France tops Food Sustainability Index yet again

France tops Food Sustainability Index yet again
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The Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 has been released, ranking 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. These countries represent over 85% of global GDP and two-thirds of the global population.

The FSI was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) as part of a research program commissioned by BCFN. It aims to investigate the key issues impacting food sustainability across three pillars: food loss and waste; sustainable agriculture; and nutritional challenges.

Repeating its success from 2016, France remains the world leader in food sustainability thanks to high scores across the FSI’s three pillars. Its performance was found to be particularly strong in the food loss and waste category, making it the clear leader in a world where one-third of all food produced globally is either lost or discarded.

Top-performing countries also include Japan, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, South Korea and Hungary. These countries typically demonstrate strong and effectively implemented government policy on food waste and loss, environmental conservation in agricultural practices, innovations in agriculture, and nutrition education.

Although high-income countries tend to perform well in the FSI, there are several outliers. Despite having the highest GDP per head, the UAE ranks last, reflecting a high level of food waste, rising levels of obesity and little opportunity for sustainable agriculture. Ethiopia, the poorest country in the FSI, meanwhile ranks a respectable 12th — two spots ahead of Australia.

The land down under ranked highly for food loss and waste thanks to high scores for both the food loss and end-user waste categories. The country scored more moderately for sustainable agriculture, with a high score for the water resources category counteracted by a weaker performance across the land use (particularly on agricultural diversification) and air categories. Australia’s score for nutritional challenges was also middling, as low and middling scores in the dietary patterns and life expectancy categories, respectively, mitigated a strong showing in the life quality category.

The US, meanwhile, languishes in 21st place in the overall FSI, coming in 31st place in terms of sustainable agriculture and 24th in terms of nutritional challenges, dragged down by elevated levels of consumption of meat and saturated fat. Furthermore, the sugar content of diets in the US was the highest among the 34 countries in the study.

“Sustainable food systems are vital in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, notably ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030,” said EIU Managing Editor Martin Koehring. “However, major global developments such as climate change, rapid urbanisation, tourism, migration flows and the shift towards Westernised diets put food systems under pressure. The Food Sustainability Index is an important tool to help policymakers and other relevant stakeholders to design effective policies to improve food system sustainability.”

More details on the findings, scope and methodology can be found at http://foodsustainability.eiu.com/.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/levranii

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Fancy a fish-skin leather jacket?

Fancy a fish-skin leather jacket?
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With a maritime area of 5,000,000 km2, The Islands of Tahiti have significant marine resources. Seeking to take advantage of this, a small business named Ecocuir Tahiti Haumanava Tixier is utilising leftover raw materials from the ever-popular fishing industry to reduce wastage by creating fish-skin leather.

Ecocuir Tahiti targets both small craftsmen and high-end luxury clothing and accessory designers seeking the finest quality products. As a supplier of 100% eco-friendly fish leather, the business is at the forefront of innovation on the islands.

“One of the business’s main objectives is to educate and train local fishermen to process the skin without compromising the quality of the fish,” noted Raihei Dudes from Ecocuir Tahiti.

The process starts by collecting the fish waste from fishermen and fishmongers. The skin is then selected for vegetable tanning, where mango peel and bark from mimosa or badamier trees are often used.

Once the fish skin has been cleaned and scrubbed, it is ready to be bathed in the tannins. After four weeks of tanning, it is ready to be dried and softened.

The full manufacturing process takes up to six weeks. The end product is soft, strong and beautiful leather, comparable to snake skin, that is extremely resistant and waterproof.

“This rich, natural material and the craftsmanship have transformed waste into a high-end product, which is an eco-conscious alternative to traditional leathers,” Dudes said. “The 100% organic leather also provides The Islands of Tahiti with a fantastic new trade.”

Typically the fishing industry generates tonnes of waste; however, thanks to Ecocuir Tahiti, The Islands of Tahiti are now taking part in the circular economy. Using the raw materials and intricate techniques, the fish-skin project will aid waste prevention and offer further trade opportunities for the islands.

