The footwear industry is taking greater steps towards sustainability.

Reebok officially launched a new line of sneaker this week, which is “made from things that grow”, primarily corn and cotton.

The new shoe, called the NPC UK, has been certified by the US Department of Agriculture as 75 per cent made with bio-based content. The wrapping it comes in is also made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

Bill McInnes, Reebook’s innovation chief, said the new shoe will signal the start of greater selection from the company to provide sustainable and bio-based footwear.

“Most athletic footwear is made using petroleum to create synthetic rubber and foam cushioning systems,” he said, pointing out that 20 billion pairs of shoes are made every year, with an estimated 300 million ending up in landfill.

“By using sustainable resources as our foundation, and then through ongoing testing and development, we were able to create a plant-based sneaker that performs and feels like any other shoe.”

"And this is just the start for us. We are on an ongoing path to create a different type of footwear — so that you can feel good about what you're wearing and where it came from," he added.

The greater choice of eco footwear from Reebok will be based on circular principles: the NPC shoe is compostable after use, and the compost will then be used as part of the soil to grow more material for the next range of shoes. This contrasts with the established, linear, model of extracting a material, using it and then disposing afterwards.

Reebok has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Adidas for over a decade, and the German-based company has also taken on sustainability initiatives. Through its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Adidas has sold over one million shoes made from recycled ocean plastic.

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Read more: Reebok produces shoe made out of cotton and corn

Coca-Cola and Merlin have teamed up to provide ‘reverse vending machines’ that will be placed on the doorsteps of the most famous UK attractions.  

The trial, which started in late July, encourages families to bring their used plastic bottles in exchange for rewards at the vending machines. The machines will produce a voucher which will entitle people to 50 per cent off 30 Merlin attractions including: Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Alton Towers.

The General Manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain, Jon Woods, explained: “We want to reward people for doing the right thing by recycling their bottles and hope to encourage some people who wouldn’t otherwise have done so.”

The announcement comes after Coca-Cola introduced an ‘industry-first’ campaign called World without Waste, designed to help collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle sold by 2030 worldwide.

Research carried out by Coca-Cola found that 64 per cent of people in the UK would recycle more if instant rewards were introduced.

Supermarket chains, Morrisons and Iceland, have also introduced the reverse vending machines in a bid to reduce waste. The moves highlight the growing pressure for commercial brands to do more on the issue of plastic pollution.

Plastic bottles are a notable source of pollution and are responsible for a third of all plastic in the sea. Statistics show that only 43 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled in the UK, out of an estimated 13 billion distributed each year.

Read more: Coca-Cola offers discounts to UK attractions in...

The body which operates London’s historic Square Mile is introducing a new environmental scheme in the area.

The City of London Corporation has announced that new charges for on-street parking will be brought in this month to promote clean air and reduce emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

The 1.12 mile area covers London’s oldest and busiest streets, and remains the heart of the UK’s financial sector.

Low emission vehicles, such as electric or hybrids, will now be charged £4 per hour while diesel and petrol vehicles will have to pay a higher amount of £5.20. All other vehicles will be charged £6.80 per hour.

Chris Hayward at the City of London Corporation, said: “We have seen other areas of London penalise worst offenders such as diesel cars. We are taking this one step further by not only applying punitive measures for these worst offenders but by supporting and encouraging motorists to consider other modes of transport and switch to cleaner vehicles in the future.”

“The Square Mile is one of London’s busiest areas, therefore, it is only right that the City of London Corporation continues to prioritise providing a safe and healthy environment for its workers, visitors and residents,” he added.

The new environmental tariffs will use the RingGo app to automatically assess the model of car and allow motorists to pay without cash.

Peter O’Driscoll, UK Country Manager for RingGo, commented: “The Government is promoting Clean Air Zones as the best way to influence motorists’ behaviour. But these take several years to set up, not to mention requiring considerable expenditure. With no physical infrastructure needed, RingGo’s Emissions Based Parking provides similar outcomes at a fraction of the cost and can be set up in a matter of weeks.”

Photo Credit: kloniwotski/Flickr

Read more: Low-emission parking plan unveiled for the City...

Healthy soils are key to tackling food hunger and climate change, says the UN’s food agency.

Graziano da Silva, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), made the argument at a recent conference in Brazil.

"Although soils are hidden and frequently forgotten, we rely on them for our daily activities and for the future of the planet," the FAO Director-General said.

The UN agency has identified 10 threats to soils which can directly impact food security, biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions. These include the level of erosion, acidification, nutrient imbalance, and salinization.

These issues are non-trivial in a world where 815 million people are suffering from a lack of available food.

