Sustainability Reads: August 24- September 6

Trees covering an area twice the size of Portugal lost in 2014, study finds
Tree cover loss from both natural and manmade causes totaled 18m hectares in 2014, down from 2013.

Screen shot 2015-09-02 at 8.37.59 PMThe number went down and that’s good, but analysis showed a surprising and unfortunate trend. In addition to the usual suspects, Brazil and Indonesia, west Africa has emerged as a new hot spot for deforestation. And we know why. Deforestation in west Africa is mainly due to agriculture, mining, and the timber industry, but specifically fueling the problem is the cultivation of palm oil. Indonesia is biggest producer of palm oil, but policy changes, growing demand, and proximity of west Africa to Europe add up to west Africa being the next place to go. Overall, efforts to increase awareness of the environmental impacts of palm oil need to continue. It’s a big issue as deforestation emits CO2. See our previous post for more information on the palm oil problem and how to hold the palm oil industry accountable. Satellite data from Global Forests Watch, WRI analysis, article by Emma Howard at the Guardian

Obama to speak ‘frankly’ on 11-day climate change tour
Last week in a visit to Las Vegas, New Orleans and various villages in Alaska, President Obama completed a “climate change tour” where he delivered speeches on U.S.’s need to increase its use of alternative energy sources. The speeches also focused on coastal community resiliency and sparking a global response to climate change. In a speech at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas he also announced new initiatives that would make it easier for consumers to generate their own electricity and allow buyers of energy-efficient homes to assume the cost of those improvements through assessments using a federal mortgage. Obama then made his way to New Orleans for the 10th anniversary of Katrina, the hurricane that devastated the region. By Gregory Korte at USA Today.

It’s worthwhile to point out as well that President Obama did acknowledge climate change while he was in New Orleans, despite the request from Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal (and also GOP presidential candidate) that President Obama not “insert the divisive political agenda of liberal environmental activism” into his speech and a.k.a. mention climate change.

And as Obama turned his tour to Alaska, the focus on climate change continued to increase. This article via Grist sums it up: Obama gets apocalyptic as he talks climate change in Alaska.

This week we also came across a few stand-out case studies of the proactive role that companies can take to reduce their environmental impact. General Mills recently committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 28% in the next 10 years, focusing on their supply chain as well as direct operations. Some criticize the move as being prompted by negative attention from NGOs, but whatever the reason, it’s a smart move. A piece on Dewar’s whiskey distilleries (part of the Bacardi) shows how successful commitments and the underlying initiatives can be. First of all, the company’s distilleries in Scotland use the by-product of the whiskey distilling process to make biofuel for energy that is used onsite and as electricity for surrounding communities. How cool is that? The company says that overall, for their 5 distilleries, they have reduced GHGs 34% since 2006; reduced water use by 46%; and reduced waste sent to landfill by 30% since 2010. Sustainable Brands

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