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Curing the plastic pollution pandemic

By Adria Vasil
While COVID has disrupted the movement away from single-use plastic, it could be helpful in the long run

On a sweaty Sunday in August at Toronto’s Woodbine Beach, swarms of people flock to the lake’s edge trying to escape the world’s woes, at least for an afternoon. But scan the (mostly) socially distant gaps between the beach towels and lawn chairs and you’ll find telltale signs of the summer of COVID. Record levels of dumped takeout cups, forks, straws and pale-blue disposable surgical masks dot the sand just inches from the waterline. 

Just when the movement against single-use plastic was picking up steam, COVID-19 scared us into consuming 250 to 300% more single-use plastic than we used pre-pandemic, according to estimates from the International Solid Waste Association. A good chunk of that has been tough to avoid: particularly the 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves now used globally every month. Of course, we’re also valiantly fulfilling our civic duty to stay home and binge-watch Netflix while ordering record levels of plastic-wrapped deliveries – which explains how Uber Eats revenue grew by 103% in the second quarter of this year and Amazon earnings surged by 40%. Not surprisingly, Ontario reported that residential waste was up the equivalent of more than 600 full garbage trucksfor the period of March 9 to April 13 alone.

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Powerhouse building produces more energy than it needs

Norway's Powerhouse Brattørkaia isn’t merely a net zero office building – solar and deep-water energy make it energy positive

Last year, the City of Vancouver updated its green buildings regulations to require that all re-zoning applications meet either net zero or low-emissions standards, considered among the most stringent in Canada. The move, combined with incentives, has helped trigger a boom in the development of so-called “passive house” projects that use extremely low quantities of energy for heating and cooling.

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Is Volkswagen’s stock charging up or still sputtering toxic fumes?

Our Sustainable Stock Showdown pits hybrid giant Toyota against recovering Dieselgate carmaker as it doubles down on electric

It’s been ten years since Volkswagen won the won Green Car of the Year award at the LA Auto Show. The Volkswagen Jetta TDI and the Audi A3 TDI won because of their innovative clean diesel engines. Then a massive scandal revealed that the clean diesel engines weren’t actually that clean: Volkswagen had been cheating on emissions tests. VW was stripped of its awards. Consumers and investors were furious, and the stock plummeted by more than 40%. Now four years later, Volkswagen has just released a mass-market electric car that’s much cheaper than a Tesla Model 3. But does Volkswagen’s stock have any gas left in the tank?

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Family feud: Shell breaks rank with other oil producers over low-carbon future

Shell puts nine oil associations on notice – including Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers – over climate differences

The world’s major oil companies are so tightly aligned that they were once known as the Seven Sisters. But as the climate crisis grows, the family bond is fading.

In April, Royal Dutch Shell announced that it had recently reviewed its role in 19 industry associations in Europe, North America and Australia and that it would pull out of one of them and serve notice to nine more.

Relative to major oil peers, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant has been among the leaders on climate change, endorsing the Paris Agreement as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

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Tim Nash’s sustainable stock showdown: Canopy vs The Green Organic Dutchman

In honour of the first legal 4/20 celebration in Canada, we're exploring which pot stocks will create the cleanest hit

We all know that investors shouldn’t buy high, but where does that leave investors in cannabis? In honour of the first legal 4/20 celebration in Canada, we’re exploring which pot stocks will create the cleanest hit for sustainable investors.

Before we get started, I need to communicate that cannabis stocks are much riskier investments than the typical big companies we look at in this column. A high Beta suggests heavy volatility, so only invest if you’re ready to put on a safety belt and go along for an intense ride.

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Forest cover

Paying for forests conserves a vital world resource, but somebody must pay the locals a tangible share of the benefits.

Two new studies have reinforced the idea that financial incentives can help save forests. Research from the Amazon region has confirmed that payments to landowners can conserve forest biodiversityAnd a study from China suggests that rural communities, if given an incentive, could help restore the nation’s native forests.

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Shallow waters

Can a changing climate hamper hydropower’s role in the shift to a low-carbon future?

In a world struggling to meet a growing demand for energy while also managing carbon emissions, hydropower is a source of hope. Though massive dams and reservoirs can take decades and billions of dollars to construct, not to mention have a negative impact on fragile ecosystems, generating hydroelectricity is relatively clean and low cost when compared with other energy sources. It’s also a very flexible form of electricity production – unlike most fossil fuels and renewables, it can be ramped up and dispatched quickly.

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Taking climate risks and opportunities that exist for supply chains seriously

CDP says companies need to lift the veil on their supply chains to tackle climate change.

Last month, I explored how little we know about carbon emissions.

When companies say they are measuring their emissions, they are usually talking about the carbon produced by their own operations and energy use. These are called Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.

But there is a significant chunk of carbon that isn't accounted for by these measurements. Scope 3 emissions include everything from transportation, emissions created in the supply chain, and the use of products in the consumer’s home.

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The B Corp Handbook

By Adria Vasil and Russ Stoddard
This step-by-step guide on how to become a B Corp. will likely accelerate the growth of socially conscious companies.

Ryan Honeyman’s new book, The B Corp Handbook, opens with a declaration of interdependence for a fast-growing community of companies that seeks to use the power of business as a force for good.

This inspirational manifesto, “We envision a new sector of the economy which harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit,” sets the tone for Honeyman’s thorough examination of Certified B Corporations, also known as B Corps.

There are more than 1,100 certified B Corps around the globe. This book, which is a practical and useful, step-by-step guide on how to become a B Corp, will likely accelerate the growth of these companies.

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Igniting citizen science

By Adria Vasil and Grace Robiou
Public participation in scientific experiments gives citizens a newfound respect for their environment.

This article was originally posted on the Environmental Protection Agency's blog, It's Our Environment. To view the original link, please click here.

Citizen science is forcing us to rethink how science is performed, for whom science is conducted, and its role in our society.

In essence, citizen science refers to the participation of the public in the activities and tasks of scientific experimentation. The main objective of citizen science is to engage non-scientists by having them contribute ideas to a scientific endeavor. Basically, citizen science motivates non-scientists to develop new knowledge that contributes to a better understanding of the role of science in our society. Just like citizen journalism has gained relevance over the past few years, with blogs and tweets carrying the news of the moment, citizen science is also gaining ground. Most scientific disciplines will soon have some elements of citizen science involvement in their investigations.

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