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UN warns of environmental destabilisation

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The UN has warned that the world is continuing to speed down an unsustainable track, bringing “irreversible change” despite over 500 internationally agreed climate goals and objectives.

Global Environmental Outlook: Environment for the future we want (GEO-5) found, in an assessment of the 90 most important objectives, that only four have made significant progress.

The report shows that little or no progress has been found in 24 of the goals, including climate change, fish stocks, and desertification and drought; a frightening reality in the run up to this month’s Earth Summit, Rio+20.

The four goals that have seen significant progress are those eliminating the production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, removal of lead from fuel, increasing access to improved water supplies and boosting research to reduce pollution of the marine environment.

Some progress was shown in 40 goals, including the expansion of protected areas such as national parks and efforts to reduce deforestation. And those goals and objectives unaccounted for were due to lack of data.

Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and United Nations Environment Programme executive director, warns that if humanity exceeds critical thresholds, we will find ourselves at an irreversible level of “unprecedented consumption and production.”

“If current trends continue”, says Mr Steiner, “if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled’ ,then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation”.

However, negotiations leading up to Rio+20 remain ambitiously supportive of sustainability targets, giving many examples of successful green policy initiatives. In this, GEO-5 call for more specific, measurable targets, across a much broader range of environmental challenges.

“The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples”, Steiner added.

“Rio+20 is a moment to turn sustainable development from aspiration and patchy implementation into a genuine path to progress and prosperity for this and the next generations to come.”

In particular, the report focusses on policies such as population growth and urbanisation, unsustainable consumption patterns, fossil fuel-based energy consumption and transport, and globalisation.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the UN, celebrated the fifth instalment in the GEO series, saying that it was “rich in opportunities and policy options”. He called for those seeking a “paradigm shift” to employ the comprehensive assessment in “pioneering positive environmental change.”

In addition to the comprehensive GEO-5 report, the online journal Nature produced an extensive study on the “critical transitions” of the planet’s biosphere. The study warns that human activity may eventually lead to such a transition, “with the potential to transform the Earth rapidly and irreversibly into a state of unknown human experience.”

Together, the publications outline the way in which the race for development may overtake priority at the expense of the environment. Above all, a redefinition of ‘wealth’ is needed, venturing beyond GDP and beginning to forge connections with a more sustainable metric, for the benefit of all communities. 

Further reading:

Tackling the three pillars of civilisation: consumption, population and the planet

Current global consumption will lead to “unequal and inhospitable” future

The World of CO2: infographic analysis

SRI+20: a socially responsible alternative to Rio’s Earth Summit

Global food system crisis

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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