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Monteverde Leads the Way in Sustainable Waste Management

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Monteverde ranks among the most popular destinations in the country, attracting over 200,000 tourists annually due to its robust conservation efforts. In response to the large number of people who visit, Monteverde is starting a project aimed at gathering and processing organic waste, particularly leftover food from restaurants, with the aim of utilizing it to enhance the local ecosystem. The project involves the Association for the Administration of Community Water and Sewage Systems (ASADA) of Santa Elena, Monteverde, which collects more than six tons of waste per week from 100 businesses and transports it to a processing plant to produce organic fertilizer. In this region, 450 tons of organic waste are produced annually, of which 333 tons are composted and returned to the environment. According to the Directorate of Radiological Protection and Environmental Health of the Ministry of Health, composting organic waste in the country increased as a method for recycling organic waste, going from 4,700 tons of waste in 2018 to 42,580 in 2020. The compost is sold in sacks to businesses and individuals for the maintenance of their gardens and green spaces, and as a complement, native trees from the area are given as gifts for the conservation of the forest. This also ensures the project is self-sufficient and provides income to families. At the same time it addresses an initial problem that was the contamination of Monteverde’s watersheds, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint, maintaining a cleaner Monteverde. The ASADA in the area incorporates the businesses that participate in the waste collection program into the water bill, thus simplifying the project’s contribution procedures. There is currently a large waiting list of businesses looking to join this project that positively impacts social and environmental wellbeing, and which is gradually growing to meet the needs of the entire community. ASADA and the Monteverde Municipal Council are leading a macro-project called the Monteverde Environmental Technology Park (PTAM), which will include a Wastewater Treatment Plant, a Solid Waste Transfer Center, and a Productive Treatment Plant to transform various organic wastes into value-added products. “Composting on a large scale generates benefits for an entire community. However, people can also implement it at home to responsibly dispose of their organic waste and in this way we all contribute to the environment,” said Aura Sandí, administrator of ASADA Santa Elena, Monteverde. The post Monteverde Leads the Way in Sustainable Waste Management appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Monteverde ranks among the most popular destinations in the country, attracting over 200,000 tourists annually due to its robust conservation efforts. In response to the large number of people who visit, Monteverde is starting a project aimed at gathering and processing organic waste, particularly leftover food from restaurants, with the aim of utilizing it to […] The post Monteverde Leads the Way in Sustainable Waste Management appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Monteverde ranks among the most popular destinations in the country, attracting over 200,000 tourists annually due to its robust conservation efforts. In response to the large number of people who visit, Monteverde is starting a project aimed at gathering and processing organic waste, particularly leftover food from restaurants, with the aim of utilizing it to enhance the local ecosystem.

The project involves the Association for the Administration of Community Water and Sewage Systems (ASADA) of Santa Elena, Monteverde, which collects more than six tons of waste per week from 100 businesses and transports it to a processing plant to produce organic fertilizer.

In this region, 450 tons of organic waste are produced annually, of which 333 tons are composted and returned to the environment.

According to the Directorate of Radiological Protection and Environmental Health of the Ministry of Health, composting organic waste in the country increased as a method for recycling organic waste, going from 4,700 tons of waste in 2018 to 42,580 in 2020.

The compost is sold in sacks to businesses and individuals for the maintenance of their gardens and green spaces, and as a complement, native trees from the area are given as gifts for the conservation of the forest.

This also ensures the project is self-sufficient and provides income to families. At the same time it addresses an initial problem that was the contamination of Monteverde’s watersheds, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint, maintaining a cleaner Monteverde.

The ASADA in the area incorporates the businesses that participate in the waste collection program into the water bill, thus simplifying the project’s contribution procedures.

There is currently a large waiting list of businesses looking to join this project that positively impacts social and environmental wellbeing, and which is gradually growing to meet the needs of the entire community.

ASADA and the Monteverde Municipal Council are leading a macro-project called the Monteverde Environmental Technology Park (PTAM), which will include a Wastewater Treatment Plant, a Solid Waste Transfer Center, and a Productive Treatment Plant to transform various organic wastes into value-added products.

Composting on a large scale generates benefits for an entire community. However, people can also implement it at home to responsibly dispose of their organic waste and in this way we all contribute to the environment,” said Aura Sandí, administrator of ASADA Santa Elena, Monteverde.

