COVID-19 household transmission is way higher than we thought

By Rachael Rettner – Senior Writer 3 days ago

Children wearing masks while playing inside.

(Image: © Shutterstock)

COVID-19 spreads in U.S. households more often than previously thought, according to a new study.

The study, published Friday (Oct. 30) in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, involved 191 people in Tennessee and Wisconsin who lived with someone recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Of these, 102 people become infected within seven days of being enrolled in the study, for a “secondary infection rate” of 53%. (The secondary infection rate is the percentage of exposed people who catch COVID-19 from the first case.) 

About 75% of these secondary infections occurred within five days of the first household member getting sick.

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“We observed that, after a first household member became sick, several infections were rapidly detected in the household,” study lead author Dr. Carlos Grijalva, an associate professor of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said in a statement

Other studies looking at transmission of COVID-19 in households — mostly conducted in Europe and Asia — have found a secondary infection rate of 30% or lower. But the new study, which was conducted from April through September, is one of the first to look at COVID-19 transmission in U.S. households in a systematic way, with participants undergoing daily testing for COVID-19.

Part of the reason for the higher secondary infection rate in the new study, compared with previous reports, may be due to the study’s rigorous methods and follow-up testing of household contacts, the authors said. In addition, studies in other countries may have had lower secondary infection rates because people in those countries were quicker to wear face masks inside their own home when another household member was sick. (Mask use when sick has not traditionally been part of American culture, whereas it is in some other countries.)

The study also found that “substantial transmission” occurred regardless of whether the first household case (known as the index case) was a child or an adult. 

Indeed, in households in which the index case was under 12 years old, the secondary infection rate was 53%; and in households in which the index patient was ages 18 to 49, the secondary infection rate was 55%, the report found.

“Infections occurred fast, whether the first sick household member was a child or an adult,” Grijalva said.RELATED CONTENT

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What’s more, fewer than half of household members showed symptoms at the time they tested positive for COVID-19, and 18% remained asymptomatic over the seven-day study. This finding underscores the need for people to quarantine if they’ve had close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, the authors said.

Overall, “persons who suspect that they might have COVID-19 should isolate, stay at home, and use a separate bedroom and bathroom if feasible,” the report said. This isolation should begin even before a person gets tested or gets their results. In addition, all household members should start wearing a mask in their home, particularly in shared spaces where social distancing isn’t possible, the authors said.

The authors note that their study was conducted in two U.S. cities — Nashville, Tennessee, and Marshfield, Wisconsin — and the families in the study may not be representative of the general U.S. population. 

Originally published on Live Science.

Climate change poses big water risks for nuclear, fossil-fueled plants

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Exelon Corp.’s Clinton Power Station nuclear plant in Illinois uses about 248.5 billion gallons of water annually, the utility said in its 2020 report to CDP. The plant is in an area projected to face increased water stress by 2030.
Source: Exelon Corp.

As global warming climbs and humanity’s water consumption increases, nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants that rely on freshwater for cooling may not be able to perform at their peak capacity or could be forced to shut down temporarily even as demand for their supplies for indoor cooling and other uses increase, according to researchers and industry experts.

Climate change-exacerbated water shortage issues pose a near-term and longer-term performance risk to power plants, such as hydropower and nuclear, around the world. And in the Lower 48, more than half of the fossil-fueled and nuclear fleet is located in areas forecast to face climate-related water stress by the end of this decade under a business-as-usual scenario, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.



Part 1: Climate impact on water supplies puts squeeze on hydropower
Part 2: Climate change poses water risks to nuclear, fossil-fueled plants
Part 3: Rising water stress risk threatens US coal plants, largely clustered in 5 states

But electric utilities’ overall exposure to power plant water stress risks could diminish as they pursue decarbonization strategies and replace water-dependent plants with wind and solar generation that require little to no water. Some companies are also implementing water management and related investment strategies to reduce their exposure.

Water issues have become more and more important to utilities over time, said Alex Bond, Edison Electric Institute’s associate general counsel for energy and the environment. EEI is an association of U.S. investor-owned utilities.

Bond said water stress is one component of resilience that utilities currently monitor and analyze. “Our companies take electric sector resiliency very seriously,” he said.

According to projections from the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, water stress — when humanity’s competition for water exceeds the rate at which nature can replenish its stocks — could grow materially by 2030 in the drought-prone Western U.S., as well as the upper Midwest and portions of the Northeast and Florida, due to climate change.

