Author: Laura B.

I'm the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator, which is a fancy way of saying embedded librarian. I'm also Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. When not writing for Environmental News Bits, I'm an avid reader. Visit Laura's Reads to see what I'm currently reading.

Why universities must prioritise sustainable development to fight the climate crisis

Read the full story at edie.

Last November, when world leaders should have been gathering in Glasgow for COP26, Boris Johnson announced his 10-step plan for a green industrial revolution – as part of the path for the UK to be Net Zero by 2050.

However, in the first instance, 2050 is still too far away. Based on the science, we need to all work towards the goal of Net Zero by 2030 and that means radically changing how we operate in the next 10 years, not the next 30. 

Universities will be key to ensuring this, and we need to set challenging targets to make net-zero a reality. This will be achieved through reviewing operations to ensure sustainability is at the front of mind, investing time and thought into the environmental practices of universities and altering curriculums to ensure students are aware of how important it is to tackle our growing climate emergency.

Food packaging and sustainability – Consumer perception vs. correlated scientific facts: A review

Sarah Otto, Mara Strenger, Andrea Maier-Nöth, Markus Schmid (2021). “Food packaging and sustainability – Consumer perception vs. correlated scientific facts: A review.” Journal of Cleaner Production 298, 126733.

Abstract: Food packaging maintains the food safety and ensures the quality of food throughout the supply chain. Both are achieved by the protective function of the packaging against negative ambient influences such as mechanical damage, light or water vapour. Material, form and concepts of packaging vary widely, which thus also differentiates the environmental impact for packaging. This paper provides an overview of the current research of European consumer perception and how this correlates with the environmental impact of loose foodstuffs and packaged food. Considered materials are plastic, glass, metal, and paper/cardboard. These perceptions are compared to the objective environmentally friendliness based on the selected assessment criteria carbon footprint, recycling rate, reuse rate and biological degradation/decomposition in Europe. The purpose of this paper is to discover whether there is any link between the consumer perception and the scientific assessed environmental sustainability. Consumers judge packaging material by criteria of circular economy, natural looking material, and design. The environmental impact of paper/cardboard and metal are rated in line with the scientific measure by consumers, whereas plastic packaging is underestimated and glass and biodegradable plastic packaging are highly overestimated. These results indicate that the rating of European consumers and scientific life cycle assessments turn out differently. The differences are mainly linked by theoretical concepts of recyclability, biodegradability, and reuse rate of the packaging. Consumers evaluate food packaging by affective feelings than using cognitive reasoning. Their knowledge about the practical implementation of recyclability, biodegradability and reusability as well as additional environmental impact factors are low. Consequently, consumers’ buying behaviour is in most cases less environmentally sustainable than intended. Awareness trainings based on scientific facts, clear product and packaging information based on labelling schemes (“eco-labelling”) and nudging for sustainable behaviour can potentially support consumers in their sustainable buying behaviour.

People of color disproportionately exposed to multiple sources of hazardous air pollution, new research says

Read the full story at The Weather Channel.

People of color are more likely to be exposed to nearly every source of the most hazardous type of air pollution in the U.S. – regardless of how much money they make or where they live, according to a new study.

The research built on previous studies that have long shown that people of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution. But the new analysis illustrates the vast number of sources that pollution comes from and how pervasive the disparity is, lead author Chris Tessum, an assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, told in an interview Thursday.

The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, analyzed data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory, which includes more than 5,000 types of emission sources that contribute to fine particle air pollution. Those sources range from industry to coal to vehicles to agriculture.

Protectors of the prairie: A look at the work of Grand Prairie Friends

Read the full story at Smile Politely.

On May 2nd, Grand Prairie Friends is opening the online store for their popular annual native plants sale. While the sale has been held at Lincoln Square Mall for years, the 2020 and 2021 sales shifted online due to the pandemic. I’ve known about the organization in name, mostly because of the annual sale, but until I spoke with Executive Director Sarah Livesay, I was not aware of the impact they have on the preservation of the prairie in East Central Illinois.

Plastics with embedded particles decompose in days instead of years

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

“Biodegradable” plastics exist, but they’re not so great at biodegrading. These polymers often take months or years to decompose, and even then can form potentially harmful microplastics. Now scientists have been able to speed up the process by encasing plastic-chomping enzymes in a protective coating and incorporating the resulting nanoparticles into the plastic as it’s made (Nature, 2021, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03408-3). Exposure to humidity and temperatures of 40 to 60 °C unleashes the enzymes, which decompose the polymers into monomer to trimer units in hours to days.

Regaining what’s been lost: Kamal Bell’s work at Sankofa Farms

Read the full story in CALS Magazine.

At Sankofa Farms, doctoral student Kamal Bell looks to agriculture and to the past to break down educational barriers for young African American men.

Green Alliance: Government ‘complacency’ risks UK’s net-zero transition

Read the full story at edie.

Despite strong progress in decarbonising electricity generation, the UK Government is not doing enough to support the low-carbon transition in hard-to-abate sector like agriculture and transport.

Renewable energy in the time of floods, droughts and hurricanes

Read the full story at Canary Media.

Renewable energy plants are built to last decades. How will climate change alter the weather patterns they’re designed for in the years to come?

Petco intends to make half of all products sustainable by the end of 2025

Read the full story from the Times of San Diego.

San Diego-based Petco Health and Wellness Co. Inc. Tuesday announced a commitment to increasing its assortment of sustainable products to 50% by the end of 2025.

Nestlé trumpets its green credentials as shareholders approve $3.5 billion net-zero plan

Read the full story in Fortune.

Nestlé, the world’s biggest food conglomerate, is boosting its green credentials with a wide-ranging set of initiatives costing 3.2 billion francs ($3.5 billion) over the next five years, including a 1.2 billion franc ($1.3 billion) investment in regenerative agriculture.

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