beaches are busy with people on holiday,” Mr. Preston said. “I cannot do anything directly but I can rouse the public to get Northumbrian Water to fix it.” But there is only so much that a small town can do, as this is a nationwide scandal. “All I want to do is get people to put pressure on water companies, as I really don’t think such big profit-making businesses are under enough pressure,” he said. 

Liz Truss Accused of Having 'Sewage On Her Hands'
Sewage data (BBC News)

One of the main causes of the sewage overflow into the waters is the enormous cuts to the monitors. The monitors are the technology that companies use to regulate the amount of sewage that is spilling into the seas and rivers. But, clearly, the cuts to funding have contributed to a shortage in technology, and as a result, sewage levels are not being controlled. 

The opposition party has jumped at the opportunity to condemn Liz Truss and the Conservative Party’s shameful action. The shadow Environment Secretary, Jim McMahon said “Under the Tories, the country is facing a crisis in our water supply.” He continued to express how the nation’s water infrastructure is at a “bursting point,” not only due to the sewage spills but also due to the sheer volume of wasted water. “The fact that Liz Truss was the one to cut the EA so severely, not only demonstrates her lack of foresight, but also her lack of care for the detail in recognising the need to adapt to the serious flooding that had just happened on her watch.”

Raw sewage in the seas
Raw sewage in the seas (The Independent)

After the unprecedented summer, characterized by droughts and record-breaking heat, the nation is becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of climate change. The latest tory scandal is yet another clear indication that the government is unfit for office. As the cost of living crisis worsens, Brits are increasingly looking to UK destinations for their summer holidays. But, with raw sewage pouring into the beaches, it is becoming a final straw for many. 

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Featured Sustainability

Single-Use Plastics to be Banned in Wales

Julie James, Welsh Minister for Climate Change, has proposed a ban on single-use plastics

The draft bill was announced in a speech on 15 August as part of The Environmental Protection Bill. Plans to ban single-use plastics in Wales had been officially stated two years ago.

The most commonly disposed of single-use plastics include polystyrene takeaway containers, single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, cups, cutlery, lids for cups, balloon sticks and other products made of oxo-degradable plastic. Some clauses apply to specific plastic items. For example, straws will be free from the ban in certain situations. For example, straws used for health and disability reasons can be purchased and even given free of charge. They’ll also be available for purchase if sold in retail pharmacy businesses.

There’s also an exception for carrier bags with a “size commensurate to the size or nature of the item to be carried” supplied to carry the item as long as they have maximum dimensions of 125 x 125 millimetres and do not have handles. These bags are mostly used for raw meats, fish, medicinal products and unpackaged seeds.

Some Welsh residents wonder if plastic bin liners will be banned and what would be the alternative if they are, with others replying that hemp plastic could be the ideal. Hemp plastic is a bioplastic created from the cellulose of hemp plants. That’s because even petroleum-derived plastic needs cellulose. It decomposes much faster, it’s five times stiffer, and is 3.5 times more durable than traditional plastics. 

Single-use plastics washed up in Camarthenshire
Single-use plastics washed up in Carmarthenshire © Paul Quayle

However, if they aren’t properly disposed of, hemp plastic bags or bin liners won’t decompose in a landfill. Statistics provided by Wrap Cymru estimate that around 400,000 tonnes of plastic waste are generated in Wales yearly, with 67% being packaging waste. 

On the other hand, Wales has the second highest recycling rate in the world, though only 33% of household plastic is recycled, as announced by the Senedd. In the same statement, Senedd also mentioned interest in pursuing a strategic approach to address other materials issues. The ‘Beyond Recycling’ circular economy strategy wants Wales to become the world leader in recycling and the first country to send zero plastic to landfills.

Other goals include eradicating avoidable food waste, prioritizing the purchase of wood and creating conditions for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

The ban was met with widespread acclaim at a local and international level and is one of the first steps taken by the Welsh government to materialize a circular economy strategy.

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Featured Sustainability

Amazon Delivers on-foot and Cargo Bikes in London to Cut Carbon Emissions

E-commerce giant Amazon has big plans for sustainability in 2022

Amazon has announced a plan to install 30,000 modular solar panels at its Coalville, Manchester, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Haydock locations, providing enough energy for 3,500 UK homes every year. The company has also launched a fleet of cargo e-bikes and on-foot delivery staff to replace the van journeys on London’s roads. This is the first time Amazon does this in the UK for deliveries.