About 61.8% of existing fossil-fueled and nuclear power plants in the Lower 48, or a combined 535 GW of operating capacity, is in areas that could face medium-high to extremely high water stress in 2030, based on an analysis of Market Intelligence’s power plant data paired with the Aqueduct water stress projections.

Moreover, 68.6% of the Lower 48’s natural gas-fired fleet, 73.3% of its oil-fueled fleet, 61.0% of its nuclear fleet, and 44.6% of its coal-fired fleet are in areas expected to face medium-high to extremely-high water stress that year.

“As we’re seeing snowpack decline — a natural mountainous reservoir of water — and as we’re getting lower amounts of total precipitation and available water in the U.S. West, this is going to be a really serious issue for the power sector,” said Betsy Otto, director of the Global Water Program at the World Resource Institute, or WRI. Moreover, scientists have said the West is entering a megadrought that could last more than 20 years.

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Otto also noted that several other U.S. regions not normally thought of as facing water supply issues are already experiencing chronic water challenges that, if left unchecked, could become a problem if extended droughts, heatwaves, and other major extreme weather events should occur.

A number of utilities use WRI’s Aqueduct tool to assess their water risks in their annual reports to the CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, and other organizations. But those reports typically focus on the WRI’s current water stress models and not the tool’s future climate projections.

WRI’s current water stress models show a number of regions that are facing water stress will be in the same situation, or worse, at the end of the decade.

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Along those lines, Moody’s Investors Service in August reported that about 48 GW of nuclear capacity across the U.S. face elevated exposure to combined heat and water stress, including plants owned by Exelon Corp., Vistra Corp., Entergy Corp., and the Arizona Public Service Co.

In hot water

A plant’s location is not the only factor that will determine its vulnerability to water stress. A plant’s water source, cooling technology and the temperature of the water when it is withdrawn are also key factors, according to scientific reports. The Market Intelligence analysis using the WRI tool does not account for those three factors.

In addition, rising ambient air and water temperatures can also create operational and legal issues for plants. Because plants primarily use water to cool their systems, “if that water is hot or warmer to start with, that’s not so good. That makes the power plant less efficient” and it also means the plant risks violating federal restrictions on how hot water can be when it is discharged, said Auroop Ganguly, director of the Northeastern University College of Engineering Sustainability and Data Sciences Laboratory.

Ganguly co-authored a study that found that by the 2030s, climate-induced water stress in the form of increased water temperatures and limited freshwater supplies will hurt the power production of thermoelectric plants in the South, Southwest, West and West North Central regions of the U.S. According to the 2017 study, U.S. nuclear and fossil-fueled plants at that time used about 161 billion gallons per day, or 45% of the nation’s daily freshwater usage, 90% of which was for cooling.

The technologies used by a power plant can also make a big difference in how much water it needs. Dry-cooling technology uses very little water but is costlier and less efficient than alternatives. And while once-through cooling systems withdraw more water than recirculating systems, once-through cooling returns nearly all of the water to the source while recirculating systems consume more water due to evaporation.

How the clean energy transition can help

Some of the utilities that have power plants in water stress-prone areas have set ambitious decarbonization goals, including to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. As such, the utilities are accelerating their investments in wind and solar power facilities that use virtually no water, and natural gas-fired units that use less water than coal and nuclear plants. As a result, utilities are finding that their total water consumption is declining.

Duke Energy, which has a net-zero emissions target, reduced its water withdrawals for electric generation by 12% over three years from 5,293 billion gallons in 2017 to 4,657 billion gallons in 2019, according to Duke’s 2019 sustainability report. Duke has about 28,000 MW of generation in areas projected to face climate-related water stress in 2030. In its 2019 water report to CDP, Duke said that as it switches from once-through cooling to closed-cycle cooling and renewables, it expects its water usage to further decrease.

Duke in an email indicated that in 2019, all of its power plants were in areas ranked low or low-medium for water quality risks and only three stations were ranked with an overall risk of medium-high.

“All three of those stations are located on reservoirs where we engage with our stakeholders on water issues,” spokeswoman Kim Crawford said. She also noted that some plants, including two in Florida that the Aqueduct tool projected would face water stress in 2030, use reclaimed water for cooling through partnerships with local governments.

And WEC Energy Group, Inc.’s subsidiaries We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. have substantially reduced their combined cooling and process water use and total discharges from its power plants by switching from some coal-fired generation to gas-fired generation and adding renewable electricity, according to WEC spokesperson Alison Trouy.

