Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is a great article on how to significantly reduce plastic in your life, it might require a bit of effort and planning though… are you up to it?  In other news, a new study finds that low lying island nations may be flooded much sooner than previously thought; in Hawaii, evidence it is cheaper to take action on climate mitigation now than down the track; and don’t paint all wasps as bad, most are actually helpers in your garden.

Top Story

Bin liners to takeaway containers – ideas to solve your plastic conundrums | The Guardian
Plastic has become an environmental disaster. Microplastic pollution has been found in our waterways, fish stocks, salt, tap water and even the air we breathe. Reducing our reliance on plastic by refusing it wherever possible has never been more important, especially as Australia’s recycling system is in crisis. Yet there are conundrums that continue to defeat even those dedicated to going plastic-free. From bin liners to takeaway containers, Guardian Australia has tried to solve them.

Climate Change and Energy

Climate change to drive migration from island homes sooner than thought | The Guardian
Hundreds of thousands of people will be forced from their homes on low-lying islands in the next few decades by sea-level rises and the contamination of fresh drinking water sources, scientists have warned. A study by researchers at the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Deltares Institute in the Netherlands and Hawaii University has found that many small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans will be uninhabitable for humans by the middle of this century. That is much earlier than previously thought.

The people of Kiribati are under pressure to relocate due to sea-level rise. Flooding in the village of Eita on the Tarawa atoll is increasingly frequent. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

The people of Kiribati are under pressure to relocate due to sea-level rise. Flooding in the village of Eita on the Tarawa atoll is increasingly frequent. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

See also: The military paid for a study on sea level rise. The results were scary. | The Washington Post

Hawaii could save billions by fast-tracking shift to 100% renewables | RenewEconomy
USA – In the transition to renewable energy, the US state of Hawaii is already punching above its weight, with a plan to reach 40 per cent by 2030, and a mandated goal of 100 per cent by 2045. But a new report from the Rhodium Group and Smart Growth America has found that it would be cheaper and better for the economy of the Aloha State to double down on that trajectory, and shoot for as much as 84 per cent renewables by as early as 2030.

Environment and Biodiversity

New Zealand native wasps can fight pests by laying eggs |
NEW ZEALAND – While some wasps in New Zealand cause a sting, native wasps are harmless and can actually help in pest control. University of Auckland researcher Tom Saunders looked at parasitoid wasps in the Waitākere Ranges for his masters degree as little research had been done on them in the past. Saunders said when people thought of wasps, they thought of the kind that stung. But the harmful ones only made up about four introduced species of wasps and didn’t represent wasps as a whole, he said. “In New Zealand we’ve only got maybe four or five introduced wasps that are bad. We’ve got no native wasps that are bad and we’ve got possibly 2500 species of native wasps.”

Economy and Business

Sweet dreams? Hotel group behind Novotel, Mercure and Ibis rolls out greener linens | businessGreen
AccorHotels, the hospitality group behind hotel chains such as Ibis and Mecure, has announced plans to switch the towels and bedlinens at thousands of its hotels to greener alternatives. The firm said today that linens at its mid-scale and economy hotels – Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget – will be changed to naturally coloured alternatives, a move it said will deliver significant cuts to its carbon and water footprints.

Impact investment moves into new sectors | The Fifth Estate
You can now buy a bond in the UK that will reward you for prisoners who don’t re-offend. It’s called the Peterborough social impact or prison bond. Ted Franks, partner and fund manager of UK-based sustainability focused investor WHEB, says that’s just one example of the widening and deepening world of impact investment.

Australia’s going through a green jobs boom, and Victoria’s ahead of the pack | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Green job demand has increased by 50 per cent in the past two years, according to new data by jobs site Indeed, with Victoria now at the top of the pack. Economist Callam Pickering put together the data, finding that, despite uncertainty around energy and climate policy, demand for green jobs (as a proportion of total job advertisements) was on an upwards trajectory, with Australia ahead of the US, UK and Canada.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Boston Tea Party chain bans all single-use coffee cups | Climate Action Programme
An independent coffee chain has taken the bold step and banned all disposable coffee cups from its cafes. Boston Tea Party, an independently owned British business runs 22 cafes, mostly in the south of England. The company’s owner, Sam Roberts, made the announcement in a blog this week, commenting that “the simple, unavoidable truth is that the only truly ethically solution is a reusable cup instead of a single use one.”

