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Cleaning up our oceans: a journey from waste to wear

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Our oceans are littered with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of discarded fishing nets, posing a major threat to sea life everywhere. In an effort to tackle this growing problem, one project in Slovenia has taken to making socks from the nets it retrieves. Nicky Stubbs recently took a trip to the country to find out more.

There is only one ocean”, says Dr Heather Koldewey, marine biologist at the Zoological Society of London. “They may go by different names but all water bodies are connected, and that causes the problems that we face in our oceans today.”

Discarded plastic is a major challenge that our oceans are faced with. It is estimated that the US alone discards 35 billion plastic bottles every year. The majority of this waste ends up in the sea, which many creatures often mistake for food.

The problem has left some orcas off the coast of Scotland unable to reproduce. And if the plastic is being consumed by fish, then we humans are consuming the plastic.

Koldewey has been charged with the task of setting the scene in Ljubljana – the capital and largest city in Slovenia. She succeeds in depressing the journalists, fashion bloggers and textiles experts in attendance. It is difficult to see an image of one of our planet’s most beautiful and intelligent creatures – the whale – entangled in discarded fishing nets without feeling guilty that humans have contributed towards its death.

This is known as ‘ghost fishing’. With an estimated 640,000 tonnes of dumped nets on the ocean floor, it is thought that over 130,000 animals die every year because of it, from more than 250 species of sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, fish and birds.

But luckily, a cross-consortium of NGOs and commercial businesses have got together to come up with a possible solution to these tragedies. This is how the Healthy Seas Initiative was born.

A joint venture between textile company Aquafil, NGO the ECNC Group and textile retailer Star Sock, it has already retrieved 20 tonnes of dumped nets, transforming them into an array of products, including socks, carpets, sportswear and lingerie.

Dr Irena Fonda is a Slovenian marine biologist who lives in the coastal town of Portoroz with her family, in the south-west of the country. Her father and brother, also marine biologists, help her to run a fish farm, where they rear the most expensive sea bass in the world. Keen divers, they see first-hand what is happening to marine life.

Because we see the awful things that are happening, we want to do our bit to clear it up”, Fonda says. “Fish stocks are already in decline and ghost fishing does nothing to help this get any better.”

Passionate divers such as the Fondas volunteer to retrieve the nets from the sea bed and bring them to the surface. This is then cleaned and all the components that make up the net are separated. The polyester that is collected is then given to textile company Aquafil, which recycles the product into Econyl yarn. This then can be used to make socks (very comfortable ones at that), swimwear, carpets and sportswear.

This is a mere first step in the initative’s “journey from waste to wear”, and it still has a long way to go if it is to become a success. The prevention is certainly better than the cure, and one of the major problems that the project faces is attempting to engage the fishery industry at large.

“If we can get them to see that they’re polluting the seas, and in effect their own livelihoods, then they’ll begin to listen”, Koldewey says.

A grey whale caught in a 'ghost net'.

Talks have already begun with net manufacturers, although they are yet to come back with constructive responses. This had led some to claim that the industry should be legally held to account for the damaging effect that its actions are having on ocean creatures.

Slowly but surely, more and more marine animals are becoming endangered and often driven to the brink of extinction. The blue fin tuna alone is now worth £500,000 per fish due to its rarity. The amount of fish from that particular species caught in ghost nets every year is hindering its survival even further.

Although still in its first phase, the Healthy Seas Initiative is working to address these issues. Organisers are already in talks with clothing giants Adidas and Lotto, both of whom have said they would donate 1% of profits to the fund, but more partners are needed to participate if this is going to be a big success.

The second phase will actively seek to engage the industry to handle its nets responsibly and dispose of them efficiently, allowing for their regeneration into new products.

Finally, the initiative will seek to work with governments to set the regulatory frameworks by which it can protect our oceans and its inhabitants whilst also making a profit.

A recent report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said the health of our oceans was declining fast because of unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide, overfishing, pollution and global warming. Other studies have outlined the vast economic costs of letting marine locations degrade. Our planet is more blue than it is green, yet it is the green movement that gets the bulk of the attention.

Legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle made a compelling argument for the protection of our magnificent oceans in a 2009 TED talk.

I’m haunted by the thought of […] tomorrow’s child asking why we didn’t do something on our watch to save sharks and bluefin tuna and squids and coral reefs and the living ocean while there still was time”, she said.

Well, now is that time.”

Further reading:

Declining health of oceans of ‘gravest concern’ to life on Earth

‘Ghost fishing’ project in North Sea reaches first milestone

Study: increasing acidification threatening ocean life

Marine conservation could be worth ‘billions’ to UK economy

Neglecting our oceans could cost trillions

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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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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