"Soil degradation affects food production, causing hunger and malnutrition, amplifying food-price volatility, forcing land abandonment and involuntary migration-leading millions into poverty," he said.

Da Silva pointed out that soils play a huge role in capturing and storing carbon dioxide, preventing the gas from being released into the atmosphere. Soils contain more carbon than all trees and vegetation above ground. The maintenance and extension of the Earth’s soil carbon stock should, therefore, be a priority.

Soils also prevent pollutants from reaching the food chain and our river systems by acting as a filter on these contaminants.

"Let us make make soils a vehicle of prosperity and peace, and show the contribution of soils to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals," he concluded. 

In 2016, the FAO conducted the first major global assessment of soil health, which found that 33 percent of land is “moderately to highly degraded”. The report argues that greater sustainable soil management “can increase nutritious food supply, provide a valuable lever for climate regulation and safeguard ecosystem services.”

Read more: Climate and hunger solutions are on terra firma,...

A new set of clean tech benches are being installed in the London borough of Southwark.

The smart benches allow people to charge phones, use free WiFi, and track levels of air pollution, all powered by a solar panel.

The technology is the brainchild of Milos Milisavljevic, founder of the start-up Strawberry Energy, which is developing the bench across London. The first prototype was trialled in Canary Wharf in 2015. Since then, the company has honed the design to take up less space and use more advanced monitoring technology.

The benches are able to collect power without direct sunlight and can be stored for use during night time.

Real time data is accessible through a mobile app which provides insights into air quality, noise pollution, and other bespoke features.

Southwark Council plans to install 29 of the benches across the borough to complement existing schemes in the works. Nearby Lewisham is building 25 of the benches, along with Islington in the north, which has been trialling the benches since last year.

The leader of Southwark Council, Chancellor Peter John, said: “I welcome the arrival of these new Strawberry smart benches, they will help us to offer people in Southwark modern technology that responds to contemporary needs.”

“Council officers have been collecting air quality data from the benches; this will help us to build a picture of the problem and show us the way forward, here in Southwark,” he added.

Mr Milisavljevic said: “We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Southwark Council to extend the network of smart benches in the borough and hope the addition of new sensors will help the council and local residents have a better picture of air quality down to a street level.”

“We designed the benches with today’s Londoner in mind - providing free, solar powered phone charging, WiFi and air quality monitoring in a single, sleek piece of street furniture,” he added.

Photo Credit: Strawberry Energy

Read more: Solar-powered ‘smart benches’ come to south London

Great Britain is on the verge of abolishing the need for coal-fired power over the summer months, according to analysts.

This is one of the main headlines from a new quarterly report on the country’s energy mix.

Researchers at Imperial College London analysed official data from the National Grid over the months of April, May and June.

“For the third summer in a row, coal is edging closer to extinction in Britain,” commented lead author Dr Iain Staffell, noting that coal supplied a mere 1.3 per cent of electricity over the quarter. Its share also fell below 1 per cent for first time across June.

The times at which coal is running over summer is “at a bare minimum”, Staffell added, highlighting that plants are usually called upon to provide grid stability during periods of low demand.

The report goes on to state that Britain “likely could” run without coal all summer, given that the remaining fleet operated at only 3 per cent of its maximum capacity.

The number of coal-free days across the year is also at an all-time high with no coal power stations used for 812 hours throughout the quarter. Over 1,000 have been clocked up through July, according to a separate piece of research.

Coal’s decline in Britain has been a short and sharp affair, falling by 75 per cent over the past three years. In 2017, coal provided 5.3 per cent of total energy consumption, a historic low.

Ultimately, the switch away from coal has already happened; gas supplied 41 per cent of demand over the quarter, accounting for 82 per cent of emissions. The focus of the low-carbon transition will, therefore, take place elsewhere.

“While it would be a clear symbolic victory to remove coal from the system for entire months at a time, its impact on the climate in summer months is no longer significant,” the report concludes.

Source: Drax/Imperial College London

Read more: Coal power is heading for ‘extinction’ over the...

Costs from coastal flooding in Europe could hit almost 1 trillion euros by 2100, according to researchers.

The new study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre estimated the costs to vary widely, between 93 billion and 961 billion euros a year, depending on the response from European nations. Current costs are estimated at 1.25 billion euros.

Rising sea levels caused by growing global temperatures will directly impact the volume of water on the oceans. In addition, ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica will also increase coastal flooding, making these events stronger and more widespread.

“Climate change is the main driver of the future rise in coastal flood losses,” the researchers state in the article. Other factors, such as costal migration and urbanization, were seen to decline with time.

The scientists used a sophisticated assessment tool which pooled together different datasets on the level of possible exposure to flooding. These included shoreline, tides, and historical storm surges, which provided a degree of accuracy close to 100 metres.