The post Monteverde Leads the Way in Sustainable Waste Management appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Read the full story here.
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AI Transforms Oil Field Operations With Predictive Analytics

Amplified Industries, founded by Sebastien Mannai, helps oil field operators eliminate spills and stop methane leaks. There is a staggeringly long list of things that...

Amplified Industries’ sensors and analytics give oil well operators real-time alerts when things go wrong, allowing them to respond to issues before they become disasters. Credit: MIT News, iStockAmplified Industries, founded by Sebastien Mannai, helps oil field operators eliminate spills and stop methane leaks.There is a staggeringly long list of things that can go wrong during the complex operation of an oil field.One of the most common problems is spills of the salty brine which is a toxic byproduct of pumping oil. Another is over- or under-pumping which can lead to machine failure and methane leaks. (The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial emitter of methane in the U.S.) Then there are extreme weather events, which range from winter frosts to blazing heat, that can put equipment out of commission for months. One of the wildest problems Sebastien Mannai SM ’14, PhD ’18 has encountered are hogs that pop open oil tanks with their snouts to enjoy on-demand oil baths. Innovations by Amplified IndustriesMannai helps oil field owners detect and respond to these problems while optimizing the operation of their machinery to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place. He is the founder and CEO of Amplified Industries, a company selling oil field monitoring and control tools that help make the industry more efficient and sustainable.Amplified Industries’ sensors and analytics give oil well operators real-time alerts when things go wrong, allowing them to respond to issues before they become disasters.“We’re able to find 99 percent of the issues affecting these machines, from mechanical failures to human errors, including issues happening thousands of feet underground,” Mannai explains. “With our AI solution, operators can put the wells on autopilot, and the system automatically adjusts or shuts the well down as soon as there’s an issue.”Addressing Regulatory ChallengesAmplified currently works with private companies in states spanning from Texas to Wyoming, that own and operate as many as 3,000 wells. Such companies make up the majority of oil well operators in the U.S. and operate both new and older, more failure-prone equipment that has been in the field for decades.Such operators also have a harder time responding to environmental regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency’s new methane guidelines, which seek to dramatically reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas in the industry over the next few years.“These operators don’t want to be releasing methane,” Mannai explains. “Additionally, when gas gets into the pumping equipment, it leads to premature failures. We can detect gas and slow the pump down to prevent it. It’s the best of both worlds: The operators benefit because their machines are working better, saving them money while also giving them a smaller environmental footprint with fewer spills and methane leaks.”Leveraging “Every MIT Resource I Possibly Could”Mannai learned about the cutting-edge technology used in the space and aviation industries as he pursued his master’s degree at the Gas Turbine Laboratory in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Then, during his PhD at MIT, he worked with an oil services company and discovered the oil and gas industry was still relying on decades-old technologies and equipment.“When I first traveled to the field, I could not believe how old-school the actual operations were,” says Mannai, who has previously worked in rocket engine and turbine factories. “A lot of oil wells have to be adjusted by feel and rules of thumb. The operators have been let down by industrial automation and data companies.”Monitoring oil wells for problems typically requires someone in a pickup truck to drive hundreds of miles between wells looking for obvious issues, Mannai says. The sensors that are deployed are expensive and difficult to replace. Over time, they’re also often damaged in the field to the point of being unusable, forcing technicians to make educated guesses about the status of each well.