Thursday, April 20, 2017


Published as a podcast on Friday 21st April on iTunes, Stitcher and

Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report  which is guaranteed to be a election-free zone! You will hear more than enough about the election in the next six weeks, but nothing at all here. At least not in this episode.

Welcome to my patrons, Richard, Frederika and Kasper. You can join them if you go across to and help keep this podcast going without advertising, sponsorship or subsidy.

Welcome to all you listeners across the world. The majority of you are in the United States, although I do take a very British perspective. Sustainability is of course a global issue so I try and cover international aspects when I can. If there’s a story you think I should look into please get in touch. 

Yes, I'm Anthony Day and the theme of this week’s report is rubbish. There's a lot of it about! (There’ll be a lot more in the next six weeks in the UK, but that’s another story.)

In brief, 
  • they want more drinking fountains in London so we don't have to throw away so many plastic bottles. 
  • Someone's come up with a plastic container that you can eat. I wonder what you wrap it in. 
  • Should you be entitled to a doggy bag in Scotland? 
  • Your clothes are probably polluting the oceans, but some people have the balls to solve this problem. 
  • Plastic Planet is a pressure group seeking to banish plastic from the planet, or a lot of it anyway. They are targeting supermarkets. 
  • The Local Government Association is targeting chewing gum manufacturers.
  • Let’s aim for Zero Waste to Landfill. The Carbon Trust has a document that tells us how.

On the energy front, 
  • there’s trouble at Drax and 
  • there’s a new renewables project in the wind on the Outer Hebrides.

Scientists have discovered a material which absorbs CO2. Good news, maybe, for Al Gore who launches An Inconvenient Sequel in July. Finally, a word from a concerned citizen, writing to my local paper.

Not Bottling It
It's not been good for soft drink manufacturers recently. Pepsi had to pull that ad after a social media storm accused them of trivialising civil protest. Coca-Cola got grief for all the millions of plastic bottles which it produces, many of which are thrown away. Of course, many, many manufacturers use plastic bottles but bottles for water and soft drinks are the ones most likely to be taken out of the home and thrown away and not recycled. Other brands of soft drink are available, but I suppose that Coca-Cola's problem is a penalty of being a market leader. 
A solution to the plastic bottle could be to do away with the need for a container. With this in mind the London Assembly Environment Committee has called for more drinking fountains to be installed. 

A more innovative solution is the Ooho sachet. The Ooho sachet is produced by Skipping Rocks Lab in the UK. It’s a clear sachet about the size of a golf ball. It is: 
    • 100% made of Plants & Seaweed
    • Biodegradable in 4-6 weeks, just like a piece of fruit
    • Edible, can be flavoured and coloured
    • Fresh (shelf life of a few days)
    • 5x less CO₂, 9x less Energy vs PET (common material for plastic bottles)
    • Cheaper than plastic

Here’s a drink where you can eat the container. And if you decide not to, it will just biodegrade. This has got to be better than plastic bottles, because even recycling plastic bottles takes energy to collect the bottles, energy to take them to the recycling plant, energy to run the recycling plant, energy to take them to the manufacturing plant, energy to remanufacture them and then deliver them to the user.
At the moment Ooho is mostly being sold at events for immediate consumption, but what would you wrap them in if you wanted to take them home?

Ooho sachets can be used for liquids including water, soft drinks, spirits and cosmetics.

Skipping Rocks Lab is part of the Climate KIC start-up acceleration program founded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) and the scientific team is based in Imperial College in London. They are currently crowd funding to support development. 
Find out more at You could be part of their future.

A Plastic Planet
A Plastic Planet is a pressure group that wants to banish plastic from supermarkets. Well, some of it, anyway. They say on their website - - that every piece of plastic ever made – unless it has been burned – STILL EXISTS. That is 60+ years of plastic building up on our planet, in our oceans, in our land, in our food chain and in our own bodies. 

They call on anybody and everybody to record a brief video on the phone saying: “My name is [First Name]. I am a Plastic Addict but I am ready for change. I want a Plastic Free Aisle.”

They want to pressure supermarkets into providing plastic-free aisles - no plastic bottles, containers or bags - so that they can shop without adding to the mountains of plastic which are used and mainly discarded each day. They argue that there are gluten-free aisles so why not plastic-free aisles? It’s certainly a challenge. Just visiting a supermarket reveals how many things are packed in plastic for hygiene, for security or to prevent breakages. But plastic can do things that paper or cardboard cannot. Plastic can be transparent, it can be flexible or rigid and it can seal in flavours and keep out moisture or contamination. And yet it generally does not biodegrade, and while it can be recycled there are many places where recycling facilities are not available - I don’t just mean the bins, I mean the recycling plants - and it can break down over time and seep into the food chain. The solution is not simple and not clear. But we need a solution.

Microplastic Fibres
Plastics get into the oceans not just from containers, bottles and bags but your clothes are probably polluting the oceans as well. The National Federation of Women’s Institutes has put down the following resolution for its Annual Meeting in Liverpool on 7th June: “Plastic Soup: Keep microplastic fibres out of our oceans. Microplastic fibres are shed from synthetic clothing with every wash and are the main contributors to microplastic contamination of the oceans. The NFWI calls on Government and industry to research and develop innovative solutions to this problem in order to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans.”

Let’s hope the government listens, although on 7th June it may be preoccupied with things planned for 8th June.

There may be a solution. It’s the Cora Ball. It’s not actually a ball. It’s a spherical object made up of a whole lot of what you might call ‘looped segments’. It’s probably made of plastic. You throw the Cora Ball into the washing machine with your laundry and it attracts the micro plastic fibres. When everything’s finished you clean the debris off the ball and it’s ready to use again. The micro plastic fibres are put in the bin, not washed down the drain.
It’s another crowd-funded project which is open until 25th April. They set the target at $10,000 but already more than $250,000 has been pledged. If you pledge $20 or more you’ll get your very own Cora Ball shipped to you anywhere in the world. Find more at 

Doggy bag, Madam?
Do we waste food? Yes we do. In the news this week is an initiative called “Good to Go” from Zero Waste Scotland. Not sure why it’s in the news this week, because it actually launched in 2014. It’s aimed at restaurants and it encourages them to offer their customers a doggy bag so they don’t waste what they can’t eat. There are window stickers, containers made from cardboard from sustainable sources, fully compostable and containing a starch lining, making a leak-proof box which can be used for all foods. 
 There’s a “Good to Go” label and a stylish “Good to Go” carrier bag. (Price 5p, by law)

Zero Waste Scotland estimates that around 53,500 tonnes of food is wasted from Scottish restaurants each year, and that two-thirds of this could have been avoided. 34% of this good food is estimated to be ‘plate waste’ – food left over at the end of the meal. Research has shown that, while customers overwhelmingly want to be offered ‘doggy bags’, two fifths (42%) are currently too embarrassed to ask for one. Not sure whether they’d be too keen on a bright green “Good to Go” carrier bag, but the results of the pilot indicated that if every restaurant in Scotland offered doggy bags it could save the equivalent of 800,000 full meals going in the bin every year. 

Or maybe they could serve smaller portions.

