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greenfutures No.92 April 2014

Cities for kids

Children help urban planners get smart

Old age: a source of experience and enterprise Ruth Yeoh, YTL: why environmentalism isn’t a choice Cities get serious about local food production


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Production support SARAH VENIARD

In the run up to International Women’s Day, I was invited to the ‘Women on the Move’ awards ceremony. There I met Tatiana Garavito, the 27 year-old Director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, who that evening was named Young Woman of the Year. Tatiana came to London from Colombia aged 18, leaving the “bubble” of her home community to learn what it’s like to be on the margins of a metropolis. She got a job coordinating the Latin American Youth Forum, and then, at 25, took on the direction of IRMO, a migrant rights organisation. Under her management, it grew from one member of staff to nine, and its reach increased from 1,000 people to 5,000. “Migrant women are not usually recognised for our hard work but instead very much portrayed as second-class citizens, taking advantage of the system”, she remarked. I found her story a humbling and powerful reminder of the obstacles people overcome to pursue their goals. The freedom to do so is by no means a given, even for many living in democratic countries. As I thought about the courage it takes, I was reminded of a passage in the book ‘Emotional Equations’ by Chip Conley, founder of the hotel group JDV (for ‘joie de vivre’). He says “Despair = Suffering – Meaning”. Chip had seen five of his close friends and colleagues end their lives due to workrelated stress, and took the wellbeing of his own employees very seriously. He set about calling on them to help define the business strategy, so that they would feel the same sense of purpose at work that he enjoyed. As a result, he claims, JDV was crowned the best place to work in the San Francisco Bay Area – “a remarkable feat for a service company that’s full of people cleaning toilets”, he quipped. It’s a job that many migrant workers – some highly skilled – are paid below the minimum wage to do. If we value purpose, we also have to value people. Companies and governments the world over are busy setting targets. Meeting them will depend on the commitment of people, working together towards shared goals. A year on from the collapse of the Rana Plaza garments factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed over 1,129 people and injured many more, the way in which business and brands value people – and the role they play in society – deserves attention [see ‘Fashion fix’, p28]. For many businesses, India’s rapidly growing middle class is a target market. A study by Edelman found that 79% of consumers in India “want brands to make it easier for them to make a positive difference in the world”. For them, consumerism is not an end in itself, but a means to greater social freedom. What drives us, and what it means to be an active citizen, is an important question throughout all our lives, from childhood to old age [see p16 and p21]. It’s one that anyone with stretching targets – city planners and corporate strategists alike – would do well to bear in mind.

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About Us Green Futures is the go-to magazine for environmental solutions and sustainable futures. It was founded in 1996 by leading environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, and is published by the global sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future. Read it online at Join the debate on Twitter @GreenFutures, or find us on Facebook On the cover: a mural in Penang, Malaysia. Urban planners are working with children to design the future from their point of view (see p16).

By printing this edition of Green Futures on Cocoon Silk 100% recycled paper, the environmental impact was reduced by: 1,837 kg of landfill, 247 kg CO2 and greenhouse gases, 50,944 litres of water, 4,694 kWh of energy and 2,985 kg of wood. Source: Carbon footprint data evaluated by Labelia Conseil in accordance with the Bilan Carbone® methodology. Calculations are based on a comparison between the recycled paper used versus a virgin fibre paper according to the latest European BREF data (virgin fibre paper) available.

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Anna Simpson Editor @_annasimpson For more on the desire for purpose, read chapter 5 of my new book, ‘The Brand Strategist’s Guide to Desire’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

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Green Futures April 2014



Number 92, April 2014






32 Features 16 C  ities for kids Children need to be at the heart of planning our future cities, says Duncan Jefferies. 21 G  olden years People with many years behind them are a great resource of experience and enterprise. We must make better use of it, says John Turney. 26 F  arming the city Cities worldwide are getting serious about local food production – with good reason, finds Anna Simpson.


Green Futures April 2014

28 F  ashion’s new front The industry is gearing up for a systemwide shift, says Heather Connon. 30 S  torm defence Offshore wind farms and tidal lagoons may offer protection from the elements, as well as a supply of clean energy. Ibrahim Maigia reports.






Partner viewpoints

The latest in green innovation, including:

24 A thousand words Life returns to a canal in Manila

38 Aiming up impact How can we take transformative solutions to scale? Forum for the Future

43 Flight path Radar study shows migrating geese fly round wind farm AMEC

35 Sally Uren Why grey needs to be the next green

40 Clean means Material and market innovation for sustainable cleaning products Ecover

44 Value added Jaguar Land Rover on the fast lane to delivering change Kingfisher

9 Roaring trade China’s carbon permit market

36 Tomorrow’s Leaders Paul Miller, Partner Bethnal Green Ventures

41 Show and tell Global spotlight on sustainable fishing MSC

12 Rags to napkins India’s low-cost sanitary solution

46 Feedback Readers respond online and in print

42 Cash back Energy Saver Fund offers great returns Bupa

15 Writ in water Print with the same paper 50 times

48 Jonathon Porritt Soil is the bedrock of national security

4 The chair carbon sinks into Non-fossil polymer captures carbon 5 Micro computer Graphene: the ‘miracle material’ 7 Sun-loving currency Digital currency to drive solar energy

32 T  he Green Futures interview Ruth Yeoh, Executive Director YTL Singapore

Green Futures April 2014



Micro computer Graphene nanoribbons promise more efficient electronics An international research team has produced graphene nanoribbons that can transport electrons without interruption for much greater distances than previous versions, paving the way for more efficient electronic devices. Graphene has been called a ‘miracle material’ due to its incredible toughness and thinness – so thin, in fact, that it is considered to be two-dimensional. It can also carry electrons with almost no resistance at room temperature – a process known as ballistic transport. If used in computing, it would be at least 10 times more efficient than current silicon chips. But the material lacks a ‘bandgap’, which means that, although conductive, it cannot stop electrons and be ‘switched off’, making it impractical for use as a transistor. Scientists have therefore struggled to apply its properties to the electronics field, where it could usher in a new age of ultra-thin, light and flexible computing.

The chair carbon sinks into New non-fossil polymer captures carbon A sustainable seat?

A new, cheap and biodegradable polyester may offer a market-driven way to both reduce the volume of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere and lower our dependency on oil. Made from captured carbon, the material, dubbed AirCarbon, is the brainchild of USbased Newlight Technologies, and is to be used in a variety of applications, including the world’s first carbon-negative office chair. Inspired by natural carbon-processing systems, the AirCarbon polymer is made by

combining oxygen from air with carbon from concentrated greenhouse gases, drawn from energy facilities, farms, landfills and water treatment plants. These gases – which would otherwise end up in the atmosphere – are diluted with air, and passed through a special biocatalyst. This breaks the gases apart and reassembles them as long-chain plastic molecules (a thermopolymer), which can then be used to create everyday goods. The AirCarbon manufacturing process can convert greenhouse gases into plastic “at a yield that is approximately 10 times … higher than previous biocatalysts”, claims Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight Technologies. He adds that AirCarbon is now able to out-compete oil-based plastics on price. “As such, AirCarbon represents a market-driven solution to sequestering carbon.” The finished product can stand in for a variety of types of conventional plastic, making it suitable for a wide range of applications. Alongside the office chair, which is being made in collaboration with global furniture company KI, Newlight Technologies is planning a wide variety

of products made from their AirCarbon material, including food containers, automotive parts and mobile phone cases. The company plans to increase its production capacity, establishing additional manufacturing plants. “Our goal is to replace oil-based plastics on a global scale”, says Herrema, “so with commercial scale-up behind us, all of our focus now is on expansion.” According to Newlight, AirCarbon “has been verified by independent third party analysis as a carbon-negative material”: a status which reportedly factors in the energy, transportation and end-oflife costs associated with the product. Green Futures sought confirmation of this appraisal, but Newlight Technologies did not respond to requests to name the unidentified third party. Nonetheless, Alain Goeppert, a chemist at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, University of Southern Carolina, asserts that “producing sustainable polymers from waste products is still a very interesting concept and should be pursued”. – Ian Randall


Green Futures April 2014

Photos: John Hankinson; John Freidah

Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) could pave the way for solar cells able to generate electricity to match demand, by absorbing solar energy in the form of heat. A conventional silicon solar cell doesn’t capture the entire spectrum of light, because the semiconductor material’s ‘bandgap’ tends to not match photons in the infrared range, and thus misses out on their energy. To address this, the MIT team has created a two-layer absorberemitter made of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and photonic crystals that sit between the sun’s rays and the photovoltaic (PV) Adding another layer

Photos: KI; Darren Pullman

Innovations like Gorilla Glass have introduced chemically strengthened touchscreens into the smartphone material ecosystem. But the ‘mollusc’ glass proposed by the Canadian research team could be a more cost-effective alternative for manufacturers, although it is still in its commercial infancy. Rodrigo Bautista, Senior Sustainability Advisor at Forum for the Future, says a “different business model, one which promotes a more circular approach to internal components and a continuation of software updates for older devices”, is what’s truly needed to address electronics waste. However, he adds that: “less breakable glass would make such a model more feasible by significantly raising the life expectancy of our electronic devices”. – Alex Fenton

nanoribbons. As the electrons don’t scatter, their flow can be interrupted. “This should enable a new way of doing electronics”, says de Heer. “We are already able to steer these electrons and we can switch them using rudimentary means. We can put a roadblock, and then open it up again. New kinds of switches for this material are now on the horizon.” Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre, says that while the results appear to be “a huge step forward” for graphene nanoribbons, “they relate to materials that were created on silicon carbide, so you are limited to this substrate, and don’t have the diamond, plastic or other substrates that you really want to use them on”. – Duncan Jefferies

MIT device turns light into heat for solar electricity on demand

Mollusc shell design produces glass 200 times the strength claim it is relatively economical to produce, only requiring the laser and a precise hand, or machine, to guide it. The same technique could potentially be applied to other brittle materials, the researchers believe, such as ceramics and polymers. However, one of the most promising possibilities is the glass’s application in handheld electronics: the average lifespan of a mobile phone is a mere 18 months, with many of them discarded due to cracked and broken screens.

Nanoribbons under the microscope

Solar sparks at night

Muscular glass Scientists at McGill University, Montreal, have developed a way of making glass up to 200 times stronger, which could increase the longevity of smartphone screens. The glass can be deformed by 5% before snapping, as opposed to regular glass, which can only handle 0.1%. The solution is inspired by the way mollusc shells are put together. A material called nacre makes the otherwise brittle shells incredibly strong, as well as shiny. It’s made up of microscopic, interlocking blocks with curvy boundaries. This means that any energy from an impact is dispersed and absorbed to prevent shattering. The Canadian researchers engraved the glass with curved microscopic cracks using a pulsed 3D laser in order to mimic the mollusc shell design. They

Recent research has focused on graphene nanoribbons of 10 or 20 atoms wide, cut from larger sheets for use in a nano-sized circuit. However, this leaves them with ragged edges, disrupting the flow of electrons. The research by the international research team offers hope that there may be a way round this problem, as well as the switching issue. The scientists grew the nanoribbons on silicon carbide substrate etched with circuit patterns using standard techniques. The silicone was then heated to 1000°C to melt it off, leaving only the graphene nanoribbons behind, uncut. This allows electrons to move along the edges of the nanoribbons with virtually no resistance, behaving “more like light” according to Walt de Heer, a Regent’s Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology who coauthored a report on the findings. Tests have shown they travel more than 10 micrometres without meeting resistance – 1,000 times further than in typical graphene

cell, absorbing solar energy in the form of heat first, and then light. This results in a three-fold conversion efficiency increase. The system could lay the groundwork for on-demand solar PV generation, as the heat captured could be stored to generate electricity once the sun has set. While it is by no means the first solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) solution, previous experiments have only produced devices with conversion efficiencies of around 1%, compared with the 3.2% efficiency measured in the MIT device. Work is now underway to scale up the absorber-emitter device from a 1cm2 area to 10cm2, which could increase efficiencies to 20% due to the larger active area and reduction in parasitic heat loss. “One element that makes our approach interesting is that it may be easier and lower cost to store thermal energy than electrical energy”, says Evelyn Wang, an Associate Professor within MIT’s department of mechanical engineering, who worked on the research. This would require phase-change materials or chemical means to store the heat at high temperatures. “The thermal storage would allow the emitter to get to the desired

temperatures, so that the energy of the thermal emission can match the band gap of the PV cell, and generate efficient electricity later on”, Wang explains. To produce the absorber-emitter STPV device, a photonic crystal layer is made by depositing thin alternating layers of silicon and silicon dioxide. A layer made from multi-walled CNTs is grown by chemical vapour deposition on the other side of the substrate. When facing sunlight, the CNTs absorb it and turn its energy into heat. As the photonic layer gets hot, it ‘glows’ with light at a wavelength tuned to match the bandgap of the adjacent PV cell. Most of the energy collected by the absorber is therefore turned into electricity. Fatima Toor, a solar research analyst at Lux Research, thinks STPV technology is needed in the long term to achieve a low levelised cost of electricity ($/kWh) for solar energy. Electricity generation could occur at a competitive cost during the entire 24 hours instead of just sunlight hours. “STPV incorporates low-cost conventional PVs with additional material components to enhance the efficiency of PV cells, resulting in overall cost reductions”, she says. – Sara Ver-Bruggen