“We often see that equipment unplugged or programmed incorrectly because it is incredibly over-complicated and ill-designed for the reality of the field,” Mannai says. “Workers on the ground often have to rip it out and bypass the control system to pump by hand. That’s how you end up with so many spills and wells pumping at suboptimal levels.”To build a better oil field monitoring system, Mannai received support from the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund and the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS). He also participated in the delta V summer accelerator at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, the fuse program during IAP, and the MIT I-Corps program, and took a number of classes at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In 2019, Amplified Industries — which operated under the name Acoustic Wells until recently — won the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship competition.“My approach was to sign up to every possible entrepreneurship-related program and to leverage every MIT resource I possibly could,” Mannai says. “MIT was amazing for us.”Mannai officially launched the company after his postdoc at MIT, and Amplified raised its first round of funding in early 2020. That year, Amplified’s small team moved into the Greentown Labs startup incubator in Somerville.Mannai says building the company’s battery-powered, low-cost sensors was a huge challenge. The sensors run machine-learning inference models and their batteries last for 10 years. They also had to be able to handle extreme conditions, from the scorching hot New Mexico desert to the swamps of Louisiana and the freezing cold winters in North Dakota.“We build very rugged, resilient hardware; it’s a must in those environments,” Mannai says. “But it’s also very simple to deploy, so if a device does break, it’s like changing a lightbulb: We ship them a new one and it takes them a couple of minutes to swap it out.”Customers equip each well with four or five of Amplified’s sensors, which attach to the well’s cables and pipes to measure variables like tension, pressure, and amps. Vast amounts of data are then sent to Amplified’s cloud and processed by their analytics engine. Signal processing methods and AI models are used to diagnose problems and control the equipment in real-time, while generating notifications for the operators when something goes wrong. Operators can then remotely adjust the well or shut it down.“That’s where AI is important, because if you just record everything and put it in a giant dashboard, you create way more work for people,” Mannai says. “The critical part is the ability to process and understand this newly recorded data and make it readily usable in the real world.”Amplified’s dashboard is customized for different people in the company, so field technicians can quickly respond to problems and managers or owners can get a high-level view of how everything is running.Mannai says often when Amplified’s sensors are installed, they’ll immediately start detecting problems that were unknown to engineers and technicians in the field. To date, Amplified has prevented hundreds of thousands of gallons worth of brine water spills, which are particularly damaging to surrounding vegetation because of their high salt and sulfur content.Preventing those spills is only part of Amplified’s positive environmental impact; the company is now turning its attention toward the detection of methane leaks.Helping a Changing IndustryThe EPA’s proposed new Waste Emissions Charge for oil and gas companies would start at $900 per metric ton of reported methane emissions in 2024 and increase to $1,500 per metric ton in 2026 and beyond.Mannai says Amplified is well-positioned to help companies comply with the new rules. Its equipment has already showed it can detect various kinds of leaks across the field, purely based on analytics of existing data.“Detecting methane leaks typically requires someone to walk around every valve and piece of piping with a thermal camera or sniffer, but these operators often have thousands of valves and hundreds of miles of pipes,” Mannai says. “What we see in the field is that a lot of times people don’t know where the pipes are because oil wells change owners so frequently, or they will miss an intermittent leak.”Ultimately Mannai believes a strong data backend and modernized sensing equipment will become the backbone of the industry, and is a necessary prerequisite to both improving efficiency and cleaning up the industry.“We’re selling a service that ensures your equipment is working optimally all the time,” Mannai says. “That means a lot fewer fines from the EPA, but it also means better-performing equipment. There’s a mindset change happening across the industry, and we’re helping make that transition as easy and affordable as possible.”

