Over the past two decades, Britain’s high streets have been in decline as consumer behaviour has changed and economic pressures are causing retailers to close their shops.
The Centre for Future Studies Innovation Centre, at Kent University, sponsored by Anchor, argues that it is the older generations who will be an economic force to be reckoned with in shaping the reinvention of the high street.
It says that it is those retailers who are able to reinvent their businesses who will survive and prosper. The report estimates that over the next ten years almost two-thirds of all retail spending growth will come from those aged over 55. It says that they are going to drive retail with their considerable purchasing power, shopping behaviour and preferences as retailers respond positively to the demand for elderly friendly shopping environments. Read the rest of this entry »
China announced in July that from January 2018, it would no longer be accepting imports of 24 grades of solid waste because high levels of contamination were polluting the country’s environment. Furthermore, from March 2018, other imported materials with contamination levels above 0.5 per cent will also be banned. This is a slight relaxation of the 0.3 per cent originally announced, but it remains an extremely challenging goal. The acceptable level was previously set at 1.5 per cent.
The short notice given by China about this change in policy has been criticised as unreasonable by countries that export large quantities of waste. The EU, the USA, Canada, Australia and Korea have all called for a transition period of up to five years to prevent the collapse of the recycling industry.
Exporting recyclable waste to China has historically been extremely cost effective: firstly, because lower quality materials have been accepted; secondly, because there is a ready supply of cheap labour; and thirdly, because materials are shipped on the return journey by vessels carrying goods from China to Europe, which would otherwise be empty on their journey back to Asia. In the case of paper, a lot of this is used to make cardboard boxes for the goods that are subsequently shipped to Europe. This combination of factors has made it more cost effective to export waste to China than to process it in the UK.
The trade in waste plastic has helped fuel China’s manufacturing boom, but also contributed to the increase in UK local authorities accepting plastic for recycling in the early 2000s. However, many UK-based processing companies were driven out of business because of the Chinese market. As a result, there is now very little domestic capacity for recycling.
So, what does this mean for us?
Scotland is taking a strong stance on this, looking at alternatives to exporting our home-grown waste. A return to glass bottle schemes is being considered, along with investment in reprocessing facilities. Beyond this and other measures being considered, there is a need to go to the root of the problem and reduce our use of plastic.
We are at a watershed moment for the UK’s approach to waste. Many have acknowledged that China is quite right to take a firm stance on ‘foreign garbage’. For too long, the UK and other rich nations have allowed the booming Chinese market to mask the real issues around resource use, as well as turning a blind eye to the dumping of low-grade waste. We must start to see our waste as our responsibility, whether that is at a consumer level, a commercial level or in government.
For more information on Aberdeenshire’s approach to recycling visit http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/waste/
To find out more about the impact plastics are having on our marine environment go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDDFUZRyoIs
Fife Council have come up with an innovative way to invest in their landscape, wildlife, culture and heritage, the Big Green Footprint scheme.
Interested, read on to find out more!
Visitors should be able to enjoy the landscape, wildlife, culture and heritage that Fife has to offer today, without compromising the ability for people to continue to enjoy all that Fife has to offer tomorrow and into the future. Each year Fife draws millions of visitors to the coast and countryside for adventure and quiet enjoyment. However with so many footsteps on paths and wheels on roads some impact on our natural environment is inevitable. It is all about finding a balance between encouraging recreation and tourism to support local livelihoods and protecting and conserving the environment.
The Big Green Footprint scheme is a way of offering visitors the opportunity to give a little something back to the places they love and providing a mechanism for collecting those small contributions which, collectively, add up to a significant amount of funding.
The Big Green Footprint scheme is not a one-size-fits-all type of scheme, but that is one of its great strengths. It is creative, flexible and multifaceted and works in many different ways across a wide range of businesses. Indeed any business which has guests or customers can operate ‘The Big Green Footprint Scheme’.
Businesses can gain Big Green Footprint accreditation in a number of ways, for example, Cafés and Restaurants can name an item on the menu the ‘Coastal Path Loaf or the East Lomond Slice’ and add a small fee to the item to contribute to the work of the Trust in your area, retailers – why not select an item of stock and advertise that part of the proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Coastal Path?
Want to know more, click on the link http://fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk/Support-Us/Big-Green-Footprint-Scheme_9.html
In the Autumn of 2014, two San Francisco therapists shared a vision: to help heal that which divides us through the fine art of skilled listening. They gathered 26 of their colleagues, practiced listening skills and came up with a curriculum and model for listening on the sidewalks together.