Similarly, NextEra Energy Inc., which has the largest total generation capacity in U.S. areas projected to face water stress, in its latest environmental, social and governance report noted that it avoided the use of more than 14 billion gallons of water in 2019 through investments in wind and solar power.

Moreover, NextEra said nearly 80% of the water its power plants withdrew in 2019 came from seawater sources, which are “not subject to drought.” According to NextEra, only two of its plants are in areas that currently have high or extremely high water stress, and those plants make up less than 1% of the company’s total water consumption.

Utilities take steps to tackle water risks

However, NextEra has encountered water stress issues in the past. At the company’s Turkey Point Nuclear and gas unit in Miami-Dade County, Fla., a drought in 2014 drove up the water temperatures in the plant’s one-of-a-kind canal cooling system, and the utility had to obtain a federal waiver to exceed the plant’s cooling system 100-degree limit to keep the plant operating.

NextEra has worked on longer-term water solutions for the plant. In June 2020, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved subsidiary Florida Power & Light Co.’s proposal for a project that would use 15 million gallons per day of the county’s reclaimed wastewater to cool unit 5 of the Turkey Point plant. Currently, brackish water from the Floridian aquifer is being used for the cooling towers.

Another utility that uses recycled water from local cities is Salt River Project, which generates electricity and provides water in the Phoenix metropolitan area. SRP uses its water expertise to “ensure that our power plants have access to reliable water sources, including back-up supplies in times of drought,” SRP Director of Water Strategy Christa McJunkin said in an emailed statement.

McJunkin noted that many of SRP’s power plants have access to multiple water sources and that the Palo Verde nuclear plant, of which SRP holds a 17.5% ownership, relies entirely on effluent water from major cities. SRP also has a goal to reduce its water use at power plants by 20% from 2005 levels by 2035, McJunkin said.

Exelon, which has about 25,900 MW of generation in areas projected to have water stress due to climate change, has a fleet of hydropower, nuclear and fossil fuel plants that collective rely on more than 40 billion gallons of water a day, the vast majority of which is returned to the water source.

In its annual water report to CDP in August 2020, Exelon noted that it has a drought monitoring task force that reports to the company’s executive committee. And the company is installing monitoring systems in water-stressed areas. Based on projected increased temperature and droughts in Texas, Exelon decided to use dry cooling technology for two combined-cycle gas plants it brought online in 2017. Those plants are Wolf Hollow II and Colorado Bend Energy Center II, which are projected to be in areas with high and medium-high water stress in 2030, respectively.

Water rights contracts can also help utilities mitigate their water risk, said Joe Smyth, a research and communications manager with the Energy Policy Institute who authored a July 2020 report examining coal and water conflicts in the American West. A number of utilities rely on those water rights contracts to ensure they have what they need, he said.

For example, Evergy Inc., which has about 5,900 MW of generation capacity in areas projected to face water stress, said in an email that it manages water risk associated with its operations through a combination of water supply rights, drought assurance contracts and water contracts. Evergy also monitors its water usage and implements projects as needed to reduce water use and impact, said the email.

Public power utilities are also moving to address water risks. City Public Service of San Antonio, which has about 5,760 MW of generation in locations projected to face water stress, has drought management plans in place. Like other utilities, it has decreased its water use by closing coal plants and adding renewable generation, CPS Energy spokesperson Nora Castro said.

“We cannot make electricity without water, and water cannot be pumped at the scale San Antonio needs without electricity, so we have placed great value and respect for our precious water resource and take steps regularly to ensure it is protected,” Castro said in an email.

Sources of Information

Sustainable Market 2020

Sustainability standards continue their growth across the world. This fifth global report provides insights into certified agriculture and forestry and shapes decisions of policymakers, producers, and businesses working to address systemic labor and environmental challenges through certified sustainable production. The key to continued growth is to boost demand in new markets: emerging economies and producing countries. The International Trade Centre has teamed up once again with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Institute for Sustainable Development to provide data for 14 major sustainability standards for bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, oil palm, soybeans, sugarcane, tea, and forestry products.

For more information click here.

The Global Risks Report 2020

The 15th edition of the World EconomicForum’s Global Risks Report comes as long-mounting, interconnected risks are being felt. The global economy is faced with a “synchronized slowdown”, the past five years have been the warmest on record, and cyberattacks are expected to increase this year—all while citizens protest the political and economic conditions in their countries and voice concerns about systems that exacerbate inequality. Indeed, the growing palpability of shared economic, environmental, and societal risks signals that the horizon has shortened for preventing—or even mitigating—some of the direst consequences of global risks. It is sobering that in the face of this development when the challenges before us demand immediate collective action, fractures within the global community appear to only be widening.

