The Soil Association is forecasting the overall value of the organic market in the UK to reach and exceed £2 billion by the end of 2016, following new figures from Nielsen for the 52 weeks to 18 June, as a result of independent retail proving instrumental to the growing organic market.
According to Nielsen data, strong organic growth has continued through the first half of 2016 and is now +5.2% compared to +3.2% at the end of 2015 through supermarket salesfr, against a decline of -0.9% in non-organic sales for same period.
The news comes at a poignant time with recent political change and uncertainty in the market. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Nielsen showed grocery food prices had fallen by 0.8 per cent in June, the deepest deflation for more than a year – according to The Times. BRC said it was an “extraordinary run of deflation”. However, with Organic September around the corner and more brands and retailers than ever getting involved, the future remains positive for organic.
Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification said;
Despite an uncertain market following Brexit, Soil Association Certification is positive about the future of organic.
“Market growth is strong and there is a clear demand for organic, environmentally friendly and sustainable purchasing with many young professionals. The UK will still be required to comply with EU organic standards as minimum to maintain the flow of organic products to and from the EU and the Soil Association will continue to influence and improve the marketplace for organic businesses.”
Organic customers are increasingly searching out specific products and widening the range of places they buy organic – the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report showed an increase of +7.5% of sales through independent stores, and +9.1% through online and box schemes. The strength of online ordering for organic continues.
Key areas of growth in the organic market so far for 2016 include produce which remains buoyant and canned or packaged grocery, driven by big increases in cereals, tea, biscuits, jams, spreads and oils and vinegars.
Through Organic September the Soil Association encourages shoppers to look for organic through a large digital and media campaign. Many retailers including all the multiples have already signalled their support. Shops are joining the campaign with a range of activities, including on pack promotion using the Soil Association’s Organic September stickers, range promotions, organic events and sampling throughout September.
Benjamin Woodgate, UK Marketing Director of Whole Foods Market, explains how they’re getting involved; “Whole Foods Market will have a significant number of events, price promotions and product launches for Organic September. In addition, our concierge shopping & delivery www.quiqup.com/wholefoods will allow Londoners to have their organic goodies delivered to their doors in under two hours. The point of sale material produced by the Soil Association is the best I have ever seen for the campaign – we will be using this in store and would encourage other retailers to do the same with the goal for the industry to attract and educate more shoppers to eat, drink, use, choose organic products this September.”
Kellie Bubble Co-operative Grocer from Unicorn Grocery store in Manchester said; “Organic September is a brilliant campaign for independent retailers and we’re really excited to be involved. We’re going to be celebrating the benefits organic growing gives back to us all – the insects, the bees, the birds, the healthy soil for future generations to live off! The free marketing materials are really helpful for independent outlets like us and we’ll definitely be using them to make more people aware of organic produce and the wider benefits it brings. Ethical principles are at the core of our business and Organic September is a great opportunity to promote them.”
The Soil Association is helping all retailers and businesses get involved with free marketing support and involvement in the targeted Organic September campaign. A high profile media and digital campaign supports all organic businesses. The organisation is teaming up with renewable energy company, Good Energy, for the third year in a row. From solar panels on the roofs of schools to biofuels generated from waste organic cheese at Wyke Farms in Somerset, Good Energy buys, sells and generates sustainable, local electricity like this, helping to support farms, the environment and the land around us.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
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.
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 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.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
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.
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