The business has now been awarded the equivalent of AU$52,000 for this innovative project — financial support that will not only help grow the business so it can continue to reduce waste on the island and supply more and more customers, but also help inspire other small businesses around the world to consider how they can use raw materials to prevent unnecessary wastage.

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World’s largest Li-ion battery marks one week of operation

World’s largest Li-ion battery marks one week of operation
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The world’s largest lithium-ion battery was switched on one week ago today at South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve at Hornsdale Wind Farm, at an event attended by SA Premier Jay Weatherill and Neoen Deputy CEO Romain Desrousseaux. For the first time in the state’s history, clean and affordable wind energy can be dispatched to the grid 24 hours a day, seven days a week — whether the wind is blowing or not.

The launch was the culmination of an extraordinary journey which began when the state government announced its Energy Plan in March, with the objective of delivering cleaner, more affordable and more reliable energy to South Australians — and avoiding a repeat of the state-wide blackout that occurred in September 2016.

The plan included building the nation’s largest battery, to store renewable energy and have backup power on tap when required. The ability to dispatch into the system when needed would also open up the opportunity for Hornsdale Power Reserve to sign competitive long-term contracts with medium-sized businesses directly.

In July, following a competitive process, French renewable energy company Neoen and US sustainable energy company Tesla were awarded the contract to deliver the project, which would be installed near Jamestown, north of Adelaide. Tesla CEO Elon Musk made headlines when he agreed to deliver the battery within 100 days or at no charge, starting once the grid interconnection agreement has been signed.

Sixty-three days later, Musk had fulfilled his promise.

The 100 MW/129 MWh battery has since been installed at Hornsdale Power Reserve, where it is delivering power to the National Energy Market and providing system security services to South Australia. Engineering company Lloyd’s Register (LR) worked with Neoen to help deploy the technology by developing the technical parts of the grid connection, and ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Australian energy network.

“This was the first use of a new technology on the network, and required some out-of-the-box thinking,” noted Neoen Managing Director Franck Woitiez. “Now that we’ve successfully deployed the technology, there is a clear pathway to connecting storage projects to the network, which will greatly accelerate the pace of renewable energy growth in Australia and elsewhere.”

Premier Jay Weatherill described the launch as “history in the making”.

“South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy, delivered to homes and businesses 24/7,” he said.

“Neoen and Tesla approached the state government with their bold plan to deliver this project, and they have met all of their commitments, ensuring South Australia has backup power this summer.

“I want to express my gratitude to the workers who have constructed this battery — they have every right to be proud of what they’ve constructed.”

Image courtesy Hornsdale Power Reserve.

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Barangaroo set to export water

Barangaroo set to export water

With a projected production of more than 200 million litres annually, the recycled water plant at Lendlease’s Barangaroo will be capable of producing more water than it consumes, thereby making the plant an exporter of recycled water.

NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin held out Barangaroo as an example to the rest of the world of what partnerships between the government and the private sector can achieve — in this case building critical infrastructure which reinforces Sydney’s reputation as one of the world’s leading international cities.

“Lendlease has set a new precedent for water conservation in an urban area creating a positive and lasting legacy for both Barangaroo and the wider CBD,” Harwin said.

“This is a critical step to fulfil our ambition to make Barangaroo one of the world’s most sustainable urban regeneration precincts.

“The Barangaroo recycled water plant is a brilliant demonstration of the government and the private sector working together — there are now 20 private recycling schemes licensed under the Water Industry Competition Act statewide and I look forward to seeing many more,” Harwin said.

Lendlease Property Australia Chief Executive Kylie Rampa said integrating the plant with Barangaroo’s low-carbon, waste management and renewable energy strategies was the culmination of seven years’ work.

“Today’s opening of the Barangaroo South Recycled Water Plant represents a final piece in the puzzle towards us becoming Australia’s first water positive precinct,” Rampa said.

“Barangaroo’s other infrastructure network also includes the district cooling plant, which uses Sydney Harbour water to cool all precinct buildings, 188,500 litres of water tanks across the precinct, 6000 m2 of rooftop solar panels and a private power network.