Full Report here

Community Forests Help People Cope with COVID-19

Wednesday, October 28, 2020RECOFTC estimates community forestry increased the resilience of more than 3 million rural people across the lower Mekong region to the social and economic shocks of the pandemic.

Preliminary findings of new research by RECOFTC and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that community forests build resilience to disaster and crisis.

“While research has proved that community forestry improves livelihoods and enhances the sustainable management of forests, we have had little evidence that community forestry provides a social and economic safety net in times of disaster or crises,” said David Ganz, Executive Director of RECOFTC. “The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for us to study that question.” 

RECOFTC and FAO researched from June to July 2020 in the early phase of the pandemic and lockdowns in seven Asian countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam. Through interviews with 435 people, RECOFTC and FAO aimed to learn how forest communities dealt with COVID-19 and lockdowns. They wanted to understand whether community forests helped people cope and the type of support they need most to recover and build back better. 

Based on findings from phase one of the research, RECOFTC estimates that personal savings generated by selling timber and non-timber forest products from community forests helped more than 3 million people in the lower Mekong region cope during the first months of the lockdown. Eighty percent of respondents said the lockdown harmed their livelihoods or food security. Half reported being unable to sell their forest products because of travel restrictions, a lack of buyers or depressed prices that made trading unprofitable. The negative impacts of the pandemic were greater for women in most countries, with women bearing greater workloads because of home-schooling, caring for the family and facing increasing incidence of domestic violence and abuse. When asked what they need to cope and build back better after the pandemic, three-quarters of respondents said they need financial support. 

The negative impacts of the pandemic were greater for women in most countries, with women bearing greater workloads because of home-schooling, caring for the family and facing increasing incidence of domestic violence and abuse.

Community forestry empowers people to manage, protect and benefit from local forests. The study confirms that this mechanism should be promoted and strengthened. 

“Risks associated with climate change and the likelihood of future pandemics, arising from deforestation and organized illegal wildlife trade, make community forestry an ever more important social and economic safety net,” said David Ganz, Executive Director of RECOFTC. “Such a safety net could generate community interest in becoming part of a community forest, thereby protecting livelihoods and the forests upon which these communities depend.”

Based on the findings, RECOFTC and FAO are calling on governments, civil society organizations, donors and the private sector to take action immediately and through their longer-term investments:

  1. Support and strengthen community forestry credit mechanisms
  2. Increase capacity of governments and community forestry committees for disaster preparedness and response 
  3. Enable and equip community forestry committees to mobilize, use and disperse funds efficiently
  4. Mainstream gender equality in policies and investments 
  5. Empower community forest groups to tackle forest crimes
  6. Improve digital access for disaster preparedness and response, as well as market access
  7. Focus investment on approaches that improve livelihoods and address climate change, such as landscape restoration and management 

“These actions will not only help forest communities now and in the future,” said Ewald Rametsteiner, Deputy Director of FAO Forestry Division. “They will help to continue to strive for the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. By improving forest law enforcement and governance, and by supporting the production and trade of legal timber, we can help sustain livelihoods. It is crucial to keep the interests of forest dwellers at the centre of our efforts to support more sustainable production systems. Protecting and capitalizing upon the role of forest communities has a multiplier effect: communities can play an important role in halting deforestation and forest degradation, combating climate change and preserving the biodiversity they depend upon.”

RECOFTC and FAO recommend governments and donors help meet the needs of forest communities by providing economic support directly and establishing and expanding small credit schemes managed by community forestry user groups. 

When asked what they needed to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, 76 percent of respondents expressed a ‘great need’ for cash, loan, grant or debt cancellation. Overall, 39 percent of community forest users said borrowing money had been ‘moderately’ or ‘very’ important during lockdown. However, they were twice as likely to turn to family and neighbours for loans than banks, local governments or civil society organizations. Given that most community forests have bank accounts, community forest committees could fill this gap in financial support by offering microcredit schemes or revolving loans. Currently, many community forest committees lack the capacity and funding to provide this service.

