Rethinking Returns After Earth Day: How To Implement Environmentally Friendly Strategies

Read the full story in Forbes.

As online retail explodes and surpasses $600 billion in the United States this year, expectations continue to rise for faster shipping and return options. This comes at an increasing cost to the environment, something that  today’s consumers are more aware of than ever.

When considering environmentally friendly policies, it’s important to not think of them as a cost burden. There are plenty of ways for retailers to implement thoughtful strategies that are good for both business and the planet. And although Earth Day 2019 has passed, it is time we continue the conversation.

Rethinking product returns is a great place to start. Average return rates for online purchases are two to three times higher than brick and mortar and can reach as high as 30% depending upon the product category. Shipping products back and forth so often is having a big impact on everything from green gas emissions to landfill waste.

Having helped hundreds of retailers of all sizes build their online return strategies, here are a few approaches you can use to reduce your environmental impact.

Technology Harnesses Industrial Waste Heat, Converts to Electricity

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

In the U.S. alone, more than 30 percent of all energy consumed is lost as waste heat. Of this wasted heat, 60 percent is considered low temperature and is unable to be harvested using traditional technologies.

A new innovation could help capture a substantial amount of low-temperature waste heat and convert it into energy.

RedWave Energy, in a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), has developed Antenna Coupled THz (ACT) Film, a technology that can harvest electricity from lost low-temperature waste heat using specially designed rectennas to capture infrared heat waves and convert it into electricity. The technology was a 2018 R&D 100 Award winner.

Could Algae-Based ‘Biocurtains’ Make Our Cities Healthier?

Read the full story at Core77.

In an era defined by problems caused by humans, architects Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto of London-based firm ecoLogicStudio think we should be looking at biological intelligence to develop solutions for our future. One of their projects, called Photo.Synth.Etica, is an urban-scale “biocurtain” that uses microalgae and the process of photosynthesis to capture carbon dioxide from polluted air.

Washington State to Conduct Plastic Packaging Management Study

Read the full story from the National Law Review.

Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee has signed legislation that requires the Department of Ecology to submit a report to the legislature with recommendations on the management and disposal of plastic packaging. Due by October 31, 2020, the report must include:

  • Amount and types of plastic packaging in the state;
  • Cost of managing plastic packaging waste;
  • Final disposition of all plastic packaging sold into the state;
  • Costs and savings to all stakeholders of other product stewardship programs;
  • Infrastructure required to manage plastic packaging;
  • Contamination and sorting issues for the plastic packaging recycling stream; and
  • Existing stewardship organizations/databases useful to develop a plastic waste management and disposal program in Washington State.

The report also must also include recommendations on how to meet the goals of reducing plastic packaging waste through industry initiatives or product stewardship, including:

  • Achievement of 100% recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging in all goods sold in Washington state by 2025;
  • Achievement of at least 20% post-consumer recycled content in packaging by 2025; and
  • Reduction of plastic packaging when possible, optimizing the use to meet the need.

Escaped pet parrots are now naturalized in 23 US states, study finds

Read the full story from the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Research data on bird sightings finds that 56 different parrot species have been spotted in 43 states, and 25 of those species are now breeding in the wild in 23 different states.

European Council Adopts New Rules on Single-Use Plastics

Read the full story from the National Law Review.

The European Council adopted the Single-Use Plastics Directive on May 21, 2019. The Directive will impact plastic food-contact articles through several initiatives, including bans on certain single-use plastics, increased collection goals, measures to reduce the consumption of plastic food containers, and extended producer responsibility requirements. (For background information, see the article, EU Publishes Updated Draft of Single-Use Plastics Directive.)

Cutting cities’ emissions does have economic benefits – and these ultimately outweigh the costs

Read the full story in The Conversation.

The politics of climate change in Australia has always been about the costs of change. It’s often debated in terms of we can’t afford or can afford to pay for the changes needed to our power, transport and building systems. However, the benefits can also be calculated and in general can be shown to outweigh the costs in the long term.

We can also very easily see the short-term economic benefits in our cities. These benefits can be factored in to our calculations by carefully enabling the new economy to emerge as old power stations, buildings, transport infrastructure and vehicles are replaced.

The big change involves deciding no more coal, gas or oil-based systems will be built as replacements for ageing infrastructure systems in our cities. We can do this now that new energy systems are emerging as cost-competitive.


Farmers and end users now benefit from a new database of industrial crops growing on marginal land

Read the full story from the Nova Institute.

The European Union’s Horizon 2020 project MAGIC has reached a milestone by uploading a beta version of its Decision Support System for farmers and end users, showing marginal land and an overview of industrial crops suitable to be grown on this land.

The 4-year MAGIC project aims to promote the sustainable development of resource-efficient and economically profitable industrial crops on marginal land. Industrial crops can provide resources for high value-added products and bioenergy. This approach can strengthen the growing bio-based industry, help to mitigate competition in land use and increase farmers’ incomes through access to new markets, as well as increasing the value of marginal land. In the first project period, a preliminary version of the decision support system providing access to three data sets (MAGIC MAPS, MAGIC CROPS and the MAGIC DSS) was developed and is now available at

Underwater Arctic forests are expanding with rapid warming

Read the full story in The Conversation.

Did you know that there are forests in the Arctic?

Lush underwater forests of large brown seaweeds (kelps) are particularly striking in the Arctic, especially in contrast to the land where ice scour (scraping of sea ice against the sea floor) and harsh climates leave the ground barren with little vegetation.

Kelp forests have been observed throughout the Arctic by Inuit, researchers and polar explorers. The Canadian Arctic alone represents 10 per cent of the world’s coastlines, but we know little of the hidden kelp forests there.

Today, climate change is altering marine habitats such as kelp forests on a global scale. In western Australia, eastern Canada, southern Europe, northern California and eastern United States, kelps are disappearing due to warming temperatures. In other areas, kelps are being heavily over-grazed by sea urchins. Coastal conditions in the Arctic are changing dramatically and the region is warming faster than the rest of the world, but these changes could actually be good for kelp.

Yet we know little about kelp forests in remote Arctic regions. Our latest research, published in Global Change Biology, uncovers the distribution of Arctic kelp forests and explores how these important ecosystems are changing with the climate.

Do Americans understand how air pollution from fossil fuels harms health?

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Most Americans (73%) are aware that air pollution from the use of fossil fuels harms the health of Americans. However, only about half (55%) are able to name even one such health impact. Additionally, the most frequently cited health impacts are general (e.g.,breathing problems, respiratory illness) rather than specific (e.g., asthma). This according to the results of our recent Climate Change in the American Mind survey (December, 2018).