- Sustainability

The outrageous plan to haul icebergs to Africa

If towing icebergs to hot, water-stressed regions sounds totally crazy to you, then consider this: the volume of water that breaks off Antarctica as icebergs each year is greater than the total global consumption of freshwater. And that stat doesn’t even include Arctic ice. This is pure freshwater, effectively wasted as it melts into the sea and contributes to rising sea levels. Does it sound less crazy now? This untapped flow of water has enticed scientists and entrepreneurs for over a century...

How to drink from the air

All air, from arid deserts to humid cities, contains water vapour – globally, an estimated 3,100 cubic miles (12,900 cubic kilometres) of water is suspended as humidity in the air around us. That’s five Lake Victoria’s (Africa’s great lake, at 2,700 cubic km). Or a whopping 418 times the volume of Loch Ness. But we’re not talking about clouds. This is the humidity in the air we breathe, that reappears as beads of water on the side of a cold drink, or as morning dew on blades of grass. And a technological race is underway to harvest it as drinking water. If the emerging ‘water from air’ (WFA) devices can crack it, it could go a long way towards solving the world’s freshwater problem.

Air pollution investigation by environmental journalist Tim Smedley in "major" acquisition by Bloomsbury Sigma

Bloomsbury Sigma has signed Clearing the Air by environmental journalist Tim Smedley in a "major" acquisition for the imprint. Jim Martin, publisher at Bloomsbury Sigma, acquired world rights to Smedley's Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution from Jenny Hewson of RCW Literary Agency. The title will investigate what pollutants are in the air, "what they do to us" and "what we can do about it". Smedley said: "Air pollution is on everyone's minds right now, with a backlash...

How the world’s biggest cities are fighting smog

For three days in March 2016, 10 London pigeons became famous. Seeing pigeons take to the sky from Primrose Hill in north London was not unusual in itself. But these pigeons were wearing backpacks. And the backpacks were monitoring air pollution. Once in the air, the backpacks sent live air-quality updates via tweets to the smartphones of the Londoners below. In almost all cases, the readings were not good. London’s air pollution problem has been getting worse for years, and it often rises to more than three times the European Union’s legal limit.

The bank boss with an environmentalist bent

Despite becoming the UK’s managing director of Triodos bank this spring, Bevis Watts maintains that he is “first and foremost an environmentalist”. Triodos’s mission is to lend money only to those who promote “positive social, environmental and cultural change”. The Dutch bank, which has €12bn of assets under management, is part of a booming trend. In 2015, the responsible lending market in the UK grew 45 per cent, according to a report by the Community Development Finance Association and PwC. Mr Watts’s CV does not read like that of the average bank executive...

Developing countries lead in clean energy

Renewable energy used to be deemed unaffordable for developing countries. Wind and solar were rich country luxuries, while 'third world' economies could only be expected to grow on a diet of dirty fossil fuels. As recently as June 2014, Bill Gates blogged: “Poor countries… can’t afford today’s expensive clean energy solutions and we can’t expect them to wait for the technology to get cheaper.” However, the past two years have seen this received wisdom turned on its head...

FT weekend magazine - The future of food

In their full-body protective suits and spotless white wellies, Kate Hofman and Tom Webster don’t look like farmers. And this doesn’t look like a farm. GrowUp, their aquaponic food business, is one of a long line of industrial units in Beckton, the untrendy end of east London, sandwiched between a wallpaper warehouse and a construction company. Visitors are asked to sign declarations that they carry no germs or foreign soils before entering.

Better city cycling routes? There's an app for that

Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, a Toronto-based cyclist commuter, is considering whether to cycle through the coming winter. It is “only” -5C, she says, but temperatures can plummet to -25C and snow ploughs clear the roads for months. This winter, however, she is running out of excuses. For the first time, 49km of Toronto’s busiest bike lanes will be classified as “winter priority”, to be ploughed and salted. This is in part due to data collected by the Toronto Cycling App, a tool launched in May 201

Sustainable development goals: what business needs to know #SDGs

Ahead of the formal adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit this weekend in New York, Guardian Sustainable Business asks: what are the SDGs, what do they mean for business and what impact will they have? The SDGs effectively replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were in place from 2000 to 2015. Whether you believe the MDGs were a success or not, they certainly became a fulcrum for global development. In 2012, at Rio+20,

TTIP: what does the transatlantic trade deal mean for renewable energy?

