- sustainability

How shorter workweeks could save Earth

We like to blame climate change on industry and big business. But the way we live, work and consume is actually the primary source of emissions. A multi-national study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology of the environmental impact of consumers found that the stuff we buy is responsible for more than 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80% of global water use. And yet, growing that consumption still further is what economies are built upon...

Could wooden buildings be a solution to climate change?

I’m standing in a seemingly ordinary construction site of an unremarkable office block in east London. The seven-storey building is about two-thirds complete – the basic structure and staircases are in place, with plastering and wiring just beginning. But as I walk around, something different slowly reveals itself. The construction site is quiet and clean – it even smells good. And there’s an awful lot of wood...

Why are people thirsty for 'raw water'?

“Anybody here drink water, but wish you could pay more for it?” In January 2018, the “raw water” movement was doing the rounds on the US TV comedy circuit, and it was Stephen Colbert’s turn on The Late Show. “Well, good news,” continued Colbert, “because the next big start-up craze in Silicon Valley is ‘raw water’… water that’s unfiltered, untreated and unsterilised. Wow, drinking that sounds unsane!”

Deadly air in our cities: the invisible killer

"In the winter you can taste and smell the pollution,” says Kylie ap Garth, drinking coffee in a cafe in Hackney, east London. “My eldest is eight and he has asthma. Being outside, he would have a tight chest and cough. I just assumed it was the cold weather. I didn’t realise there was a link to the cars.” She is not exaggerating. The main road from Bethnal Green tube station is clogged with traffic, the smell of diesel fumes mixing with smoke from barbecue grill restaurants and construction dust.

Why Britain’s rain can’t sustain its thirst

When it comes to water scarcity, the last place on Earth you’d think of is rain-soaked England. Winter here is cold and wet. It rains for what feels like weeks on end. Lawns squelch with saturated soil and garden water butts overflow, likely to be unused until April. The UK’s average annual rainfall is a sopping 1200mm, compared to the 300s in Afghanistan, or just double-figures in Egypt. Yet within a few short months, significant parts of the UK will be staring down the barrel of empty water butts...

How artificially brightened clouds could stop climate change

In June, 1991, something surprising happened to the Earth. Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines, erupted. The pressure built up over centuries beneath this dormant volcano caused the second largest eruption of the 20th Century, spewing vast amounts of white ash and sulphates as high as the stratosphere – 10 km above the Earth’s surface. As a result, the average global temperature that year dropped by 0.6C. And for some researchers, that raised an interesting possibility. Could we do this on purpose, deliberately producing artificial clouds reduce global warming?

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
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