Click any image to learn more about findings in seven countries

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The public and private sector should invest in further mainstreaming gender equality. RECOFTC recommends innovative approaches such as its Weaving Leadership for Gender Equality program, known as WAVES. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency funds this three-year initiative. The program has built a network of 31 gender leaders who are influencing gender equality in climate change, REDD+ and forestry, law enforcement, governance and trade policies and processes in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region.   

The research is funded by the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme of FAO and the European Union. The study is designed to improve participatory and sustainable responses to building back after COVID-19 and other disasters. RECOFTC is the lead organization in the Asia-Pacific region for this research and works in partnership with the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. 

Phase two of the research will survey members of community forests that demonstrated strong coping strategies and high levels of resilience to the negative impacts of COVID-19 and those that did not. From January to March 2021, research teams will identify factors that strengthen or weaken the ability of community forestry to build the resilience of forest communities to disaster and crisis. The findings will enable RECOFTC and FAO to recommend policies and interventions to strengthen community forestry as a social and economic safety net.

For more information on this research and the preliminary findings, contact Julian Atkinson, julian.atkinson@recoftc.org.

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RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Sources from RECOFTC

New Restoration Seed Capital Facility launched to promote investment in forest landscape restoration

Geneva, 27 October 2020 – A Restoration Seed Capital Facility with initial capitalization of EUR 25 million launched today aims to boostthe contribution of private finance to forest restoration, helping to unlock their immense potential for climate change adaptation and mitigation, conservation of biodiversity and provision of sustainable livelihoods.

The Facility, launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, the Governments of Germany and the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, aims to help private investment fund managers set up dedicated investment funds and forest restoration projects in developing countries, contributing to their efforts to meet the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Rio Conventions, in particular the Paris Climate agreementLand Degradation Neutrality targets, and the Aichi biodiversity targets.  The Facility builds on the successes of the Bonn Challenge, and aims to scale up forest and landscape restoration significantly during the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

“Stimulating private finance is a major factor to meet the objectives under the Bonn Challenge and restore 350 million hectares forests by 2030,” said Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. “The Restoration Seed Capital Facility will help to catalyze restoration action and ambition in the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and will assist the world’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Nature-based solutions such as forest landscape restoration can reverse the effects of deforestation and degradation and regain the ecological, social, climatic and economic benefits of forests, positively impacting the lives of the roughly one-third of humanity that has a close dependence on forests and forest products.

Carole Dieschbourg, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Government of Luxemburg said: “We cannot address the climate emergency without investing in the planet’s natural capital. There is no mitigation policy, no adaptation policy, and no livable future, if we do not begin managing our landscapes, restoring forests and moving towards deforestation free and sustainable agriculture within a framework of strong partnership of science, business and finance. This facility provides crucial funding to mobilise private impact finance in forest landscape restoration to safeguard people’s livelihood, reduce vulnerabilities and preserve our ecosystems.”  

The Facility supports fund managers and investment advisers who are already developing activities aligned with forest landscape restoration – or who are currently looking to develop such activities – enabling them to develop more forest restoration projects and move faster into the implementation phase. By requiring that cooperating partners bear at least 50 per cent of eligible costs, the Facility further guarantees that its funding is spent only on the most promising projects.

“Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, contributing significantly to biodiversity loss and the loss of livelihoods for forest-dependent communities,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. Innovative finance mechanisms like the Restoration Seed Capital Facility hold the key to accelerating private investment for forest restoration, particularly in developing countries.”

By accelerating and scaling up private investment in forest restoration and sustainable land use, the Facility aims to support the restoration of degraded land, protect forests and thereby positively contribute to climate mitigation, adaptation, biodiversity and rural livelihoods include.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

For more information please contact:

Keisha Rukikaire, Head of News and Media, UN Environment Programme
Aurélia Blin, Climate Finance Unit, UN Environment Programme

Source: Click here UNEP   

Big Data Building an Energy Future for Billions

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Jan. 29, 2020

A billion little sensors are being used to improve billions of lives across Asia-Pacific, building a pathway for the region’s energy future.

The influx of the information gathered from these sensors and analysed by high-power computers has been dubbed ‘big data’, and is being utilised to aid decision-makers, change how businesses and governments operate, and improve environmental and energy outcomes.

In Asia-Pacific, the UN has even used big data to mine Twitter mentions to help forecast rice prices.

When this big data is coupled with cloud technology, it allows companies to use the information collected from billions of sensors in their facilities.