Green Futures April 2014


Sea carpet

Two for one

Seafloor wave-to-energy ‘carpet’ offers improved wave power efficiency and survivability

Modified material could double solar cell efficiency

mechanics at the University of California, Berkeley, has entered the fray. They have developed an underwater ‘wave-to-energy carpet’: a thin sheet of synthetic material on the seabed, sitting on top of hydraulic actuators, which are pumped by the motion of the carpet in the waves. The resulting hydraulic pressure is then piped onshore for conversion to electricity. Wave tank tests found the seafloor carpet was able to

Beneath the waves, out of harm’s way

absorb 90% of the incoming wave energy. Unusually, the system’s efficiency increases when waves are stronger. As Carl Larsen, a professor at the Department of Marine Technology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, points out, many of the costs of wave power units are associated with survivability in rough weather conditions. But as these weather conditions are relatively rare, such precautions aren’t particularly cost-effective. The water column above the modular seafloor wave carpet acts as a buffer zone, making it a more financially sound solution. Another advantage of the device, which will be located in shallow coastal waters about 60-feet deep, is that power can be harvested with minimal visual impact. The operational depth means it also poses no danger to fishing or leisure boats. Alam’s team is using crowdfunding to develop the wave energy converter, and hopes to prove its functionality with a pilot system at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center in Newport, Oregon. The system is expected to be ready for commercial operation within 10 years. – Andreas von Schoenberg

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University have demonstrated a new material that can both capture photons from visible light and get current to flow, paving the way for cheaper, more efficient solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. Conventional silicon solar panels are based around the interface of two materials. The interface which the excited electrons pass through is called the semiconductor p-n junction. Once an electron has crossed over, it cannot return the other way, thus creating the necessary flow. However, some of the energy from photons is lost while electrons wait to make the jump through the junction. There’s even a name for the maximum theoretical efficiency of cells that use p-n junctions: the Shockley-Queisser limit. Multi-junction cells are able to overcome it, but this increases the complexity of the solar cell structure, which has a knock-on effect for production costs. A small category of materials are able to send electrons off in a particular direction independently, without a junction; this is known as the ‘bulk’ photovoltaic effect rather than ‘interface’ effect. The phenomenon has been known about since

Photos: Marcus Lehmann; National Institute of Agricultural Technology

In the past 10 years a string of ingenious technologies that harness the power of ocean waves have been developed. Many use floating devices, such as buoys, but reservoir and wave chamber systems are also being commercialised. Such innovation is driven by the prize of generating large amounts of clean power close to coastal areas, where more than 40% of the world’s population lives and works. Now a team led by Professor Reza Alam, an expert in wave

the 1970s, but has previously only been shown to work with ultraviolet (UV) light. As most of the energy from the sun is in the visible and infrared spectrum, it hasn’t been utilised for conventional solar cells. A new material compound has been shown to generate the flow of electrons without a junction across a much wider spectrum of light. The compound created by the US researchers is a combination of a ‘parent’ material, potassium niobate, that lends it a bulk photovoltaic effect and a secondary one, barium nickel niobate, that lowers the threshold at which photons are absorbed, allowing it to capture more rays. The two materials are ground into fine powders, mixed and heated in an oven to create a ‘perovskite’ crystal that has the properties of both. The researchers fine tuned the ratios involved until they hit upon the ideal combination. “A solar cell based on the discovery could double power conversion efficiencies possible with conventional solar cells, theoretically”, says Professor Andrew Rappe at the University of Pennsylvania. It could also help to reduce the amount of materials used in a solar cell, and as perovskites are easier to

Methane capture

Sun-loving currency

‘Backpack’ for cows could provide energy for rural communities

SolarCoin rewards you with digital currency for generating solar energy


Green Futures April 2014

balloon-like bag on the animal’s back. Methane has a high calorific value (the amount of heat produced by its complete combustion), meaning it is a potentially valuable source of renewable energy. Over a 24-hour period, one cow produces the methane equivalent of 300ml of oil, or enough to power a refrigerator for a day, according to Guillermo Berra, Head of INTA’s animal physiology group. Berra suggests that capturing the gas and using it at as an energy source could benefit rural communities where conventional energy is difficult to access, or appeal to developed countries eager to reduce their carbon footprint. “As an energy source it is not very practical at the moment”, he admits, “but if you look ahead to 2050, when fossil fuel reserves are going to be in trouble, it is an alternative.” A significant barrier to scale is animal welfare, given that the process involves the surgical placement of a tube into an animal. “I doubt public opinion would be in

Cow pack

favour of this on welfare grounds”, says Dr Jon Moorby, Principal Investigator at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, who is currently developing nutritional additives to reduce methane emissions from ruminants. – Rohan Boyle

Photos: Boshu Zhang, Wong Choon Lim Glenn, Mingzhen Liu/University of Oxford; SolarCoin

Greenhouse gas emissions associated with livestock supply chains account for 14.5% of all human-caused releases, according to a report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2013. Of this, 39% is produced by ruminants – mammals that acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialised stomach prior to digestion. The average cow produces 1,100 litres of gas each day, of which around one-fifth is methane. Previously, scientists have looked at ways to minimise the amount of gas ruminants produce, with nutritional additives a popular approach. But researchers at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) have come up with a novel solution: harvesting the gas as a renewable energy source. The team at INTA has shown that it is possible to capture the gas by inserting a tube into a cow’s stomach (using what they stress is a pain-free procedure) and storing the gas produced by its digestive system in a

Have you ever sought to support sustainability through your purchasing decisions? How about through the very form of currency you spend? SolarCoin is a new digital currency launched to incentivise the generation of solar energy. Each solar coin is awarded for the proven generation of 1MWh of solar energy to anyone who presents proof within four years of generation. Upon launch, claims can be backdated to 2010. Like all electronic currencies, SolarCoins will bypass the banking system to allow transactions between individuals and companies at very little cost – rather like the impact of email on postal services. Since they lack a central bank, however, a key challenge of non-state-backed currencies is distribution. Bitcoin, the most famous (or even notorious) digital currency of the moment, manages this through rewarding ‘miners’ who use computing power to solve difficult cryptographic problems with coins. By contrast, more than 99% of SolarCoins are ‘pre-mined’: that is, they

are ready to be distributed to solar energy generators. There are already 99 billion SolarCoins, a number based on the IEA’s forecast of how many megawatt hours of solar energy will be produced over the next 40 years. The SolarCoin Foundation aims to accelerate this, hoping SolarCoins will be valued at $20-30 each within the next few years – although this is impossible to predict. “After 40 years, if we’ve given out the number of coins we expect to give out, solar energy will be a dominant form of energy in the world and will have a tremendous impact”, says John Dolan, Chair of the SolarCoin Foundation. Dolan hopes sustainable companies, such as Whole Foods, will accept SolarCoins to enhance their branding. SolarCoin has been broadly welcomed by the renewables industry, while acknowledging that it has some way to go before becoming a key incentive. “The advent of SolarCoin is interesting and we’ll certainly keep an eye on how it develops,

Compound evidence

process than silicon, make them more cost-effective too. The next step, Rappe says, is to create a solar cell that uses the modified perovskite, which should happen in the next couple years. Other types of engineered perovskite materials have been introduced as alternative light harvesters, replacing the layer of molecular sensitisers usually found in these cells. Efficiencies are already in double-digit figures and are growing rapidly, according to Professor Michael Grätzel, a solar cell pioneer at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. – Sara Ver-Bruggen

99 billion SolarCoins are up for grabs

but Government support schemes, such as FITs, ROCs, CfDs and the RHI, will remain the key financial incentives for UK renewables developers for some time yet”, says Richard Ingle, Head of Renewable Energy Finance. Security, however, will remain a key issue, as demonstrated by the apparent theft of 750,000 Bitcoins from Mt Gox, Tokyo, one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges. Coming from a Wall Street background, Dolan claims no ideological attachment to keeping SolarCoin unregulated, unlike some proponents of other digital currencies. “I’m familiar with the notion that the regulators are there”, he says, adding: “It’s important to deal with them, and in time there will be regulation related to digital currencies.” – Ibrahim Maiga

Green Futures April 2014


Newtown Creek’s ‘digester eggs’

Gas supply Waste biogas reclamation project will heat 5,200 homes in New York City

The recently announced Newtown Creek Renewable Gas Demonstration Project aims to turn New York City (NYC)’s mounting food waste problem into a solution, diverting organic food waste from landfill and mixing it with wastewater sludge to increase biogas production. Around 40% of the biogas by-product from the municipal wastewater treatment process carried out at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is currently reused, helping to power the facility’s operations. The new project will convert biogas from food waste and wastewater into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas that can also be used for residential or commercial purposes. The ultimate goal is to reclaim 100% of the biogas produced

by the plant and convert it into power, meaning it will not contribute to the plant’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The project is the first in the US to directly introduce renewable biogas produced by a wastewater treatment plan into a local distribution system. The predicted outcomes are impressive: enough energy to heat 5,200 homes and a 90,000 tonne reduction in GHG emissions, the equivalent of removing almost 19,000 cars from the road according to NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection. Dr David Fulford, Director of Kingdom Bioenergy Ltd, believes this is an important step in the development of sustainable energy sources: “Shale gas is a quick solution, but leads to longer-term environmental impacts such as climate change. Energy from waste is a longerterm solution, with positive environmental benefit, as recycled carbon can be used to offset fossil [fuel] carbon [emissions] and pollution is reduced.” The Newtown Creek Project is the result of a public-private partnership between NYC, Newtown Creek

“Annual 13-15% increases in energy demand require the exploration of as many supplementary energy alternatives as possible”

Wastewater Treatment Plant and National Grid. According to the last, which is funding the project, the capital investment required to deliver the renewable gas across its entire network, which covers four states, would be almost $7 billion. However, this would deliver significant economic and environmental benefits, including 9,000 new local jobs and a 16 million tonne annual reduction in GHGs. “When you think about the sustainable energy future and renewables”, says Don Chahbazpour, Director of Network Strategy, National Grid, “it’s not just solar and wind. Renewable gas is a unique solution that utilises existing waste streams from a variety of resources and leverages the natural gas network to deliver a renewable fuel.” The Newtown Creek project forms part of NYC’s PlaNYC goal of reducing municipal GHG emissions by 30% by 2017. Other initiatives include a city-wide extension of the bus service network, support for urban agriculture and turning underutilised spaces into playgrounds. – Tess Riley

Nguyen Anh Tuan, National Energy Institute of Vietnam Representative [source: Voice of Vietnam Radio]

Roaring trade Cleantech firms set to profit from China’s C02 permit market

PV parasol


Green Futures April 2014

The Urban Parasol’s solar photovoltaic panels track the sun as it moves across the sky, and reorient to maximise energy absorption. Energy is stored in a battery pack, and the designers claim the system could also be fitted with an inverter to send excess back to the grid. Space blanket insulation lines the underneath of the panels in order to reflect heat back towards users instead of letting it escape. Moreover, an absorbent material on its ground-facing surface will remove cigarette smoke from the air and dampen noise pollution. The device will soon be trialled in Paris – the result of a request by the city’s Deputy Mayor, Jean-Louis Missika, for solutions to the patio heater problem. When no French firms stepped forward, the city issued a global request through Citymart’s Living Labs Global Award, which aims to match cities with innovators, leading to pilot projects that benefit both parties. Citymart claim that the companies involved reduce the time-tomarket for their products by 70% and save an average of €240,000 in the process.