This 3D printer can figure out how to print with an unknown material

The advance could help make 3D printing more sustainable, enabling printing with renewable or recyclable materials that are difficult to characterize.

While 3D printing has exploded in popularity, many of the plastic materials these printers use to create objects cannot be easily recycled. While new sustainable materials are emerging for use in 3D printing, they remain difficult to adopt because 3D printer settings need to be adjusted for each material, a process generally done by hand. To print a new material from scratch, one must typically set up to 100 parameters in software that controls how the printer will extrude the material as it fabricates an object. Commonly used materials, like mass-manufactured polymers, have established sets of parameters that were perfected through tedious, trial-and-error processes. But the properties of renewable and recyclable materials can fluctuate widely based on their composition, so fixed parameter sets are nearly impossible to create. In this case, users must come up with all these parameters by hand. Researchers tackled this problem by developing a 3D printer that can automatically identify the parameters of an unknown material on its own. A collaborative team from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Center for Scientific Research in Greece (Demokritos) modified the extruder, the “heart” of a 3D printer, so it can measure the forces and flow of a material. These data, gathered through a 20-minute test, are fed into a mathematical function that is used to automatically generate printing parameters. These parameters can be entered into off-the-shelf 3D printing software and used to print with a never-before-seen material.  The automatically generated parameters can replace about half of the parameters that typically must be tuned by hand. In a series of test prints with unique materials, including several renewable materials, the researchers showed that their method can consistently produce viable parameters. This research could help to reduce the environmental impact of additive manufacturing, which typically relies on nonrecyclable polymers and resins derived from fossil fuels. “In this paper, we demonstrate a method that can take all these interesting materials that are bio-based and made from various sustainable sources and show that the printer can figure out by itself how to print those materials. The goal is to make 3D printing more sustainable,” says senior author Neil Gershenfeld, who leads CBA. His co-authors include first author Jake Read a graduate student in the CBA who led the printer development; Jonathan Seppala, a chemical engineer in the Materials Science and Engineering Division of NIST; Filippos Tourlomousis, a former CBA postdoc who now heads the Autonomous Science Lab at Demokritos; James Warren, who leads the Materials Genome Program at NIST; and Nicole Bakker, a research assistant at CBA. The research is published in the journal Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation. Shifting material properties In fused filament fabrication (FFF), which is often used in rapid prototyping, molten polymers are extruded through a heated nozzle layer-by-layer to build a part. Software, called a slicer, provides instructions to the machine, but the slicer must be configured to work with a particular material. Using renewable or recycled materials in an FFF 3D printer is especially challenging because there are so many variables that affect the material properties. For instance, a bio-based polymer or resin might be composed of different mixes of plants based on the season. The properties of recycled materials also vary widely based on what is available to recycle. “In ‘Back to the Future,’ there is a ‘Mr. Fusion’ blender where Doc just throws whatever he has into the blender and it works [as a power source for the DeLorean time machine]. That is the same idea here. Ideally, with plastics recycling, you could just shred what you have and print with it. But, with current feed-forward systems, that won’t work because if your filament changes significantly during the print, everything would break,” Read says. To overcome these challenges, the researchers developed a 3D printer and workflow to automatically identify viable process parameters for any unknown material. They started with a 3D printer their lab had previously developed that can capture data and provide feedback as it operates. The researchers added three instruments to the machine’s extruder that take measurements which are used to calculate parameters. A load cell measures the pressure being exerted on the printing filament, while a feed rate sensor measures the thickness of the filament and the actual rate at which it is being fed through the printer. “This fusion of measurement, modeling, and manufacturing is at the heart of the collaboration between NIST and CBA, as we work develop what we’ve termed ‘computational metrology,’” says Warren. These measurements can be used to calculate the two most important, yet difficult to determine, printing parameters: flow rate and temperature. Nearly half of all print settings in standard software are related to these two parameters.  Deriving a dataset Once they had the new instruments in place, the researchers developed a 20-minute test that generates a series of temperature and pressure readings at different flow rates. Essentially, the test involves setting the print nozzle at its hottest temperature, flowing the material through at a fixed rate, and then turning the heater off. “It was really difficult to figure out how to make that test work. Trying to find the limits of the extruder means that you are going to break the extruder pretty often while you are testing it. The notion of turning the heater off and just passively taking measurements was the ‘aha’ moment,” says Read. These data are entered into a function that automatically generates real parameters for the material and machine configuration, based on relative temperature and pressure inputs. The user can then enter those parameters into 3D printing software and generate instructions for the printer. In experiments with six different materials, several of which were bio-based, the method automatically generated viable parameters that consistently led to successful prints of a complex object. Moving forward, the researchers plan to integrate this process with 3D printing software so parameters don’t need to be entered manually. In addition, they want to enhance their workflow by incorporating a thermodynamic model of the hot end, which is the part of the printer that melts the filament. This collaboration is now more broadly developing computational metrology, in which the output of a measurement is a predictive model rather than just a parameter. The researchers will be applying this in other areas of advanced manufacturing, as well as in expanding access to metrology. “By developing a new method for the automatic generation of process parameters for fused filament fabrication, this study opens the door to the use of recycled and bio-based filaments that have variable and unknown behaviors. Importantly, this enhances the potential for digital manufacturing technology to utilize locally sourced sustainable materials,” says Alysia Garmulewicz, an associate professor in the Faculty of Administration and Economics at the University of Santiago in Chile who was not involved with this work. This research is supported, in part, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Center for Bits and Atoms Consortia.