102,000 people are currently exposed to coastal flooding every year around European coasts. Climate change is expected to increase this to between 1.5 and 3.65 million by the end of the century.

Separate research has found that ice loss in Antarctica has tripled in the past five years, reaching an annual figure of 219 billion tonnes.

To combat the problem, climate adaptation plans need to be in place and stronger levels of investment. Unless measures are taken now the risks from flooding could be “unprecedented”. Flood defences need to be installed that can withstand sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 metres, the academics concluded.

The article is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Read more: Europe could be hit with 1 trillion euros in...

Energy giant E.ON has created a new tariff in the UK tailored to low-emission road users.

The Fix and Drive tariff provides registered electric vehicle or hybrid drivers a two-year supply of 100 per cent renewable energy and a yearly reward of £30, equivalent to 850 free miles.

The free miles are based on the assumption that 1 kilowatt hour provides 4.4 miles of drive time.

The new tariff is targeting people who traditionally have higher electricity bills, offering them a rebate, clean energy, and “competitive pricing”, according to the company.

Michael Lewis, chief executive of E.ON UK, commented: “It’s clear that the country needs an increase in electric vehicle charging points, whether at home or workplaces, in car parks or alongside leisure facilities. We’re leading the charge, with both E.ON Drive for businesses and now E.ON Fix and Drive for residential customers.”

“Sales of electric vehicles are increasing year on year and the UK is now one of Europe’s largest markets for them. Drivers need to be able to charge their cars quickly and conveniently, and for many, that means plugging in at home,” he added.

E.ON’s move is a signal that the coming together of home energy use and clean transportation is inching closer. The announcement is also the latest in the energy company’s attempts to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Earlier this year, it teamed up with Google to develop a service to help UK households work out the solar potential of their homes. Project Sunroof uses data from Google Earth and Maps to estimate the level of solar power untapped on roofs around the UK. An estimated 10,000 people have requested an analysis in Germany where the project has been operating since last year.

Read more: E.ON offers new energy tariff to tempt electric...

Leading Danish wind developer Vestas has posted revenue of 2.2 billion euros in the second quarter of 2018.

The interim results released today beat forecasts and led to a 7 per cent jump in the company’s share price.

The figures also show an order intake now at 3.8 gigawatts, an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year. The all-time high backlog represents a value of 10.2 billion euros, and combined with service agreements in place pushes the value to 23 billion euros in future earnings.

Vestas’ President and CEO Anders Runevad attributed the good news to the maturity of the wind energy market: “In the first half of 2018, the wind industry strengthened its position as the cheapest form of energy generation in many markets, which drove strong global demand. This development saw Vestas’ second quarter order intake increase 43 per cent year over year, contributing to the continued growth of our order backlog to an all-time high.”

Mr Runevad has helped turn the company around since taking up the top job in 2013. At the time, Vestas was operating at a net loss of 62 million euros.

Data released by the Global Wind Energy Council earlier this year showed the technology was in rude health; worldwide installations hit a massive 52 gigawatts in 2017, fuelled by declining costs and the push for cleaner forms of electricity.

“With long-term perspectives for renewable energy getting stronger, Vestas continues to effectively manage its costs and invest in the solutions that together will help us lead the global energy transition,” he added. 

Total investments are expected to be around 500 million euros this year due to a flurry of activity. Vestas remains the world’s largest supplier of wind turbines, but faces stiff competition since the merger of Siemens and Gamesa last year.

Photo Credit: bathyporeia/Flickr

Read more: Wind energy boom helps boost revenue at Danish...

New research has found that companies which invest on the basis of environmental concerns often receive higher returns.

The study from risk analysts Axioma tracked the performance of portfolios which had incorporated environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their investment strategies.

An estimated 80 per cent of leading companies now use ESG metrics to support their investments, up from only 20 percent in 2011.

Data was compiled on the performance of ESG investments over the past nine years for developed markets in Europe, Japan and the US. While the market was slow to start and sometimes underperformed, a notable change has occurred in the past three to five years.

“Our analysis indicates that, in general, increasing exposure to ESG rarely underperforms the market, and often outperforms the market, especially during the last few years,” said lead author Anthony Renshaw.

There are some exceptions, such as in the US prior to 2016 and Japan until 2015 when ESG did marginally worse, otherwise it has either matched or done better than traditional factors, the data suggests.

However, analysts caution that ESG investing remains in its infancy with regulatory changes also impacting the degree of confidence in the data.

The market for sustainable investment is evolving at a rapid pace, helped by stronger growth in the market and policy efforts on the national level. Green bonds, for example, are expected to increase by 30 per cent in 2018 alone, reaching $200 billion.