Street heat

Professor Derek Clements-Croome, an expert on environmental engineering architecture and sustainability at Reading University, believes that umbrella or canopytype designs have the potential to do more than simply protect people from the elements. He says that the Urban Parasol marks “a step in this direction”. It will initially be installed on restaurant terraces and patios, before being rolled-out to bus stops and service posts. An advisor to the Deputy Mayor has affirmed that: “If Parisians like the parasols, we’ll take them large-scale.” – Alex Fenton

Photo: Electrical and Mechanical Services Department Headquarters Photovoltaics

A small American design firm claims it can solve a problem rife on the streets of Paris, among many other cities: the patio heater. On average, one of these produces 50kg of CO2 per year, warming small patches of air on chilly streets, where the heat soon dissipates. Smoking exacerbates demand for them: according to the New York Times, 30% of Paris’ inhabitants smoke, and since the indoor smoking ban was introduced in France in 2008, patio heaters have become ever more popular. Amorphica’s new Urban Parasol won’t help smokers quit, but it does offer a lowcarbon way to keep warm on the terrace. The design, which resembles a synthetic forest canopy, would fit easily onto restaurants and other buildings, providing shelter as well as heat. The large parasols incorporate energyefficient heating and LED lighting with motion and thermocouple sensory technology. This means they can adjust to provide more shelter during colder, wetter weather and also turn themselves off when no movement is detected in the vicinity.

Photos: Victoria Belanger/flickr Gas Supply; Amorphica Design Research Office

‘Urban Parasol’ provides low-carbon heat for Parisian café patrons

Firms dealing in pollution control and sustainable construction are set to profit from Government initiatives in China that aim to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. According to a recent Reuters report, the Ministry of Environmental Protection will also be granted new powers to enable it to crack down on law-breaking polluters, bolstering Beijing’s attempts to encourage investment in its green industries. In December, China’s largest province, Guangdong, introduced the second-largest C02 emissions trading scheme in the world, trailing only the European Union in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide covered. Together with other regional schemes launched last year in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, China hopes this will help to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP to 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2020. On its debut, the volumes in Guangdong’s carbon permit market surpassed full-day totals for the launches of the country’s three other carbon exchanges. The 120,000 permits – each one initially priced at 60 yuan (£6) and representing 1 tonne of carbon dioxide – sold out within 20 minutes. “Natural gas utilities are likely to benefit from the migration from coal – companies like ENN and Beijing Enterprises”, says David Li, Asia Pacific Head of Strategy at Impax Asset Management. “In terms of sustainable building, Xinyi Glass, which creates low-emission glass for green buildings, Green Electric, with its energyefficient air conditioners, and Epistar, with [its] LEDs, are set to gain from these new emission trading schemes.”

Wind power developers Longyuan and Huaneng Renewable could also see high returns and long-term benefits from the scheme. Foreign companies are expected to profit too. In fact, environmental equipment producers such as the UK’s Atkins and Fuel Tech, and the US firm LP Amina, are reportedly struggling to keep up with demand in the Chinese cleantech market, which is estimated to be worth US $555 billion by 2020. According to the International Energy Agency, China has the largest coal-fired power plant fleet installed in a single country and the youngest generators currently in operation – an ideal retrofitting scenario. Coal currently accounts for more than two-thirds of China’s primary energy consumption, but the Government is keen to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx)

pollutants from power plant emissions, and is offering subsidies to get firms on board. LP Amina, which produces equipment to reduce emissions from coal plants by retrofitting burners, has already doubled its sales to China this year, according to the firm’s Marketing Manager Jamyan Dudka. He believes it will cost around $11 billion to retrofit all of China’s power plants over a five-year period. In another sign of increasing global investment in the Chinese cleantech market, Doug Bailey, CEO of the US-listed firm Fuel Tech, a developer of air pollution control technologies and solutions, says the company has boosted its China-based staff by more than 30 people in order to make the most of the opportunities on offer. – Peter Shadbolt

Chinese carbon permit markets are capturing international attention

Green Futures April 2014


Plant power

Second harvest

Flow battery based on plant chemicals improves storage of renewable energy

Food processing unit could help supermarkets cut waste

Renewables like solar or wind power depend on intermittent sources of supply – so what do you do when the demand for energy exceeds the amount of sun or wind available? A new type of flow battery, based on the chemicals plants that use to store energy, may provide one answer. A group of small and inexpensive organic molecules, called quinones, are used to store and transfer energy within plants. Researchers from Harvard University screened the properties of over 10,000 such molecules, and found a good candidate for energy storage in a quinone similar to those found in rhubarbs. The team used this as the basis of a flow battery, which stores energy in the form of chemical fluids. Unlike solid-state batteries, flow batteries have separate power-conversion hardware and chemical storage components, which determine the peak power capacity and energy storage capacity, respectively. This means that the power-to-energy ratios of flow batteries can be adjusted to suit

particular applications, allowing them to store larger amounts of energy than solid-state batteries, and at a lower cost. However, most flow batteries use valuable metals such as platinum or vanadium in their design, and are therefore expensive to buy. The Harvard team’s research “has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of [flow] batteries,” says Brian Huskinson, author of the paper detailing the breakthrough, adding that this will make them “more appealing for commercial applications, with the ultimate goal of increasing grid reliability and easing the integration of renewables like wind and solar into the grid”. With such a device, commercial-scale tanks could be used to store energy from solar or wind farms for later use. On a smaller scale, a flow battery the size of a household heater unit could store a day’s worth of energy collected by a solar-panelled roof – potentially enough to power a home from late afternoon to the following morning.

Poor harvesting, storing and transporting practices, combined with market and consumer behaviour, lead to an estimated 30-50% of the four billion or so tonnes of food produced per year going to waste, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ ‘Global Food’ report. Solutions to date have generally focused either on reducing waste levels or on making use of the organic waste matter, for example to generate energy [see ‘Gas supply’, p8]. One emerging solution does both. The Harvester is a food-processing unit designed for use in supermarkets and already up and running in several Seattlebased stores. It uses oxidative conversion technology to break down all types of food scraps – including those not fit for traditional composting, such as baked goods, oils and animal proteins. What’s more, unlike composting, it retains the majority of the nutrients from the input material, converting food scraps into a nutrient-rich liquid stored in a holding tank: no sewage connection is

“This is a very exciting development, and it brings much-needed innovation to the flow battery field,” says Yushan Yan, a chemical engineer at the University of Delaware, who notes that the fast kinetics of the quinones leads to a high power density. However, he cautions that the use of bromine in the demonstration battery cell could raise some safety issues. The Harvard team is now working to improve its battery design (pictured), and together with its collaborators, Sustainable Innovations, LLC, hopes to develop a horse trailer-sized portable unit capable of storing enough power for a commercial building within the next three years. – Ian Randall

required. Once collected, this is then further refined into the most nutrient-rich fertiliser approved for organic food production, packaged and ready to be sold locally. Alongside the direct conversion of food waste into organic fertiliser feedstock, the Harvester offers a significant opportunity for data capture. Sensors and cameras inside each unit gather information which helps supermarkets, commercial kitchens and other larger-scale food outlets recognise trends in what is being discarded and when, enabling them to reduce ‘shrinkage’ (unnecessary inventory loss) and save money in the process. “You need to understand the data before you can start to tackle the issue of food waste”, says Emma Marsh, Programme Area Manager for consumer food waste prevention at WRAP and Head of Love Food Hate Waste. “Obviously, the best thing that can happen to food is that it’s eaten, but for anything that can’t be used, then finding alternative solutions is much better than sending to landfill.”

Intelligent charger cuts electricity supply once gadgets are fully charged

Handheld scanner solution reveals food ingredients

A colourful, pocket-sized charger which addresses the issue of ‘vampire power’ – the power wasted when devices are left plugged in when fully charged – is set to go into production, having exceeded its $25,000 funding goal on Kickstarter. Currently, 25% of average household electricity is wasted due to devices being left plugged in when fully charged, costing the US $3 billion per year according to the US Department of Energy. And according The UK Energy Saving Trust, “A typical household could save between £45 and


Green Futures April 2014

£80 a year just by remembering to turn off appliances left on standby.” Powerslayer, created by the US firm Velvetwire, is equipped with a microprocessor that monitors when the energy supply for charging a device is no longer required, stopping the flow without the need for human intervention. It could therefore reduce electricity waste and bills by a substantial amount. A series of algorithms is used to detect when a connected device is full charged. “Our embedded software intelligently powers off and back on, automatically, delivering energy only as needed to protect against overcharging and energy waste”, the Velvetwire team state on their Kickstarter page. The eyecatching design Pocket-sized includes a single power plug triangular LED that

glows through the surface of the device. Orange means charging, green is fully charged, and no light means the device is charged but not drawing power. Part of the aim of this aesthetic – as well as the bright cloth that covers the USB and charging cables – is to draw attention to the device and spark conversations about energy use. Jennifer Lee, a former Motorola employee, dreamt up Powerslayer with Eric Bodnar, another Motorola veteran, during a break from their corporate day jobs. They intend to charge $75 for it when it enters commercial production, and have managed to secure manufacturing suppliers within 70 miles of Velvetwire’s Santa Cruz headquarters in order to keep the supply chain local. The 597 people who backed the device on Kickstarter will be the first to receive one. However, widespread adoption will be needed to generate a significant improvement on current rates of energy wastage – perhaps through incorporation into future electronic devices. – John Duffy

Photos: WISErg; Tellspec

Self checkout

Photos: Eliza Grinnell/Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Velvetwire

Vampire slayer

One year on from the horsemeat scandal, which brought to light how little we know about food supply chains, there is still widespread uncertainty about the way many products are sourced and produced. Could a new solution from a Canadian start-up end our ingredient ignorance? TellSpec, founded by Isabel Hoffman and Stephen Watson in Toronto in 2013, has developed a product that can scan your food and tell you what it contains, flagging up, in particular, the presence of gluten, pesticides and preservatives. The scanner itself is built around a handheld spectrometer. A low-powered laser passes different wavelengths of light through the food molecules during the scanning process, providing the device with information on the compounds in the food. This information is converted into an electrical signal, then digitised and sent to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth. The digital spectrum of the user’s food is sent online to TellSpec’s ‘analysis engine’ – a programme on one of the company’s servers which processes the data and compares it with reference spectra. An

algorithm then selects information about the food from a large database and customises it for the user. A phone app, able to display the results within seconds, provides them with a list of the ingredients and their quantities. The product is primarily aimed at the diet market, allowing users to monitor their daily calorie and essential vitamin intake. In future, it could also be used to help allergy sufferers. But for conscientious consumers, its appeal lies in the ability to “go beyond the label”, as Hoffman puts it, and find out exactly what’s in their food. Food companies can currently exploit regulations to withhold certain ingredients from the list on the packet: traces of dangerous food dyes such as tartrazine are not always noted, for example. Solutions like TellSpec’s could nourish an appetite for transparency among consumers, and might ultimately prompt companies to interrogate their own supply lines to avoid being caught out. “This is a good example of an innovation that will help consumers who are concerned with both the sustainability and health

The harvester can break down any food scraps

The Harvester is a product of WISErg, a Washington-based technology company founded by two former Microsoft engineers. Having refined and trialled its technology, the company is now aiming for scale, with five Harvesters already in use in the Seattle area and a target of 74 to be deployed by the end of 2014. The space required for the Harvester, which is over 2.15m high and 1.2m wide, may deter some potential clients. The smart technology offers organisations like PCC Natural Markets, a nine store strong member-owned co-operative, a significant opportunity to cut food waste and therefore disposal costs. The fertiliser produced, WISERganic, sells at all nine PCC locations. – Tess Riley