Incidentally, the also has a campaign to stop food waste. Theirs is aimed at supermarkets. Supermarkets just can’t win, can they?

By Gum!
The Local Government Association has it in for chewing gum manufacturers. There’s a very important principle here. Do we prosecute careless consumers for dropping litter - if we can catch them - or do we target the organisation that manufactures what ends up as litter?

“Chewing gum is a plague on our pavements,” says the Local Government Association. “It’s ugly, it’s unsightly and it’s unacceptable.”

The Association is calling for gum manufacturers to contribute to the £60 million annual gum removal cost. It said this money would be enough for councils to fill in more than a million potholes.

Recent research by Keep Britain Tidy found 99 per cent of main shopping streets and 64 per cent of all roads and pavements are stained by chewing gum.
The average piece of gum costs about 3p to buy - but up to 50 times that to clean up per square metre (£1.50). Most chewing gum is not biodegradable and once it is trodden into the pavement this requires specialised equipment to remove. Gum manufacturers should also be switching to biodegradable and easier-to-remove chewing gum, the LGA says.
Councils up and down the country are being forced to use new and innovative methods to fight the blight. These include awareness campaigns, posters which people can wrap their discarded gum in and special chewing gum bins.

I understand that in Singapore there is a ban on importing chewing gum. Gum is available there only for therapeutic reasons and then only with a doctor’s prescription. Penalties for chewing gum in Singapore include a fine of up to $100,000, a prison sentence of up to two years, or both. That’s Singapore dollars, but that's still more than £50,000. When I was there the streets were very clean.

Free Advice
While we’re about it, let’s aim for Zero Waste to Landfill. The Carbon Trust tells us how. You can download their guide from the website -

Something in the Air
While we are on the subject of rubbish we could talk about CO2 as atmospheric rubbish. Researchers at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University are studying a mineral, peridotite, which reacts with carbon dioxide and extracts it from the atmosphere. They are taking part in the Oman Drilling Project, extracting rock cores for analysis. Oman boasts the largest exposed sections of the Earth's mantle (core), thrust up by plate tectonics millions of years ago. The mantle contains peridotite, a rock that reacts with water and the carbon dioxide in the air to form marble and limestone. The scientists are looking at the possibility of speeding up the reaction so that significant quantities of CO2 can be extracted from the atmosphere.

Dealing with carbon dioxide is the major problem with burning fossil fuels - coal, gas and oil. The only solution under serious consideration at the moment is CCS, carbon capture and storage. This is a process for extracting the CO2 from the emissions of major installations, usually power stations, compressing it and pumping it away to caverns under the sea. The problem with CCS is that no-one has yet made it work on a commercial scale and even if they did, the process would be expensive and inevitably require significant amounts of energy. If peridotite could be used to trap the CO2 on site it could revolutionise the handling of power station emissions and might even be able to clean up cars and domestic heating boilers. But there’s a long, long way to go before anything like this can be proved to be commercially viable.

Talking of energy…
Last week Drax Power held its annual general meeting. Drax has the largest thermal power station in the UK and produces some 7% of the nation’s electricity. Protesters gathered outside the meeting to complain about the £1.5m subsidy that Drax receives every day. Although the plant has replaced half the coal it uses with with biomass, protesters claim that the wood pellets that it imports from the United States do not come from sustainable sources. They say that the emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from burning biomass are worse than from burning coal.

Protests also took place inside the meeting where a third of investors voted against the company’s remuneration report. In particular they criticised the rewards offered to finance chief Will Gardiner. Despite opposition he’s in line to receive 358,567 shares worth £1.355 million in 2019. Mr Gardiner's total pay reached £971,000 for 2016, while chief executive Dorothy Thompson's total pay rose 26% to £1.5 million for the period.

Something in the Wind…
When I worked in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides some 12 years ago there were plans for a massive wind farm on the Isle of Lewis. Eventually it came to nothing, due to opposition on the island and partly due to a campaign called No Pylons in the Highlands. If the wind farm had been built there were plans for a pylon line from Ullapool down to Bewley near Inverness to take the electricity into Scotland. Environmentalists clearly saw that as a price too high to pay for renewable energy. Things may be about to change. Business Secretary Greg Clark visited Lewis recently and the business department launched a consultation last November on whether it should make an exemption to its 2015 manifesto commitment to “end any new public subsidy” for windfarms.

Of course until this election is over all bets are off, but the Scottish government warned this week that if Westminster ruled out allowing onshore windfarms in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland to compete for subsidies, £2.5bn of investment would be put at risk. The islands are also heavily dependent on expensive diesel imports for power.

An Inconvenient Sequel
Do you remember Al Gore? The man who used to be the next president of the US? He’s followed up his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” with “An Inconvenient Sequel”. It’s scheduled for release in cinemas in July. I’ll keep you posted.

And finally…
This week my local paper published the following letter. Listen carefully to get the full sense. And if you do get any sense, please let me know.

“Why is it the sanctimonious egotistical save the planet climate change idealists, no fracking in my backyard brigade show no concern about the half million tons of man-made debris orbiting the earth? Could it be the thought of sitting around a log fire in outer space with no-one to polish their egos has little appeal?”

No, I don’t understand it either.

And that’s it for another week. I'm Anthony Day and that was the Sustainable Futures Report brought to you as always without advertising, subsidy or sponsorship. Of course, if you enjoy these podcasts please pop along to and and donate a dollar or two. (Yes I know, but it's an American site. It's about 80p.) And for April only, if you sign up as a patron for $1 a month you will receive the unique Sustainable Futures Report  enamel badge, normally available exclusively to those pledging more than $5 per month.

Either way, I am Anthony Day and I shall be back with a another Sustainable Futures Report this time next week. Thanks for listening and keep listening. 

Bye for now.

Rubbish - what do we do about it? Ideas from @OohoWater, @womensinstitute, @aplastic_planet, Cora Ball, @LGANews and

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter Parade

Published as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and at

Hello, this is Anthony Day and here's the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 14th April.

Last time I mentioned which is a sort of crowdfunding site for supporting ventures like the Sustainable Futures Report. You can pledge from as little as $1 per month. I am delighted to welcome my first patrons. Richard Atkinson was the very first. Thanks for that Richard! My second patron was Frederica Roberts. Welcome, Fred! And a special thank you too, to patron Kasper Kaasgaard. Thanks very much for your support.

I hope to be welcoming you next time. For April only, all new patrons, not just those pledging more than $5 per month, will receive the unique Sustainable Futures Report enamel badge. Now I know that you listeners are far too sophisticated to be swayed by a cheap giveaway like that, but you could give it to the kids. And it is unique, so one day it may be very valuable. Do let me know if you get offers for it. I’ve ordered quite a lot of them. Meanwhile, if you've not yet visited Patreon, please go across to,  where you'll find out what it’s all about.

In this week’s report:

The European Electricity Industry commits to phasing out coal. Meanwhile there are doubts about exactly how much gas can be recovered by fracking in the north of England.

The Colombia mudslide - was this global warming in action? Air pollution is in the news again. Are our children safe and how realistic are the proposed measures against vehicle emissions?