The European Union is taking an active role in making sustainable finance a key pillar of the sector; in March, it unveiled a long-awaited action plan to accelerate these changes. New rules have since been released which could force investors to disclose how they are accounting for environmental and climate risks in their investment decisions.    

Read more: Sustainable investments outperform the market,...

IKEA’s first-ever store in India was overwhelmed with visitors when it opened in the southern city of Hyderabad this month.

An estimated 28,000 people passed through its doors each day during its opening week, which led to queues of up to three hours.

Public enthusiasm for the global brand is expected to continue with six million visitors in its first year.

IKEA is matching that popularity with an opportunity to promote sustainability and renewable energy.

The store’s new delivery fleet will gradually transition to become fully electric, with a target of 20 per cent during the first year alone. In addition, the new store already comes fitted with 4,000 solar panels on its roof to power its operations.

IKEA is a member of both the RE100 and EV100 initiatives, which promotes the transition to a low-carbon economy. Members pledge to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources and seek to make electric vehicles “the new normal” by 2030, according to organisers The Climate Group.

Jarnail Singh, India Director at The Climate Group, commented on IKEA’s commitments: “This is a significant addition to their long-term efforts on a sustainable supply chain, and it’s fantastic for customers to know that their merchandise is produced and delivered without much harm to the planet. We look forward to seeing them achieve their RE100 and EV100 goals in India, sooner than stated.”

The Hyderabad store will shortly be followed by a second outlet in Mumbai next year, with a total of 25 new stores in the country by 2025.

Along with clean energy commitments, IKEA has pledged to transform its business along circular principles. At a recent conference in Sweden, the company announced a move to using only use recycled or renewable materials in the future.

“Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business. Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet” Group CEO, Torbjörn Lööf, said at the time.

Read more: IKEA’s first store in India will run on solar...

An innovative tidal energy device which acts like a kite has completed its latest trial below the sea.

Swedish company Minesto has been developing the DG500 system off the coast of north-west Wales.

The technology, given the name Deep Green, produces renewable energy by following the course of tidal streams and ocean currents under calm conditions.

The prototype has a 12-metre wing span which is capable of producing power for around 300 homes. The kite remains tethered to the seabed and follows a figure of eight motion dictated by the tides. The speed created by the device pushes water through a turbine attached to the back, which converts it into energy.  

Minesto’s chief operating officer David Collier commented on the technology’s progress: “This is a very significant step towards our ultimate goal of proving the complete DG500 system. I am very proud of the team as this accomplishment has been made possible only by the hard work and endeavour of everyone that has been involved in the design and development of the Deep Green technology over a number of years.”

Minesto plans to continue its programme of commissioning the device to verify its ability to generate electricity in a timely and efficient manner.

“The commissioning efforts have been performed in a safe and robust manner, which is especially important considering the many innovations involved in this first-of-its-kind project,” he added.

The company was awarded £11 million in 2015 from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund to help develop the Deep Green technology, accounting for 43 per cent of overall costs. The funding has been essential to advancing the project, according to the developers.

In a recent video, project controller Oishan Roberts commented: “We’re looking for a solution to replace fossil fuels. This project that we have now will be the start of what could potentially be one of the largest tidal sites in the world.”

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Photo Credit: Minesto

Read more: Marine energy kite off to a flying start off...

An innovative trial to capture carbon dioxide could be used in alcoholic drinks.

The Drax power company is working on new clean technology, called bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), at a former coal plant in the north of England.

If the trial is a success the carbon produced in burning biomass could be used in a variety of other industries, including beer production.

It is estimated that one tonne of carbon dioxide could be stored each day, enough to be used in 32,000 pints of beer, or 5.7 million over the six-month trial.

Drax has already held meetings with the British Beer & Pub Association to discuss the possibility. The beverage industry was recently impacted by a European-wide shortage of available carbon dioxide, used to provide the fizz in alcoholic drinks, among other things.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, commented: “This pilot not only has the potential to ensure the UK meets its climate targets, but for the carbon captured to also help to keep the nation’s beer from going flat – and we’d certainly raise a glass to that.”

Brigid Simmonds, CEO of British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Beer is the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverage and on average pubs serve as much as 10 million pints of beer per day, so the recent shortfall of CO2 was most unwelcome. We hope that these discussions with Drax Group and the potential to increase access to a new source of CO2 in the UK will help ensure that a shortage does not happen again.”

Drax operates the largest power plant in the United Kingdom, consisting of four units which have historically burnt coal. In recent years, the company has converted three of the units to burn wood pellets instead. The final plant is currently undergoing the same upgrade to use renewable power.

Read more: Trapped carbon finds perfect partner in pint of...

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