Day: August 18, 2011

‘Locally Produced’ Defined Differently by Major Grocery Chains

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

The local food movement has come a long way from what started out as a fringe fraction of the population to grabbing the attention of big box grocery retailers and industrial food giants. The original goals of proponents of the “locavore diet” focused on supporting smaller local farms (and thus the local economy), protecting the environment by decreasing food-miles traveled and using less synthetic chemicals.

Big food companies and major grocery store chains alike have caught on, realizing they can make big bucks making customers feel good about their impact on the planet, their economy and themselves. Thus, they are shifting produce purchasing decisions toward local. Most chains cite consumer demand, reduction of spoilage, and savings made on fuel and freight costs as their main incentives.

Whether their intentions are to do good, make profits, or both, the issue at hand is that each company has come up with different definitions of just what the term local means. As the Wall Street Journal’s Miguel Bustillo and David Kesmodel so aptly point out in a recent article, “The lack of a federal standard or any consensus on what qualifies as ‘local’ food leaves grocers a lot of leeway in their marketing. At most large retailers, fruits and vegetables harvested hundreds of miles away can be touted as locally grown. Such loose definitions have sparked criticism from small farmers and organic-food advocates that the chains are merely adjusting their marketing to capitalize on the latest food trend, rather than making real changes in their procurement practices.”

Measuring Your Plastic Footprint

Read the full post at NYT Green.

With climate change and carbon dioxide emissions dominating the environmental conversation much of the time, the issue of plastic pollution tends to get short shrift. Still, the problem is worrying enough to be stirring serious concern among environmental and scientific experts, especially when it comes to plastic that ends up in the oceans, where it never quite biodegrades and can form a swelling gyre of sludge.

Beach and river cleanups simply no longer suffice. With plastic consumption growing, some are calling for a bigger-picture attempt to reduce wasteful use of plastic, increase recycling and raise awareness that plastic is essentially stored petroleum. Enter the Plastic Disclosure Project, an initiative that echoes the well-established Carbon Disclosure Project.

As I report in greater detail in this Green Column, the idea in each case is to get companies and institutions to assess their carbon — or plastic — “footprint” by taking a good, long look at how much they and their suppliers use, reuse and recycle.

Do scientists disagree about global warming?

Read the full post at Politifact.

Climate change has become a touchy subject in the Republican primary. Though some candidates once supported plans to reduce carbon emissions, such strategies have fallen out of favor with Republicans in recent years. Even acknowledging that human beings are causing climate change can be politically problematic for some Republicans.

Our colleagues at the Miami Herald asked Republican presidential candidate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty about his views on climate change in an interview on Aug. 3, 2011. His response piqued our interest:

“Well, there’s definitely climate change. The more interesting question is how much is a result of natural causes and how much, if any, is attributable to human behavior. And that’s what the scientific dispute is about,” said Pawlenty. “It’s something we have to look to the science on. The weight of the evidence is that most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes… There’s lots of layers to it. But at least as to any potential man-made contribution to it, it’s fair to say the science is in dispute.”

We divided Pawlenty’s answer into his two essential claims:

  • Evidence points toward climate change being primarily a natural, rather than man-made, phenomenon.
  • The science about the causes of global climate change is in dispute.

Molson Coors Slashes Water Use 5% in One Year

Read the full post at Triple Pundit.

Beer has become a global beverage of choice, from national brands to local craft brews.  With popularity and thirst come impact:  depending on which resource you check, it takes anywhere from 75 liters ( to 155 liters (WWF) to produce a single glass of beer.  Much of that water impact comes from far down the supply chain, from farms to ingredients’ final distribution before all that wheat, barley, and hops ferment into frothy goodness.  So no, not every drop of water that contributes to that bottle of beer is lost forever. The point of sorting out a “water footprint” is to find fixable inefficiencies.

Beer companies are onto this as the industry faces growing consolidation and local communities express concern about the impact that massive breweries can have on local water supplies.  So the (responsible) race is on:  companies are tripping over each other to show that that their water-to-beer ratio is trending down.  The statistics are not just about public relations:  beverage company executives have told me that water efficiency projects can have an internal ROI of anywhere between 10 to 20 percent.  Molson Coors, the North American beer giant, had a large drop in water consumption the past year alone.

Bay fog factory: Scientists research coastal weather for clues to climate change

Read the full story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Every summer, hordes of beach-goers seeking California sunshine are attracted to the Central Coast. Clad in bikinis and swim shorts, they hit the beach only to be greeted with a sobering surprise: a dense layer of coastal fog rolling off the bay.

No stranger to locals, coastal fog during the summer is a regular feature of Central California. And though it can make for cool temperatures that dampen beach parties, fog actually plays an integral role in sustaining the wild lands that make the Monterey Bay area such a beautiful and diverse place. Recent evidence that fog may be disappearing from the California coast has alarmed scientists, however, as they are just beginning to discover the value of this maritime resource.

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