THE ABILITY TO USE DATA FROM A MYRIAD OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF EQUIPMENT ACROSS MULTIPLE COUNTRIES IS CREATING A NEW AGE OF ‘HYPERCONNECTIVITY’, UNLOCKING BETTER WAYS FOR THE WORLD TO WORK TOGETHER.

ExxonMobil is part of this big data energy charge in Asia-Pacific and around the world.

The company is using it to discover ways to improve its operations and provide more power to Asia-Pacific, allowing the company to plan and create a lower-emission – and more energy-efficient – future.

The company is creating globally scaled ‘data lakes’, allowing its operators to collect and read up to 1 billion bits of data every minute from around the world. 

In Asia-Pacific, more than 450,000 sensors from four manufacturing sites across the region are collecting 700 billion data values every day.

These sensors at the refinery and manufacturing facilities provide real-time data, such as temperature and flow rates, which helps operations run more efficiently and reduces emissions.

Technology centres in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Bengaluru, India are quickly migrating from primarily providing enhanced data visualisation to now also providing modeling and predictive analytics expertise,” said ExxonMobil’s Manufacturing Support Business Model Redesign Venture Executive Brian Lawless.

“Ready access to big data and the broad-scale use of the newly introduced data analytics toolset are already making EM affiliates in Asia-Pacific significantly more effective.”

At ExxonMobil’s Permian Basin oilfield in the US’s south-west, big data is also expected to help the company add an extra 50,000 barrels of oil a day to production by 2025.

Big data is changing the world and helping create a better energy future for Asia-Pacific.

New store in Sweden prices goods based on carbon emissions

In a world first, major Swedish food brand Felix has launched its own grocery store where products are priced on their climate impact: the more the carbon dioxide emissions, the higher the price.

carbon equivalents currency

In terms of climate impact, food production is responsible for approximately a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But despite consumers’ increased awareness about such negative environmental impacts and a desire to make better choices, it can be difficult to know which foods are best for the environment.

Swedish brand Felix, owned by Orkla Foods, has identified a consumer desire for clearer guidance in this respect, and they have attempted to provide this by opening The Climate Store – solving the issue where it really matters, at the point of purchase.

In the Climate Store, customers pay with carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and all products are priced based on their climate impact. The company states that, in order to halve our climate impact, every customer must keep to a weekly budget of 18.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents. By using a climate-based currency, Felix highlights what the true cost of food really is, and that the change in our pocket is equal to the change needed for a sustainable world. 

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Highlighting Felix’s passion for this new concept store, Thomas Sjöberg, marketing manager at Felix, said: “It will be exciting to see how customers react to trading with the CO2e currency and see if they manage to stay within their weekly budget. I think it will be an eye opener for many, to see how certain choices affect what you can afford to get in the same lunch bag.”

Researchers control cattle microbiome to reduce greenhouse gases…

The grocery store is part of Felix’s long-term work to clarify the connection between the products we eat and their climate impact. From this autumn, Felix will label products with their ‘Low Climate Impact’ symbol in categories where consumers making good climate choices will make the most difference.

Purpose At Work: How PrAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement

Simon MainwaringContributorCMO NetworkI write about how to drive growth for purpose-driven brands.

Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement
Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement PHOTO PROVIDED BY PRANA

If humanity is going to manifest a sustainable future, companies must join governments and nonprofits in transforming our economy. While individualized actions are necessary, we need widespread collaboration to truly shift the needle. An important lever to creating an environmentally responsible economy is sustainable packaging.

To advance the entire consumer goods industry, prAna launched the Responsible Packaging Movement. Over the last 10 years, the active wear brand has transformed its own packaging supply chain to minimize the use of plastics and excess wrapping. 

“We wanted to give our knowledge, education and experience to brands who are interested in doing the same,” Rachel Lincoln, prAna’s director of sustainability and social compliance, tells We First.

Through the initiative, which they launched in summer 2020, prAna is laying the path for other companies to transform their own packaging supply chains.Recommended For You

The Responsible Packaging Movement

Internally, the brand has committed to completely remove plastic from its packaging by fall 2021. prAna also set out to utilize 100% FSC certified paper packaging by the end of 2022 and 100% recycled or next-gen fiber by 2025. 

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While they don’t require other participating brands to meet the same standards, prAna offers guidance and sets an example. Specifically, the Responsible Packaging Movement has “given brands a five year window to eliminate or work towards elimination of plastic in their packaging and to work towards non-virgin forest fiber packaging,” Lincoln explains.