A nice piece of salmon for Easter? How much longer will we all be able to eat salmon? We look at the state of fish-farming.

Bees are under threat, but there are things you can do to help. Wild life and open spaces are under threat. Taking back control after Brexit means we can abolish European Environmental Regulations and build on protected land. There are certainly some people who want to do that.

As always, links are on the blog at

More On Meat

First, my recent interview - Meat and Climate Change - with Kristie Middleton and Helen Harwatt from the Humane Society of the US sparked a lot of reactions. Here’s some of the feedback.

Daniel Sandars says: “Whilst it is easy to single out ruminants and implore a vegan future it is worth noting grasslands are a natural part of our ecosystems with crop lands much less so. In the bigger picture the case is complex.”

Tom Langdon-Davies says “Meat from US style feedlots is a very bad idea, but meat from grazed pasture can be positively beneficial to carbon sequestration, see Allan Savory on TED.”

I had a look on TED and I strongly recommend you watch the video. In his talk, Allan Savory claims that desertification does more to exacerbate climate change than carbon dioxide emissions from transport and industry. From long experience in Africa he shows that rather than causing soil degradation and desertification, livestock effectively protects the land. By constantly moving on and leaving grasslands fertilised with their manure, farmed livestock and wild animals preserve the grassland.  He showed graphically how tonnes of water falling on barren land can drain away or evaporate literally overnight.
Covering the soil with grass leads to water retention and stabilises the soil - and locks in the co2.

Incidentally, a recent documentary on BBC4 showed how desertification is leading to dust storms which are affecting more and more of the world, particularly the Middle East. Thos dust clouds contain micro-particles like the emissions from diesel engines. PM10s are tiny and lodge in the lungs. PM2.5s are even tinier, and pass through the lungs into the bloodstream.

Back to meat..

Manda Scott comments: I live in a rural agricultural area of England  - if people stop buying meat, my neighbours (many of them old enough to draw pensions) will be put out of business - and I doubt very much indeed if the land would be re-wilded. It’s far more likely to be bought by the massed agri-businesses that own too many of our local fields and pay contractors to spray them weekly through the growing season so they can strip mine them for crops (Wheat and oil seed rape, mostly)

“They are destroying the fabric of the soil. George Monbiot has figures that say that we have 66 harvests left if we continue like this (can’t find the specific reference: there’s a link on the blog that says 100 harvests left, but he’s revised it since then:

And she goes on,
“…and if the US continues as it does - they take massed hives of bees around to monoculture almond plantations - which means that drinking almond milk may help the dairy cattle, but it’s not helping the bees - or the land…”
“So my feeling is that we need to be more clever than this. We need to move towards regenerative agriculture, not just let the 1% own the land.

“Colin Tudge  has written a book called ‘6 Steps Back to the Land’ and has started up the ‘Real Farming Conference’ which takes place in Oxford each January - and also the Campaign for Real Farming which aims to move towards regenerative agriculture.”

Thanks, Manda. And thanks to you all for these ideas and opinions. Please keep them coming!


Talking of food, how much longer will we be able to eat salmon? Salmon farming has transformed that fish from an expensive delicacy to an everyday meal, but the Guardian reports that salmon farming is in crisis. The problem is the sea louse, a parasite a bit like the varroa which attacks bees. The sea louse attaches itself to a fish and eats its blood and skin. Two or three are enough to kill a fish. The Scottish salmon farms have some of the worst lice infestations in the world, and the industry has spent some £300m trying to control them. It’s a global problem, which has seen worldwide production fall and the price of salmon rise. The controls themselves have consequences, as the farms are treated with increasing quantities of antibiotics and toxic chemicals. New Scientist reports that a natural solution is possible. A fish called the wrasse feeds on sea lice and so can clean up the farms. The difficulty with that is that a Norwegian study suggests that wrasse are now being over-fished. Industry representatives are confident that the problem, like any other agricultural challenge will be solved. On the other hand Don Staniford, who runs the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, calls fish farms “toxic toilets” and warns that diseases are rife, waste is out of control and the use of chemicals is growing fast.
Staniford has been sued by the industry for defamation, lost a high-profile Canadian high court battle, been heavily fined, been threatened many times, and been ordered never to repeat statements such as “wild salmon don’t do drugs” and “salmon farming spreads diseases”.

“He is an ace troublemaker. He annoys everyone … but he uses freedom of information requests to get his data and 99 times out of 100 he is right”, says Scottish investigative journalist Rob Edwards.

“I am a trained scientist. I use peer-reviewed science and use the industry’s own figures,” says Staniford.

The use of chemicals, especially, worries him. Last month he unearthed the fact that not only was the use of the toxic drug emamectin rising fast, but also that the industry had persuaded the Scottish environmental protection agency to withdraw a ban planned for next year. Other papers showed that the levels of chemicals used to kill sea lice have breached environmental safety limits more than 100 times in the last 10 years. The chemicals have been discharged into the waters by 70 fish farms run by seven companies. According to the Mail online emamectin is hazardous to human health, but the risk depends on the residual quantity, if any, in the fish which ends up on the plate.

Salmon is the UK’s fourth largest export in terms of food and drink behind whisky, beer and chocolate with sales overseas of almost £600million a year.

Meanwhile, Business Vancouver reports that a deadly virus has been found in British Columbia farmed salmon. HSMI can wipe out 20% of fish, and scientists warn that the disease can infect wild salmon swimming by.

A report from Fish Update says that farmed salmon have been found to contain fewer contaminants than wild salmon. This reverses the conclusions of an American study carried out in 2004, but Professor Anne-Katrine Lundebye of the Norwegian Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research says that that study compared wild Pacific salmon with farmed Atlantic salmon and that the two salmon species are distinctly different. Her own study was based on farmed Atlantic salmon and wild Atlantic salmon caught north of Norway and led her to the conclusion that careful control of the diet of the farmed fish resulted in the lower level of contaminants. Neither the wild nor the farmed salmon posed any risk to human health, she stressed.

The fish industry, like the meat industry, is struggling hard to keep up with the growing demand for food.


The Union of the Electricity Industry, EURELECTRIC, is the sector association representing the common interests of the electricity industry at pan-European level. It represents 3,500 companies across Europe with an aggregate turnover of €200 bln. It covers all major issues affecting the sector, from electricity generation and markets, to distribution networks, customers, as well as environment and sustainability issues.

In a statement adopted by the Board of Directors, the sector reiterates its commitment to deliver on the Paris Agreement. In addition, it announces its intention not to invest in new-build coal-fired power plants after 2020.
“The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low- carbon economy with concrete action,” said EURELECTRIC President and CEO of the Portuguese energy group EDP, António Mexia.
“With power supply becoming increasingly clean, electric technologies are an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuel based systems for instance in the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

So how are they going to fuel their power stations? A recent edition of The Bottom Line on Radio 4 interviewed major players behind the planned new nuclear stations for the UK. They are very impressive people and made cogent arguments for nuclear as the low-carbon source for base-load electricity. The facts remain, however, that Westinghouse, planning to build the new station near Sellafield, is bankrupt after losing $6bn on nuclear power stations in the US. Westinghouse is part of Toshiba and its difficulties are likely to bring the whole Toshiba group down. There are still ongoing technical problems with the design of the nuclear station to be built by the French and Chinese at Hinkley C.