In July the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) came a step closer to reality. Formal talks have been ongoing for two years, but trying to create the world’s biggest free trade zone is no mean feat. Essentially, if passed, the EU and US will be able to trade without each other’s pesky tariffs or regulations getting in the way. David Cameron is a big advocate, arguing it could add £10bn to the UK economy. Many others, meanwhile, criticise the undemocratic nature of the closed

Raise a glass to neat ideas for more eco-friendly whisky

It may have a heritage dating back centuries, but in the last five years the Scottish whisky industry has undergone something of an energy revolution. In 2009, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) launched an Industry Environmental Strategy for its membership of 101 malt and seven grain distilleries, accounting for over 90% of the industry. Alongside commitments on water reduction and packaging, it set a target of 20% energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 80% by 2050. At the time of the s

Power-to-gas energy storage could help displace use of fossil fuels

The intermittent nature of renewable power generation has long been a potential barrier to a low-carbon future. Electricity only generated when the wind blows or the sun shines isn't always needed at that exact time. As more intermittent power comes online, the grid has to turn down more energy. Between October 2011 and March 2013, 224GW hours of potential energy were turned down from UK wind farms alone (receiving £7.6m of the total £170m curtailment and balancing payments in 2013 – effectivel

Carbon benefits of homeworking under the spotlight

Homeworking has been touted as the ultimate "win-win": employers can save on office space while claiming carbon reductions. The employee, meanwhile, can spend more time at home with the kids or the X-Box. However, a report from The Carbon Trust has thrown this equation into doubt. If the homeworker previously travelled fewer than four miles into work by car, or has the central heating on for more than one and a quarter hours, then it's goodbye energy savings, hello net carbon emissions. The re

Sustainable shellfish: first community farming group begins trials

David Salter has just got off the phone to the local blacksmith to order a new set of oyster trestles, the steel racks used for farming the molluscs. That he went for a local option rather than a cheaper mass-produced alternative – and that Salter is not a fisherman but a retired businessman running a guest house – suggests there's something special about the Porlock Bay Shellfish project. Porlock is a small village on the coast of the Exmoor National Park. Almost half of its residents are aged

Waste coffee grounds set to fuel London with biodiesel and biomass pellets

Sometimes an idea seems so good you can't believe it hasn't been done before. Using waste coffee grounds to make biomass pellets and biodiesel occurred to Arthur Kay when he was studying architecture at UCL in 2012. Tasked with looking at closed loop waste-to-energy systems for buildings, he happened to choose a coffee shop. But when he discovered the oil content in coffee and the sheer amount of waste produced – 200,000 tonnes a year in London alone – he jacked in the architecture and set about

Hydroponics used to grow salad in tunnels under London

A few hundred metres from Clapham North tube station stands a padlocked gate. Behind the gate is a dark, damp entrance to a spiral staircase leading 33 metres underground. A series of tunnels built as a second world war bomb shelter large enough to fit 8,000 people have remained virtually unused. Until now. At the end of one tunnel comes a pinkish-purple glow from behind white plastic sheeting. The Breaking Bad comparison is obvious. But the produce being grown using hydroponics and LED lights i

Waste and pollution: does film have the power to change consumer behaviour?

A man looks mournfully at a 40-metre mountain of rubbish. His view of the historic port of Saida, Lebanon, is obscured by layer upon layer of household waste. Rows of dead chicken eyes meet his gaze and wonder at his presence. The man is Hollywood and TV star Jeremy Irons. He is fronting the feature-length documentary Trashed, bringing attention to the global escalation of waste and pollution. The multi-award-winning film added the Palme Verte to its bounty at last week's UK Green Film festival

Sustainable urban design: lessons to be taken from slums

Alfredo Brillembourg is enthusing about Zurich's blue recycling bags. "They are an incredible thing," he says, his accent revealing his Venezuelan roots. The architect and former Columbia University professor talks at a breathless pace, most sentences ending in exclamation marks. "Zurich is an incredible city for recycling! Not only that but they figured out how to finance the whole thing, everyone is obliged to throw their garbage out in one type of bag, the Zuri-bag. That bag is more expensive
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