To help with education and advocacy, prAna has partnered with nonprofits 5 Gyres and Canopy. It also gathered support from brands like Mara Hoffman, Outerknown and Toad and Co. All of these partners celebrated the launch since day one and have been spreading the word that this is bigger than any one company or organization.

In just a few months, the movement has already recruited 40 plus brands to join. Participating companies receive prAna’s packaging guide and internal best practices for free. 

The non-binding nature of the movement brings up questions about monitoring and measuring impact. “The purpose is to inspire other brands to publicly set goals and give them the tools to get there,” Lincoln says. “We believe it’s important for brands to take responsibility for change, not because they’re held accountable by somebody.” This structure also opens the door for more companies that want to get started but are apprehensive to act on purpose. 

“A lot of brands are afraid to take a risk,” Lincoln explains. “Packaging is an easy place to play with responsibility. What’s the worst that could happen? The fear based mentality of not joining or not moving forward on changing your packaging is a non-issue. Don’t be afraid to take the risk and try something new,” she says.

Over the next 12 months, prAna will host four webinars and survey members to, “bring the right level of content,” Lincoln says. prAna wants to understand where each brand is on its sustainability journey in order to provide the most relevant and actionable resources. The movement is expanding fast and looking for more member companies. 

Clothing for positive change

prAna’s purpose is centered around making clothing for positive change. The brand was founded around 30 years ago to fill the need for active wear that could double as nightwear.

“Our brand has a sustainably-minded foundation,” Lincoln says. “That seeped into every employee hired. Early on, you weren’t necessarily hired for your expertise. You were hired because you were the right cultural fit. We have all these many evangelists on our staff.” The lesson here is that building brand ambassadors from the inside out is an excellent way to build your community and support brand marketing. 

Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement
Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement PHOTO PROVIDED BY PRANA

prAna’s purpose is founded around three pillars. “The first one is adventure for all,” Lincoln shares. “That is about getting everyone outside to do activities and equality and inclusivity. Next, we’re focused on respect and responsibility, which is where the Responsible Packaging Movement fits in. The last one is progress, not perfection.”

prAna’s articulation of its purpose was actually developed when a group of team members asked, “‘How can we create an internal mantra that we all understand?’,” the sustainability director recalls. “Clothing for positive change started as an internal rally cry. If you come to a fork in a road, how do you make a decision? Is it truly backing clothing for positive change?”

When it comes to decision-making, prAna considers several principles. “We’re not going to sacrifice sustainability for performance or profits,” Lincoln says. “Similarly, we wouldn’t give up style for sustainability. Everything we bring to market has to hit those points. We don’t look at what we are willing to compromise on. We ask, ‘how much of each thing can we have?’”

prAna publicly measures its sustainability performance via its parent company, Columbia, and participates in the Textile Exchange Preferred Fibers report. Lincoln says that prAna considers things like sustainability attributes of a given style and the percentage of recycled material in paper packaging as internal metrics.  

How the movement began:

prAna’s internal commitment to sustainable packaging began in 2010. “We’ve got a photo of floor to ceiling, from one day of unpacking goods at one of our Boulder stores,” Lincoln shares. “The staff asked, ‘What do you expect us to do with all this plastic?’” 

It was a simple yet profound question. The conscious activewear brand responded by forming a volunteer taskforce that came up with a practical solution called the Roll Packing Method to reduce plastic packaging. 

“We’re rolling the product and putting a paper tie on it. There’s low waste. It’s completely recyclable. There’s no plastic involved,” Lincoln says. “We didn’t go to a hundred percent of our product line immediately. We started with one factory and expanded from there. As of spring 2020, 75% to 80% of our product comes roll packed.”

Despite concern from some naysayers, Lincoln says that prAna’s products don’t get dirty or destroyed.  “We realized that it (sustainable packaging) has not become widely adopted. We wanted to share what we learned and inspire others to do the same. The only credit we want is to be acknowledged for bringing brands together,” she says. “It’s really about accelerating the innovation on behalf of the whole industry.”

Collaboration for change:

  • Suppliers: prAna has been able to gather support from myriad stakeholders to accelerate the move away from plastic packaging. On the supply side, Lincoln says that, “most factories are excited to do something around sustainability because it’s an opportunity to touch the end consumer and change their internal business.”
  • Other brands: prAna also actively engages with other brands around sustainability issues. “We were already friends with Outerknown, Reformation and Toad and Co. and others,” Lincoln says. The product sustainability departments are small and they would occasionally send emails or even run into each other at events. “We all started talking about what we’re doing for packaging and we discovered that we were doing a lot of the same research. That was an ‘Aha’ moment.” They decided to share insights.

