Happy Birthday to Us: A Three-Year Retrospective

As we celebrate the three-year anniversary of The Sustainability Co-Op, we are so thankful for you, our readers. Thanks for your interest in understanding the big environmental issues society is facing and for making this world more sustainable. To celebrate our birthday, we would like to mention some of the current events that we are excited about, as well as take a look at a handful of issues we have written about over the past three years to see how the conversation has shifted in regard to these topics.

Today, we are inspired by the speedy ratification of the Paris Agreement by the world’s largest emitters (China and the United States), as well as emerging economies such as Brazil. Although the work is only beginning, world leaders finally came together on this prompt for action. From seeing climate change being addressed at the Rio Olympics, to chemical reform in the United States, we are witnessing climate change and sustainability becoming major topics that the world is turning to address. And although there are still significant obstacles to overcome– evident by the deplorable push by Energy Transfer Partners LP to build a destructive and polluting oil pipeline next to Tribal land in North Dakota (Dakota Access Pipeline)– we are encouraged by the collection of individuals coming together to say that they want to see meaningful change in the way our society does things.

Taking a step back and looking at the range of topics we have covered over the past three years, we see that some issues have made more progress than others. To see what has changed in the past few years we  would like to revisit the following posts “from the vault”:

From the U.N. to Your Dinner Table: The Importance of Addressing Food Waste in the Name of Climate Change (September 2013)

Attention to food waste was only getting started when this post was written but is now unstoppable. Since 2013, we are happy to report that reducing food waste has turned into a movement. From food bloggers and chefs, to celebrity talk show hosts, to nonprofit initiatives, people are getting creative about how to reduce and communicate about food waste. The food waste movement even has a sub-movement: one that calls to embrace the ugly fruit and vegetables, which are too misshapen or flawed to be sold at the store. The french supermarket chain Intermarche (2014) and the California start up Imperfect Produce (2015) are the main proponents of the uglies.

Plague of the Plastic Bag: Problem, Policies, & What You Can Do (November 2013)

National and subnational bans on plastic bags continue to pass and data on existing bans have come to light since 2013. One example is the national-level ban in France that went into force in 2016. France is taking a step further in the effort to address the plastic problem with a ban on plastic plates and cutlery set for 2020. In addition, the plastic bag fee launched in England in October 2015 (which charges consumers 5 pence for a plastic bag) has reduced its use by 85% as of July 2016. In the United States, a plastic bag fee was approved in New York City in 2016 but is now delayed.

Holding the Palm Oil Industry & Their Buyers Accountable (April 2014)

Unfortunately, deforestation due to palm oil cultivation has not been adequately addressed since our first post about the issue in 2014 and is an issue that plagues countries around the world from Indonesia to Malaysia to Guatemala. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has even placed the Borneo orangutan on their critically endangered species list, and the International Animal Rescue group has stated that the orangutan will face complete extinction within 10 years if deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia does not stop. And although we may not be able to afford slow progress, progress is slowly being made. IOI, a Malaysian palm oil company and one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, was suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in April 2016 due to deforestation and forcing major buyers like Unilever and Mars to find other suppliers. In March 2016, the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), which was established in 2015, released new standards (stricter than those of RSPO) to verify and ensure responsible palm oil production. The Global Forest Watch has even created the PALM Risk Tool to aid in determining risk of deforestation by identifying palm oil mills at high risk for deforestation. We are optimistic that deforestation for palm oil can come to a halt, but it will take us as consumers to send a strong signal to these companies about what we value.

As we can see by examining some of the environmental challenges we face today, although there is much being done internationally and locally in terms of sustainability, there is still much work to be done. Yet we as individuals play an important part in this process, and by learning about what is happening around the world and integrating sustainability into our lives, we take the first step in instituting change. Thank you for joining us on this journey towards a sustainable world and please feel free to reach out to us anytime– we love talking about sustainability and thinking about new ways to collaborate with others. Here’s to another three years!

– The Sustainability Co-Op (Laurèn and Rosaly)



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