Americans throw away 133 billion pounds of food annually. TAZ/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
This is the time of year, in the days prior to the USA Thanksgiving holiday, when I tend to recall the first time food waste, one of the oddest of plagues, came to my attention. Thank you Meg. And thanks to Yale e360 for reporting this heartening news:
In the first 10 months of 2018, investors poured $125 million into U.S. companies whose mission is to prevent food from going to waste, according to a new report.
ReFED, a non-profit dedicated to drastically cutting the amount of food that becomes spoiled or is wasted in the U.S., said that the investments spanned a wide variety of companies focusing on new technologies, software, and business-to-business solutions. They include Apeel Sciences, which received $70 million in private financing to produce a natural second skin to extend the life of produce; Food Maven and Full Harvest, each of which received $8.5 million to help businesses sell excess or less visually appealing produce; Spoiler Alert, which helps businesses better manage unsold food inventory; and ReGrained, which makes flour out of spent distillers grains. Continue reading
Sir David Attenborough on location for the new series. Photograph: Nick Lyons/BBC NHU
There are few people featured as frequently in our pages since 2011. His documentation of the wonders of nature surely qualifies as a major contribution to humanity. He has a new series and as always we link out to it here. But with it, some questions arise based on an interview he recently gave to Jonathan Watts, the Guardian’s Global Environment Editor, to promote the series:
By downplaying our environmental crisis, the presenter’s BBC films have generated complacency, confusion and ignorance
David Attenborough filming the BBC series Africa in the Suguta Valley, northern Kenya. Photograph: David Chancellor/BBC
Knowingly creating a false impression of the world: this is a serious matter. It is more serious still when the BBC does it, and yet worse when the presenter is “the most trusted man in Britain”. But, as his latest interview with the Observer reveals, David Attenborough sticks to his line that fully representing environmental issues is a “turn-off”.
His new series, Dynasties, will mention the pressures affecting wildlife, but Attenborough makes it clear that it will play them down. To do otherwise, he suggests, would be “proselytising” and “alarmist”. His series will be “a great relief from the political landscape which otherwise dominates our thoughts”. In light of the astonishing rate of collapse of the animal populations he features, alongside most of the rest of the world’s living systems – and when broadcasting as a whole has disgracefully failed to represent such truths – I don’t think such escapism is appropriate or justifiable. Continue reading
Above is the lead photo in an intriguing story of an act of protest, reported by by David Streitfeld. Reading it, no surprise that he won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting five years ago in a series of stories about Apple. Now his attention is placed on another company that has come to have an outsized role in the world, and needs explanation, and as I see it, deep concern. It is a company that I have only rarely, and only when I had no acceptable alternative, paid money to. When I have bought from them I have regretted it each time, even though the price I paid was the lowest available and the service was remarkable. Why do I resist doing business with that company and why do I wish others would do the same? That is a puzzle worth solving, and I hope that journalists are up to the task. Today, the headline proclaims:
- The company is said to be nearing deals to move to Long Island City in Queens and Arlington, Va., though a final decision has not been announced.
- The surprise change would allow the tech giant to tap into the talent pools of two different regions.
Bezos during his appearance at Economic Club of Washington, in September. Photograph by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty
Exciting stuff for the politicians who want to claim credit for Amazon’s choice. But there’s a very big story behind all that. The company is powerful, and what is said about power leading to corruption is too simple for this story, and for the man leading this powerful enterprise.
I can find no reason to dislike Jeff Bezos personally. Any entrepreneur can find reasons to admire his intelligence, his determination and his contrarian approach. Every time I see him in recorded interview video I find his enthusiasm and laughter contagious. But I have had growing concern in the last decade about the company he founded, because of all the ways the lives of everyone around me seem to feed into Amazon’s market power. If you have time to read only one article on this topic today, it should probably be this one about Amazon’s location choice for HQ2:
On October 21, 2016, an entity called the Cherry Revocable Trust purchased two adjacent buildings in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for twenty-three million dollars. The buildings, which previously had housed the Textile Museum, were to be converted into a private residence—at twenty-seven thousand square feet, the largest in the city. In January, it was revealed that the anonymous purchaser represented by the Cherry Revocable Trust was Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon. The finished property will have eleven bedrooms, twenty-five bathrooms, five staircases, and a large ballroom suitable for gatherings of Washington’s notables. It will be, in the words of the journalist Ben Wofford, “a veritable Death Star of Washington entertaining.”
