Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

How Nature Would Print: Gugler Goes Cradle to Cradle
Paper recycling is frequently held up as an example of how material flows can be made effective, the sector has relatively high rates of recycling. However, those processes do not retain a high percentage of the product’s value, only the pulp is recyclable, which accounts for 60% of the total volume. The rest, mostly ink and filler material, is removed during the recycling processes and is potentially toxic sludge. Two products, produced by gugler, break this trend. Product groupss Pureprint 1 and Pureprint 2 are fully returnable to the biological cycle, with the leftover “sludge” fully applicable as fertiliser material.

Energy and Climate Change

Pacific nations desperate for climate action
New Zealand climate scientists have echoed desperate cries from small Pacific nations in the firing line of rising seas. Representatives from 17 Pacific states, including Kiribati President Anote Tong, have been meeting leaders and experts in Wellington this week as part of Victoria University’s Pacific Climate Change Conference.

The key to halting climate change: admit we can’t save everything (Opinion)
Climate change, and human resistance to making the changes needed to halt it, both continue apace: 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history, we may be on the brink of a major species extinction event in the ocean, and yet political will is woefully lacking to tackle this solvable problem. Given these dire ecological trends, limited public funding and legislative gridlock, the time is ripe for a budget-neutral, executive-branch approach for managing our natural resources: triage.

US ‘likely culprit’ of global spike in methane emissions over last decade
There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.

States throw weight behind US clean energy transition
The battle over the future of America’s clean energy strategy took another twist yesterday, after a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced a new initiative committing them to increased investment in clean energy capacity and grid upgrades.

Australian wine under threat from climate change, as grapes ripen early
Wine grapes in Australia are ripening between one and two days earlier each year due to climate change in a trend viticultural experts say could see some traditional varieties abandoned in warmer areas.

Spark finds new use for phone boxes as electric vehicle chargers
NEW ZEALAND – Spark is turning some of its phone boxes into charging stations that can be used to top-up electric vehicles. The company has converted three phone boxes near Auckland into charging stations and will expand the network if they prove a hit and it can get the necessary consents.

Environment and Biodiversity

Hidden housemates: meet the moulds growing in your home
Our offices and homes are full of airborne spores from fungi, and for the most part we never even notice them. Whether you like to think about it or not, you’re covered in microorganisms. Absolutely teeming with them from head to toe. Your body is covered and filled with bacteria called commensals, which inhabit the microscopic valleys of your skin and recesses of your gut. These organisms for the most part never cause you any harm, and in fact protect you from being colonised by disease-causing organisms. In the same way that you’re a walking zoo of microbes, the world around you is peppered with invisible microorganisms.

White blood cell found in birds ‘can destroy fatal infection’
A specialised white blood cell found in birds can destroy an infection thought to cause hundreds of thousands of human deaths a year, scientists claim.  Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungus that can cause a fatal infection in people with weakened immune systems – particularly those with advanced HIV. Birds are known to carry the fungus, with experts puzzled why the birds themselves do not appear to become ill.

Threatened mammals make comeback in South Australian desert thanks to ongoing rabbit management
Winning the war against rabbits and repopulating once threatened species of mammals requires a long-term bio-control strategy. That sentiment is supported by a recent study which found ongoing rabbit management allowed small endangered mammals to make a comeback in the South Australian desert.

Economy and Business

The Big Short Meets The Big Bang: Can Wall Street Win in Sustainable Investments?
Nearly 12 months ago, I dove into the investment ecosystem to survey from the inside the dynamics of the ‘sustainable investing’ trend. I was moved to do so by the much ballyhooed transfer of investable wealth to values-seeking millennials (estimated at $30 trillion) and to women (estimated at $22 trillion). How prepared was Wall Street to meet this imminent and perhaps pent up demand for well-performing investment vehicles that enhance the sustained well-being of people and the planet?

WWF’s new Markets Institute sets the table to feed 9 billion
Watching the world food system race towards a moment when it can’t possibly produce enough food to nourish the world’s population, the World Wildlife Fund launched last week a Markets Institute to Advance Sustainable Food Production with the help of some big food companies. Mars, Kellogg, Unilever and others are involved. Their mission is to quickly scale market-based solutions across the industry to change how food is grown, procured, shipped and distribute so that natural resource will be sustained to grow food for future generations, too.

‘Peak Stuff’: Why IKEA Is Shifting Towards New Business Models
At the SB’16 Copenhagen preview event in the Danish capital last week, Jonas Engberg, IKEA’s Sustainability Manager, spoke in an exclusive interview about the concept of ‘peak stuff’ and outlined how IKEA’s exciting new business strategy better reflects a shifting consumer landscape and offers greater security for the brand.