What about gas? The Bowland Shale in the north of England is a prime site for fracking, but researchers at Durham University have thrown doubt on how much gas will actually be recoverable. They have done this not by estimating the volume of gas held in the rocks but by looking at the space needed for installing production equipment on the surface. First of all they have discovered that installing a production pad at any point within the licensed area has a 33% “probability of interacting with immovable infrastructure”. Which means that there is a building, a pipeline, a pylon, a road, a river or even a wind turbine there already.  Restrictions on how close these production pads can actually be placed to immovable infrastructure will reduce their number still further. Taking into account the “setbacks” - the required distance from infrastructure -imposed on existing UK wells, the Durham team concludes that only 26% of predicted reserves will be recoverable.


You probably heard about the Colombia mudslide. These disasters pop up on the news and then are overtaken by other events and forgotten. That doesn’t mean that they are not serious. The town of Mocoa was hit by a mudslide after heavy rains caused three rivers to flood, sending a sea of mud, boulders and debris crashing into the town. 300 people, many of them children, were killed. The president of Colombia blamed climate change for causing the exceptional rainfall. It’s impossible to say categorically that climate change was the cause, but torrential rain is certainly a predicted consequence of climate change. Others blamed uncontrolled deforestation which released land for farming and livestock, but was carried out while ignoring environmental regulations. (Allan Savory’s TED talk, referred to above, shows just how important vegetation is to mitigating floods.) The National Disaster Risk Management Unit in Colombia said there were still more than 100 people missing and 4,500 homeless after the disaster. And what the floods didn’t take was stolen by looters.

Deforestation has a long-term effect on the climate, but events like this show that removing trees and vegetation which absorb and slow down the rain can cause short term disasters as well.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is still in the news. The Guardian warned that 2,091 nurseries, schools, further education centres and after-school clubs in England and Wales were within 150 metres of a road emitting illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide. That’s the main pollution from diesel vehicles. The paper offered a tool to let readers check if their children were at risk. According to the BBC a south London primary school concerned about high levels of air pollution was issuing parents with advice about buying face masks for children.

Westminster City Council will become the first town hall in Britain to impose a parking surcharge to deter motorists from driving "polluting" diesel cars into the area. Drivers will pay an extra 50% in addition to the normal charge of £4.90-an-hour to park their cars.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made it his mission to clean up the air in London. From 23 October 2017, cars, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in central London will need to meet minimum exhaust emission standards, or pay a daily £10 Emissions Surcharge (also known as the Toxicity Charge, or T-Charge). This will be in addition to the Congestion Charge.

There is a substantial discount for residents and strangely vehicles over 40 years old will be exempt, but more stringent restrictions, including a total ban on cars over a certain age entering the congestion charge zone, are expected by 2020.

Full details, including whether your car is affected, are on the Transport for London website.


And now, away from the bustle and pollution of the city, let’s talk about bees.
Not just bees. Although many food crops like corn are pollinated by the wind, almost all fruit and vegetables rely on insects for pollination. Honey bees are important, but so are bumble bees, hover flies and even butterflies and moths. Wild About Gardens Week, in association with the Royal Horticultural Society and the Wild Life Trusts, is on the case. They have events across the country throughout the year and you can download resources from their website.

The Great British Bee Count, organised by Friends of the Earth, runs  from 19 May to 30 June 2017. “Since 1900,” they say, “the UK has lost 20 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction. So it’s vital that we better understand how they’re doing across the country. You can help by counting and recording all the bees you see this summer with our free app.” Go to their website to register for the app, which will be launched on 19th May.

Friends of the Earth are also still campaigning for a ban on neonicotinoids, an insecticide used as a seed dressing. Research indicates that these chemicals can damage bees and other insects (hardly surprising, as they’re insecticides) and can persist in the soil and infect other plants.

Still on wildlife,

Writing in, Jeremy Robson, who is a Principal Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, says we should celebrate our laws protecting wildlife, not discard them as inconvenient red tape.
On the other hand, Michael Gove MP, a former minister and leading Brexit campaigner, sees withdrawal from the EU as an opportunity to get rid of this legislation. He believes that European environmental law “massively increases the cost and the regulatory burden for housing development”. He’s keen to roll back these laws so that more houses can be built in his Surrey constituency. It’s all part of taking back control. You can read the complete article on the website, but Robson concludes like this: “If Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary, really does want to ensure that we are ‘the first generation to leave our environment better than we found it’ then we will need a robust legislative framework. Laws which ensure our ecosystems are protected and improved should be celebrated – not treated as burdensome red tape.”

A final thought... 

...before I leave you. William Robertson Davies, CC, OOnt, FRSC, FRSL, was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. Among other things, he said:

“The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.”

And that’s it for another week. I’m Anthony Day and that was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Before I go, another big thank-you to Richard Atkinson, Frederika Roberts and Kasper Kaasgaard for helping to make this weekly podcast possible. Go across to and find out how your name could be up here too. And if you’re quick you’ll get a badge!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Only Way is Ethics

Yes, business ethics.
No, ethics…
Hello, I'm Anthony Day  and this is the Sustainable Futures Report  for Friday, 7th April. As I've said many times before, it's brought to you without advertising, subsidy or sponsorship. It's my intention to keep it that way and to keep it free, but I do have costs so I'd welcome your help. You can support the Sustainable Futures Report  by going to my page at  and becoming a patron for as little as $1 per month. That’s about £0.80 or €0.92. If you'd like to contribute more you’ll get more–just hop across to and you'll find all the details. Whatever happens, the Sustainable Futures Report will always be free and always available to everyone, both as a podcast and as a blog here at That’s where you’ll find links to the topics mentioned in this report.

Business ethics
 Last month I was asked to address a group of business students at a local University. I thought it would be a useful recap of the main sustainability issues if I shared my presentation with you today. The slides are up on slide share, - the link is on the blog at - but the slides have very few words so you'll need to listen to what I'm saying to get the sense. You are welcome to use this material yourself if you have an appropriate audience. Of course, for a fee I’d always be delighted to come and talk to them for you!