In July, Jeff Bezos became the richest man in modern history, when his net worth topped a hundred and fifty billion dollars. In September, Amazon became the second company, after Apple, to achieve a trillion-dollar valuation. These two milestones in the history of this country and capitalism passed with little fanfare outside the business world, preoccupied as we are by the antics of the pretend mogul who resides in the White House. But Bezos, an actual mogul, has also been making moves in Washington, none more high-profile than his purchase of the Washington Post, in 2013. More quietly, Amazon is investing heavily in the area. Continue reading
Seized rhinoceros horns and other animal parts at the Department of Wildlife and National Parks headquarters in Kuala Lumpur in August.CreditCreditManan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Javier C. Hernández shares this news from China, more frightening and more real than any Halloween horror story we can think of:
BEIJING — The Chinese government, reversing a 25-year ban, announced on Monday that it would allow the use of rhinoceros horns and tiger bones in medicine, a move that environmentalists described as a significant setback for efforts to protect the animals from extinction.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, said in a policy directive that it would legalize the use of rhino horns and tiger bones for “medical research or in healing,” but only by certified hospitals and doctors, and only from rhinos and tigers raised in captivity, excluding zoo animals. While such remedies are highly profitable, they have no proven benefits to humans.
Environmentalists said the decision would likely help fuel a black market for wild rhino and tiger parts, which are revered in traditional Chinese medicine for supposed healing powers, and could lead to increased poaching of the fewer than 30,000 rhinos and 3,900 tigers still in the wild. Continue reading
Moka pots … cheap but not cheerful. Photograph: Alikaj2582/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Gritty … a cafetière. Photograph: Getty Images/EyeEm
Tony Naylor’s story in the Guardian about the merits of various coffee makers catches my attention. Not because the coffee made by French press method, aka cafetière, is pronounced inferior to pods (we have long acknowledged that pods can produce excellent coffee but as noted below are ecologically irresponsible), and not just because of the recommendation to keep:
…a stash of single-origin beans in the freezer…
Filter … the best home option? Photograph: Getty Images/Westend61
(I thought by now it was commonly accepted fact that the freezer is an enemy of coffee).
Moka pots are thrashed in this review, and I am in agreement with the assessment. And instant? Talk about straw dog. Mainly I was surprised that the pour over is the overwhelming favorite for an ecologically more sound, gustatorily superior method of producing the best cup of coffee at home. I am using a cheap-o brew machine with a mesh filter (i.e. reusable so no waste) in which I put my freshly ground beans and this method is not even reviewed. Hmm. What am I missing?
Italians may find their morning espresso tastes awfully bitter this week, as the Bialetti group – the maker of the iconic stove-top moka coffee pot – struggles to stay afloat. The popularity of pod coffee machines, along with a sluggish Italian economy, has put the mockers on the moka, with Bialetti, a reported €68m (£60m) in debt, negotiating a bailout deal with the American hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management.
Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, the affordable aluminium Moka Express was meant to mimic espresso-quality coffee at home. Water boils in a bottom chamber and is forced up through the grounds to produce an intense hit of caffeine. The pot was once so popular that, according to a 2016 New York Times article, 90% of Italian households had one. Were they on to something? Or is there a tastier, more practical and sustainable way to make coffee at home? Continue reading
Volunteers cleared trash from the banks of the River Thames during the annual Big Bottle Count in London last month. Credit Matt Dunham/Associated Press
Thanks to Ceylan Yeginsu and the New York Times for this news:
Under the proposal, 10 single-use plastics that most often end up in the ocean will be prohibited in the European Union. Credit Rafael Marchante/Reuters
LONDON — The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a ban on single-use plastics such as straws, plates, cutlery and cotton-swab sticks in Europe by 2021, joining a global shift as environmentalists emphasize the urgency of halting the use of materials that are detrimental to the planet.