A sustainably sourced sundae?

aspects of their food to make more informed choices”, says Mark Driscoll, Head of Food at Forum for the Future. TellSpec claims its solution can successfully identify foods and their ingredients about 97.7% of the time, and plans to partner with university researchers to test the product further. It is also attempting to crowdfund a smaller, sleeker version of the scanner. – Alex Fenton

Green Futures April 2014


Rags to napkins

A better log

Low-cost sanitary solution for rural women and girls in India

an estimated 23% of girls to leave school upon reaching puberty. The barrier to girls and women pursuing their goals represents a huge missed opportunity for society as a whole. Using Muruganantham’s machines and distributed business model, women now produce and sell directly to customers. Each machine provides employment for 10 women, who are able to produce up to 250 sanitary napkins each day. This keeps costs low (from less than Rs 1 for one napkin) and the advocacy of local saleswomen has converted thousands of women to sanitary napkins. It also enables an easy sharing of information about menstrual hygiene, otherwise absent in the country. Muruganantham believes that women’s empowerment needs to start at a young age – “Why does nobody speak

20% 12

Green Futures April 2014

The percentage of new car parking spaces in New York which are required to provide EV-charging facilities

A new data platform launched by the World Resources Institute and over 40 cross-sector partners aims to tackle deforestation and illegal logging around the world. The platform, called Global Forest Watch, provides near real-time, high resolution satellite data of forest loss and gain, prompting businesses to keep check on their supply chain. Up to now, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has certified businesses that could demonstrate a chain of custody for products from sustainably managed forests, but they did not have

the possibility to track forests in real time. This left a dangerous margin for error, recently illustrated by IKEA’s wholly owned subsidiary Swedwood. In 2012, Swedwood was found to be logging and clear-cutting old growth forests in Russian Karelia while IKEA was promoting its sustainable wood sourcing policies; wood is a primary material for 60% of its products. In February, as a result, Swedwood lost its FSC certificate. Global Forest Watch could reduce the potential for companies to claim ignorance, prompting them to pay closer attention to their sourcing policy and its implementation. As the service is open to everyone, companies can easily track where their raw materials come from, and follow up with their suppliers if materials are unaccounted for. Moreover, Screening out consumers can use deforestation the platform, which

uses algorithms developed by Google, to track where their goods come from. Businesses and indigenous peoples living and working with forests can upload real-time data from mobile phones and GPS when encroachment on their lands occurs. An alert service will then notify campaign groups and governments. It is still unclear how quickly they can respond. This is the first time companies have had access to universal public forest cover data, which can facilitate their efforts in sourcing material sustainably. Global Forest Watch draws its information from satellite data and crowdsourcing but also from business archives and efforts. Simon Counsell, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation UK, sees strong synergies between Global Forest Watch’s satellite image-based maps and on the ground efforts. Rainforest Foundation is supporting this through the MappingForRights programme, which aims to map important data such as local community ownership and rights to the forest. “This data is not normally visible but is essential in planning how to counter threats to the forest”, says Counsell. – Janika Collatz

Parking charges Nissan scheme uses EV cars to power office buildings

Photos: CADEM;

Jayaashree Industries, a start-up founded by Arunachalam Muruganantham, a school dropout from Coimbatore in south India, has created a machine to produce sanitary napkins at a fraction of the market price. Muruganantham’s interest in the subject started in 1998 when he noticed his wife using rags during her menstruation cycle. Only 12% of over 355 million women in the menstrual age group in India can afford branded sanitary napkins, priced from Rs 25 (£0.24) for a pack. Of the remaining, the lucky ones use cloth. The others resort to unclean rags, straw, ash, mud or husk. Deaths due to infections caused by rusty hooks on an old blouse or insects that have travelled into the body through a handful of dry leaves are common. Add to this the lack of sanitation facilities across the country, which forces

of girls’ empowerment?” he says. “Why wait till they grow up?” He also has girls working on these machines at school. He says, “To speak with rural women, I need to go through so many barriers, like her husband, brother, village head and community leader. But if the girl makes a napkin at school, she takes it home and convinces her older sister and mother much more easily.” The business model has allowed this innovation to reach an impressive scale. The machine is now used in 1300 villages across 23 Indian states. Muruganantham believes that it can be replicated in 110 countries all over the world, especially in Africa and Asia. The model is also impressively self-sufficient: “I don’t believe in charity or donations. I started off with my own meagre funds, aided by bank loans”, says its founder. The machines, which cost Rs 75,000 (£730) upward, are mostly owned by women’s self help groups, which buy them with the help of bank loans. Each of them is free to brand and price the products according to market needs. Cellulose (an organic compound available from wood pulp and cotton) is usually the raw material for these sanitary napkins. However, Muruganantham encourages the use of banana fibre, bamboo fibre, jute, linter cotton and other materials available in surplus locally as a substitute. Cynthia Stephen, State Programme Director at Mahila Samakhya, a women’s education and health project supported by the Indian Ministry of Education, says, “His work is crucial because, apart from lowering the cost, this will also promote economic activity among women everywhere. However, there also a need for education on how to use and discard used sanitary napkins correctly.” Creating the infrastructure for this will demand a wider cultural shift. – Charukesi Ramadurai

Photo: FXB International

The machine allows 10 women to produce 250 sanitary napkins a day

Real-time data on logging prompts transparency in the supply chain

Office buildings could soon be partially powered by employees’ cars, thanks to a new cost-saving vehicle-to-grid programme from Nissan. The ‘Vehicleto-Building’ scheme – which recently completed a successful pilot test – uses staff cars as a temporary power supply, minimising the building’s dependence on the electric grid during peak energy hours. Six of Nissan’s all-electric LEAF cars are connected to the building’s power distribution board, with charging of the cars’ batteries varying throughout the day. During peak hours, when grid electricity is the most expensive, the building can draw stored power from the vehicles, lowering electricity costs. But when grid electricity is cheaper, power flows the other way, ensuring the cars are fully charged for the workers’ commute home. The scheme has been running at the Nissan Advanced Technology Center, in Japan’s Atsugi City, since July 2013.

According to Nissan, “the facility [has] benefited from a reduction of 25.6kW during peak summer periods … with no impact on the workers’ daily commute, or their vehicles”. The reduction in electrical power usage – reported at 2.5% during peak times – is predicted to result in a total saving for the Nissan Advanced Technology Centre of almost 500,000 yen (£2,950) per year. The office-based scheme has been adapted from Nissan’s ‘LEAF to Home’ system, which was unveiled in March last year. Working in a similar manner to the ‘Vehicle-to-Building’ concept, the home system uses a power station that encourages charging at more economical times, such as overnight, and returns power to the home in peak hours to take the edge off of the electricity bill. In addition, the LEAF can also be used as an emergency power source in the event of a power outage.

However, the charging/discharging process could have a detrimental effect on a car battery. “The Vehicle-to-Building [scheme] saves a certain amount of electricity cost, but it would definitely cause wear”, says Sekyung Han, an electric vehicle battery expert from Hanbat National University. He adds that: “Although the energy cost is minimised, the overall cost – including the battery wear cost – could be higher than the saved electricity cost.” Something he feels would need to be assessed in future tests. – Ian Randall

Nissan LEAF: a powerful car

Green Futures April 2014


Sun roof

Writ in water

Ford concept vehicle offers improved solar panel efficiency

Printing invention allows paper to be reused up to 50 times

solar panels are well positioned under the concentrating lens. The C-Max Solar Energi has a maximum range of 620 miles – the same as the grid-charged C-MAX Energi model that the solar concept is based on – including up to 21 electric-only miles, which Ford claims should ‘power up to 75% of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle’. Also, like its predecessor, the vehicle will sport a standard charging port, allowing drivers to top up the car’s batteries directly from the electric grid. The annual reduction in greenhouse gas release through use of the solar-charging feature should equal around 4 tonnes, according to Ford, which is equivalent to the emissions produced by an average US household over four months. What is still unclear, however, is how practical the stand alone charge unit will be, especially as it requires a parking footprint larger than the vehicle alone. Hopefully these questions will be addressed when Ford begins real-world testing of the prototype. Thomas Bräunl, an electromobility expert from the University of Western

Anyone who’s balked at the sight of bags of wasted office paper or cursed the high price of ink cartridges will appreciate a new Chinese printing invention that uses water instead of ink, allowing a single sheet of paper to be reused up to 50 times. The paper is coated with a hydrochromic ‘switchable’ dye, which colours when it becomes moist. The technology works with standard inkjet printers: ink cartridges are simply replaced with water-filled ones. Print disappears after 22 hours, and the paper can then be reused. The technology could dramatically reduce waste and deforestation, says Dr Sean Xiao-An Zhang, who led the Jilin University scientific team. “Around 40% of office prints are single-use. This technology will help those who prefer to read on hard copy once and discard, and could dramatically reduce waste from daily newspapers.” With the paper industry responsible for 35% of deforestation, slashing wastage from daily newspapers would be an environmental coup. But is 22 hours really

Australia, also has reservations about the concept, and remains sceptical about its potential, given the limited information available to date. “According to Ford, the car can only do 21 miles electrically in the first place … so this makes the car more of a mild hybrid than a real plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.” However, he adds, Ford’s claim to have developed an eight-fold improvement in solar panel efficiency would – if true – “revolutionise electric vehicles and the whole solar photovoltaic industry”. – Ian Randall Bright idea: the Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Cincept

Filtered water


Green Futures April 2014

Use today, reuse tomorrow...

Fancy finding out how community energy could benefit your local area? Then join us at Community Energy Fortnight! The Community Energy Fortnight runs from 13th – 28th September 2014 right across the UK. From tours of hydro plants or wind turbine sites, to community heat workshops, there’s bound to be an event that suits your interests. There will also be advice on the technicalities of making your community energy vision a reality.



Visit for details of events near you.

Photo: moodboard

Photos: Ford C-MAX; antikainen/iStock/Thinkstock

presence of compounds in the wastewater that can bond chemically to the active surface of the catalyst. Or a high viscosity of the treated wastewater could hamper the motion of the micromotors.” This isn’t the only water pollutant cleansing solution to emerge recently. Last autumn, for example, there were reports that a scientist from the National Taiwan University had developed a technique that used zinc oxide from old CD cases. But the micromotors solution could be more versatile. Dr David Robbins, an Independent Consultant in water and sanitation, believes it has plenty of potential: “They probably wouldn’t be used for municipal sewage treatment”, he says, “but I can certainly see some specific commercial and industrial applications.” It seems they could even be engineered to address some pre-treatment issues – i.e. targeting a specific chemical in the water. “As the technology develops it will be interesting to see how it is used”, Dr Robbins concludes. – Will Simpson


Micromotors could target specific chemcials

micromotors were released into polluted water containing hydrogen peroxide, the platinum inside them converted the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen bubbles. This acts as a propulsion system, while the iron within the device creates hydroxyl radicals that oxidise pollutants in the water, in effect cleaning it. The self-propelling nature of the micromotors suggests they could also be used to clean larger bodies of water than previous solutions. They leave behind a concentration of iron that is three times lower than that left by the traditional ‘Fenton’ process for cleaning pollutants from wastewater – no small advantage, given that this iron must be removed in order to meet drinking water regulations. There are drawbacks to the solution, however, as team member Samuel Sanchez from Stuttgart’s Max Planck Institute explains: “The lifetime of the micromotors is limited by the amount of the external iron layer remaining and the amount of hydrogen peroxide in the solution. Also, there could be poisoning of the platinum layer due to the

hang on to. Also, laser printers are more common in offices due to the cheaper price per print-out compared with inkjet models, which could further limit uptake of the technology. – Sue Wheat