I started my presentation by explaining that business ethics could either be totally altruistic, doing good for other people, or completely self interested. I said that what I thought the students would find is that doing things in an efficient and sustainable way, which is essentially altruistic, would usually give the best business result and serve self interest as well. I then asked, “What is sustainability?” And I gave them a clue by saying that it's not CSR. We’ll come back to that. One student responded that ‘sustainability is living our lives without preventing future generations from enjoying a similar standard of living.’ Correct!
If you want the original 1987 Brundtland definition it’s: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs…”

Global Warming
“What are the issues which go to make up sustainability?” I asked. Silence. Well there is global warming  - who’s heard of global warming? Good. And there's energy and water and food and waste and the circular economy. (And there's population and pollution but I forgot to mention those)
How does global warming work? Well, the sun shines on to the earth and most of the light and heat is radiated back into space. But the earth has an atmosphere and the top layer of the atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane which trap some of the heat. Without that layer we would freeze in the dark and probably fry in the sun. The greenhouse gas layer is what makes Earth the Goldilocks planet. It's not too hot, it's not too cold, it's just right for supporting life. Our problem is that if the greenhouse layer gets too thick the planet it gets too warm. On the face of it that doesn't sound too bad. Who wouldn't want to have longer, hotter summers and warmer winters, especially in northern Europe? Sadly it doesn't work like that. Think not just of more heat but of more energy. More heat can make it very difficult to live in some parts of the world. Temperatures above 45°C (113°F) are becoming increasingly common in Australia, India and other parts of the world. Pastures dry up, the soil blows away and livestock die. Nothing grows. Higher temperatures cause sea-level rise because warm water expands and takes up more space than cold water. Many major cities– New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and many others – are at risk from rising sea levels. Warm air contains more water vapour, so when the extra energy drives more intense storms there's more rain to fall. More and more frequently we hear of a month’s rain falling in an afternoon and of communities that once were safe, being flooded out. And when the clouds have dumped the rain and moved on there's nothing left to fall in other areas. When the rains fail, once-fertile plains become desert.

Energy is an issue because so much of our energy, in cars power stations and central heating comes from fossil fuels like gas, coal and oil. Burning fossil fuel releases greenhouse gases like CO2.

Water, as we've seen, is an issue because when the rains fail it causes starvation and refugees. When there's too much water, floods can, in the extreme, cause starvation and refugees. Have a look at the book Let There Be Water, by Seth M Segal. It explains how a very little water can be made to go a very long way and even increase the productivity of agriculture.

What about food? Well, as we heard last week, our choice of diet has an effect on climate change and global warming. Meat-eating, particularly. Cattle consume far more in calories than we gain from eating the meat, they burp significant volumes of the greenhouse gas methane, they produce manure which can pollute land and watercourses and in some parts of the world forests - which absorb CO2 - are destroyed to produce grazing land. Ethical?

And then there’s the issue of waste and the vast volume of resources that we’re tipping into landfill, pouring into watercourses or dumping into the oceans. It can’t go on. One solution is the circular economy. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is leading on that so I showed one of their videos.

So what is CSR? Traditionally it’s Corporate Social Responsibility, but I think it’s more about Creating a Strong Reputation or even Covering Someone’s Rear. There’s all too often an element of greenwash. Richard Calvert - Strategy Partner at The Thread Team - spoke recently at York University. He complained that organisations often measure their CSR by the money they spend. They don’t treat it like a business project and don’t analyse the outcomes. Some organisations claim to have benefited millions of people, but as he pointed out, if that’s true then the individual benefit is likely to be very, very small. Sustainability guru Bob Willard explains that sustainability should be integrated within every organisation. It’s not an added-on optional extra, it should be part of every decision-making process. He charts the sustainability journey from Pre-Compliance through Compliance and Beyond Compliance to an Integrated Strategy.

I showed a picture of a smartphone. It could be any smartphone - or games console or TV or domestic appliance. Almost everything that uses electricity has some sort of processor built in. And every processor uses rare earth metals. I showed a picture of the Falling Whistles charity website.  Falling Whistles aims to rehabilitate child soldiers who protect the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they extract tantalite, an essential component of electronics. The big children carry guns. The small ones have only a whistle. My point is that any company that uses these materials - conflict minerals - is clearly unethical and its reputation is at risk. In practice most tantalite, from the DRC and other countries, is made into components in south east Asia and it’s the components that the big brands buy. Once the tantalite from all sources is mixed together there’s no direct link back to those mines. But if someone can prove a link, the damage to reputations will be immense. Like the sweat-shop clothing factories which collapsed in Bangladesh or the electronic assembly factories in China where workers had a high level of suicide. Bad ethics is bad business. Ethical procurement is surely a win all round.

Other examples: Greenpeace v HSBC. HSBC was accused of funding companies that destroyed forests and peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations. HSBC fought back hard, but Greenpeace presented evidence and HSBC had to back down to avoid damaging its reputation. I showed a VW badge. “What words come to mind?” I asked. “Scandal” replied one student. VW acted unethically in programming their cars to perform with reduced emissions while on test, but to be far dirtier in normal use. Not much has been done about that in Europe, maybe because VW is a European company, but in the US VW has been fined millions if not billions and forced to pay compensation to VW owners who have seen the value of their cars collapse. Not just damage to VW’s reputation but a very significant financial cost as well.

I showed the logo of a well-known soft-drinks company. Like its competitors, it distributes millions of single-trip plastic bottles. Nothing illegal about that, but consumers are becoming more and more aware of the pollution these bottles cause to the landscape and the seas. Not a problem at present, but almost certainly a problem for these suppliers in the future. A tiny company called splosh that I’ve mentioned before distributes washing up liquid, hand cleanser and washing powder as concentrates, so you never have to throw away the bottle. Is this the future?

Do you remember Litterati? It’s an app which lets you photograph each piece of litter as you pick it up and send the photo, stamped with time and location, to a database in the cloud. It’s been used to prove which companies are causing most litter. At present it’s generally only the consumer who can be penalised for dropping litter, and then only if they’re caught. Apps like Litterati put pressure on businesses to be more ethical, to clean up after themselves or to design products and distribution methods which minimise litter.

The Green Supply Chain
Finally I introduced the concept of the Green Supply Chain. It’s the big companies with the global reputations who have most to lose because they are the ones who will make the headlines if they are caught behaving badly. It may be the fault of a sub-contractor or a company way down the supply chain, but it’s the big brands that will take the heat. That doesn’t mean that your small company doesn’t have to worry. On the contrary, if your company is the unethical weak link in the supply chain your customer will cut you off. You need to be constantly sure that your suppliers are ethical - and your customers too - because you can’t risk being cast aside as part of an unethical supply chain, which could happen even if the bad practice isn’t actually your fault.

Questions? I had three - two of them from teaching staff. By the time I’d finished, the students were chatting in the back row. There was almost no interaction throughout the presentation even though I asked for suggestions and feedback. Am I a dreadful presenter? Are these students the business leaders of the future? If they are, they should surely have been challenging me and putting forward their own ideas. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken for granted that they’re aware that climate change is an issue, that VW has cynically delivered millions of highly polluting cars, that plastic pollution is a serious issue already contaminating the food chain. After all, you probably don’t see much about that on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.

And Finally...
Finally, just to prove that my research sometimes does go beyond sober and serious sustainability issues, here's an item from BBKA news, the Journal of the British Beekeepers’ Association. A one-day international cricket match in Johannesburg between South Africa and Sri Lanka was interrupted earlier this year by a swarm of bees invading the pitch. Players dressed in bright pink and blue outfits quickly dropped to the pitch when instructed by the umpire while the bees clustered on the wicket-keeper’s helmet. Chaos ensued as ground staff tried to move the bees, including failed attempts using a wheelie bin and a fire extinguisher! A restart of the match also failed as the bees stood their ground. A local beekeeper, Pierre Hefer, watching at home decided that enough was enough and drove to the ground and collected the swarm. The match resumed after about an hour. Sadly, despite South Africa winning Mr Hefer was not named man of the match.

