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Fairtrade Coffee Company Branches Out Into Tourism

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Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation (CPF), the charity arm of the well-known Fairtrade coffee brand, has partnered with Sumak Travel, a UK based social enterprise that specialises in ecotourism, to launch a range of Fair Trade Adventures in Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru. Four new small group tours will give travellers a rare opportunity to meet farmers and artisans behind popular fair trade products such as coffee, chocolate and handicrafts, while also visiting some of Latin America’s most iconic sights and natural wonders.

“As one of the best-loved fair trade brands, many people will already be familiar with Cafédirect. But now, for the first time, they will have the opportunity to meet some of the coffee and cocoa growing communities behind the brand,” said Felipe Zalamea, Director at Sumak Travel. “Homestays, and opportunities to get hands-on with everything from fishing for their own lunch to mixing Peru’s infamous Pisco sours, mean that travellers will really immerse themselves in the local culture and feel like a special guest of their host community, rather than a tourist.”

The Fair Trade Adventure to Peru (12 days, £2,055pp excl. international flights, departs Apr 22, 2016) journeys from the culinary capital of Lima to the majestic mountain citadel of Machu Picchu, explores the vibrant markets and ancient Quechua traditions in the Sacred Valley, and sails to the islands on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Travellers can learn about ‘bean to cup’ organic coffee production while staying on a fair trade coffee plantation, participate in ceramic and weaving workshops, and share home-cooked meals with local host families.

On the Fair Trade Adventure to Costa Rica (12 days, £1,595pp excl. flights, departs May 14 2016), there is a unique opportunity to sail the Yorkin River in an indigenous canoe and get acquainted with the indigenous Bribri tribe. Travellers will visit an organic cocoa cooperative on the Caribbean coast to learn how chocolate is produced, tour a coffee farm, make local cheese and typical Costa Rican snacks, hike nature trails and swim in waterfalls, learn to make handicrafts from petals and other natural debris, and catch their own lunch on a fishing trip.

Travellers can experience Bogota’s world famous ciclovia on the Fair Trade Adventure to Colombia (12 days, £1,680pp excl. international flights, departs Aug 20, 2016). They can also visit the world’s largest ceramic workshop, learn how coffee is harvested and roasted, hike colonial trading routes, and saddle up for some horseback riding. Uniquely local activities include sheep shearing and spinning wool, learning traditional home-building techniques, and a visit to a fair trade seed jewellery workshop. For the more adventurous, optional activities include white-water rafting and paragliding over the Chicamocha Canyon.

The Fair Trade Adventure of Northern Peru (14 days, £2,235pp excl. international flights, departs Sept 16, 2016) journeys through mountain valleys and rainforest to meet native communities who produce colourful textiles, handicrafts and silverware. Travellers will make ceviche and Pisco sours during a cookery class, take a coffee adventure through the Perene Valley, visit a Witches Market that sells herbs and potions used by shaman, visit impressive pre-Incan sites, cut cocoa pods from the tree, and taste some of the best chocolate in the world.

“For us responsible travel isn’t just about minimising the negative impacts of tourism, it’s about creating rewarding travel experiences that have a positive impact for local people and the environment,” said Sumak Travel’s Zalamea. “As well as creating unforgettable trips for our customers, we’ve designed the Fair Trade Adventures to be small-scale and low impact, so that the farmers, artisans, indigenous peoples, social entrepreneurs and others who act as our hosts, can continue to enjoy their traditional way of life while earning a complementary income.”

Alex Sowter, Creative Enterprise Manager at the Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation, said: “We are really excited about partnering with Sumak Travel to launch Fair Trade Adventures. They share our strong commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices, which empower and protect local communities.” John Steel, CEO of Cafédirect, added:In our desire to directly connect citizens across the world, we are very excited to be part of an initiative that can do just that.”

The maximum group size on all Fair Trade Adventures is 10 passengers. The price includes accommodation in locally-run boutique hotels or homestays, internal flights and ground transportation, English-speaking guides, and a range of fair trade and other activities and excursions, with 10% of the price directly supporting CPF’s work with farmers. Sumak can also arrange international flights and provide optional add-ons before or after tours, such as the Lost City Hike in Colombia or Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica.

For more information about Fair Trade Adventures, download the brochure, visit the CPF website or to book contact: fairtrade@sumak-travel.org or 020 36424246.

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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