“Once fully operational, the plant will be able to produce up to 200 million litres annually, equal to 70 Olympic-sized swimming pools and in addition to the 100 million litres of water annually saved by the centralised cooling plant.

“Opening the water treatment plant also means the most complex and sophisticated part of our efforts to save and re-use water is now in place and puts us in position to export recycled water for use in the Barangaroo neighbourhood.

“Barangaroo will be more than just a great place for people to live, work and relax — it will play an increasing role in helping our neighbours improve their sustainability credentials as well.”

Once fully operational, the Barangaroo plant will have the capacity to sewer mine, a process that produces additional recycled water from sewage for use in irrigation and other non-drinking uses.

“Lendlease’s ability to work long term on innovations such as our water initiative is part of our approach to solving long-term urban problems like water scarcity, one of Australia’s most pressing environmental concerns,” Rampa said.

“Our approach helps make our cities the best places.”

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Create a more sustainable workplace this Waste Not, Want Not Day

Create a more sustainable workplace this Waste Not, Want Not Day
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E-waste recycling service TechCollect is calling on Australian businesses to increase their recycling efforts and help reduce the amount of e-waste currently going into landfill ahead of its annual Waste Not, Want Not Day on 13 December.

According to TechCollect CEO Carmel Dollisson, it’s crucial that business owners ensure responsible waste management practices are in place not only for the environment, but to meet changing employee and customer expectations around this important issue. Recent research prepared for Planet Ark indicates that workers and the public are embracing organisations that take recycling seriously, with 82% of employees wanting to see more e-waste recycling in their workplaces and three out of four businesses agreeing that good waste management improves public perception of the business.

“Businesses who put sustainability at the top of their agenda report higher recruitment and staff retention rates, and an overall increase in employee engagement and productivity,” said Dollinsson. “As awareness of good recycling practice continues to grow among Australians, employees also expect their company to have an active environmental policy in place.

“Whilst there are many businesses doing a good job at recycling other items such as cardboard and paper, there is much more work to be done in the corporate sector in electronic waste recycling. We need to create an environment in which responsibilities are more evenly shared, encouraging businesses to become active players in the management and recycling of the electronic waste they’re responsible for, which will also encourage their employees to do the same at home.

“With Waste Not, Want Not Day approaching, we encourage all businesses and employees to mark 13 December in the calendar, get their old electronic devices out of the cupboard or company storerooms and ensure they’re responsibly recycled. TechCollect ensures that at least 90% of the valuable resources in those devices are put back into the manufacturing process to be re-used in new products — a far better outcome for the environment than creating new products from virgin materials.”

To get involved in TechCollect’s Waste Not, Want Not Day on 13 December, businesses can follow these easy steps:

  1. Gather all their unwanted and unused e-waste in the workplace (TechCollect will take TVs as well as computers and IT accessories).
  2. Call 1300 229 837 to see if they qualify for a free pickup (on the basis of quantity and location).
  3. If they don’t qualify for a free pickup, they can find their nearest free drop-off point at http://techcollect.com.au/our-locations/.
  4. If they’re not close to a TechCollect service, they can search for other free services under the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme at http://recyclingnearyou.com.au.

“With Christmas just around the corner, we encourage businesses to give the ultimate gift back to the environment,” said Dollinsson. “During this quiet time of the year, it would be great to see businesses spend a couple of hours rounding up all the e-waste in the office. It’s good for their workforce, their corporate reputation and above all it’s good for the environment.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/dianabahrin1

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Researchers establish long-sought source of ocean methane

Researchers establish long-sought source of ocean methane

A significant amount of the methane naturally released into the atmosphere comes from the ocean. This has long puzzled scientists because there are no known methane-producing organisms near the ocean’s surface. A team of researchers has made a discovery that could help to answer this ‘ocean methane paradox.’

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Living on thin air — microbe mystery solved

Living on thin air — microbe mystery solved

Scientists have discovered that microbes in Antarctica have a previously unknown ability to scavenge hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from the air to stay alive in the extreme conditions. The find has implications for the search for life on other planets, suggesting extraterrestrial microbes could also rely on trace atmospheric gases for survival.

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