And that’s it for another week. There will be more - lot more - next week. In the meantime have a look at and see what you think.

I’m Anthony Day.

That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Bye for now!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Linking Meat to Climate Change

Published as a podcast on Friday 31st March at iTunes, Stitcher and

Kristie Middleton
Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday, 31st March. I'm Anthony Day and this week we're talking about meat and climate change. How is meat linked to climate change? Can what you eat have an effect on global warming? "Yes", is the answer from the Humane Society of the United States and we'll meet two people from that organisation in the moment and they will explain how and why that's true.

You'll find links to my stories and a complete transcript of the interview below.

First, some headlines this week. Although Donald Trump appears to have failed to dismantle Obamacare it looks as though he’ll have more success in repealing Obama’s clean air legislation. EPA chief Scott Pruitt says that this will permit cheaper coal-fired power and create more mining jobs. It's good news, he says, for industry and for the environment. Exactly how he quantifies the benefits to the environment is not clear, but of course in his view it cannot do any harm because he refuses to believe that CO2 emissions have anything to do with climate change and rejects the scientific evidence. This is in direct contradiction of statements on the EPA website.

Dr Helen Harwatt
The move away from coal seems to be gathering pace across the world. In 2016 there was a 48% fall in planned coal units and a 62% drop in new starts. Most of this is due to changing policies in India and China. See the Boom & Bust 2017 Report produced by Coalswarm, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. 

I mentioned last time that 2016 was yet another hottest year on record. The World Meteorological Organisation reports: “Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts.” It expects extreme and unusual weather trends to continue in 2017. You can read the press release here.

Turning to transport news, the Wright One, an electric plane, could carry 150 people on journeys of less than 500 miles within the next 10 years according to reports from the BBC. That could make London to Paris electric flights a reality. EasyJet is said to be interested, although the plane is not yet in development. The key issue is battery technology which is developing rapidly but has not yet reached the necessary power to weight ratio. The problem is that as batteries get more and more energy-dense we have seen that they can catch fire or explode. There will also be a need for a completely new regulatory framework.

A TED Talk you should see. Styrofoam - expanded polystyrene - is a versatile plastic used for throwaway cups, cutlery and toys and for packaging goods like TVs, washing machines and so on. It’s generally thrown away because styrofoam can’t be recycled economically. But maybe not any more. Ashton Cofer explains in this video how he and his classmates  have worked out how to convert styrofoam into activated carbon, as used in water filters.

And now to the main event:

Anthony: Today we have two guests on the Sustainable Futures Report. First, Kristie Middleton who is a senior food policy director for The Humane Society of the United States. She’s author of a number of articles in this field, there’s one that caught my eye, The Chicken in the Room at the Paris Climate Talks, that’s something we must talk about later. She’s also just published a book, Meatless: Transform the Way You Eat and Live One Meal at a Time. That’s published in the United States but you can get it for the Kindle via Amazon wherever you are. And our other guest is Helen Harwatt, Dr. Helen Harwatt, who is formerly an environmental nutrition research fellow at the Loma Linda University in California. She’s now a freelance sustainability researcher, her key interests focus on the potential contribution on sustainable diets to climate change mitigation. And she’s published a number of articles in scientific journals on food and the environment so we welcome you both, thank you very much for taking part. 

Kristie: Thank you so much for having us.
Helen: Yeah, thank you.

Anthony: Okay. So what we want to talk about today is the link between climate change and meat consumption. So, that’s going to be our first question. Helen, can you explain how that works?
Helen: Sure, yes, so there’s a few things to mention here, starting with the total greenhouse gas emission contribution that the livestock sector makes and that is around 15 percent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. And this is just worth pointing out that there is some interest in issues related to the direct greenhouse gas emissions from the animals. So here we have methane and nitrous oxide being the main contribution comes from livestock for those two key greenhouse gas emissions. And a really important thing to mention here is that methane has a much shorter atmospheric lifetime than carbon dioxide, and we know that carbon dioxide is the current focus of climate change policy efforts, but actually methane has a higher warming potential than carbon dioxide and coupled with a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere could really be key to achieving short term reductions in temperature and avoiding those dangerous tipping points. And we also see that indirect greenhouse gas emissions are very important, as well, so this is for example from land used to feed crops and mainly in the change of land use for example deforestation. So the Brazilian Amazon is an example: 70 percent of deforestation is directly linked to livestock production. And this is really important because we’re losing really important carbon stores and interfering with the natural carbon cycle. And land use is really crucial for meeting climate change goals. So we were really looking to offset greenhouse gas emissions through various land use. So, for example, restoring natural habitats to forests and currently animal agriculture takes up 30 percent of all ice-free land. And an interesting report just out last week from researchers at the University of Aberdeen showed that 85 percent of the UK’s total land footprint is associated with meat and dairy production. Last year researchers from Cambridge University showed that a 50 percent reduction in calories from animal products in the UK combined with restoring the land spared from animal agriculture to its natural habitat would actually reduce UK’s emissions by about 80 percent, so this is huge. 

Anthony: Let me just clarify that point,  you’re saying a 50 percent reduction in calories from meat, you mean, do you mean by that if we ate 50 percent less meat in the UK that would have that 80 percent reduction in emissions?

Helen: So that’s 50 percent reduction in calories from animal products, so not just meat but mainly coming from meat in the greenhouse gas impact share. And that’s coupled with restoring the land that would no longer be used for animal agriculture to its natural habitat which would obviously store carbon in forests and grasslands. 

Anthony: Before I move on to what we eat if we don’t eat meat, Kristie can I turn to you because I understand that The Humane Society focuses very much on meat reduction. Tell me a bit about the campaign that you’re working on at the moment.

Kristie: Right, well, thanks for asking about that, so I think that when people hear about The Humane Society they tend to think about how we’re helping cats and dogs and our organisation built in the US and in our sister organisation Humane Society International we do a lot of that through providing free and low cost spey/neuter services. We also work to help wildlife and end animal fighting, so we are involved in a lot of campaigns and programs. My organisation, or my team at the organisation, specifically works to help institutions with reducing the amount of meat they are serving and adding more plant-based options to their menus. And we do this because it’s an animal protection organisation we would be remiss if we weren’t addressing the area where the most animals that are used in our industrial food system are institutionally abused and that is in the meat industry, within the United States alone, nine and a half billion animals are factory farmed and the global total is, of course, billions more than that. And so we work to help end factory farming through getting schools, hospitals, colleges and universities and others to reduce the amount of meat they are serving. And, of course, as it turns out, what is good for animals and ending their suffering in factory farming, is also really good for our health, as well. So there’s a lot of research that indicates that eating less meat, eating more plant-based foods or even going completely to a plant-based diet can help with addressing a lot of our chronic preventable diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even reducing the obesity epidemic. And then, of course, environmental sustainability and that includes biodiversity because the animal agribusiness has so much at stake in terms of what Helen mentioned decimating our Amazonian rainforest and other really precious natural landscapes and so we are destroying biodiversity when we plough down forests to create grain for our cattle and other animals. 