The Hackney fleet has been labelled as a micro-mobility hub, a place to house the bikers, walkers and its previous electric vehicles for deliveries. The hub is expected to deliver around one million parcels a year, serving as a replacement for the vans on the road. However, the e-cargo bikes won’t be operated directly by Amazon, they’ll be operated by many of their business partners.

John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager at Amazon, stated that the company is hurtling towards a global net-zero carbon future. Its starting steps are through the transformation of its transportation networks. Part of this strategy has been motivated by the UK government incentives and infrastructures done to help companies reduce their carbon footprints.

Amazon E-Cargo Bikes
Amazon E-Cargo Bikes © Amazon UK

The transportation industry generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions as per the EPA. That’s because these gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels to power transportation vehicles. An e-commerce giant like Amazon has a huge responsibility for transportation emissions given the sheer amount of items they ship on a single day.

It’s estimated that under the new protocol, Amazon will ship 1.6 million packages every day, working out to 66 thousand orders per hour. It’s safe to say that these numbers represent a lot of packaging and a lot of transportation vehicles for them.

In the past, Amazon has been accused of greenwashing. That’s when a company pretends to be socially responsible and environmentally conscious as a marketing tactic, but they aren’t doing anything about helping planet Earth. And, while Amazon’s micro-mobility hubs might seem like another greenwashing strategy, the company seems more committed to reaching the worldwide carbon neutrality level than ever.

In addition, Amazon has pledged to deliver half of the shipments with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and a complete conversion by 2040. There’s also a high chance that they might implement more micro-mobility hubs in other first-world countries in the immediate future, which will help them make more zero-emission customer deliveries across London and the UK in the incoming months.

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Featured Sustainability

Vintage Clothing Industry Resurrected Thanks to Gen Z

Vintage is So in Right Now

Gen Z is known for many things; TikTok, NFTs, digital activism, and pretty much everything digital and tech-related. And, despite seeming out-of-touch with retro culture, centennials have singlehandedly resurrected the vintage clothing industry.

Thrift Store © Spencer Cotton
Thrift Store © Spencer Cotton

What, why, and how?

Well, for starters, Gen Z is very aware of the ecological considerations of the fashion industry. Many Gen Z shoppers shun fast fashion because of its adverse effects on the environment and ethical considerations (a quick Google search will provide information on the effects of fashion purchases on the local cartoon footprint).  

Their commitment to social responsibility, morals, and ease of access to information about the consequences of their shopping habits are all factors that motivate them to seek alternative options. As a result, the younger generation is now looking away from retail and seeking alternatives with sustainable goals.

There’s also the fact that a more sustainable fashion industry isn’t only better for the world, but also for its workers. The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry was signed by retail giants to ensure safety coverage for over 2 million Bangladeshi garment workers. So, secondhand shopping isn’t only healthier for planet Earth and cheaper for the average centennial’s low budget. 

Thrift Store © Tired Thrift NY
Thrift Store © Tired Thrift NY

But, ‘shopping vintage’ isn’t the same as what many millennials and baby boomers might remember. When Gen Z shops vintage, they don’t rummage tacky garage sales or bales of clothes. They shop online and look for inspiration in micro-influencers and rising resale digital shops that give them both motivation and fits they can purchase from the comfort of their homes. 

An instrumental app in the resurgence of vintage clothing as mainstream has been the online platform Depop, a social media app with over 10m users. More accurately, Depop is a fashion marketplace app where users can find unique items all across the globe through their smartphones.

TikTok and Instagram Reels have also been essential in the rise of vintage clothing entrepreneurship among Gen Z, mainly as marketing tools to drive vintage clothing to the forefront. Social media has been used to shift the ideas and biases surrounding retail and vintage, providing an experience for digital customers and fans of the ’90s & Y2K silhouettes.

In short, Gen Z loves vintage because it’s affordable and socially responsible, and everyone they see on TikTok and Instagram is wearing secondhand. 2022 Fashion has been redefined by the younger generation, who’ll soon have enough spending power to shift the vintage landscape permanently. 

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Art + Culture Featured

Five Books to Ease you into Activism

Want to learn what you can do to make the world we live in a better place? These activism books are the perfect starting point

Activism Press Image

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark traces a history of activism and social change over the past five decades […] Solnit conjures a timeless vision of cause and effect that will light our way through the dark, and lead us to profound and effective political engagement.” (Blurb)

Whenever I’m feeling a bit down or feeling hopeless, I always return to this book. Solnit leads us on a journey, constantly reminding us that activism has always been around to combat the challenges the world throws at us. We’ve been doing it for centuries and will continue to do it for many more.

