Healthy soil is critical in mitigating climate change. Yet, our soil is not healthy. Every year, the United States is losing 10 billion tons of fertile soil, which is far faster than nature can replenish it. When you consider 95% of the food we eat is grown in soil, this fact is alarming.
“Agriculture is often fingered as a major culprit in climate change,” says Kevin O’Donnell, Global Director, Sourcing & Operations Sustainability at General Mills. “We strongly believe farmers have a massive role to play in being a part of the solution. In fact, we don’t believe the world can adequately address climate change – and hit the targets it has set in order to avoid the most catastrophic and volatile impacts of climate change – without engaging agriculture.”
Discarded, an aperitif brand owned by spirits group William Grant & Sons, said it has created the milk masks to support bar staff who are returning to work to new hygiene and safety measures, “in what is still an extremely uncertain time”.
The company is working with Mi Terro, a biotech firm that extracts the casein protein molecules from the bacteria found in “bad” milk and uses Dynamic Flow Shear Spinning to create sustainable fibres. The company has used this fibres to make rewearable face-masks for bartenders.
William Grant & Sons will distribute the complimentary masks to selected bars around London including Happiness Forgets and Ever After, Artisean, and Grind, as well as further afield around the UK.
In a world where so much is uncertain and the dynamics of the global economy are evolving so rapidly, many businesses today are facing a critical junction regarding their purpose and role in society. This is with good reason, as corporations and businesses have historically been driven by profitability, and sometimes on achieving financial gain/returns at the cost of society, the Earth, and humanity.
Over the last couple of years, many things have changed in the business world where businesses today have or are in the process of shifting how they think about their stakeholders. Affirming this sense of change, in 2019, the Business Roundtable released a statement officially redefining the purpose of corporations to serve not only investors, but also their workers and community. Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are no longer trends in business, but are now viewed as legitimate strategies that all businesses can use to address risk and create opportunities. As they strive for positive impacts on all stakeholders rather than simply fulfilling financial responsibilities, business is truly becoming a force for good. There is huge room for change, and with change comes improvement.
In a world facing multiple crises, businesses, cities and organizations that have placed ESG values at the core of their work are proving to be more resilient, adapting more rapidly to change while charting a sustainable course to benefit future generations. Today’s pandemic has made the business case for sustainability stronger and the timelines shorter.
How can businesses learn from this pivotal moment and drive sustainable and equitable changes for the mutual benefit of consumers, employees and our planet? This one-hour webcast will focus on the principles of sustainable recovery and how ESG-led strategies help organizations successfully navigate the trials of COVID-19 and today’s other complex challenges.
The essential role of ESG principles in business model resilience
Tactics for ESG planning and implementation
Trends in stakeholder engagement and consumer awareness
Key considerations for sustainability messaging and education in this moment
Joel Makower, Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group
Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation
David Rachelson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Rubicon
Geoffrey Stiles, VP of Facilities and Operations, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena
If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast.
If I dare to give the coronavirus credit for anything, I would say it has made people more conscious of the air they breathe.
A friend texted me this week after going for a jog in the foothills near Boise, Idaho, writing: “My lungs are burning … explain what’s happening!!!”
A wildfire was burning to the east of town – one of dozens of fires that were sending smoke and ash through communities in hot, dry western states. As an environmental toxicologist, I research how air pollution, particularly wood smoke, impacts human health and disease.
That’s only the start of the story of how wildfire smoke affects humans who breathe it. The rest, and how to stay healthy, is important to understand as the western wildfire season picks up.
What’s in wildfire smoke?
What exactly is in a wildfire’s smoke depends on a few key things: what’s burning – grass, brush or trees; the temperature – is it flaming or just smoldering; and the distance between the person breathing the smoke and the fire producing it.
The distance affects the ability of smoke to “age,” meaning to be acted upon by the sun and other chemicals in the air as it travels. Aging can make it more toxic. Importantly, large particles like what most people think of as ash do not typically travel that far from the fire, but small particles, or aerosols, can travel across continents.
Smoke from wildfires contains thousands of individual compounds, including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. The most prevalent pollutant by mass is particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, roughly 50 times smaller than a grain of sand. Its prevalence is one reason health authorities issue air quality warnings using PM2.5 as the metric.
The human body is equipped with natural defense mechanisms against particles bigger than PM2.5. As I tell my students, if you have ever coughed up phlegm or blown your nose after being around a campfire and discovered black or brown mucus in the tissue, you have witnessed these mechanisms firsthand.
The really small particles bypass these defenses and disturb the air sacks where oxygen crosses over into the blood. Fortunately, we have specialized immune cells present in the air sacks called macrophages. It’s their job to seek out foreign material and remove or destroy it. However, studies have shown that repeated exposure to elevated levels of wood smoke can suppress macrophages, leading to increases in lung inflammation.
What does that mean for COVID-19 symptoms?
Dose, frequency and duration are important when it comes to smoke exposure. Short-term exposure can irritate the eyes and throat. Long-term exposure to wildfire smoke over days or weeks, or breathing in heavy smoke, can raise the risk of lung damage and may also contribute to cardiovascular problems. Considering that it is the macrophage’s job to remove foreign material – including smoke particles and pathogens – it is reasonable to make a connection between smoke exposure and risk of viral infection.
Recent evidence suggests that long-term exposure to PM2.5 may make the coronavirus more deadly. A nationwide study found that even a small increase in PM2.5 from one U.S. county to the next was associated with a large increase in the death rate from COVID-19.
What can you do to stay healthy?
The advice I gave my friend who had been running while smoke was in the air applies to just about anyone downwind from a wildfire.
Stay informed about air quality by identifying local resources for air quality alerts, information about active fires, and recommendations for better health practices.
If possible, avoid being outside or doing strenuous activity, like running or cycling, when there is an air quality warning for your area.
Be aware that not all face masks protect against smoke particles. In the context of COVID-19, the best data currently suggests that a cloth mask benefits public health, especially for those around the mask wearer, but also to some extent for the person wearing the mask. However, most cloth masks will not capture small wood smoke particles. That requires an N95 mask in conjunction with fit testing for the mask and training in how to wear it. Without a proper fit, N95s do not work as well.
Establish a clean space. Some communities in western states have offered “clean spaces” programs that help people take refuge in buildings with clean air and air conditioning. However, during the pandemic, being in an enclosed space with others can create other health risks. At home, a person can create clean and cool spaces using a window air conditioner and a portable air purifier.
The EPA also advises people to avoid anything that contributes to indoor air pollutants. That includes vacuuming that can stir up pollutants, as well as burning candles, firing up gas stoves and smoking.
It’s hard to find a chemical company that doesn’t at least talk about sustainability. ChemSec aims to cut through the noise with its ChemScore report cards, which the Swedish nonprofit released this week [the story appeared in the June 18 issue of the magazine]. ChemSec graded the top 35 chemical companies on the basis of what they make, their efforts toward developing safer alternatives, their transparency about ingredients, and the accidents or other scandals they’ve faced.