Automation may mean a post-work society but we shouldn’t be afraid
The automation revolution is possible, but without a radical change in the social conventions surrounding work it will not happen… The solution is to begin to de-link work from wages. You can see the beginnings of the separation on any business flight. Men and women hunched over laptops and tablets, elbows so close that if it were a factory it would be closed on health and safety grounds.  But it is a factory, and they are working – some of the time. They flip from spreadsheet to a movie to email to solitaire: nobody sets a timer – unless in one of the time-hoarding professions like law. At the high skill end of the workforce we increasingly work to targets, not time.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Marine plastic pollution senate inquiry targets Australian ocean pollution
Environmental groups and scientists across the country will call for immediate action on plastic bags, bottles and microplastics that make up the 34.9 billion pieces of visible plastic in Australian waters, when they front a senate inquiry into marine plastic pollution on Thursday. The inquiry was called for by Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson last year, when he declared Australia’s oceans had turned into a “plastic soup”.

Gardeners package used coffee grounds to sell as chemical-free fertiliser
AUSTRALIA – What was once waste left after brewing a cup of coffee is now being sold as a chemical-free nitrogen source to excited gardeners. “They’re high in nitrogen. That’s the main factor that you get out of using coffee grounds,” said Jenna Cowie, chair of Broome community group Incredible Edible, which promotes a range of activities to support people growing their own food.

Politics and Society

UK companies poised to act on forced labour, but Australia lags behind
AUSTRALIA – What are we doing to encourage companies to address labour abuses in their supply chains? There’s a flurry of activity in the UK at present as companies and civil society gear up for the supply chain transparency provision in the Modern Slavery Act to kick in… The UK Act reflects growing global recognition of the problem of forced labour and other forms of labour exploitation in supply chains and the need to take action.

Council workers spraying the weed-killer glyphosate in playgrounds won’t hurt your children
AUSTRALIA – A group of rural Victorians has petitioned their local council to stop using the household weed-killer Roundup (glyphosate). Their concerns centre around an assessment made last year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – an arm of the World Health Organisation – that the common herbicide was “probably carcinogenic to humans”…  Glyphosate isn’t actually dangerous at the levels at which children, or the incidental park passerby, are exposed.

Bulgarian motorway poised to carve up wildlife haven
Bulgaria is planning to carve a motorway to Greece through a spectacular gorge famed for its golden eagles, griffon vultures and peregrine falcons, in defiance of an EU order to tunnel the road. The 11-mile Kresna valley is also a crucial migratory path for bears, wolves and jackals, with a warm micro-climate that bridges the southern fringe of the Balkans with the northern tip of the Mediterranean.

Built Environment

Global green buildings ‘to double by 2018’, study finds
The World Green Building Trends study, from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), United Technologies, Saint Gobain and Dodge Data Analytics, estimates that 37% of companies will have the majority of their estate certified sustainable by 2018, a rise from 18% currently.

Energy star ratings for homes? Good idea, but it needs some real estate flair
AUSTRALIA – The idea of requiring sellers to disclose the energy efficiency of their home has been around for a long time. It’s been a requirement in the ACT since 2003, and we briefly saw a version of disclosure in Queensland. But how effective would a national scheme be? And how can the information be presented in a way that will make a real difference to prospective home buyers?

Density, public transport and BIM get tick in Infrastructure Australia 15-year plan
Increasing well-designed high-density development, growing smaller cities, increasing public transport investment, utilising value capture, making BIM compulsory for large-scale projects, moving to a user-pays road system and privatising energy and water infrastructure are among some of the 78 reforms put forward in Infrastructure Australia’s just-released 15-year plan.

Property ads in Wellington use native birds as a selling point
NEW ZEALAND – Never mind harbour views or the “right” school zone – the latest sales pitch to Wellington home buyers is the promise of native birdsong. A survey of property listings on Trade Me shows the presence of native birds was being used to make Wellington properties more appealing.  The survey, funded by Wellington City Council and Victoria University, was done over two years, from June 2013 to June 2015.

Trending: Paint Innovations Helping to Improve Vehicle Efficiency
When it comes to fuel economy, lightweight design and temperature control are important considerations for cars and airplanes alike – and the impact of a coat of paint might surprise you. Vehicles with more reflective coatings or with less paint can be more efficient.

Food Systems

RSPO Introduces Voluntary Advanced Add-On Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has released new voluntary criteria that expand on its existing Principles & Criteria (P&C) for sustainable palm oil production. To be eligible for the add-on certification, called RSPO NEXT, RSPO members must have at least 60 percent of their plantations in compliance with the core RSPO P&C requirements, have company-wide policies that exceed current RSPO P&C requirements, and must commit to implementing the stricter RSPO NEXT policies across all of their plantations.

Whale shark escapes nets of Geelong Star factory ship without harm, authorities say
A whale shark became entangled in the nets of the controversial Tasmanian-owned fish factory trawler Geelong Star but escaped without harm, authorities say. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has confirmed a whale shark was trapped on the outside of the nets, but maintained it escaped without injury. The shark was caught near Bermagui off the southern coast of New South Wales on a recent fishing trip.  Environmental groups said they were told by crew members the shark sank and died when it was freed.


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