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Australian airline Qantas flies first zero-waste flight

Surya Suresh

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qantas

Qantas is an Australian Airlines that has flown its first zero-waste flight, amid a growing movement to ban single-use plastics. Here’s how it tackled the single-use plastic problem.

What Are Single Use Plastics?

Single-use plastics are made from fossil fuels and take many years to biodegrade. Examples of these plastics include plastic bags from shops or plastic bottles that are not compostable. As a result, these plastics really put a dent in sustainability as millions of tons of these plastics litter the ocean, affecting the marine ecosystem. Here’s how plastics are prevalent in airplane flights.

The Plastic Problem

Airplane flights are notorious for using single-use plastics as it’s easy to use when most passengers are only flying for a day or less. In fact, Andrew David, CEO of Qantas Domestic and Freight stated, “A typical cross-country flight from Sydney to Adelaide, which is a distance of 722 miles, generates about 75 pounds of waste.”

Annually, this becomes 150 tons of waste, which makes finding a solution to this problem all the more critical to achieving sustainability. Luckily, Qantas is tackling the plastic problem head-on.

The Qantas Solution

Qantas has resolved this issue by finding a sustainable alternative to these single-use plastics. In fact, all its in-flight products are either fully recyclable, compostable, or reusable. For example, some of the sustainable alternatives used included sugar cane containers and crop starch cutlery. Some products were removed altogether, including the individually packaged servings of milk and Vegemite.

Conclusion

Qantas has definitely set an example for other airline companies to follow. The fight to end the use of plastics is a step in the right direction for sustainability. Qantas hopes that other airline companies find their own ways to cut down on waste, seeing how flights themselves burn through a lot of fossil fuels. With Qantas striving to make flights sustainable, they are positively impacting the flight industry.

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Amazon aims to be a decade ahead of Paris Agreement goals

Min Cheong Kim

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Amazon

Though Amazon has had a troubled sustainability past, often being dubbed as a company that lags behind other prominent technology companies in their strides to be more environmentally-friendly, it seems to be making a change. Just this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company’s goals to be a decade ahead of Paris Agreement goals. Here’s what you need to know about Amazon’s sustainability future.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduces new sustainability milestones

“If Amazon can set ambitious goals like this and make significant changes at their scale, we think many more companies should be able to do the same and will accept the challenge. We are excited to have others join,” said Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

As the first signatory of The Climate Pledge, which calls on businesses of signatories to be net zero carbon by 2040, Amazon aims to be 10 years ahead of the United Nations Paris Agreement goals. The companies that sign the climate pledge would agree to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis, implement decarbonization strategies parallel to the Paris Agreement, and neutralize any remaining emissions by 2040.

Amazon has loftier goals

In addition to these commitments, Bezos announced an order of 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, a producer of emissions-free electric vehicles. In February, Rivian announced a $700 million investment round led by Amazon, who invested $440 million. Rivian’s vans will start to deliver packages to Amazon customers in 2021 and the plan is to have 10,000 on the road by 2022, then all 100,000 by 2030. This would save 4 million metric tons of carbon per year by 2030. 

Further, Amazon is pledging to reach 80% of renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030. So far, amazon has launched wind and solar renewable energy projects that could be enough to power 368,000 U.S. homes. Adding on to the announcement, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Amazon is launching the Right Now Climate Fund which commits $100 million to restore and protect forests, wetlands, and peatlands globally. 

The newly launched sustainability website will report on Amazon’s commitments, initiatives, and performance to be transparent on their progress towards reaching The Climate Pledge. On the website are various updates and information on Amazon’s commitment to sustainability such as Shipment Zero and the company’s renewable energy projects around the world.

The company’s troubled sustainability past

Amazon has a massive environmental footprint due to a high record of carbon emissions by delivering about 1 billion packages a year to consumers. The company has been a target for environmental activists who were disappointed in the limited action taken to offset the emissions produced. In the past, Amazon had withheld their emission data from the public, creating more suspicion and doubt against the company’s environmental efforts. 

More than 1,500 Amazon employees plan to walk off the job to protest the company’s environmental responsibility as a part of a worldwide demonstration ahead of the U.N. climate summit in New York. While the recent announcement addresses most of the concerns of the protestors, Bezos noted that the company will continue to work with oil and gas companies because they have access to the best available tools for transition to sustainable approaches. 

Conclusions

As one of the most influential companies, this environmentally conscious announcement could set an example for other companies. Nonetheless, Amazon had a past of broken promises in regards to their social responsibility towards environmental concerns, and it will have to show firm action to convince the skeptics of their commitment. 

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Sixty-five companies band together to form an environmental partnership

Anna Pasek

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Companies band together to form an environmental partnership

Oil and Gas tycoons recently started taking responsibility for the environmental impact of their industry. Sixty-five companies banded together this past year to reduce their footprint through what they call the ‘Environmental Partnership’. The partnership is a coalition using sustainable extraction technologies, protecting both the planet and the future energy interests of the United States. Many quickly dismiss environmental commitments from an industry that has an objectively negative effect on the Earth. Coalitions like the Environmental Partnership foster false promises from big business. However, the National Center for Public Policy Research stated Thursday that the partnership has been largely successful in lowering the impact of the energy industry in America. 