Community Energy Fortnight: 13th – 28th September 2014

Self-powered ’micromotor’ solution could clean pollutants from industrial wastewater A German research team has come up with an ingenious way to clean polluted water: tiny self-propelled ‘micromotors’. These structures – nano-sized cores of platinum surround by iron – could be used to clean organic pollutants from industrial wastewaters that are resistant to conventional biological or chemical treatments, as well as from pipes and other hard to reach places. The team carried out its research at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Dresden. It found that when the

a long enough lifetime for a print-out? The print is temperature-sensitive too: it will disappear more quickly in a hot environment. Julian Long, National Key Account Manager at Arjowiggins Graphic, an environmental paper manufacturer, also points out that: “To assess the environmental benefits, we have to look beyond paper reuse and investigate the impact on the environment of the chemicals used to treat the product.” However, Zhang insists the chemicals are non-toxic and the paper recyclable. In the office, a switch between water or ink cartridges and normal or hydrochromic paper would need to be incorporated into existing printer mechanisms. Nevertheless, the paper, although not yet in production, should only cost 5% more than regular paper, according to Zhang. While the low cost of water compared with ink would reduce overall costs to around 1% of inkjet printing. This may be the biggest obstacle – the high profits made on ink cartridges are likely to be something the printer companies will make every effort to


Ford has unveiled a new hybrid car that can run on solar power alone. The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which made its first public appearance at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, features a bespoke solar panel on its roof. Ford claims the car offers the benefits of a plug-in hybrid without depending solely on the electric grid for fuel. Other companies have designed solar powered cars in the past. However, these have tended to harness the sun’s rays for low energy requirements such as air conditioning; the small surface area available on a car’s roof doesn’t allow for solar panels that can quickly charge a vehicle’s entire battery. To solve this problem, Ford’s concept includes a stand alone concentrator. It works like a giant magnifying glass, focusing the sun’s rays onto the solar panels and enabling them to harness eight times more energy. A day under the concentrator provides the same charge as four hours of mains connectivity. When parked, the car can even move backwards and forwards automatically to ensure the

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Green Futures April 2014


the point that cities also have much in common, regardless of where they are in the world. “In terms of child survival rates, it’s usually not about what city you live in, but where in the city you live.” In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, for example, 57% of children live in poverty – a greater proportion than in any other borough in England. The £7 million regeneration of the Borough’s Brownfield Estate is part of a wider plan to improve life for people in the area. It was recently commended in a survey by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and illustrates how both children and adults can benefit from child-friendly planning. The mostused routes on the estate have been turned into ‘green grids’, lined with grass and trees. The parking system has been revamped to make the streets easier for pedestrians of all ages to navigate. And several new play areas have been created, including a courtyard where children can play informally and mingle with other members of the community. This last element – a traffic-free square or courtyard at the heart of a village-type neighbourhood – is a crucial part of any child-friendly environment, according to Suzanne Crowhurst Lennard, Founder and Director of the International Making Cities Livable Conferences, and a consultant to cities in the US and Europe on child-friendly communities and public space design. “There are three things that children need in their normal everyday world”, she says: “faceto-face social interaction with a community of all ages; direct interaction with nature; and the chance to develop independence at every age.”


live in cities and towns. Cities, in other words, are the frontline in the war against childhood poverty, disease and restricted opportunity. Crucially, a child-friendly city doesn’t just benefit the youngest inhabitants. As Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, has said: “Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.” Consider, say, the benefits of Peñalosa’s own efforts to transform Bogotá: while in office he helped create over 186 miles of bikeways, 1,200 new parks and playgrounds and the Bus Rapid Transit system that carries half a million passengers a day. It’s now a safer, cleaner, greener city for children and adults alike. As UNICEF director Anthony Lake has rightly said, it’s also important to remember that “when society fails to extend to urban children the services and protection that would enable them to develop as productive and creative individuals, it loses the social, cultural and economic contributions they could have made”. In the West, the development of child-friendly cities tends to focus on the creation of parks and green spaces, safe and easily navigable streets, well-proportioned family homes and improved child services. But in the developing world, where one-inthree city dwellers live in overcrowded, polluted and unhygienic slum conditions, children’s lives can be vastly improved by access to health, sanitation and education services. Nevertheless, Kerry Constabile, an urban planning specialist at UNICEF, makes

Left: Streets that are safe for play are key to child-friendly cities Below: Count on it: Bristol City Council encourages street play



“Get these cars out of the way, we want to play!” a child chants through a loudhailer, as he and his young comrades march down a street in the Pijp area of Amsterdam. This remarkable scene comes from a 1972 documentary, which follows a group of inner-city Dutch children as they attempt to turn a busy through-road outside their homes into a play street. Adults in the area are both supportive and dismissive of the children’s plans. “All these cars are unbearable”, says one small boy, in an effort to explain their actions. “There is no space left. Thousands die in accidents and air pollution increases. Everything is devoted to parking. Why don’t we all ride bicycles?” It’s a lament that many children could still voice today. Their need for space, for the freedom to play and socialise within their local environment, is often overlooked or ignored by city planners. Parental fears about their safety – both legitimate and exaggerated – can also lead to them spending

Green Futures April 2014

the majority of their time indoors, unable to explore independently and develop the skills that will help them become healthy, well-adjusted members of society. Instead, many children are spending up to eight hours a day staring at a screen, according to some studies. To prevent this from happening, and ensure that safe, healthy and well-educated children are a key part of urban governance, UNICEF launched its Child Friendly Cities Initiative in 1996. However, as its report ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’ highlights, almost 20 years on, city planning still doesn’t take enough account of children’s needs. A number of other projects, such as the EU’s Cities for Children, also aim to highlight best practice and guide local government towards child-friendly urban planning. The focus on cities makes sense: every year the world’s urban population increases by about 60 million, and by 2050 around 70% of people will

Photo: 1000 Words/

Photo: Roger LeMoyne/UNICEF

Children need to be at the heart of planning our future cities, says Duncan Jefferies.

Green Futures April 2014


Photo: Suriya Wattanalee

Involve children in city planning, and you’re building the next generation of active citizens

UNICEF says a child-friendly city guarantees the right of every young citizen to: • influence decisions about their city • express their opinions on the city they want • participate in family, community and social life • receive basic services such as health care, education, and shelter • drink safe water and have access to proper sanitation • be protected from exploitation, violence and abuse • walk safely in the streets on their own • meet friends and play • have green spaces for plants and animals • live in an unpolluted environment • participate in cultural and social events • be equal citizens of their city with access to every service, regardless of ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or ability


Green Futures April 2014

Photo: meunierd/


to promote after-school street play sessions – wheelie bins and road closure signs keep the traffic out for a few hours, with local residents acting as stewards. A community-led movement in the US known as Intersection Repair brings children and adults together to paint intersections, with the aim of making drivers more cautious; the bright, playful artwork on the surface of a road makes them question their ownership of the space, and whether children might be at play nearby. And in the Netherlands, special ‘woonerf’ (recreation) streets even give pedestrians and cyclists legal priority over motorists. Such schemes run hand-in-hand with efforts to return inner-city neighbourhoods to more mixed functions, with low densities of family-friendly houses and flats situated alongside schools, child care centres, workplaces and leisure space. As well as making life easier for families by reducing the time it takes to transport children to good schools or care facilities, the hope is that this will prevent the ‘dead zones’ found in many urban centres outside of normal working hours. Driskell believes that there is “still a lot of work to do to recreate some of that family supportive infrastructure”, but says “some cities have really been at the forefront of trying to do that”, including his own hometown of Boulder, which has set up a project called Growing Up Boulder to ensure young people’s views on local transportation issues, child-friendly housing and even a youth-friendly farmer’s market are included in planning decisions. Rotterdam is also worthy of a place on any child-friendly city list. Its own scheme saw housing corporations, project developers, district councils, parents and children collaborate to create more child-friendly housing (with a room for each child in the family), extended school activity programmes,

and pavements with a minimum 10ft width on one side to encourage play. Containers full of roller skates, skipping ropes and go-karts were also placed in some neighbourhoods for children to borrow. As with other child-friendly cities initiatives in Melbourne, Vancouver, Liverpool and Amman, children’s views were central to the development of the scheme. This ties in with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children should have the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, through any media they choose. Children typically provide their opinions and ideas for improvements to their environment through drawings, walking interviews, photographs and by taking part in children’s councils. Like Boulder, Vancouver also operates an online site,, digitally engaging young residents in municipal decisions which affect their communities. By participating in this way, children don’t just benefit from an improved urban environment; they also grow as people and form strong bonds with their home city. As Driskell says: “It builds the kind of social capital and community that is part of a child-friendly city, and the feeling that they can make a change in the world they live in, be a steward of the environment, and work together with other people.” In order to foster these kinds of opportunities in the developing world, UNICEF helped create Ureport, a social monitoring tool based on SMS messages, for young Ugandans. Uganda has the world’s youngest population, with more than half of its population under the age of 18. The tool aims to strengthen community-led development and citizen engagement by helping young people speak out on what’s happening in their communities, amplifying their voices through local and national media, and alerting local politicians about the issues their constituents face. Useful information is fed back to ‘Ureporters’, empowering them to improve their areas themselves.

In Kibera, Nairobi, where around two-thirds of the population live in crowded informal settlements, UNICEF is working with Map Kibera, by Open Street Map, on a youth-led digital mapping pilot program. A group of volunteers helped young people – particularly young women and girls – to create a digital map of their area, identifying vulnerabilities related to their health and protection. This kind of data is vitally important for bridging gaps in childhood equality, and ensuring no child is left behind. “Really, the more desegregated data we are able to obtain on how children are living, in terms of the wide breadth of things such as respiratory health, water and sanitation access, but also play spaces and mental health, the better we’ll be able facilitate these things”, says Constabile. The value of such projects is backed up by research from the UK Economic and Social Research Council, which has found that children are adept at driving sustainability projects, often contributing valuable insights and opinions that adults may overlook. Its 2009 study ‘Exploring the role of schools in developing sustainable communities’ claimed that children are keen to take on wider roles and responsibilities, helping to shape and improve their communities. “With their dynamism, energy and new ideas, children demonstrate considerable potential as agents of change”, says Dr PercySmith, a member of the research team at the time of the study’s release. “But as a society we neither encourage nor harness that energy and creativity. We have too little respect for the abilities of children and too many people feel that children either can’t or shouldn’t take a lead on change.” Hopefully, in future, their opinions will be sought on an increasing range of subjects – not least the cities where many of them will one day raise their own children.

Nairobi: it’s their future to map


Pedestrian-friendly streets, protected bike routes and good public transport links make it easier for children (and the elderly) to get around independently. Street trees, as well as neighbourhood parks and gardens within a ten-minute walk of where children live, are also vital for their development, and have the added benefit of improving urban air quality. Ideally, outdoor spaces should include a rich variety of natural features, such as streams, ponds and climbable trees. “Interaction with nature is important for physical exercise and health”, says Crowhurst Lennard, “but it also opens the senses, it sharpens them – hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch and so on. So it’s very important for developmental tasks, and also for cognitive development [for instance, through learning the names of trees, plants, animals, etc]”. Opportunities to play safely outdoors with other children have never been more in need. The RIBA survey also found that in Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Birmingham and London more than one in five children are now obese. While in the US, around one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, greatly increasing their chances of developing diabetes and other medical conditions in later life. Without regular exercise and contact with nature, children are also more likely to suffer from metal health problems, as well as have trouble sleeping or concentrating at school. In the past “we’ve done a better job of building [cities] for cars than people”, says David Driskell, Executive Director of Community Planning and Sustainability for Boulder, Colorado, and former chair of UNESCO’s ‘Growing Up In Cities’ project. But like the children of Pijp, many child-friendly schemes are reclaiming the streets for play. Playing Out Bristol, for example, is a community interest company that aims

Duncan Jefferies is a freelance writer, and an editor for Green Futures.

Green Futures April 2014


Golden years

“Engaged children become engaged adults” Duncan Jefferies meets Abid Aslam, Editor of ‘The State of the World’s Children’ at UNICEF.

How can this situation be improved? I think this boils down to partnership and accountability. When government and businesses work in partnership with people in a city’s poorest areas, and especially when children and young people in those areas are able to participate in planning and evaluating policies and programmes, we see better results for entire cities: safer neighbourhoods thanks to improved lighting, for example, or lower burdens of disease thanks to improved sanitation. Likewise, children and young people have valuable roles to play in holding decision-makers and service providers to account. Formal accountability – whether through government ombudspersons or the courts – should be made accessible to children and young people, but social accountability is also important.