On May 7th 2015, for 2 hours in 12 locations throughout San Francisco, listeners set up chairs and signs, offering to listen to any passer-by who wanted to be seen and heard. The result was amazing. And soon after a group from Los Angeles asked if they could reproduce it. There was never an intention for this thing to grow. Every person met at Sidewalk Talk is just like you, someone who believes that human connection is the way to create healthy humans, healthy politics, and a healthy world.
Today Sidewalk Talk has 1700 volunteers world-wide. They have groups in 40 cities around the globe. They have grown but remain grassroots by design. The focus is creating an active, engaged community of volunteers who commit to a regular listening practice and who connect with each other, not just the people they listen to.
Is this a way to gather not only people’s thoughts and opinions, but also raise the important of what the man on the “sidewalk” has to say? Would this work in our communities? Worth a thought!
China was the Global Nutrition Report’s star performer. It was one of only two countries (the other being South Korea) that posted levels of stunting, women’s anaemia and overweight adults that were all below indications of a very serious public health risk.
China’s numbers are staggering. In the past 10 years GDP per capita has tripled, mortality rates for the under-fives have declined from 37 per 1,000 to 14, and the percentage of the under-fives who are short for their age has declined from 22% to 9%.
But how long will China remain the star performer?
Of great concern in the future are the rapid increases in overweight and obesity in China. While the rates of overweight adults in China are less than half the rates of the UK (and the rates of obesity are about a fifth of the UK’s), the rates for children less than 20 years of age are much closer.
It is this body-mass time bomb that is the most worrying aspect of China’s nutrition status. High body-mass is a risk factor for a range of diseases such as diabetes and some forms of heart disease.
Will we see UK–level rates of obesity in these adults in China in 15 years’ time?
But it is not too late. China has the opportunity and the means to show the rest of the world how to slow and reverse the apparent tsunami of obesity. It has the opportunity because the problem is not yet unmanageable and its economy is strong. This generates policy possibilities. It has the means, because of the strong ability of the state to shape the environment to make healthy choices easier and more likely.
And make no mistake about it – the world needs China to succeed. Obese people tend to consume more of the types of foods that have a higher carbon footprint such as meat, sugar and dairy. There are diets – vegetarian, Mediterranean and pescetarian for example – that are healthier for the planet and for humans. China needs to draw on traditional eating habits and move towards its own 21st century version of a healthier diet – we all have a stake in that.
Following our look at whether local food is “better,” read about a Canadian couple who experimented with this approach….
When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.
The concept of the 100-mile diet forces a mental shift from eating globally to think more locally to ensure everything you eat is within a 100 mile radius of your table. Though going cold turkey into eating within such a restricted geographical region may not be for everyone you can start with a single family meal. This forces you to research and explore what’s actually grown close to your home and you’ll begin to appreciate not only the bounty of your local region, but the major implications of eating foods from around the world.
Choosing to consume food that is produced within 100 miles of your home comes with all of the benefits of local, seasonal eating: more flavourful foods, smaller environmental footprint, better health, and support for local farmers.
Alisa and James admit that finding local food sources took a lot of time. Very little in a supermarket can be traced to where all the ingredients come from and many of the products contain oils, sugar or seasonings that have travelled vast distances. So they set about finding just who did produce food in the Vancouver area. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest challenges was finding carbohydrates during the ‘hungry gap’ before the new season’s harvest began – rice, pasta and bread were all unavailable leaving only potatoes. Between them they lost 15 pounds in six weeks and were forced to loosen the rules slightly to include locally milled flour from grain that at least came from Canada. Summertime made life a little easier, with plentiful Farmer’s Markets a wealth of local foods. This did lead to its own problems though – many hours spent preserving foods for the long Canadian winter.
Is the 100 mile diet one that is realistic for your average person leading a busy life? No, but it was never intended to be. Alisa and James set themselves a high challenge to discover what the real issues with local food sourcing were. In the process they did much more, attracting a world-wide audience and making a bold political statement. This has led some people to label local food as the ‘new organic’ – something that seems to be at odds with the founder’s values which were very much attuned to sustainable organic food production. However, local food sourcing is deservedly gaining attention and the 100 mile diet certainly struck a chord with many who believe in sustainable production.