A personal favourite quote from this book is “joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.” If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about this book, then I don’t know what will. It’s the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to ease their way into activism, or for those looking for a reminder about why they got into activism in the first place.

© canongate.co.uk

We Belong to Gaia – James Lovelock

“In We Belong to Gaia, James Lovelock draws on decades of wisdom to lay out the history of our remarkable planet, to show that it is not ours to be exploited – and warns us that it is fighting back.” (Blurb)

Lovelock is the father of the Gaia Hypothesis, which sees the Earth as a single self-regulating system that sustains all life. Through decades of extensive research, he has laid out in simple terms how connected we are to the planet and vice versa. The Earth has existed a lot longer than any of us have and sometimes people forget that. This little book is the perfect short read for anyone wanting to learn more about climate change and what can be done to combat it. Lovelock’s theory proves that if humans continue to exploit the planet, it will punish us in return.

© penguin.co.uk

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference – Greta Thunberg 

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the climate activist Greta Thunberg. Famous for kickstarting the global school strikes in protest against the adults ignoring global warming signs and putting their children’s futures under threat. This is her first book in English, collecting her speeches from climate rallies across Europe. Her work on climate change has earned her a prestigious Prix Liberté, as well as a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

This tiny pocketbook is suitable for people of all ages. Greta really is paving the way in encouraging young people to stand up and fight for their futures. But, it also wouldn’t do harm for adults to read her work and get on board with her mission.

© kobo.com

When I dare to be powerful – Audre Lorde

Written with a ‘Black woman’s anger’ and the precision of a poet, these searing pieces by the ground-breaking writer Audre Lorde are a celebration of female strength and solidarity, and a cry to speak out against those who seek to silence anyone they see as ‘other.’” (Blurb)

Audre Lorde’s collection of essays varies in theme from the experiences black women face to embracing your own sexuality, this really is a must-read for anyone wanting to engage in intersectional feminism. She writes with such beauty and clarity, scrutinizing what people believe to be true and have been lead to believe about ourselves, and why silence doesn’t protect anyone. This book should be taught in all schools up and down the country.

© goodreads.com

This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein

The most important book I’ve read all year – perhaps in a decade…crucially, she leaves the reader with a sense of optimism.” (Stephanie Merritt, Observer, Books of the year)

A lengthier book, this is definitely one for those who want a deeper understanding of how the world has ended up in the state it has. Klein offers an articulate and in-depth review of how capitalism has led to climate change, but most fundamentally she provides a toolkit for rearranging thinking patterns and engaging the power people have to challenge what has become the norm. Anyone wanting to broaden their political and climate activism skills should read this book.

© thefeministbookshop.com
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Community

Portable Desalination Units Developed by MIT Scientists to Generate Freshwater

Researchers from MIT have created portable desalination units that can effectively remove dust, particles and salts to purify water

The desalination units are roughly the size of a suitcase, require less energy to operate than a cellphone charger and can be powered by a portable solar panel. As per MIT’s educational report, it generates drinking water fresh enough to exceed WHO quality standards. 

This device uses electrical power to clear particles from drinking water. Senior author Jongyoon Han, professor of electrical engineering, member of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), and computer science and biological engineering, has explained how this was the culmination of a 10-year journey his organisation has undertaken. Years and years of hard work on the physics behind the individual desalination processes, but driving these advances into the box and experimenting with the unit was a gratifying experience for their team. Other team members include first author Jungyo Yoon, a research scientist in REL, SungKu Kang, Eric Brack and Hyukjin J. Kwon. 

Portable desalinisation units
Portable desalinisation unit © MIT

The machine was first field-tested at Boston’s Carson Beach, and to unanimous delight, it was successful in its first run. The device was placed near the shore, with its feed tube thrown into the water. After thirty minutes, the unit filled a plastic drinking cup with fresh water. Their research has been published online in Environmental Science and Technology.

In order to work effectively, the device uses ion concentration polarization, a technique developed by the research group ten years ago. This method applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water, which pushes away positively or negatively charged particles. Bacteria, viruses, dirt, and salt molecules are repelled as the water flows. These charged particles are led to a secondary water stream that’s flushed away. 

Using the ion concentration polarization, suspended solids are removed, and clean water is allowed to pass through the channel. This technique is unlike other portable desalination units, which tend to employ high-pressure pumps to purify water using filters. 

To ensure that all the salts float in the channel, the researchers also employ electrodialysis to remove possibly missing salt ions. The team developed the portable desalination unit to be both self-cleaning and require minimal energy usage. The team also created a smartphone app that can control the portable unit wirelessly and generate real-time data on water salinity to add a cherry on top.