Could social media enable more children to speak out? Yes. Young people are using social media and mobile technology to express themselves, to draw attention to problems and solutions within their communities. There are tremendous opportunities but also challenges – for example, how to ensure that children are safe from bullies or predators when they go online. But what does it mean to speak out if you are not heard? This is a matter of principle: under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. It’s also a practical matter. After all, no one is in a better position to understand their needs and evaluate the response than children and young people themselves.

What form might that social accountability take? It takes various forms. In Brazil, under the Municipal Seal of Approval initiative, children’s councils have monitored and influenced municipal budgets and held authorities’ feet to the fire on priority children’s programmes. Members of South Africa’s Soul Buddyz youth clubs have schooled themselves in children’s rights and teamed up with TV camera crews to goad service providers to fix neglected problems. What’s also


Green Futures April 2014

Can children be a force for engaging businesses in their communities? In many places they are, for example by approaching companies to sponsor sports activities. Of course, corporate social responsibility is about more than philanthropy. It’s about operating in a sustainable and child-friendly way. And it’s very much a part of everyday business – or should be. Does a company pay a living wage that allows employees to raise their children well? Does it stay and pay its taxes or flee the jurisdiction once its tax holiday ends?

Is there a danger that childfriendly urban elements will suffer in today’s economic climate? Austerity is driving up inequality and child poverty, including in high-income countries, not just in the developing world. In many places we have seen good work put on hold and even retrenchment in public spending and provision. This is troubling not only because families are hurt today but also because it takes longer to revive infrastructure and services than it does to gut them.

People with many years behind them are a great resource of experience and enterprise. We must make better use of it, says Jon Turney. Getting on a bit. You know, long in the tooth. That’s most of us in the future, according to demographers. With the usual caveats about calamity, those in the know about population dynamics now seem pretty confident that falling birth rates and increased life expectancy will have only one outcome: an ageing world. The two trends are more advanced in some countries than others [see box, ‘The demographic transition’], but generally apply to most of the world’s population. And their implications are likely to have a profound effect on the way we view old age. Instead of seeing the elderly as a demographic that have already made the majority of their contribution to the planet, we’re more likely to think of them as a valuable source of enterprise and experience. Indeed, many of the future’s ‘old’ will belie our current stereotypes. There will be far more active, fit people in their 60s and 70s, and they’ll be planning to stay that way in their 80s. Old age will no longer be synonymous with frailty, isolation or dependence. But the scale of the shift now under way calls for some serious adaptation. Societies with higher numbers of older people will need to develop innovative health and education systems, as well as new housing, transport, employment, financial planning, architecture and urban design models, to suit their needs. Many of these changes will benefit everyone. Cities could be made easier to navigate, for example, with improved public transport

Some people say that the lean periods are an impetus for innovation… That may be true. What’s needed are innovations that make it possible for children who have been excluded from services and opportunity to be included, innovations that address the needs of marginalised and vulnerable children, that are accessible and affordable for the poorest, and that do not exacerbate disparities by benefiting only the well-off. How do you reach those people? Contrary to what some might think, poor people in cities tend to be well organised. This stands to reason: how else to survive under incredibly difficult circumstances if not by pooling resources and filling the vacuum where municipal governance and services are lacking? So it’s a matter of mustering the will to meet them, understand their situation and include them in infrastructure development and broader efforts to reduce poverty – in other words, to recognise them as the rights-holding residents and economic contributors they are. How can we build more of a community feel within urban areas? Often, the most profound obstacle to the improvements we all seek is not knowing from one week, month or year to the next whether you will be forcibly evicted and your home bulldozed. Ensuring that poor people have adequate housing and secure tenure must be a top priority because this is their right but also because this is a proven way to kick-start community investment. Granted secure tenure to their homes, impoverished families start to scrimp and improve their surroundings. And their children can go to school because they no longer have to stay near home to alert their parents if a demolition squad shows up.

systems. And many more retirees will be able to put their time and experience to good use as volunteers. Different people living in different places will make different choices. And we can be sure they will want to choose: whether that’s to continue working, to learn new skills or to have a varied social life. All of which runs counter to pessimistic notions that an army of dependent, non-productive elders will overwhelm health services and care workers in future.

Getting on: an ageing world needs innovation for access and mobility

Why the world is ageing

Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Thinkstock

happening is that children are getting into the hang of participating, of making demands, of being citizens and enjoying the actual rights and privileges of citizens, and this then makes them more engaged adults as well.

Photo: Giacomo Pirozzi/UNICEF

Why are some cities further ahead than others on childfriendly initiatives? Resources play a major role, but even wealthy cities, home to a country’s political, commercial and cultural elites, fail children, most noticeably the girls and boys who live in slums cut off from the housing, electricity, working toilets, schools, clinics, parks and public transportation taken for granted in better-off precincts. So clearly this is also about political will and governance. Some places have relatively participatory municipal governance, and in some cities, members of the public even get to determine how a portion of the municipal budget is spent. Other city governments, however, yield to vested interests or are too ready to accept a status quo that excludes large numbers of families from the benefits of urban life.

In general, countries move from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates as they develop – which is known as the demographic transition. Why does this occur? Primarily because you don’t need to have as many children to ensure that some will survive to look after you in old age; in developed nations, any offspring are much more likely to make it past the key milestones of their first and fifth birthdays. Therefore, people tend to raise smaller families. Result: a population with proportionately fewer children, and more adults. But beyond the reduction in infant mortality, life expectancy for adults is now increasing too. In Europe, for example, a 70-year-old has the same probability of dying as a 57 -year-old had half a century ago. And this trend is ongoing, with life expectancy in the developed world increasing by two years per decade.

In fact, 25% of the global population will be over 60 by 2050, outnumbering those aged under 15. Some countries are well ahead of this curve already. In Japan, for instance, 25% of the population is already over 65, and life expectancy for men is 80, and 86 for women. As the number of old people increases worldwide, the ageing effect will shift to developing countries, with rapid changes in India and China. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population over 80 will be living in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. But the increase in the very old will continue in existing developed countries too. The number of centenarians in the UK alone went up from 2,500 in 1982 to 12,300 in 2012. Only a start, says Professor Sarah Harper of the Oxford Institute on Ageing, who estimates there will be around half a million UK centenarians by 2050, and potentially a million by the end of the century.

Green Futures April 2014


Workplaces must adapt to retain the knowledge of older staff


The increase in the number of older adults is provoking some innovative thinking from designers and social entrepreneurs. The UK’s innovation think tank Nesta has begun to catalogue ideas to help old people stay connected and increase their well-being by staying active. Their list covers a ‘virtual’ tea room, trialled by Intel, one of a number of schemes connecting old people with others from their homes – in this case, by using a simple tablet interface to talk to friends and neighbours. Other solutions include IT support for carers, using movement sensors to monitor elderly people remotely, and a private social network to connect the carer with the individual should they have any concerns. The Austrian supermarket chain Adeg has also introduced wider aisles and improved lighting to suit older customers – something that will benefit shoppers of all ages. Early trials of the new layout and lighting features resulted in a 20% increase in sales, and the design has now been rolled out across all the retailer’s stores.

Nevertheless, an overall increase in the number of older people, and the eventual increase in what we now regard as the really old (those in their 90s and centenarians), will mean more people living with chronic conditions and needing regular care, which of course costs money. Supporting people with dignity throws up a host of moral issues: what quality of life, for instance, does a centenarian with poor health enjoy? And is it right that younger generations will have to bear the brunt of the social and financial costs of caring for them? Figuring out the finances of a greying planet already preoccupies numerous governments, think tanks and old age advocacy groups. There are two big trends to consider. Developed countries with state pension provision, faced with a cohort of ageing baby-boomers, are cutting back; benefits are static or decreasing, and the age at which they are payable is rising. The age when pensions start is set to increase in the US, France, Italy, Spain, Britain and Japan, currently the country with the world’s oldest population. That means retirement comes later. Employers will have to manage the workforce differently, balancing the needs and insights of older, more experienced employees against those of younger staff. Currently, the valuable contributions of many fit, older workers are simply lost when government legislation forces them to retire sooner than they might wish. Some governments are taking steps to address this, however. Singapore, which had a retirement age of 62, brought in the Retirement and Re-Employment Act in 2012. Backed by some government money, it requires companies to offer re-employment to fit, capable employees until they are 67. It makes sound economic sense: in countries with ageing

Green Futures April 2014

populations, employers will increasingly have to draw from a smaller pool of young workers. More employers are also finding that older workers have skills that are hard to replace. In some cases, workplaces might need to adapt to retain their knowledge. BMW recently staffed an engine production line in one plant to give an average age of 47, in order to study how to adapt the line’s design to their needs. Answers included more comfortable seating, a schedule for short breaks, alternating sitting and standing, and some visual aids. Altogether, the changes they made as a result allowed the line to increase productivity to the same levels as others run by younger employees. Tomorrow’s employment landscape will need to allow people to change jobs, opt for working from home or flexi-time hours, and mix part-time paid work, voluntary work and caring for grandchildren. After all, well-being relies on feeling connected and contributing. With childcare costs rising in many Western countries, a happy, healthy grandparent who’s willing to lend a hand will be a godsend for families. Acknowledging this, the light-hearted ‘Men’s Sheds’ movement that began in Australia aims to create spaces where people – most often elderly men, but not exclusively old or male – can share facilities to work on projects that need the kind of equipment often found in the shed. It also allows them to learn, as well as teach, new skills, thereby benefitting the wider community. Activities include woodwork, metalwork, bike repairs, gardening, electronics and photography. However, the bonds of even the strongest family can be strained by the costs of caring for elderly relatives. With this in mind, 101 countries have introduced noncontributory state-funded ‘social pensions’,

Photos: Andresr/Shutterstock; Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock

Staying connected

Photo: Steve Mason/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Right: Grandparents alleviate the rising cost of childcare Far right: Social schemes support the adage, it’s never too late to learn

according to HelpAge International – some with a greater reach than others. They include China, whose New Rural Pension Scheme launched in 2009 and applies to 133 million over 60-year-olds. These schemes typically guarantee a minimum of support, and can have a big impact on families with stretched resources. A third of these have started since the year 2000, but the first was introduced in South Africa back in 1928, finally achieving racial parity in 1996. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study in the year 2000 found that granddaughters of families whose elderly members received the social pension were 2-4cm taller than a comparable group. By reallocating resources in this way, governments can provide greater support for the ageing population while helping younger generations. In future, technological and medical advances could also help to address many of the issues that can prevent the elderly from contributing to society. Exoskeletons that can help people walk, lift heavy objects and generally remain as capable as any younger person are currently in development, and new treatments for Alzheimer’s and other diseases that afflict the elderly are expected to arrive in the coming decades. The simple fact that there are more old people around may mean that isolation is less of a risk too. Future centenarians will be able to have something almost none had before: friends their own age. Hopefully, the social and technological changes that will help keep people active for longer will also transform them from an under-stimulated cohort into what they really are: a growing resource of experience and enterprise.

Rise of the silver surfer While some older people remain offline, many are enthusiastic users of the internet. These ‘silver surfers’ are able to keep in touch with children and grandchildren, as well as the wider online world, offering their insights and opinions no matter where they happen to live. And to paraphrase a line from a famous New Yorker cartoon, “on the internet, nobody knows you’re an OAP”. In other words, age discrimination, mobility problems and other age-related issues typically have little relevance in your online life. Plenty of grandparents already use Skype and its emulators to make video calls to distant children, and the market for connecting families is attracting more innovators. A company called Ceiva has developed a digital photo frame that allows you to send pictures wirelessly for display to whoever owns the frame – a grandparent, perhaps? Elderly people who don’t wish to be hooked up to the internet can still make use of the Presto mailbox, a phone-linked printer which delivers documents or photos from authorised senders without an internet connection. Messages can be scheduled to help organise the recipient’s day, and friends and family can also monitor how many messages are coming in.

Jon Turney is a freelance writer and author of ‘The Rough Guide to the Future’.