Dutch airline KLM misled customers with vague green claims, court rules

Operator also found by Amsterdam court to have painted ‘overly rosy picture’ of sustainable aviation fuelThe Dutch airline KLM has misled customers with vague environmental claims and painted “an overly rosy picture” of its sustainable aviation fuel, a court has found.In a greenwashing case brought by the campaign group Fossielvrij, the district court of Amsterdam ruled on Wednesday that KLM had broken the law with misleading advertising in 15 of the 19 environmental statements it assessed. They include claims that the airline is moving towards a “more sustainable” future and statements on its website about the benefits of offsetting a flight. Continue reading...

The Dutch airline KLM has misled customers with vague environmental claims and painted “an overly rosy picture” of its sustainable aviation fuel, a court has found.In a greenwashing case brought by the campaign group Fossielvrij, the district court of Amsterdam ruled on Wednesday that KLM had broken the law with misleading advertising in 15 of the 19 environmental statements it assessed. They include claims that the airline is moving towards a “more sustainable” future and statements on its website about the benefits of offsetting a flight.“Today’s judgment is a landmark victory in the fight against greenwashing,” said Hiske Arts, a campaigner at Fossielvrij. “The court could not have been clearer: companies are not allowed to claim they are tackling dangerous climate change when in reality they are fuelling the crisis.”Several of the claims KLM made about its environmental ambitions were declared misleading because they were too vague. In relation to a billboard at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport showing a child on a swing, the court ruled that KLM’s statement “join us in creating a more sustainable future” did not explain how flying with it related to any environmental benefit. The impression was reinforced by the background of sky, mountain and water, it said.The court also took aim at the airline’s presentation of its policies on sustainable aviation fuels, a vital but fledgling solution to the sector’s emissions, and tree-planting, which is sold as a way to offset the emissions from a flight. “These measures only marginally reduce the negative environmental aspects and give the wrong impression that flying with KLM is sustainable,” it ruled.Four statements that campaigners had criticised were deemed fair to use. The court also said the airline did not have to rectify the incorrect statements or warn customers that aviation is currently not sustainable. But it said that when KLM informed its customers about ambitions to reduce emissions, it must do so “honestly and concretely”.Campaigners said the court’s verdict was an important victory against greenwashing. but warned it was not enough. “Tackling greenwashing is currently a cat-and-mouse game,” said Rosanne Rootert, a campaigner at Reclame Fossielvrij. “If one misleading campaign is stopped, 10 new ones emerge. And you can only respond once the damage has already been done: people have already seen the commercials.”A similar point was made by KLM’s lawyer Branda Katan, a professor of corporate litigation at Leiden Law School, ahead of the verdict.Katan, who is scheduled to give an inaugural lecture at Leiden University on Friday titled: “Sustainability through liability? Don’t get your hopes up”, saidcivil lawsuits were slow and the results only said something about a specific case. “With climate litigation, you grab attention – media attention – and, at least that is the hope, you instil fear in other companies. So interest groups are using it to try to bring about behavioural change.”Though the air transport sector accounts for only a small fraction of greenhouse gas emissions today, its contribution to climate breakdown is on course to soar as demand rises. The International Energy Agency found last year that growth in aviation activity has historically outpaced improvements in efficiency.skip past newsletter promotionThe planet's most important stories. Get all the week's environment news - the good, the bad and the essentialPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotionRootert said the “next logical step” was for the EU to restrict fossil fuel adverts as it had done with tobacco. “A complete ban of fossil advertising, such as for air travel, is the only way to truly eliminate greenwashing by these companies.”A KLM spokesperson, Marjan Rozemeijer, said the airline had not used the 19 communications addressed in the court case for some time. “We are pleased that the court has ruled that we can continue to communicate with our customers and partners about our approach to making aviation more sustainable. We are continuously learning how best to include them in this.”She added: “It is good that the court gives us more clarity about what is possible and how we can continue to communicate transparently and honestly about our approach and activities.”