This breakthrough is excellent news for the future of water conservation and efficiency, possibly providing communities with scarce freshwater with a way to generate drinkable water.

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Featured Sustainability

Scientists Find Breakthroughs in Breaking Down Plastic in Days

Plastic Pollution is Worrying Scientists Globally and Countries Across the World are Taking Longer Than They Should Develop Measures Against the Climate Crisis

A new study describes the creation of a new enzyme to clean up sites polluted by plastic. They tested it using polymer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and broke it down within a week, and in some cases, in only 24 hours. The enzyme has been called FAST-PETase, standing for functional, active, stable and tolerant PETase.

Considering how these plastic products take centuries to degrade in normal conditions, this enzyme might very well be the panacea to the plastic pollution concerns that have been tormenting humanity for the past decades.

Chemical engineer, Hal Alter from the University of Texas at Austin, has mentioned how the possibilities are endless across industries to leverage the leading-edge recycling process created by these scientists. This is beneficial for the waste management industry and allows corporations to take the lead in recycling their products.

It’s estimated that humans produce roughly 380 million tons of plastic yearly, with a large part of this plastic being dumped into the sea annually. And, there are currently five trillion pieces of plastic, weighing a mind-boggling 269,000 tons, floating in the ocean. And, that’s without taking into account the deep-sea regions filled with microplastics.

Plastic Pollution
Plastic Pollution © Robert Brook

Scientists have been aware of the accumulating mass of waste in the ocean and the damage it causes to ocean life and human life for years, yet the lack of research on ocean plastic makes it difficult to accurately estimate how to get rid of it without further affecting marine ecosystems.

The study tested the enzyme at temperatures lower than 50 degrees Celsius, a positive breakthrough as it proved that it could work at ambient temperature. The process through which the enzyme breaks down the plastic into smaller parts is called depolymerization. Then, it chemically puts it back together through depolymerization. 

The current methods for disposing of plastic are burning it, throwing it in a landfill, or throwing it into the ocean. So, implementing FAST-PETase can allow companies to recycle their products more accessible and envision a circular plastics economy. And, encouraging a circular plastics economy would result in a restorative design where materials ebb and flow in a closed-loop system instead of being discarded as most countries in the world tend to do with single-use plastics.

The discovery and implementation of this enzyme is a massive step in the right direction for the fight against plastic pollution. 

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Featured Sustainability

Zurich Will Switch Off Natural Gas To Prevent Climate Change

Could Zurich be Leading the Way to Help Stop Climate Change?

Climate change awareness is more critical than ever. On Earth Day 2022, the U.N warned of ‘now or never” action, with Dr. Radley Horton from Columbia University laying out the plan to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. However, on a more hopeful note, the Swiss city of Zurich has shut down its gas supply to some neighbourhoods as both a way to fight climate change and save money while also cutting gas imports from Russia. 

Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland and began to switch off the gas to some parts of the city a decade ago to combat climate change. In 2011, after developing a heat source parallel to natural gas, the city officials announced that they’d shut down gas service within five years. People were shocked back then. Roughly half of Switzerland’s natural gas supply comes from Russia. The city’s residents are broadly supporting the decision to switch it off.

Rainer Schõne, from Zurich’s Energie 360°, has made it clear that people want to move away from fossil gas. There’s a big concern in Zurich that gas cannot be the future for Zurich. There’s a chance that Zurich’s example might offer other cities around the world to start switching off natural gas permanently to fight climate change.

Climate Change Graphic
Climate Change Image © Mark Garlick

As an alternative, the city came up with a plan to expand the district heating system that uses renewable energy. This biomass energy uses excess heat from a waste incinerator located in the Recyclinghof Hagenholz on the edge of the city. The incinerator heats water that circulates through underground pipes in the city to tap as a heat resource. For some homeowners, installing an electric heat pump was a significant investment that cut their bills in half. 

Of course, some people won’t take the shift immediately well. A chef at a Lebanese restaurant complained about the costs of changing to electric induction stoves. These allow him and his team at the restaurant to keep cooking with the same control gas provided, though each costs $40,000. The city provided subsidies to assist with the costs, but homeowners and business owners still complained that it was an expensive investment.

There are also plans to keep the gas pipelines in the historic city centre but use them to carry biogas. In some places, a city-wide shift might not be economically viable yet, but some homes might be inclined to do so to support renewable energies in the future, hopefully, the near future.