Down in a quirky bar in the hippy, trippy surf town of Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast, another artist got to the stage. I am pretty arty and open-minded, but this night had been more hippy and trippy than most, so when a man climbed up carrying a small bin, and we were told that before his performance he would tell us about his project, my heart did sink a little.
But that bin and its story captivated me so much that I actually tracked down the owner in the people’s supermarket in which he works, to find out more. Concerned by our rising oceans, damaged environment and human health, and aware of how not only what we eat but how that food is eaten, produced and packaged affects the ecosystem, Paul Creber has set up Byron Bay’s Nude Your Food collective, now in its second year and making strong traction.
Creber is founder and director of the collective set up to encourage individuals to each take responsibility for being part of a movement that will shape our future food system. He aims to cease any further environmental degradation caused by what he sees as the current broken food system; especially in regards to plastic pollution and the health risks associated with the leaching of chemicals in food.
I had a chat with him about the project; the excessive use of packaging in our food production and what this says about the companies who run it; the idea of reusing and the concept of waste; and whether change is possible.
How much rubbish did you collect in one year again?
In one year I collected 40 litres of uncompressed plastic waste – so 20 two-litre milk bottles to give a good visual, or two small waste paper bins. [According to the Waste Management Institute, the average person in a high income society generates 550kg of waste per year].
The ‘nude food’ label isn’t new, and the idea has been around for a while. What more can you offer?
It has been around for a while and from my understanding has predominantly been focused on the health side of ‘nude food’ in that whole foods and fresh foods, without additives, preservatives and high sugar or salt content, are more nutritious and better for us and provide us with the best tools to thrive with.
Nude Your Food takes this idea much further and is about us as individuals taking responsibility and taking action towards a ‘nude food’ revolution, and focusing on the wider picture – the connectivity of our food system to the health of our planet and our species.
This is done through education programmes and workshops, and by utilising our purchasing power to support the organisations that support us, our communities and our health, rather than shopping at supermarkets who offer plastic packaged everything with little concern for our health or the planets.
You have very high aims for the collective. Is change really possible?
My vision is that if we do this collectively with each individual taking responsibility for sharing, disseminating and taking action towards the concepts of Nude Your Food, then as we have seen the deterioration of our food system occur in only one generation, we can see the creation of a sustainable healthy food system also occur within one generation.
Therefore our grandkids won’t be left with disease and food-related illnesses our current western population is riddled with. But it’s only going to happen if we do it collectively.
If we as individuals recognise there is a problem with plastic pollution, harmful preservatives and additives in food, toxic chemicals being sprayed on food, farmers committing suicide globally or how children are targeted with marketing campaigns for unhealthy food then we really should take responsibility to do something about it.
It’s very easy to do and there is definitely something we can all do today, from shopping differently or sharing the message on social media.
Can people make a difference by just doing one thing, for example taking sandwiches to work rather than buying a pre-packed one, or is a full lifestyle change needed? Is it all or nothing?
I think every step is a positive one. The biggest difference people can make however is to become aware of plastic in their everyday life and stop purchasing plastic without taking notice of the waste left behind when what’s inside is unwrapped.
Once you see the ludicrousness of, for example, some supermarket chains wrapping lettuce in plastic for us to buy ‘for convenience’, it seems that they have little care for this planet and instead they are only about money in the pocket – which sadly has led to the massive plastic soup that surrounds us now, formerly known as the ocean.
It may be more expensive at times but it’s an investment for our future that to me is a much better way to spend your money than other luxury items we may be tempted to buy.
It strikes me as a case of just behaving like we would have 60 or 70 years ago. Are humans overcomplicating things?
It’s not even that long. It was in 1962 that plastic started being used for wrapping food and it took a few decades to become the norm, so it’s not going back that far at all.
In one way, humans have definitely overcomplicated things, including the food we eat and how it is sourced. With the great permaculture and urban farming knowledge that is spreading, we can all be growing food in our homes, on our streets and basically anywhere there is sun, water and some dirt.
Think about all those parks that the council spends so much money on mowing lawns – would they not be better returned to food producing forests for all to eat, share and enjoy?
Imagine if we could source all our food from our homes, streets and public spaces like they have done in Todmorden, United Kingdom – now that’s an inspiring collective movement.
I do think many of us have got reliant and very trustworthy of companies whose sole and necessary motive is profit as per their business structure. Unfortunately what has happened with this however is quality has diminished to reduce costs and instead been replaced with fake foods, additives, chemicals, colourful packaging, catchy marketing and advertising jargon.
The majority of us have trusted large profit-driven corporations to be putting our health before their profit, and sadly this is not the case.
What successes have there been? Prove that this can work!
Personally I have had great success in removing plastic from my purchasing and becoming more aware of the choices I have in regards to my purchases – such as fruit boxes, community sponsored agriculture, co-ops and farmers’ markets. Further to this, I have discovered so many creative ways to not use plastic when it comes to food and bathrooms and have basically removed it from these areas of my life as well.
As a community, we have had great success in our intended outcomes, and also with more people opting for simply taking jars to do their shopping, filling them and returning home without any packaging and waste.
In the eight months since launching, multiple community organisations have got behind our cause and continue to share the information we share, which is a great start.
Our school programme also resulted in children becoming completely responsible for any waste that they take with them to school; they now take it back home with them rather than disposing of it at school.
Imagine if people realised that ‘throw away’ is actually just to throw somewhere else – and their plastic waste will be on this planet for 500 years plus.
The school landfill bins were removed from the playground which was a great win, and this October sees our second ‘challenge’ – a multi-faceted community programme that utilises the power of collective action to encourage more sustainable, local and healthy food options and raises funds for local school canteens to educate children to reuse rather than dispose.
We will be working with bulk wholefoods stores across Australia (and have a few international stores in our sites too) who will provide a discount on bulk food throughout the month of October, therefore enticing participation.
Community participants will aim to purchase zero (or as little as possible) plastic during the month and will apply a self-imposed fine for any plastic they do purchase; they will be encouraged to gain sponsorship to do so.
Paul Creber runs Byron Bay’s Nude Your Food. If you are interested in the project, or the idea of reducing packaging and waste, visit www.nudeyourfood.com.
Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.
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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