Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Lots of good news in the news today with a spate of articles about small businesses taking a stance on waste without any legislation driving them, just their sense of wanting to do the right thing for the planet, and perhaps a dose of consumer demand. Other good stuff in building news with a promising new brick, in next generational news with young guardians trapping pests and rescuing battery hens, and a large renewable energy project is funded in north Queensland.

Climate Change and Energy

Thinking about battery storage? Five things you should do first | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – In April last year, we got 7.8kW of solar with a SolarEdge inverter, including consumption monitoring. In November, we got a 9.3kWh LG Chem battery. From this experience, we have learned a lot from the benefits of solar and independently, batteries, and think there is a lot you should do prior to making the leap into batteries. Here are 5 steps I think households should take before getting a battery.

Genex lands $516m NAIF loan for solar and storage project | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The listed company Genex Power has landed $516 million in concessional finance from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) for its world-leading solar and pumped hydro storage project in north Queensland. The project – the first of its scale to combine solar and pumped hydro – will be located in the former Kidston gold mine, where water will be stored in disused pits, providing 250MW of capacity and up to eight hours storage.

How the Gorgon gas plant could wipe out a year’s worth of Australia’s solar emissions savings | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Chevron began operating its $US54 billion ($73 billion) Gorgon gas plant in the state’s north-west in 2016. Part of its environmental agreement was to capture and store underground 40 per cent of the plant’s emissions through a sophisticated process known as geosequestration or carbon capture and storage.

Horizons Regional Council saving tonnes of carbon through clean energy projects and trees |
NEW ZEALAND – Electric cars, LED lights and better heating systems are helping Horizons Regional Council save both the environment and ratepayer dollars. But a tree-planting project is expected to have the biggest impact on emissions, locking up enough carbon every year to offset the average emissions of the population of Levin. Councillors said at a meeting on Wednesday they wanted carbon emission goals set so they could measure progress.

Environment and Biodiversity

A world without puffins? The uncertain fate of the much-loved seabirds | The Guardian
UK – On the small Welsh island of Skomer, puffin numbers are booming. But in former strongholds in Scotland, Norway and Iceland, the picture is ever more worrying.

Baker with a puffin on Skomer. Photograph: Louise Tickle

Baker with a puffin on Skomer. Photograph: Louise Tickle

Commercial values are a key driver of Zero Deforestation policies (commentary) | Mongabay
According to a recent report created for the Prince of Wales’ Sustainability Institute, there are now more than 470 companies with commitments to ensure their company is not linked to deforestation. These are commonly known as Zero Deforestation Policies (ZDPs). With increased small-scale deforestation in Amazonia, approximately 4,000 hectares recently cleared in Indonesian Papua for palm development, and increasing pressure on forests in Sub-Saharan Africa attributed to palm oil expansion, it is clear these policies are not (yet) having their intended impact.

Illegal mining creeps into southern Bahuaja-Sonene National Park | Mongabay
PERU — There are some places that we always remember better than others. That is what David Araníbar says when he thinks about the district of Alto Inambari, seven hours away from the city of Puno in Peru’s Sandia Province. Araníbar, the director of Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, grew up in that area of the rainforest and still remembers seeing catfish racing downstream in the Inambari River, alongside otters who would run beside the catfish trying to trap them. Many years have passed since the last time Araníbar has seen an otter in the area. The area around the Inambari River, which has long been the otters’ preferred route to travel, is now filled with heavy machinery and barrels of mercury.