Under the proposal, approved on a vote of 571 to 53 on Wednesday, 10 single-use plastics that most often end up in the ocean will be prohibited in the European Union, as well as oxo-degradable plastics, such as bags or fast-food container packaging. Continue reading
Despite the rapid decline in the cost of solar-energy technology and battery storage, Arizona gets only six per cent of its electricity from solar. Photograph by Joshua Lott / Bloomberg / Getty
Thanks to Carolyn Kormann, making her fifth appearance since early 2016 in our pages, including this recent item that I particularly favored, for the article below that helps us understand what is happening with renewable energy these days in the USA. It is easy to forget, amidst all the noise of a federal government working to deregulate and reduce environmental protection, that important work continues:
In late September, the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that receives donations from fossil-fuel companies, published a blog post titled “California Billionaire’s Renewable Energy Initiative Makes Arizona Ballot.” The billionaire in question was Tom Steyer, whose year-long effort to pass Proposition 127, an amendment to Arizona’s constitution that would require power companies to generate fifty per cent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, has faced aggressive opposition from the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, or A.P.S. The blog post lamented a failed lawsuit filed by Arizonans for Affordable Energy, a political-action committee funded by A.P.S.’s parent company, to keep Prop 127 off the ballot, and quoted several opponents who believed the measure, now up for a vote in November, would be a costly mistake. “Prop 127 would tie Arizona’s future to technologies that do not deliver baseload electricity,” Mark Finchem, a Republican state representative, said, “and are arguably worse for the environment as a whole than the dependable technologies we already have.” The photograph accompanying the post depicted a wind-turbine farm, and, in the foreground, a dead bald eagle.
Arizona is the sunniest state in the country, with more than three hundred bluebird days per year. It is also projected to endure an additional month of hundred-degree days in the coming decades owing to climate change. Yet, despite the rapid decline in the cost of solar-energy technology and battery storage—to the point that, as an A.P.S. director told me, it now frequently outbids fossil fuels, even natural gas—in 2017, Arizona generated only six per cent of its electricity from solar, according to the ballot initiative’s advocates. The state currently requires utilities to generate eight per cent of their power from sources like solar and wind, scaling up to fifteen per cent by 2025. Natural gas, the largest source of Arizona’s net electricity generation, is imported from out of state. “Our most abundant resource in Arizona is our sunshine,” D. J. Quinlan, a spokesman for Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, the Phoenix-based political-action committee that Steyer is funding, said. “We need a nationwide transition to renewables. One of the first places we should be doing it is where it’s most efficient and cost-effective, and that’s here.” Continue reading
There are a variety of bananas trees outside my window at different stages of growth from baby to blossoming to bunches hanging low with the weight of near-readiness.
I realize that, although we have had some initiatives related to bananas, and I get motivated to learn more every time someone on our team has proposed such an initiative (regardless of its possible zaniness), I have not personally learned enough about bananas to know: how did these trees get here? What species are they? How long is the life cycle of the tree from sprout to fruit maturity? Thanks to Ceylan Yeginsu for this idea on what to do with the blossoms:
In London’s Vegan Fish-and-Chip Shop, Banana Blossoms Play Cod
LONDON — A newly opened restaurant in an East London neighborhood is aiming to make waves by serving what looks like the perfect presentation of fish and chips, that quintessential British dish: a piece of glistening plump batter, chunky chips, mushy peas and a slice of lemon.
But one major ingredient is missing.
“There’s no fish in our ‘fish,’ ” says Daniel Sutton, a fishmonger and restaurateur who opened what he says is London’s first stand-alone “vegan fish” and chips restaurant, Sutton and Sons, in Hackney this week.
For lovers of succulent fried cod, that concept may be hard to grasp.
“What do you mean there is no fish?” Christopher Haddon asked the restaurant’s manager with a puzzled expression on Thursday. He seemed confused and left the restaurant, or chippie, shaking his head.
Vegans, however, could not get enough of the fake fish.
“It’s amazing, delicious. Mmmmm,” said Dan Margetts, 53, as he took a bite. “It’s the same look and texture but less oily, cleaner — and no ammonia.” Continue reading
What gets measured gets managed. In the realm of climate science, national governments have the scale and responsibility to be involved in measurement. But if a skeptic is in charge of the government apparatus, good luck with that. With the national government of one of the big carbon footprint countries abandoning science and dropping out of the fight to reduce climate change, one of that country’s biggest companies is stepping up to offer an alternative. It may be too little too late but under the circumstances we may have no choice but to cheer it on:
The company will begin estimating local carbon pollution from cities around the world.
