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SnippETS for 8 March 2018

This week in SnippETS we examine key trends sustainability executives should be keeping an eye on, and expand discussion on these with further articles representing what is happening in many of these areas.

The world is changing rapidly, ideas that may not have been an option last year may now shape our future. With each new opportunity, there can be a multitude of benefits and risks; options must be considered holistically and with sustainability in mind. This article discusses seven big areas of likely disruption and innovation that have the possibility to reshape the future.

As drivers shift to EVs there are battery charging limitations that must be overcome in order to allow for the infrastructure to operate economically. The issue of demand charges poses a challenge that slows the development of the charging network, but there may be a workaround. The batteries could also charge up and store energy during off peak, thus reducing peak demand (and cost) and improve network reliability.

With our international reputation as a clean, green producer of meat and dairy it is imperative for our economy that we maintain this image. However, various commercial farming techniques are ruining our soil quality and thus the quality of the foods we grow. This article goes in deep on the science behind it all, and also explains why cows aren’t completely responsible for the degradation of our waterways.

Instead of focusing his time on electric cars and rockets like his brother Elon, Kimbal Musk has been focusing on innovation within the agriculture space. Taking a uniquely Silicon Valley approach to tackle the challenges of food supply within urban cities, Kimbal’s company Square Roots has been growing crops within solar powered shipping containers located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York.

As more and more renewable electricity generation comes online across the world, we now face some unique challenges surrounding microgrids, supply contracts and trading. Blockchain, a secure database of transactions distributed among multiple computers, (and also used as the distributed ledger behind Bitcoin), offers a way to better handle the increasingly complex and decentralized transactions between users, large- and small-scale producers, retailers and even traders and utilities.

Estimates of debris loading on USA beaches suggests that if all coastal states in the USA implemented deposit schemes on drink containers, there would be 6.6 million fewer on the shoreline each year – a decrease of 40%. That’s a lot less waste entering oceans. Reasonable gains for such a small financial incentive being built into a product cost to ensure it’s recycled.

Millennials ordering milk in glass bottles from a vendor delivering in an electric cart, in a bid to slash plastic waste, has seen a 4 % increase in sales since December in London. Glass milk bottles can be reused up to 25 times before they are recycled into new bottles. Sometimes the ‘old ways’ were actually the good way to begin with.

With a significant percentage of greenhouse emissions coming from small to medium enterprises (SME), as part of a larger corporate’s supply chain, getting these SME to become more efficient is critical to reducing overall levels of emissions. Telecommunications giant BT is driving the reporting of GHG emissions and benchmarking their SME providers through changes in contract terms and conditions.

Our final article this week examines the Trudo Vertical Forest, an Eindhoven high-rise apartment development showing how it is possible to combine the great challenges of climate change with those of housing shortages. Each apartment has a surface area of under 50m2 and the exclusive benefit of 1 tree and 20 shrubs. Trees are biophilic, and as recent research into biophilia suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, this equates to happier occupants.

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