Green Futures April 2014


Photos: xxxxx

Photos: xxxxx

Root canal treatment Long used to rats and cockroaches, residents along the Estero de Paco canal in Manila are welcoming more appealing wildlife. “We now have butterflies”, says Gloria Solomon, 53, who lives beside the 2km waterway, effectively an open sewer for some 10,000 people. It is dramatically cleaner thanks to a patented treatment system designed by a Scottish company, Biomatrix Water. Floating ‘active island reactors’ oxygenate the sewage-laden water while providing a habitat for pollution-digesting bacteria on the roots of aquatic plants. Fish are also returning. Image: Galen Fulford, Biomatrix Water 24

Green Futures April 2014

Green Futures April 2014


Farming the city

Growing underground

Cities worldwide are getting serious about local food production – with good reason, finds Anna Simpson. Unlike its neighbours, Singapore does not consider itself an agricultural nation. Rightly so – for now, at least. Whereas Malaysia is self-sufficient in poultry, pork and eggs, cultivates fruit such as mango and papaya for domestic consumption, and exports cocoa, cereals and flour – Singapore depends on imports for 90% of its food. Too many people and not enough land has long been the situation, but are perceptions of what’s possible within limited resources about to change? Michael Doherty thinks so. He’s the founder of a US-based company called Bitponics that aims to simplify local growing, using sensors to measure pH levels, nutrients, temperature and humidity. In 2013 he came to Singapore for a residency with the Art-Science Museum, exploring local responses to ‘aquaponics’ – a closed-loop system to grow edible plants in nutrient-rich water. (The detritus in the water is eaten by little fish, whose excrement in turn nourishes the plants.) Doherty focused on the aesthetics of the system, looking to improve its cultural fit by working with local artisans and materials. Since then, he’s been working with the start-up Homegrw to turn the concept into a local reality – and it’s taking root. By the time Chinese New Year came round, it had rice and red fruit at the ready, grown at the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. “Didn’t we say these systems produced culturally relevant food?” – the team boasted to hundreds of fans on Facebook. The challenge, for Doherty, is familiarity. “There is a huge disconnection between food and how it is produced. I’ve worked with many students here. When they plant a seed and see it grow, and then in a few weeks have a head of lettuce, it’s like magic to them…”


Green Futures April 2014

Webster is looking to lease 600m2 for a pilot commercial farm on a brownfield site this year, producing 20 tonnes of salad a year – not to mention four tonnes of decidedly edible fish. The fresh salad finds a ready market. The fish side, though, could be trickier to scale. It’s not so much raising tilapia that worries Webster, but the rules that govern fish farming may be extremely strict, he says. Nonetheless, GrowUp’s close control of inputs makes him confident about key issues like water purity. There’s also a host of special requirements, from staff skills to certification, if you want to process and sell fresh fish off-site. Barbequing the whole batch from one GrowUp box is fine for a party at the end of a demonstration cycle, but servicing regular clients means delivering a steady flow of right-sized fish, and an investment in equipment that’s hard to justify if you’re starting small. – Roger East

Photo: GrowUp Urban Farms London

GrowUp in London, ECF in Berlin and New York’s Gotham Greens are getting around the lack of land without racking up the food miles and the carbon count. These start-ups have devised ‘container farm’ solutions: aquaponic systems based on shipping containers (see image, right). The beauty is in the balance. GrowUp hardly adds any supplementary (organic) fertiliser to what the fish provide. Their chosen fish, tilapia, are omnivorous, so there’s no need to deplete the oceans to provide them with fish meal. Rainwater harvesting covers most, and sometimes all, of the water requirements. On the right site, the plants could also use waste heat and CO2-rich ventilation air – especially, as co-founder Tom Webster says, once developers get over the hurdle of unfamiliarity and open the way for building-integrated aquaponics. It’s now a case of spreading the word – and taking it to scale.

Photo: ECF Farmsystems Berlin

Thinking inside the box

One customer is Bjorn Shen, a Singaporean who trained as a chef in Australia, then came back to found the restaurant Artichoke – the first in the country to have a kitchen garden. He’s also expressed an interest in sourcing ingredients from Comcrop, another aquaponic vegetable and fish farm, occupying 6,000 square feet of roof space in the middle of the shopping district on Orchard Road. It will be a more pricey source than the supermarkets, but Shen says he is willing to pay a premium for a fresh harvest. “We believe in quality first ... as long as customers are willing to pay a bit more for something of great quality.” Comcrop claims it can produce eight to 10 times more than traditional farms over the same area. But urban farming at significant scale will require a more mainstream change of mindset. Signs of one are emerging. Speaking at a food industry convention in October 2013, the Minister for National Development, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, announced a further investment of SGD 10 million (c. £5 million) for research and development in local food farming technology, the production capability of local farms and food source diversification. He encouraged the industry to “leverage” this fund to “boost Singapore’s food supply resilience”, particularly in chicken, pork, fish, eggs, leafy vegetables and rice. Local production is a “core component of our food security roadmap”, said Ms Tan Poh Hong, CEO of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which runs the national Food Fund. “Local farms can provide a buffer in times of sudden import disruptions, and serve as a platform to test-bed agricultural innovations to increase food supply. Having an active local farming sector also ensures that commercial farming skills and expertise within the country are not lost.” She also spoke of the need “to imagine what the future of farming would be like”, asserting that “farmscrapers” are already being tested around the world. Plantagon, a Swedish company, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nanyang Technological University to develop the first tropical prototype of their planting system for Singapore, she noted. In major cities cross the world, authorities are exploring the possibility of urban farming at scale.

project could take over in time. Nutrients are all organic. Air traps keep out pests. The produce from their tests has passed taste and freshness tests with flying colours. Distribution? One mile down the road to market at New Covent Garden, from where it could be eaten anywhere in London within a day. Testing the concept took two years, Ballard explains, but interest surged as soon as they went public. With their pitch on crowdfunding site Crowdcube going strongly, he’s confident they’ll meet their first year’s £1 million funding target. Yearround production down on the farm is set to begin this autumn on 1000m2 of three-tier growing benches. Their first tunnel site, leased for 25 years from Transport for London (TfL), should allow them space for a further six-fold expansion. And after that? TfL has seven more spare tunnels, says Ballard, but Zero Carbon Food has other urban growing ambitions too, such as vertical farming in converted high-rise blocks. Their key asset, it seems, is the ability to think laterally about land. – Roger East

Vancouver has allocated funding to increase city and neighbourhood food assets by 50% over 2010 levels by 2020, raising the number of urban farms from 17 to 35 by 2020, and the number of community garden plots from 3,640 to 5,000. Its goal is simply to develop a just and sustainable food system – and become the greenest city in the world. By contrast, in Rosario, Argentina, urban farming is seen as a means to redevelop the economy, provide employment, empower women, and discourage squatting on vacant land. Here, the drive comes from the UN’s Urban Agriculture Program, which is working with local businesses and organisations, funded by the local authorities. Whether the goal is food security, jobs and skills, empowering women or winning global renown, leaders expect more from their investment in urban food production than simply home-grown pak choi on demand. With new research, published in Nature Climate Change, to show that global warming of only 2°C will reduce yields in temperate and tropical regions from the 2030s, I suspect they’re right to do so. Anna Simpson is Editor, Green Futures.

local farming ensures commercial skills aren’t lost

Disused for decades, the ex-air raid shelter tunnels underneath Clapham have got a new lease of life, producing herbs, shoots and microgreens for London restaurants. For Zero Carbon Foods start-up founders Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, the hydroponic, LED-lit, tunnel-based, central London sited solution they’ve branded as “Growing Underground” ticks a surprising number of sustainability boxes. At 33m below ground, they start with a constant temperature of 16°C. Banks of LED lights, switched on 18 hours a day, give off enough heat to raise this to 20°C, ideal for plant growth. The plants grow in trays, with nutrient-rich water fed hydroponically to their roots, on a 3cm substrate of hemp and recycled carpet. Post-harvest, they’ll recycle this again, locally, as biomass fuel. Hydroponics, says Ballard, is 70% more water-efficient than conventional growing. Electricity needs, mainly to run the lights and electric delivery vehicles, are currently sourced from renewables through Good Energy, but a community-based solar

Left: Aquaponic peppers Below: GrowUp brings people closer to their food using shipping containers, but without the miles.

Green Futures April 2014


Fashion is about creating something you can be proud of


Green Futures April 2014

Strauss are all members of the Better Cotton Initiative, which aims to mainstream sustainable production of the fibre [see the Green Futures Special Edition ‘Cotton Conundrum’], and Greenpeace’s Detox Fashion campaign is working with Adidas, Nike and Puma to reduce the use of toxics in their supply chain. Williams has been working with the Fashion Revolution, a cross-industry campaign established in the wake of Rana Plaza to act as a catalyst for change, prompting consumers across the world to tweet at the brand whose clothes they are wearing, and ask who made it. As Williams observes, just as the severe weather events make us look at the influence of the global climate on the weather, so issues like Rana Plaza should make us all look at the kinds of system in which we play a part. “If you look at it on a systemic level, we have not stepped forward an inch”, she asserts, calling for “a consensus that the system must be addressed”. This, Williams explains, means looking beyond the mere choice and source of materials – whether it’s organic cotton or conventional, recycled or recyclable – to the foundations of fast fashion, asking how over-consumption relates to the exploitative production of cheap goods, and seeking alternative ways to address our appetite for style. “Fashion is about creating an identity, something which you can be proud of”, she says. “It is not simply a matter of having more legislation on labelling, or concerning the use of chemicals.” A key question is why there has not been more progress. Four years ago, Forum for the Future published a report outlining the issues facing the industry and four potential scenarios for development – some of which are starting to unfold. Couture to ‘upcycle’ used fabrics is gaining ground in hip cafes and on catwalks; Marks & Spencer’s ‘shwopping’ campaign encourages donations to Oxfam; and the UK House of Lords recently held a ‘swishing’ event with the sustainable communications agency Futerra, encouraging consumers to swap clothes rather than bin them and buy more. Alternative materials are also nudging their way into the mainstream: last year, Levi’s launched a pair of jeans made using plastic from recycled bottles [see GF87, p15]. But reuse, recycling and upcycling only go so far, says Nick Ryan, Director of the closed-loop textiles organisation Worn Again. “If we want to eradicate waste, we need to work with major industry”, he says, stressing the complexity of the supply chain. A typical pair of jeans, he points out, might say ‘Made in Egypt’ on the label, but also includes chemical dyes produced in Brazil, copper

Heather Connon is a freelance journalist specialising in finance and investment.

Commodities as we know them will not exist in the future

It’s increasingly the stories behind the clothes that will steal the show

Photo: Mannequino at Best of Britannia / E60

The collapse of Rana Plaza is prompting fashion brands to think about the people they depend on

Fashion is one of the world’s most important industries. It is worth around $1.5 trillion a year, employs more than 25 million people, and fashion-conscious or not, we all wear its products. Yet most of us know very little about where our clothes come from or how they are put together. Even those who assiduously read the labels will glean only limited information: if a country of origin is shown, this could be where the garment was designed or assembled – but the source of the raw material and the conditions under which it was converted to fabric and then pieced together remains pretty much invisible. This ignorance was brutally exposed by the disaster in Bangladesh last year, where more than 1,100 workers lost their lives when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed. Even the executives of the companies which sourced their materials from the site were not fully aware of the appalling working conditions and abysmal safety standards which operate across far too much of the industry. There are also significant environmental issues, from the pesticides and water used in cotton production to the chemicals used in the laundry of the products; and from the culture of consumerism, which is encouraging us all to buy far more than we actually need, to the problems of disposing of discarded garments. Yet fashion company reports are full of commitments to sustainable sourcing policies and ethical production – claims which can sound hollow when Rana Plaza and other scandals expose the industry’s failure to live up to these standards. Dilys Williams, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, points out that it is more than a quarter of a century since the media first exposed labour issues at Gap and Nike. Since then, some important policies and frameworks have come into place to support brands to take action, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (2011), the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (2010) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (2013). Brands are also signing up to cross-industry collaborations; for instance, H&M, Adidas and Levi

Photo: Ismail Ferdous

The industry is gearing up for a system-wide shift, says Heather Connon.

third of the market, has a viable blueprint to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel. In December 2013, it launched the Higgs Index 2.0, which poses a series of questions within a webbased wiki on areas like human rights, raw material sustainability, energy efficiency and corruption. This tool allows companies to evaluate the impact of their business and supply chain, and quickly assess how to make improvements. Aditya Birla has made a public commitment to become the leader in India for sustainable business practices by 2017. When we spoke, Henshaw was engaged in a series of visits to group companies, helping them use a Higgs-based sustainability roadmap. He is convinced that this is essential business sense. He believes that large companies will increasingly move towards choosing suppliers with high Higgs scores. “If you are good enough to be in a global supply chain you will do well, but if you are not, you could find it difficult”, he warns. “Over time, people will start to align around the index and its requirements.” This isn’t just a trend, he says: it’s a fundamental shift in the commodities market. “In my opinion, commodities as we know them today will not exist in the future, because sustainability issues will translate into product attributes. We will move from commodities priced according to the cost of production to a valueadded system. There could be a shake-out period for companies that score poorly.” An enticing prospect for early adopters of best practice in the industry. The rest may find next season is their last.