In the next decade or so, more than 6,000 cities, states, and provinces around the world will try to do something that has eluded humanity for 25 years: reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere and cause climate change.
The city-level leaders overseeing this task won’t have the same tools available to their national peers. Most of them won’t have an Environmental Protection Agency (or its equivalent), a meteorological bureau, a team of military engineers, or nasa. So where will they start? Never mind how to reduce their city’s greenhouse-gas emissions; how will they know what’s spewing carbon dioxide in the first place?
Maybe Google will do it for them. Or, at least, do it with them.
Google has started estimating greenhouse-gas emissions for individual cities, part of what it recently described as an ambitious new plan to deploy its hoard of geographic information on the side of climate-concerned local leaders. Continue reading
Derek Thomson and his Crazy Genius crew over at the Atlantic’s podcast division have hit on a winning formula, at least for me. They take a big issue question we hear about and think about frequently, like the question of what to do about meat consumption–as in what to do about the extremely obvious problem of meat consumption levels–and they apply some creative pod knowhow. One of the best motivators for going meatless, or at least eating less meat, that I have come upon in ages.
Americans eat more meat now than ever. That’s a problem for the planet’s future. Animal farming takes up 30 percent of the earth’s landmass (the equivalent of Asia), and livestock causes one-sixth of global greenhouse gas emissions. We need more than moral arguments against meat. We need a technological revolution in better, cleaner food.
If you do not have half an our for the podcast, take five minutes to read the summary here:
There are two big truths about eating meat from animals.
First, animal flesh imposes a high moral and ecological price for a tender medallion of food. Factory farming incurs the torturous treatment of millions of chickens, cows, and pigs each year. This constitutes a rolling moral catastrophe. What’s more, one-sixth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributable to raising livestock, and the figure is rising as more countries enter the global middle class. For most Americans, cutting meat out of their diets would reduce global warming more than giving up driving. Continue reading
Tim Brooks, Lego’s vice president for environmental responsibility, says the company emits about a million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times
For a company, and a product, that has been a part of so many lives for so long–and especially one whose name means to play well, it is still a shock to be reminded of their carbon footprint. And three years after first reading about their commitment, it is good to read details of their plan and progress:
At Lego, petroleum-based plastics aren’t the packaging, they’re the product — and the bricks making up these dinosaurs have barely changed in more than 50 years. Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times
BILLUND, Denmark — At the heart of this town lies a building that is a veritable temple to the area’s most famous creation, the humble Lego brick. It is filled with complex creations, from a 50-foot tree to a collection of multicolored dinosaurs, all of them built with a product that has barely changed in more than 50 years.
A short walk away in its research lab, though, Lego is trying to refashion the product it is best known for: It wants to eliminate its dependence on petroleum-based plastics, and build its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030. Continue reading
Green registration plates are already in use in China. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock
The UK, whatever other challenges it may be experiencing, is proving itself creatively committed to green innovation:
One of the many Advocacy Priorities of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA)
While indoor plumbing is more or less taken for granted, not everything that can flush, should. Thanks to the NYTimes for clarifying the basics.
Should I Flush It? Most Often, the Answer Is No
It might seem harmless at first: a thread of dental floss tossed in the toilet, a contact lens swirling down the drain of the bathroom sink. But even the tiniest of items can contaminate waterways.
The small fragments of plastic contact lenses are believed to be contributing to the growing problem of microplastic pollution. Pharmaceuticals, which are also frequently flushed down the drain, have been found in our drinking water, and the consequences are not fully known.
Larger products like wipes and tampons are also clogging sewer systems, resulting in billions of dollars in maintenance and repair costs.
Wondering what’s safe to flush or wash down the drain? We spoke with several wastewater management experts who explained why many frequently disposed items belong in a garbage can, not the toilet. Continue reading
Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder and chief executive of Chobani, arrived in the United States 24 years ago with $3,000 to his name. He now runs a company with annual sales of $1.5 billion.CreditCole Wilson for The New York Times
A few contributors on this platform are children of immigrants. Some are immigrants. And we love Greek yogurt. And we love a good shepherd to riches story. So, why not celebrate one of our own, so to speak?
A Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent, Mr. Ulukaya brought Greek yogurt to the mainstream. Along the way, he began hiring refugees, a move that drew threats from fringe websites and far-right commentators.
Hamdi Ulukaya arrived in the United States in 1994 with $3,000 in his pocket. He was an immigrant from Turkey, hoping to learn English and find his way in a new country.
Today, Mr. Ulukaya is a billionaire. Chobani, the Greek yogurt maker he founded in 2007, has annual sales of about $1.5 billion, and Mr. Ulukaya owns most of the privately held company. Continue reading
Thanks to Adam Vaughan and the Guardian for this update on this race:
Switching to LEDs has been estimated to save consumers up to £112 a year. Photograph: imageBroker/Rex/Shutterstock
Arthur Neslen at the Guardian shares the news, in Europe to ban halogen lightbulbs, that we have been waiting to hear for years:
The Blue Orchard Bee recently came to our attention thanks to Natalie Boyle. However, it seems the species has some competition as potential saviors of the farming industry. This article by Catherine M. Allchin, Honeybees Are Hurting. What Else Can Pollinate Our Food?, illustrates how…
…The dominant pollinator is under siege, straining the business of farming. Now growers are turning to alternative species to help their crops.
Jim Freese grows apples, pears and cherries on 45 acres in the north-central part of this state, on sagebrush-studded land his grandfather bought in 1910.
Walking among trees laden with shiny red cherries, Mr. Freese recalled that four years ago his trees were not producing well and his farm was financially struggling. Like many growers, he had been relying on rented honeybees to pollinate his cherry trees every spring, along with wild bees and other insects.
But that year, spring was expected to be cool. “Honeybees will just sit in the hive in cooler weather,” Mr. Freese said. He needed a way to ensure more flowers would develop into fruit than in the past.
At a horticulture meeting, he learned that blue orchard bees — a native species that doesn’t make honey or live in hives — could be used to supplement honeybee pollination. Blue orchard bees will fly at cooler temperatures.
Mr. Freese bought 12,000 cocoons and set them in his orchard to emerge when the trees bloomed. His investment paid off. “We doubled our cherry production from any previous record year,” he said.
His wife, Sandee Freese, said: “The little bees have been a godsend.”…
A few of our team members were just in the last week or so talking about poke, after a visit to a shop on Venice Beach, in California, that has some of the best-reputed poke on the mainland. Little did we know, something big was happening in the poke world, having to do with bullying tactics and cultural appropriation, a topic we have long been sensitive about considering the work we do. So, after reading this news, we pass this along and encourage all our friends and colleagues to consider where their poke dollars go:
On July 28th, a Hawaiian activist named Kalamaokaaina Niheu appeared in a Facebook Live video to discuss a “disturbing message” that she had received in her in-box that morning. It was about Aloha Poke Co., a restaurant chain based in Chicago that specializes in fast-casual versions of poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish made of chunks of seasoned raw fish. Niheu, who represents Hawaii in the Pacific Caucus at the United Nations and lives in Honolulu, had been hearing from Hawaiian business owners who had received cease-and-desist letters from the Chicago company, claiming that it had trademarked the phrases “Aloha” and “Aloha Poke,” and that any food business using those words in its name was infringing on its federal trademark.
To Niheu and other kanaka maoli—native Hawaiians—Aloha Poke Co.’s claim was ludicrous: How could a business, let alone a non-Hawaiian one, claim a right to something as fundamental to Hawaiian culture as the word “aloha”? The term, which can mean “hello” and “goodbye,” also signifies a spiritual connection between the Hawaiian people and the world around them, Niheu explained. Now it was being used as “a legal, blunt hammer for profit, so that Aloha Poke Co. can compete in a market that was never theirs to begin with,” she said. Several shops had already been forced to rebrand their poke businesses, and front the cost of doing so—redesigning their logos, tossing infringing merchandise and menus, and changing their social-media handles. One restaurant owner in Anchorage, Alaska, changed her business name from Aloha Poke Stop to Lei’s Poke Stop after receiving a cease-and-desist letter. “We just weren’t prepared to do that,” she told Eater. “We were already struggling as a small family business.” Continue reading