Related: Peru’s Bahuaja-Sonene National Park at risk over illegal mining | Mongabay

Economy and Business

Feeling blue? How this entrepreneur created a natural dye | GreenBiz
An estimated 1.2 billion pairs of jeans are sold each year worldwide. The magic behind this timeless piece of clothing is none other than the 50 shades of blue — indigo to be precise. Indigo is a color, a plant and a specific molecule. And while there are 5,000-year-old traditions of using natural indigo in places such as India, Japan, and Guatemala, most indigo on the market today is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels — and thus unsustainable. But Tennessee-based Stony Creek Colors (SCC) is changing that. Started in 2012 by Sarah Bellos, SCC is the first company in the United States to grow the indigo plant at a scale usable by the commercial denim industry.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Astronauts eject UK-led space junk demo mission | BBC News
A UK-led project to showcase methods to tackle space junk has just been pushed out of the International Space Station. The RemoveDebris satellite was ejected a short while ago with the help of a robotic arm. The 100kg craft, built in Guildford, has a net and a harpoon. These are just two of the multiple ideas currently being considered to snare rogue hardware, some 7,500 tonnes of which is now said to be circling the planet.

IKEA launches furniture take-back scheme | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Riding on the momentum of Australia’s anti-waste movement, IKEA is now letting its Sydney customers return their unwanted furniture and goods to the Tempe store in exchange for a voucher to spend in-store. The new Tempe scheme joins existing “Circular IKEA” programs that take-back sofas, mattresses, batteries and light bulbs in Australian stores. Customers start by sending in images of the furniture to be assessed by a IKEA co-worker. If the furniture qualifies for the take-back service, customers will be offered a price for the furniture in the form of a voucher.

Sydney catering company already ’70 per cent there’ in zero-waste mission | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Just how far would you go to reduce your waste in either your home or business? One catering company in Sydney’s east has made it a mission to have zero waste in landfill by the end of the year. Company founder Ilana Cooper said they were 70 per cent there, after they started using offcut fabric as napkins and converting cooking oil into soap.

Photo: Chef Dan Lewinsky takes all green waste from the kitchen to the community garden. (ABC News: Liv Casben)

Photo: Chef Dan Lewinsky takes all green waste from the kitchen to the community garden. (ABC News: Liv Casben)

Small produce store on Auckland’s North Shore goes 90 per cent plastic-free |
NEW ZEALAND – A 60-square-metre produce store has joined other small businesses around the country in fighting the “plastic norm” for fruit and vegetables. With the help of its customers and other small businesses, the Torbay Fruit Shop, on Auckland’s North Shore, has gone 90 per cent plastic-free in just one month.

Nelson cafes ditch plastic and put surcharge on disposable cups |
NEW ZEALAND – Nelson’s Swedish Bakery and Cafe is joining other local businesses in an effort to be more sustainable, ditching plastic bags and putting a surcharge on disposable cups and containers. Co-owner Bronwyn Eriksson said customers who didn’t bring in their own reusable container or cup for coffees, salads and soups would pay a 50 cent surcharge, which was donated to KidsCan.

‘Normally I’d just throw the plastic bags away’: Customer shift has retailers ditching plastic | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The nation’s biggest supermarket chains are one step closer to ditching all single-use plastic shopping bags, with Woolworths phasing them out on Wednesday and Coles to follow in just over a week’s time. “We really believe in a greener future,” Adrian Cullen, head of sustainability for Woolworths, told Fairfax Media. “This is going to make a significant impact to the environment.”

Sylvia Bui, a nursing student, leaving a Woolworths store in central Sydney with her reusable shopping bags on Wednesday. Photo: Janie Barrett

Sylvia Bui, a nursing student, leaving a Woolworths store in central Sydney with her reusable shopping bags on Wednesday. Photo: Janie Barrett

See also: Plastic bag bans: Here’s how the alternatives stack up | ABC News

Politics and Society

These charts show where the world’s refugees came from in 2017 – and where they’re heading | World Economic Forum
Where do most of the world’s refugees come from? And where do they end up? If you’re conjuring up an image of people fleeing a wartorn nation and heading to a developed one, you may be surprised to learn that you’re wide off the mark. Some of the world’s least developed countries – Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Bangladesh – were among the 10 countries hosting the most refugees last year, according to a recent report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Image: UNHCR Global Trends Report. Refugee movements in 2017