Anthony: Well, my question is, are you recommending that everyone should be vegetarian?

Kristie: The Humane Society’s perspective is we advocate for what we call the three R’s which is reducing, replacing and refining. So reducing the amount of animal products in your diet through something like a meatless Monday or identifying other ways that you can reduce, replacing those products with plant-based products, and refining your diet by choosing higher welfare sources if you do continue to eat meat, eggs and dairy. And, so, in my book Meatless, I go over all of the reasons that more and more people are eating less meat or are going vegetarian or vegan. I outline a lot of the common obstacles of diet change, and finally I help with providing simple tips and tricks as well as recipes and other resources for other people who are interested in getting started. So it doesn’t have to be 100 percent, any movement in that direction is a good start, but I know Helen probably has an opinion about that too, so I’d love to hear what she thinks. 

Anthony: Well indeed, actually I’m very interested to hear that because a lot of people say to me you’re into sustainability you’re into environmental protection, how can you be if you’re not a vegetarian, because I’m not a vegetarian. 

Helen: Yeah, you were asking does everybody need to be a vegetarian. So, there’s a couple of studies just to mention on that, so one looked at different types of diets, this one is by Bryngelsson et al from Chalmers University last year. They looked at different types of diets and how much greenhouse gasses result  - net greenhouse gasses - and for the vegan diet it’s actually net negative. And, like I was saying, that really frees up carbon budget for other areas where reductions are difficult to come by especially in the short term. So the nearer we get towards vegan definitely means that we have more of a carbon budget to play with. And, also, just to mention again the study from Cambridge researchers where they looked at a 50 percent reduction in animal products consumed in the UK and combined with restoring the land spared back to its natural habitat, so they were looking at 50 percent reduction combined with the land sparing and they came to the 80 percent reduction in UK emissions. So, again, that’s not saying 100 percent but it really depends what that land is used for afterwards. 

Anthony: A lot of people don’t know very much about the link between climate change and food, and maybe don’t want to know because a lot of environmentalists do say you’ve got to be a vegetarian if you’re serious. And what do you think about that Helen?

Helen: Yeah, well, if we look at the evidence - let’s focus on climate change. So a publication last year from the University of Oxford, for example, found that a fully vegan diet applied at the global level would reduce food related greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent. Now, this is really significant because the more we reduce food related greenhouse gasses means that we are freeing up carbon budget for other areas that are more difficult or may take longer to achieve reduction such as the energy sector, for example. So really key things to consider there are the potentials of the low hanging fruit that food related greenhouse gas reductions represent should really be taken seriously as climate change mitigation policy. 

Anthony: Yes, but as you said, there are other ways of doing it and we aren’t going to persuade everybody to be vegan and we’re certainly not going to persuade everybody to be vegetarian. So this is one part towards reducing the global carbon footprint. What other things should people be doing? 

Kristie: Well I’ll dive in and share that what we’re seeing really is a move toward reduction in the United States there’s a publication called Meatingplace, so it’s a trade publication for the meat industry and they conducted their own research last year and published their findings and one of the things they found was that 70 percent of meat eaters are saying that they are eating a non-meat protein at least one meal once a week and that figure’s up 22 percent from just a year ago. So I think while we may not see people shifting from vegetarian to vegan, certainly not overnight, people are definitely interested and I think more than ever before in eating less meat and that will certainly have an impact, and in the UK it could be through a Meat-free Monday and in the US we have a Meatless Monday program and the idea behind that is to take a holiday from meat just one day of the week to get started. There’s also the idea of being a flexitarian which is a mostly plant-based diet and eating meat or dairy every once in a while, or doing something like eating vegan before 6 p.m., so many more people are interested in doing this and the food industry is responding, such as Veggie Pret in the UK, which was just a pop-up restaurant and now it’s so popular and they’re talking about making it a permanent fixture. In the US, of course, we are seeing even fast food chains like Burger King, the king of burgers, now has a veggie burger on its menu and now you can get it at every location across the country. So I do feel like people are better understanding the reasons and the impact that their diet choices can have not only on their health and animals but on the environment, and they’re interested in making changes and sometimes they’re not really sure where to get started, and those are just a few reasons that make you do so. 

Anthony: Let me follow up on a couple of points. First of all I show my ignorance, could you give an example of a non-meat protein? 

Kristie: Sure, I think beans are probably one of the easiest and most widely available, and, in addition to that, it’s very inexpensive. So beans are a great source of protein and they’re also full of fibre and vita-chemicals so they’re both cancer fighting chemicals, as well, and they’re available pretty much anywhere in a can. You can get them canned, you can get them dry, and you can create them in all kinds of amazing recipes. Pretty much every culture around the world has their own variety of beans that they love and it’s a great way of getting a really clean protein. 
Anthony: Right and they’re quite a lot cheaper than meat. 

Kristie: Absolutely! Just yesterday I was in the supermarket and they’re roughly $1.19 to $1.99 for a pound of beans and meat prices were anywhere from $4.99 to $9.99 a pound. So they’re quite a bit cheaper. And the other hidden cost if you’re purchasing meat is that we are, of course, causing the environmental devastation we’re talking about, in addition to the impacts of climate change, we’re talking about huge amounts of waste, animal waste that’s being created from pollution to the manure that is polluting the soil, all of those are the hidden costs. 

Anthony: Let me go back to the other point you made, you mentioned the pop-up restaurant in the UK, maybe you can send me a link to that so people can follow that up when they look on the blog, what was it called again?

Kristie: Oh, this is Pret-A-Manger, which you probably see all over London if you’re in London.

Anthony: Oh, I Pret-A-Manger, I didn’t hear it clearly. Oh yes, I’ve heard of that. 

Kristie: And then they have Veggie Pret, so it’s just a vegetarian version of the chain. 

Anthony: Veggie Pret. No, I have not heard of that. 

Kristie: And London just got its first ever vegan fried chicken restaurant earlier this year, so I don’t know if that’s really considered to be healthy but there are definitely more and more options that are becoming available. 

Anthony: How can you get vegan fried chicken? 
Kristie: I don’t know the answer to that but I’m interested in finding out.

Anthony: Right. Helen, you’ve been involved, I believe, in calculating the carbon savings and institutions are making though menu options.  Tell me a bit more about that.

Helen:  Yeah, sure, so basically I’m using published scientific data on the greenhouse gas footprints of different foods to measure the impact of changes made to food purchasing and obviously through menus, so for example, if an institute reduced beef purchases by 50 percent and replaced that with beans then I would be able to measure the greenhouse gas impact change and I will be assessing those emissions periodically so before any menu changes have taken place and after any menu changes have taken place and at several points in time after that, as well. And this is a really great opportunity for institutes to assess their food related greenhouse gas emissions and it comes at a time when they’re actively seeking to do that and are being required to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions across campus. 

Anthony: Right, so you talk about academic institutions and hospitals perhaps are there other public sector organisations? 

Helen: Yeah, so right now we are just focused on universities but definitely will be included in those other types of institutions, too. 

Anthony: I think you’ve also been involved, Kristie, in working with institutions on reducing their carbon footprint.