Cocoa beans are in short supply: What this means for farmers, businesses and chocolate lovers

". . . continuing to cultivate cocoa under current conditions is unsustainable"

A shortage of cocoa beans has led to a near shutdown of processing plants in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, the two countries responsible for 60% of global production. With chocolate makers around the world reliant on west Africa for cocoa, there is significant concern about the impact on the prices of chocolate and the livelihood of farmers. Cocoa researcher Michael Odijie explains the reasons for the shortage.   Why has cocoa production declined sharply in west Africa? Three factors are at play: environmental, economic cycle related and human. One environmental factor is the impact of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which has caused drier weather in west Africa. It has contributed to problems on farms, such as the swollen shoot virus disease. As a result, Ghana has lost harvests from nearly 500,000 hectares of land in recent years. The economic cycle of cocoa production refers to the inherent patterns of expansion and contraction in cocoa farming. For example, as cocoa trees age, they become susceptible to diseases, requiring high maintenance costs. Historically, farmers have tended to abandon old farms and start anew in fresh forests. Unfortunately, finding new forests is now increasingly difficult. Perhaps the most severe issue of all is the lack of fair compensation for sustainable cocoa production The human factor includes challenges such as illegal mining, which has overtaken numerous farms in Ghana. Sometimes, farmers lease their land to illegal miners in exchange for payment. These mining activities degrade the quality of the land, making it unsuitable for cocoa cultivation. The global market for chocolate and chocolate products is on the rise. It is projected to grow faster than 4% annually over the next few years. This growing demand for cocoa underscores the urgency in addressing the intertwined issues that relate to the industry's sustainability.   Have west African governments intervened to help cocoa farmers? In February 2024, the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), regulator of the country's cocoa sector, secured a World Bank loan of US$200 million to rehabilitate plantations affected by the cocoa swollen shoot virus. The board will take over the disease-ridden farms, remove and replace the afflicted cocoa trees, and nurture the new plantings to the fruiting stage before returning them to the farmers. This practice of Cocobod taking out loans to assist farmers is a longstanding one in Ghana. For instance, in 2018, Cocobod used part of a $600 million loan from the African Development Bank to rehabilitate aging plantations and those hit by diseases. And at the start of the current harvest season in October, the producer price was raised: farmers are paid more, a move made inevitable by the surge in global prices. Also, Ghana Cocobod has established a task force to shield cocoa farms from the harmful impacts of mining. It has cooperated with police to stem the smuggling of cocoa to neighboring countries, particularly those that offer a stronger currency. In Côte d'Ivoire, relatively little action has been taken. It appears the government is still assessing the situation. But there have been measures to curb smuggling of cocoa, prompted by the fact that the shortage is driving up prices in neighboring countries. Côte d'Ivoire does benefit from numerous sustainability programs initiated by multinational corporations. The current shortage has accelerated these initiatives. Regrettably, some of the programs do not disclose their data, making it difficult for academics to access and analyze their information. African governments have yet to address significant structural issues in their interventions.   How have cocoa farmers and cocoa-producing countries' economies been affected? At the farm level, although the rise in prices may initially appear beneficial to farmers, the reality is not straightforward. A decrease in output leads to fewer harvests on average, which means that, overall, farmers are not earning more. This issue is compounded by recent economic challenges in west Africa, such as high inflation and currency devaluation, particularly in Ghana. These factors have resulted in farmers becoming poorer. Another impact of the output decline is a reduction in local processing. Major African processing facilities in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana have either ceased operations or reduced their processing capacity because they cannot afford to purchase beans. This likely means that chocolate prices worldwide will surge. This, in turn, adversely affects the local production units that have been emerging in recent years. However, the bargaining power of west African cocoa-producing countries seems to have increased. Now is an opportune moment for these nations to unite and negotiate more favorable terms for their cocoa farmers.   Will chocolate makers eventually turn to cocoa alternatives? It's inevitable because continuing to cultivate cocoa under current conditions is unsustainable. I don't perceive this negatively; I hope it occurs sooner rather than later. In fact, it is already underway with the rise of cocoa butter equivalents, cocoa extenders and artificial flavors (synthetic or nature-identical flavors that mimic the taste of chocolate without the need for cocoa). The German company Planet A Foods is a leader in this area. It produces cocoa-free chocolate, using technology to transform ingredients such as oats and sunflower seeds into substitutes for cocoa mass and butter. Overall, this is beneficial for everyone. The demand for cocoa has resulted in mass deforestation and significant carbon emissions, issues that are likely to worsen due to climate change. Moreover, the push for cultivation has led to various forms of labour abuses. Exploring cocoa alternatives is certainly part of the solution. Michael E Odijie, Research associate, UCL This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Firms That Once Called Themselves “Sustainable” Are Now “Greenhushing”