In 1993, a Swedish researcher calculated that the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast-apple, bread, butter, cheese, coffee, cream, orange juice, sugar-travelled a distance equal to the circumference of the Earth before reaching the Scandinavian table. In 2005, a researcher in Iowa found that the milk, sugar, and strawberries that go into a carton of strawberry yogurt collectively journeyed 2,211 miles just to get to the processing plant. As the local-food movement has come of age, this concept of “food miles” has come to dominate the discussion.
The concept offers a kind of convenient shorthand for describing a food system that’s centralized, industrialized, and complex almost to the point of absurdity. And, since our food is transported all those miles in ships, trains, trucks, and planes, attention to food miles also links up with broader concerns about the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-based transport.
So is eating local food better? And what exactly is “local food” in the first place? How local is local?
One problem with trying to determine whether local food is greener is that there’s no universally accepted definition of local food.
There’s some evidence that a popular understanding of local food is, at least in some places, coalescing around a 100-mile limit. A 2008 Leopold Institute survey of consumers throughout the United States found that two-thirds considered local food to mean food grown within 100 miles. Still, a variety of other definitions also persist. Sometimes local means food grown within a county, within a state or province, or even, in the case of some small European nations, within the country. All of those are perfectly valid ways of thinking about local. But they don’t have all that much to do with environmental costs and benefits.
In any case food miles don’t tell the whole story. “Food miles are a good measure of how far food has travelled. But they’re not a very good measure of the food’s environmental impact.”
That impact depends on how the food was transported, not just how far. For example, trains are 10 times more efficient at moving freight, ton for ton, than trucks are. So you could eat potatoes trucked in from 100 miles away, or potatoes shipped by rail from 1,000 miles away, and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their transport from farm to table would be roughly the same.
The environmental impact of food also depends on how it is grown. Swedish researcher Annika Carlsson-Kanyama led a study that found it was better, from a greenhouse-gas perspective, for Swedes to buy Spanish tomatoes than Swedish tomatoes, because the Spanish tomatoes were grown in open fields while the local ones were grown in fossil-fuel-heated greenhouses.
However, what if water shortages require Spanish growers to install energy-intensive irrigation systems? And what if greenhouses in northern Europe were heated with renewable energy?
Perhaps it’s inevitable that consumers gravitate to a focus on food miles-the concept represents the last step before food arrives on our tables, the part of the agricultural supply chain that’s most visible to us. And indeed, all other things being equal, it’s better to purchase something grown locally than the same thing grown far away.
But a broader, more comprehensive picture of all the trade-offs in the food system requires tracking greenhouse gas emissions through all phases of a food’s production, transport, and consumption. And life-cycle analysis (LCA), a research method that provides precisely this “cradle-to-grave” perspective, reveals that food miles represent a relatively small slice of the greenhouse-gas pie.
The other clear result that emerges from these analyses is that what you eat matters at least as much as how far it travels, and agriculture’s overwhelming “hotspots” are red meat and dairy production. In part that’s due to the inefficiency of eating higher up on the food chain-it takes more energy, and generates more emissions, to grow grain, feed it to cows, and produce meat or dairy products for human consumption, than to feed grain to humans directly.
“Broadly speaking, eating fewer meat and dairy products and consuming more plant foods in their place is probably the single most helpful behavioural shift one can make” to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Additionally, farmers who market locally are often relatively small in scale, and can more feasibly adopt environmentally beneficial practices such as growing a diversity of crops, planting cover crops, leaving weedy field borders or planting hedgerows that provide a refuge for native biodiversity, and integrating crop and livestock production. In short, the production practices matter a lot more than where the food was actually grown. If buying local also means buying with better production practices then that’s great, that’s going to make a huge difference.
So, is local food greener? Not necessarily. But look at the question from the opposite direction: if you’re a consumer interested in greener food, the local food economy is currently a good place to find it. By the same token, a farmer who sells in the local food economy might be more likely to adopt or continue sustainable practices in order to meet this customer demand.
Yet there are limits to this common-sense approach. In many areas, the climate is such that eating local, seasonal, field-grown produce would be a pretty bleak proposition for much of the year. Large concentrations of people live in areas not suited to growing certain staple crops; it’s one thing to forego bananas, but quite another to give up wheat. And population density itself works against relocalization of the food system. Most of the land within 100 miles of large cities such as New York is itself very built up; where will the farmland to feed us all locally come from?
Local food is delicious, but the problem-and perhaps the solution-is global.
Join us next week to read about an initiative started in Canada to address food miles and associated issues.