Kristie: Right, so institutions are purchasing a lot of food, from schools to hospitals to universities even the military and correctional facilities -- all of these institutions are looking at ways to offer more helpful and more sustainable options to their guests and one intervention that we’ve offered is through plant-based culinary instruction and we’ve now trained several thousand chefs to create delicious, filling, nutritious and plant-based options for their menus. And I’ll share just a couple of examples of some of the things institutions are doing here. One of those is a case study from University of North Texas, which is just about 30 minutes or so north of Dallas. So if you know anything about the geography there, it’s not really a hot bed of animal activism. It’s really in the heart of cattle country. And they’ve been receiving all kinds of requests from students for a vegan option and so they took one of their five dining halls and made it totally vegan, and it turned out to be a massive success generating all kinds of free publicity for the university and increasing student satisfaction. It went from serving about 100- 175 meals a day to 700 to over 1000 meals per day, and also helped with increasing sales of their dining plan. It was a massive success and they were able to reduce their carbon footprint. Another example is UC Berkeley, they’re part of this program called Menus of Change which is put together by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, which is the premier culinary institute here. They’re really trying to find ways to help Americans eat less saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and other things, just so there are healthier more sustainable menus. So, as a result of that, UC Berkeley created a concept restaurant on its campus which they called Brown’s, which is a sustainable café. Where they’re really trying to focus more on plant-based foods, and they created a dish they call the flipped plate and they can get it either totally plant based or you can get it with some meat, but the concept behind flipping the plate is looking at it through the lens of making vegetables the real centre of the plate, and if you do opt to have some meat or animal protein then making that a very small portion. So you’re going from the way we would usually look at the typical plate having meat really as the centre, now vegetables are at the centre of the plate and meat is the side if it’s on the plate at all. So there are really interesting interventions at institutions that are going about approaching this and there’s not really a one-size-fits-all but I think it’s really important for everyone to start thinking of ways that they can do their part. 

Anthony: Yes, it sounds that you have got really interesting initiatives there, and if we are going to make a significance difference, though, I can’t see anybody or any politicians or any governments actually trying to restrict the operations of the agriculture sector. On the other hand, if consumers aren’t buying the product then that actually will reduce the production of meat and so on but consumers won’t stop buying meat unless they are confident and informed about what the alternatives are. So how are we going to address that?

Kristie: Yeah, I think that is a really wonderful point and I think that consumers are increasingly interested in finding out more about the alternatives and I think that’s why we can see the US market really responding. So, one example is the dairy industry, which is a notorious methane emitter and now there are all kinds of plant based dairies from almond to soy milk, which are now pretty ubiquitous to exotic milks that are coming out all the time like cashew cream or hazelnut cream. Ben and Jerry’s which is a subsidiary of Unilever, one of the world’s biggest food companies, came out with six new flavours of it delicious ice cream and it happens to be totally plant-based, totally vegan. And then Breyers, another chain company, came out with a couple of flavours and it’s a much less a premium brand.  So they definitely see that there is consumer interest and I think that as there are more products out there that are still delicious that still have the same flavour profiles that we are used to eating, that people will start trying these products and the market will respond, as well. 

Anthony: That’s very interesting; as we draw this to a close I would like to ask each of you in turn. Helen, first of all, what one thing should people who listen to this do tomorrow to make a difference in order to reduce their carbon footprint, how can they do that in terms of what they eat?

Helen: Yeah, so the easiest thing really is if you’re going to start tomorrow is to find some recipes and really experiment. Find things you really like, so find some vegan recipes to replace your favourite meat and dairy dishes. Another thing really good to do is to look at substitutions, so like Kristie mentioned, the vegan fried chicken. So if there is any kind of particular thing that somebody loves just look for the plant-based alternative and that’s a great way to reduce your impact. 

Anthony: Right, the thing is, of course, that more and more people are living to a very large extent takeaways and ready meals. I don’t see, maybe because I don’t look for them, but I don’t see vegetarian or vegan ready meals on the shelves. Kristie, am I wrong on that, are they available? 

Kristie: There are quite a few brands. So I know Linda McCartney’s got a wonderful brand of frozen meals that you can heat up at home, and certainly we have loads of them here, and I really think that it’s just identifying items like that. So, our food is so deeply embedded in our culture and our daily routines so it’s just a matter of tweaking our habits and that’s one of the things that I talk about in my book, is just finding an option that works for you. As Helen just mentioned, look at what you’re already eating and find something that’s a simple substitute or a simple trade off. And another real critical element of this is building community because the way that we eat is so heavily influenced by our friends and family. Walter Willett at the Harvard School of Public Health talked about how obesity is contagious, if our close friend is obese, we are 57 percent more likely to be obese, but health is also contagious, too, so why don’t we encourage our friends and family to join us on a journey, because not only will be we more inclined to succeed but our impact will be multiplied.

Anthony: Well, that’s very encouraging. And have you got one thing that people should do tomorrow, starting tomorrow?

Kristie: Well given it’s Thursday, I would say, probably a meatless Thursday, you really can do it any day of the week but I think it’s to start something and really to have a concrete plan in mind. Don’t just think I’m going to try to eat less meat say  I’m gonna do it at least one day a week or at least one meal a day I’m going to eat meatless, and I think you’re more likely to be successful. 

Anthony: I’d like to thank you both very much for an interesting discussion and wish you both success in the campaign. 

Kristie: Thank you so much, and happy meatless Thursday (or it’s Wednesday today.) 
Helen: Thank you, Anthony.

And thank you to Kristie Middleton and Helen Harwatt, speaking on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States. Thank you also to their colleague Elizabeth Walker who produced this transcript of the interview.

Here are some links to resources which they asked me to pass on. Helen says: “For the food replacements that Kristie and I both mentioned, in the UK the best ones are made by Fry's and are available in some of the major supermarkets and most health stores, including Holland and Barrett. Here's their website with product and supplier information: Also, Sainsbury's have just launched a great range of vegan cheeses. For anyone really wanting to dive in for a challenge, there's a 30 day supported vegan challenge from a UK charity - here's the link:"

And Kristie adds: “Here’s a link to where your listeners can find MeatLess:  

And here’s a source on animal agriculture’s impact on biodiversity: 
Machovina et al., 2015. Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption. Science of The Total Environment."

More resources from Helen:

Gerber et al., 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock - A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Bryngelsson et al., 2016. How can the EU climate targets be met? A combined analysis
of technological and demand-side changes in food and agriculture. 

Lamb et al., 2016. The potential for land sparing to offset greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Springmann et al., 2016. Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change.

de Ruiter et al., 2017. Total global agricultural land footprint associated with UK food supply 1986 - 2011.

Also, here are two studies around public awareness of food and climate change (I didn't get to mention them but might be of interest to readers/listeners):

A large scale international consumer survey reported by Chatham House:
Wellesley et al., 2015. Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption.

A recent survey of UK consumers commissioned by the Global Food Security programme:

And that’s all for another week. Next week I’m talking about Business Ethics and Sustainability and I’m launching a Patreon page. If you don’t know what that is go across to I’ll see you over there shortly.

This is Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.

Have a great week!