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. For years, eagle-eyed environmentalists have called out banks and consumer businesses—from Barclays to fashion brand ASOS—for making misleading claims that their practices or products are sustainable, otherwise known as greenwashing.  However, lately there has been an uptick in “greenhushing,” a […]

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. For years, eagle-eyed environmentalists have called out banks and consumer businesses—from Barclays to fashion brand ASOS—for making misleading claims that their practices or products are sustainable, otherwise known as greenwashing.  However, lately there has been an uptick in “greenhushing,” a seemingly counterintuitive practice in which companies intentionally don’t publicize their climate-friendly actions and goals.  For example, investment firm BlackRock has removed several references to its commitment of helping reach net zero emissions by 2050 from its website, though its CEO said the firm would continue to discuss climate issues with the companies it invests in, reports the Washington Post. Consumer goods companies, including those that sell food and beverages or clothes, are also hopping on the “greenhushing” bandwagon, despite taking steps toward sustainability, reports Grist.  “If you’re a CEO who has all the right intentions, you might get sued from both sides—from the left and from the right.” At the same time, public demand for environmentally friendly goods and services has surged in the past few years as the fight against climate change has ramped up. So what’s behind this paradox? Experts say there could be a few factors at play.  In the past few years, liberal activists and organizations have sued companies for rampant greenwashing campaigns, including H&M, Nike, Allbirds shoes and apparel company Canada Goose. Though many of these companies won their suits, they still suffered copious amounts of bad PR.  On the other side of the aisle, right-wing politicians and thought leaders are speaking out against “woke” eco-campaigns and business decisions made with climate change in mind, reports the Post.  “If you’re a CEO who has all the right intentions, you might get sued from both sides—from the left and from the right,” Renat Heuberger, the co-founder and CEO of South Pole, a climate consultancy that released a survey on greenhushing trends, told the Post. “And that is not good news if you want to convince more CEOs to get active on climate.” In the face of this criticism, some companies have simply stopped publicly speaking about the steps they are taking to curb emissions or reduce their environmental footprints, according to South Pole’s report.  On Monday, Uber launched a new feature that gives riders insight into how many emissions they could avoid by choosing electric vehicle or hybrid options, Axios reports. This is part of a growing trend in the consumer space; just this week, I was searching for a flight on Skyscanner and the app offered information about which options emit the lowest amount of CO2.  Even though these features are increasingly available, do people actually use them when making their final purchase? I asked Xavier Font, a professor of sustainability marketing at University of Surrey who advises companies like Booking, Google, Expedia and Skyscanner.  “The labeling of products as sustainable raises skepticism,” and “raises perceptions of potential greenwashing.” “At the moment, nobody has done a study—including the companies themselves—that is publicly available that says, ‘does this have an impact or not?’” he told me over the phone. “The thing is, we don’t really know what difference they make. And when companies like these go to great lengths to create a system, I think we could do better testing.” In a similar vein, research shows that consumers’ behaviors when presented with “eco-friendly” products can be mixed. In a 2022 survey, 78 percent of US consumers responded that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them and 30 percent of them would be more likely to buy products with sustainable advertising.  However, some experiments show that the opposite can happen, as well. For example, in a 2020 study, researchers asked more than 250 Americans their thoughts on two ads for laundry detergent: one with a label stating that it is sustainable, and another without this language. In this case, the majority of participants perceived the more sustainable product to be less effective, without even trying it.  “The labeling of products as sustainable raises skepticism, raises perceptions of information overload [and] raises perceptions of potential greenwashing,” Font says.  To combat this, companies can tap into social influence to get people to buy with sustainability in mind, or focus on other positive attributes of the product, such as innovation and safety, writes Katherine White, a sustainable business researcher at University of British Columbia, and co-authors in the Harvard Business Review.  Overall, there are some risks to greenhushing. As banks and consumer retailers downplay or eliminate their public sustainability pledges, progress can become harder to track, some experts say.  “We really, really, really need a lot more disclosure of all the environmental actions that companies are taking, and we need it to be disclosed regularly and transparently, and we need it to be disclosed quantitatively,” Austin Whitman, the CEO of Climate Neutral, a nonprofit that monitors climate pledges, told Grist.  

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