Another way prAna collaborates with brands is through marketing. While the movement is on sustainable packaging, Lincoln says they needed to connect with the marketing department to amplify the message. 

“When brands sign-on, we’re all sharing each other’s story socially, which is a requirement for participating in the movement.”

  • Consumers: Another source of momentum comes from connecting with consumers. prAna is encouraging brand ambassadors and influencers to light the spark with their target audience. “Consumers can see the post, take a snapshot and then share with prAna and all these other brands what their plastic free goals are,” Lincoln says. “We anticipate 5 Gyres and Canopy doing some to bring additional education to our consumers around it.”

While COVID-19 presents challenges for everyone, Lincoln says that the timing helps raise awareness. “We’re all sitting at home, ordering everything to be delivered to our door. We are hypersensitive to packaging and the amount of excess waste that happens. They just need some guidance.”

A vision for the future:

prAna’s guidance and movement have been well received, not only by brands, suppliers and consumers, but also by the media. “We’ve had over 50 press hits,” Lincoln shares. “I would say half of the brands that have signed are people that heard about it and came to us.” It goes to show that building momentum around purpose yields earned media and expands networks.

Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement
Purpose At Work: How prAna’s Sustainable Packaging Started A Movement PHOTO PROVIDED BY PRANA

Despite the early success, Lincoln says the industry is not quite there when it comes to viable fabric options that take sustainability to the next level. “I would say that innovation will come with the next generation fiberm,” she speculates. “For us, product sustainability is innovation. Innovation is sustainability. There are options, but they’re not scalable today. Hopefully other brands that are interested in contributing to changing that is kind of what we’re hoping to find through the movement.”

In terms of the Responsible Packaging Movement, Lincoln and prAna have some lofty but inspirational goals. Over the next three years, they would like to see “roll packing become a standard in the industry. We shouldn’t automatically think we have to wrap something just because we want to protect it.”

Consumer goods brands have gotten stuck in an unsustainable rut because of low prices that don’t internalize negative externalities. “We are so ingrained with how inexpensive it currently is. It’s difficult to turn that Titanic. It all comes down to cost,” Lincoln says. “And what are you going to give up to get that cost?”

A key to successfully turning the corner, Lincoln explains, is having leadership onboard. She also says that larger companies typically show more resistance to changing their habits than smaller more nimble businesses. 

Regardless of where you’re at, there is always room to take the first step and join the movement. prAna has been working on sustainable products and packaging for 10 years and still has room to develop.

“If you move too fast, you’re going to fail miserably,” Lincoln cautions. “Failure isn’t a problem. If you can fail on a small scale and apply those learnings to the next failure, that’s what success is going to look like for each brand. And that’s how we’ll get there together.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my websiteSimon Mainwaring

Simon Mainwaring is the founder and CEO of We First, a strategic consultancy that accelerates growth and impact for purpose-driven brands by putting ‘We’ first. I… Read More

https://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2020/10/12/purpose-at-work-how-pranas-sustainable-packaging-started-a-movement/#7ecde6892ef3

Growing Support for Climate-Smart Agriculture by Scaling Up Farmer and Climate Field Schools: Recommended Policy and Institutional Reforms

POSTED ADMINISTRATOR

Policy Brief

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Languages: 

  • English

Number 42Author:

Matthew HENGESBAUGH

Peter KING

Eric ZUSMAN

Publication Date:October 2020

Publisher:Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) consists of more than 70 technological and behavioural changes that can help farmers mitigate and build resilience to climate change while generating sustainable yields.  Despite this wealth of alternatives, CSA has not been adopted at large enough scales to realise its considerable promise. Studies explaining the lack of progress often cite difficulties farmers face in acquiring information and knowledge as a key barrier to adopting CSA. Others point to policies and institutions that favour resource-intensive agriculture over more sustainable farming practices. Recent work on transforming food systems suggests policies and institutional reforms as well as integration of technical information and experiential knowledge can help overcome these barriers. However, this work sheds limited light on precisely which policy and institutional changes can help farmers convert information and knowledge into acceptable CSA practices. This brief presents four concrete recommendations on which policy and institutional reforms can help farmers translate technical information and experiential knowledge into context-appropriate mixes of CSA options in developing countries.

https://www.iges.or.jp/en/pub/csa-pb/en

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