Wellington waterfront goes straw free, now the council wants the city to follow suit |
NEW ZEALAND – It’s the final straw for plastic straws on the Wellington waterfront, with the area now deemed a no-go zone for the convenient plastic tubes. And now the Wellington City Council and conservation groups want the rest of the city to follow suit. The council and Sustainable Coastlines have been pushing for an end to straw use on the waterfront since early last year. Straws were one of the most common litter items found in beach clean-ups

‘We need a real plan’: Nine in 10 Australians want governments to act on recycling crisis | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Ahead of a meeting of the nation’s environment ministers this Friday, new polling has found 89 per cent of people support governments “taking more action to create a sustainable recycling industry”. And 69 per cent are in favour of a user-pays approach, with discounts for households which reduce their rubbish and improve recycling quality. The poll of 1000 voters, conducted for the Australian Council of Recycling by Crosby Textor, shows the unusually emphatic support is spread across political affiliations, states and age groups.

Politics and Society

Climate change is not a key cause of conflict, finds new study
The media has even started using terms such as “climate refugees” and “environmental migrants” to describe people fleeing their homes from these climate-driven conflicts. But it isn’t clear whether there is much evidence for this link between climate change and conflict – there certainly seems to be no consensus within the academic literature.

Sydney’s social sustainability plan to tackle isolation in high-rise | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Measures to strengthen social connections of people living in apartments is part of a new plan to improve social sustainability in the City of Sydney. The city has 75 per cent of its population living in high-density apartments – expected to grow to 90 per cent – with 40 per cent living alone. A survey of residents found that less than half were satisfied with feeling part of the community, with 51 per cent of residents reporting they were neutral, unsatisfied or very unsatisfied. Only just over half thought they could get help from neighbours if needed.

We owe it to the environment to get better at reporting on it |
NEW ZEALAND – There is widespread evidence of the deteriorating quality of New Zealand’s natural environment. Many factors contribute to this, but one that has received surprisingly little attention is the lack of government transparency and accountability for environmental management. Compared with the high levels of openness in how governments manage the public finances and monetary policy, the arrangements for environmental stewardship are weak.

Built Environment

10 star design comp winners putting sustainability theory into practice
AUSTRALIA – The projects that took out this year’s Building Designers Association of Victoria’s 10-Star Sustainable Design Challenge are not just ideas on a drawing board, but based on current projects. Gruen Eco Design’s Hacksaw House, a collaboration with Paperback Design, was the winner of the challenge. Gruen director Simone Schenkel says the design is based on a renovation and extension of a small brick veneer property in McLeod, Victoria.

New York City’s Central Park will soon become entirely car-free | Climate Action Programme
USA – In a historic decision, the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has ruled that Central Park will become permanently out of bounds for vehicles. The decision will come into force on 27 June this year, the day after public schools close for the summer and outdoor swimming pools open.

US urban areas are losing 36 million trees every year, study finds | Mongabay
USA – Forest Service researchers estimate that urban areas in the U.S. lost a collective total of 1 percent of their tree cover between 2009 and 2014. In total, around 175,000 acres of tree over was lost annually. At the same time, they found “impervious surfaces” like asphalt roads and buildings increased at 1 percent per year. Trees provide a variety of benefits to cities from shielding buildings from the sun and reducing cooling costs and energy consumption, filtering pollutants from water and air, mitigating flooding and erosion, and helping in the fight against global warming by storing carbon. In total, analysts estimate urban trees save the U.S. around $18.3 billion every year. Impervious surfaces do not provide these benefits and often have the opposite effect.

Food Systems

Organic agriculture is going mainstream, but not the way you think it is | The Conversation
One of the biggest knocks against the organics movement is that it has begun to ape conventional agriculture, adopting the latter’s monocultures, reliance on purchased inputs and industrial processes… New research, however, suggests that the relationship between organic and conventional farming is more complex. The flow of influence is starting to reverse course.  Practitioners of conventional agriculture are now borrowing “organic” techniques to reduce the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and excessive tillage, and to increase on-farm biodiversity, beneficial insects and soil conservation. All of a sudden, many conventional vegetable farms are starting to look organic.

‘Robust, independent’ study shows Taranaki rivers met European standards – but not New Zealand’s |
Taranaki river water quality met European recreational clean water standards  – but fell below national standards set for swimming in New Zealand, an independent scientific report commissioned by the Taranaki Regional Council showed. A National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research report found a strong correlation between riparian planting along streams and river in Taranaki during the past 20 years, and improved water quality and lower E.coli levels, the regional council policy and planning committee was told on Tuesday.

An independent study had found riparian planting was helping clean up Taranaki rivers and streams. Photo: Stuff

An independent study had found riparian planting was helping clean up Taranaki rivers and streams. Photo: Stuff


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