The Environmental Partnership itself functions as a forum to share information regarding industry breakthroughs that reduce emissions. Improvements focus mostly on methane emission reduction, as methane is one of the main contributors to global warming. The majority of the equipment used in energy farming — pipelines, drills and the like — has the potential to leak this harmful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Fixing the plumbing

Over the past year alone, participating companies conducted more than 150,000 leak surveys across 78,000 production sites to find and fix leaky rigs. The leak rate across the board averaged to about .016%, much lower than EPA estimates. The majority of the leaks were fixed in just 60 days. ‘Pneumatic controllers,’ devices used to control gas temperature and pressure during extraction, also saw a remodel during the last year. 30,000 ‘high-bleed’ controllers were replaced, and 38 member companies simply stopped using them. Fixing leaks and replacing high-bleed controllers can cut site emissions by 40% and 60%, respectively, according to the EPA. 

On top of requiring their members to uphold more stringent emission standards, the Environmental Partnership also hosts industry workshops for oil and natural gas producers. Participating companies learn about new techniques and technologies that reduce methane and volatile organic compound emissions. Member and non-member companies share scientific data to further the improvement of sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies

Upwards and Onwards

The Environmental Partnership accomplished much more than those few examples this past year. Since their founding in 2017, they’ve grown their membership from just 26 companies to their current total of 65. Their membership increased by a startling 50% in just the first six months of operation. This total includes over half of the nation’s top energy firms. In their annual report, the EPA cited a 16% drop in methane emissions in the energy sector. It is reasonable to assume that this is in large part due to the work of the Environmental partnership. 32 of the top 40 natural gas producers and 21 of the nations top oil companies are members.

What they’ve accomplished in the last year exemplifies the success of a marriage of environmental responsibility with capitalism. The partnership meets the ever-increasing demand for energy while cutting emissions to 25 year lows. While production more than doubles across the board, member companies cut emissions by half. All reports state the partnership is fulfilling their goals and living up to their mission, something the world has recently been lacking.

To get a full view of what the Environmental Partnership has been up to in the past year, take a look at their annual report

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McDonald’s is finally realizing its global influence on the environment

Avery Maloto

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While its famous arches are at the corner of towns and cities across the globe, it is no surprise that McDonald’s holds the highest brand value of any quick-service chain in the world. However, with over 37,000 locations in more than 100 countries, the company is under public pressure to adopt a greener mindset. As time progresses it seems McDonald’s is realizing its global influence on the environment. At the forefront of the fast-food industry, McDonald’s is beginning to take a sustainable stance in its practices.

Going plastic free with its guest packaging

As the world’s largest restaurant chain, McDonald’s feeds over 68 million people daily. With this, there is no doubt that its sales generate an unsettling amount of waste. However, in efforts to minimize its environmental footprint, McDonald’s has taken on the task of going plastic-free. 

Stated in a press release, McDonald’s made it a goal to make 100% of its guest packaging come from renewable, recycled, or certified material by 2025. With only 6 years left to reach this goal, it seems the company has a lot of work ahead of itself. However, test trials have already begun in Germany and Canada. 

With the European Union placing a ban on many single-use plastic items in 2021, McDonald’s is still trying to learn how to comply with the new regulations. But, for 10 days, the company opened up a nearly-plastic free restaurant this past June. Although not perfect, the experiment ended with results that many seemed to be McLovin’.

Here are some of McDonald’s sustainable swap-outs during the trial:

  • Edible waffle cups replaced condiment sachets and containers.
  • Paper straws replaced plastic straws.
  • Wooden cutlery replaced plastic cutlery.
  • Sandwiches were wrapped in packaging made from grass, not paper.
  • Chicken McNuggets were served in paper bags, rather than cardboard boxes.

Since this test-run, McDonald’s opened up two additional green restaurants in Ontario and British Columbia. Reports have not yet been released on the Canadian consumer responses. 

McDonald’s wants to save the bees

The plastic-free trial is not the only green project the fast-food giant has tackled. 

In Sweden, McDonald’s has teamed up with NORD DDB and JCDecaux to take on a surprising task: making tiny hotels for bees. Across the country, the company is transforming the backs of billboards into bee sanctuaries. Placing six hives on the back of each advertisement, McDonald’s strives to provide the insects a home to nest.

As stated by NORD DBB, “30% of wild bees in the country are threatened, mainly because they do not have enough resting areas”. While bees are responsible for a large portion of our food production through pollination, McDonald’s initiative behind the project is “to give back to the creatures, from a food provider to another food provider”.

If the initial trials are successful, the partnering companies will expand their project in 2020 to create more ‘hotels’.

Conclusion

McDonald’s efforts to become more sustainable are admirable. Many are excited to see where its green mindset will take it. However, it seems as if many of the company’s initiatives are still in the early stages. And until McDonald’s fully creates a permanent environmental game plan, the public will just have to wait and see.



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