Image: UNHCR Global Trends Report


5 Ways Indigenous Groups Are Fighting Back Against Land Seizures | World Resources Institute
Much of the world’s land is occupied and used by Indigenous Peoples and communities — about 50 percent of it, involving more than 2.5 billion people. But these groups are increasingly losing their ancestral lands — their primary source of livelihood, income and social identity. Governments, corporations and local elites are eager to acquire land to extract natural resources; grow food, fibers and biofuels; or simply hold it for speculative purposes. Most communities hold land under customary tenure systems and lack formal titles for it. While national laws in many countries recognize customary rights, the legal protections are often weak and poorly enforced making community land especially vulnerable to being taken by more powerful actors. Communities, however, are not standing by idly. They’re increasingly taking action to protect their lands.

Take heart, charity stunts can make CEOs better people | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Thousands of CEOs across the country will sleep “rough” tonight to raise money for homelessness. But is one night of sleeping rough enough to truly empathise with those who do it every night? And are CEOs who take part in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout just doing it as a self-serving PR stunt? It’s easy to be cynical about fundraising campaigns and the sincerity of those who participate in them. As marketing researchers, we wanted to know what impact, if any, active campaigns like the Vinnies CEO Sleepout have on participants.

Senate to probe Great Barrier Reef grant of $444m to small charity | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – A parliamentary inquiry will examine how a $444m grant for work on the Great Barrier Reef was awarded to a small not-for-profit charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with no competitive tender process.

Lynmore Primary School enviro group helping eradicate pests, rehome battery hens | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Lynmore Primary School pupils are making the environment a better place one rat and hen at a time. While they are snuffing out rats to make the school pest free, they are also giving former battery hens a new life. The school enviro club has spent the year trapping rats in the native bush area known as Waitawa Bush which is part of the school.

Built Environment

Scientists create new building material out of fungus, rice and glass | The Conversation
Would you live in a house made of fungus? It’s not just a rhetorical question: fungi are the key to a new low-carbon, fire-resistant and termite-deterring building material. This type of material, known as a mycelium composite, uses the Trametes versicolor fungus to combine agricultural and industrial waste to create lightweight but strong bricks. It’s cheaper than synthetic plastics or engineered wood, and reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

Sydney creates a Better Buildings Partnership for the tourism industry | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Sydney’s accommodation and entertainment sectors are high energy, high water and high waste. But a new partnership – based on the successful Better Buildings Partnership model – hopes to get hotels, museums and other venues serious about sustainability and make Sydney a destination for sustainable tourism. The City of Sydney’s new Sustainable Destination Partnership was launched on Tuesday night, and now has the support of more than 30 accommodation and entertainment heavyweights, including Accor, Hilton, Star Entertainment Group, International Convention Centre, Hyatt Regency and Sydney Opera House. The members have agreed to work together to source energy from renewables, divert waste from landfill and reduce potable water.

Food Systems

New Zealand organic sector now a half a billion dollar industry |
The New Zealand organic sector is now worth over half a billion dollars, prompting claims from industry leaders it had gone mainstream. Domestic and global demand for New Zealand organics saw the sector grow 30 per cent since 2015 and was now worth $600m, according a new report from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. OANZ chief executive Brendan Hoare said it showed organics was no longer a niche market. There was a national and global mood for change to natural, ethical, sustainable food and other daily used products.

How can you support farmers who are using fewer antibiotics? | The Guardian
UK – Farm antibiotic use rarely features on food labels or marketing in the UK, so it’s very hard for shoppers to know how to support farmers who are using less. For whole meat and butchered cuts, there are some rules of thumb for the conscious shopper.

Gene-edited farm animals are on their way | BBC News
Scientists have created pigs that are immune to one of the world’s costliest livestock diseases. The team edited the animals’ DNA to make them resist the deadly respiratory disease known as PRRS – a move that could prevent billions of pounds in losses each year. However, consumers have traditionally been reluctant to eat genetically altered animals and crops.