Fashion fix

rivets sourced in China, and buttons made in India from zinc sourced in China, Peru or Australia. Louise Armstrong, a Senior Advisor who works in the system innovation lab at Forum for the Future, says companies are realising that they cannot conduct best practice in a bubble. “They are experiencing pressure in their supply chains, and looking for ways to create resilience.” Some system-wide initiatives are beginning to emerge, bringing together both sustainable production and training to promote long-term thinking in managerial decisions. Impactt, an ethical trade consultancy, has just embarked on its second Benefits for Business and Workers (BBW) programme, which will scale up its initial work with 93 factories in India and Bangladesh to develop cost-effective and replicable systems for more sustainable production. Funded by the UK Department for International Development through its RAGS (Responsible and Accountable Garments Sector) Challenge Fund, the initial programme included the Arcadia Group, Marks & Spencer and Ralph Lauren, and it involved six months of training for managers – with impressive results. In those factories engaged, efficiency improved by an average of 18%, absenteeism by more than a third and worker turnover fell by more than 50% while take-home pay rose by an average of 7.6%. Now the programme is being extended to 100 factories with seven companies participating, including Tesco from the UK and the US giant Wal-Mart. Tony Henshaw, Chief Sustainability Officer of Aditya Birla – an Indian conglomerate whose businesses range from plantations to production of pulps and fibres through to retail brands – believes that the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), a trade organisation which represents more than a

Green Futures April 2014


Storm defence

Offshore wind farms and tidal lagoons may offer protection from the elements, as well as clean energy. Ibrahim Maiga reports.


Green Futures April 2014

of storm damage, with the cost of investment in fossil fuels. Turbines may also prove cheaper than erecting a seawall to protect from storm surge, the study finds, as the turbines pay for themselves through the energy they generate. Moreover, seawalls won’t prevent hurricane damage. On the other side of the Atlantic, where floods have alerted policy-makers to climate change risk, another development could see tidal lagoons deployed to both generate renewable energy and protect against flooding. Tidal Lagoon Power submitted an application to build the first tidal lagoon in the world in Swansea Bay. Construction could start in 2015, with power generated from 2018, providing power to 120,000 homes for 120 years – with an adaptation plan for likely sea level rise built into the design. Early consultations for further lagoons in Somerset, North Wales and the North West identified strong interest from local communities in the role that energy infrastructure of this kind may play in enhancing flood and coastal defences. The lagoon works much like a canal lock, keeping the enclosed water out of step with the sea level, and generating renewable energy by allowing water to flow downwards through the turbines. The seawall constructed to hem in the water would act as a barrier against flooding by increasing the hydraulic gradient – or the slope – any sea water would have to overcome to flood the land. During a storm surge, the lagoon operator could also hold water in the bay low while the seawall keeps surge water out. “Our intention is to supply 10% of the UK’s domestic electricity by building at least five full-scale tidal lagoons in UK waters by 2023, before the UK sees any generation from new nuclear”, said Mark Shorrock, CEO of Tidal Lagoon Power, which is considering optimising subsequent designs for flood defence. In the future, it’s possible that both offshore wind turbines and tidal lagoons will be staples of the climate change adaptation toolkit for coastal communities. For now, proof of concept remains the greatest hurdle. Ibrahim Maiga is a freelance writer on sustainability and entrepreneurship.

The ultimate insider’s view of corporate responsibility and ethics from the boardrooms of some of the world’s largest corporations


Lessons from the Front Line of Sustainability and Ethics

Mark Moody-Stuart

With Forewords by Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-General, and Sir Robert Wilson, KCMG, former Executive Chairman of Rio Tinto plc; former Chairman of BG Group plc Published by Greenleaf Publishing Available March 2014 366+xxii pp 234 x 156 mm hardback ISBN 978-1-906093-96-9 £25.00 €30.00 $40.00 PDF ebook ISBN 978-1-78353-077-9 £20.00 €25.00 $35.00 ePub ebook ISBN 978-1-78353-078-6 £20.00 €25.00 $35.00

Photo: Mimadeo/iStock/Thinkstock

the hurricane disSipates by the time it reaches the turbines

Evidence is mounting that certain renewable energy technologies can be deployed to defend against floods and storms. This would significantly change the investment case for those renewables. Modelling by Stanford Professor Mark Jacobsen published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, suggests that an array of 10,000 offshore wind turbines could cut hurricane wind speeds by up to 90 miles per hour by extracting kinetic energy from the outer winds. This reduces air flow to the hurricane’s centre, eventually slowing the hurricane and causing it to dissipate more rapidly. Jacobsen modelled the observed storm tracks and peak near-surface wind speeds for hurricanes Katrina, Isaac and Sandy both with and without wind turbines. He found that “offshore wind turbine arrays reduced storm surge by up to 34% for Sandy and 79% for Katrina, mainly owing to the average wind speed decreasing by up to 14% and 58% upwind of New York and New Orleans, respectively”. Jacobsen still has a way to go before convincing some peers of the results, including Professor Robert Falconer, Director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre in the Cardiff School of Engineering. “I find it hard to imagine that offshore wind farms would tame hurricanes. I would expect hurricanes to tear the wind farms to pieces”, says Falconer. Jacobsen counters that the paper acknowledges “the potential for turbine damage as an issue”, but the studies found that, “whether it’s in the Gulf Coast or East Coast, the hurricane actually dissipates by the time it reaches the turbines”. He adds that the modelling was based on current wind turbine designs, which cut out at very high wind speeds to prevent damage. However, even with a ‘cut-out speed’ of 34 metres per second (a standard setting), the turbines achieved “significant reductions in both wind speed and storm surge”. Such modelling, however successful, won’t make a case for investment per se. However, if the cost savings in hurricane avoidance, health and climate damage are taken into account, the investment in offshore wind turbines may compare favourably, for a region at risk

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is as qualified as anyone on the planet to discuss the realities, dilemmas and lessons to be learnt from the last 20 years of corporate engagement with sustainability, ethics and responsibility. In this unique book – part memoir, part confessional, part manifesto for leadership – we hear of dealings with dictators and prime ministers, colleagues and NGOs, rivals and friends. We travel from Syria to Nigeria; Iraq to Downing Street; and from the machinations of the United Nations to those inside the boardroom of Shell. We see Shell’s annus horribilis in 1995 unfold through the eyes of an insider, and how Brent Spar and the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa sent shockwaves through the company, resulting in a complete reappraisal of its mission and principles. We hear lessons from a life spent living in ten different countries and we come to realise that, for corporations, trying to do the right thing can sometimes be almost impossible. We also come to know a deeply ethical and thoughtful leader who has always tried to do exactly that.

RL_greenfutures_ad.indd 1

25/02/2014 14:55

Green Futures April 2014



Green Futures April 2014

of this Earth. ‘Sustainable living’ is simply a lifestyle where we attempt to take as little from the Earth as possible. The concept of reducing our carbon footprint is the more modern way of looking at this – as the world comes to realise that in many cases, humans have not used resources sparingly or wisely.” A simple enough concept, but Ruth is under no illusion that it is easy to implement. “One of the biggest challenges for businesses in pushing for sustainable development is that not everybody is going to get it right the first time. The movement is still gathering momentum and we are all trying to establish models and designs that are both sustainable and cost-effective; it is still very much in the experimental stage. Nor is it always easy to convince external stakeholders and individuals in the industry that discussions on sustainability should be at the top of the agenda in business strategy.” Yeoh joined her family business, YTL Group, in 2005 – 50 years after her grandfather started it. The company is now Malaysia’s biggest major infrastructure conglomerate, with over $3 billion in cash. Over 85% of its revenue comes from abroad, with extensive operations in Asia, Australia and the UK, where it owns the utility Wessex Water. In the early days it was a humble construction company, building low-cost housing and hospitals for the nation. For its founder Yeoh Tiong Lay, after whom the group is named, the business was a way of contributing to a wider, shared goal: building the nation. Serving the community and developing better living environments was the only way forward, and he passed this intention onto all seven of his children, including Ruth’s father. She confirms that it still comes through loud and clear: “My Father, and our Managing Director, Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh, consistently reminds us to be a ‘force for good’.” Little wonder, then, that Ruth – in contrast to many sustainability pioneers – found her ideas to protect the environment and serve the community “well accepted and embraced by the board, senior management and staff from the start”. She counts this a blessing, and recognises that she also had a lot to learn from them: “I am thankful for my mentors in the various business units who have been with the company for a long time and taught me about

Photo: Wessex Water

Ruth Yeoh: environmental evangelist

“One is an environmentalist whether one likes it or not.” So says Ruth Yeoh, Executive Director for YTL Singapore, Director at YTL’s inhouse carbon credit and clean development mechanism (CDM) consultancy, and winner of the inaugural Singapore Environmental Achievement Award, conferred by the Singapore Environmental Council in 2012. It’s a statement that many executive directors might struggle to endorse, and certainly to illustrate. For Ruth, it’s a question of corporate strategy, as well as personal belief. As she sees it, business is not only about survival but also about caring for your wider stakeholders, employees and their families. Being an environmentalist, she says, is “symbiotic” to this. She observes that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important topic in corporate boardrooms globally. For most, this is down to the ‘survival’ element: not only to ensure the resilience of supply chains and resources in the face of severe challenges, such as water shortages and crop failure, but also to keep up with regulation and abreast of the competitive edge that best practice brings. But it’s the ‘caring’ aspect that makes it part and parcel of life for Yeoh – something she believes should be instinctive, even if the finer details of making it work have to be learnt. She’s a Christian, and quick to attribute her own conviction to her faith, which is also that of her family. “I understand stewardship from biblical scripture: we are meant to be God’s stewards

Photo: YTL Corporation

Ruth Yeoh, Executive Director YTL Singapore, tells Anna Simpson why being an environmentalist isn’t a matter of choice.

test done in the UK. In addition, GENeco has set up the first food waste recycling and renewable energy facility in Bristol to help businesses and community in food waste management and reduce gas emissions from landfill. The biogas produced from the recycling is used to produce electricity and also power the Bio-Bug vehicle.” Wessex Water was awarded the “Queen’s Award for Enterprise and Sustainable Development” twice in recognition of its efforts. Given YTL’s global reach and sheer size, it’s clear to Ruth that the more it can collaborate to drive forward solutions, the more likely it is that such innovations will have an impact at scale. “We find that working cooperatively with NGOs and combining forces to roll out a shared vision in conservation helps us leverage our different skillsets and resources, so that we can apply them to projects we undertake worldwide”, Ruth observes. “The relationship between corporations and NGOs has evolved from one of conflict to cooperation. On the conservation front, for example, YTL has strategic partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, Rare Conservation and Reef Check Malaysia, among others. With Rare Conservation, we have developed the YTL-RARE Fellowship programmes throughout South East Asia, where we educate community leaders who will go on to create their own ‘mini’ campaigns for their communities.” Ruth was appointed as the youngest Board Member of Rare Conservation (a USbased non-profit) in 2008, with responsibilities in its Governance Committee. She is also a board member at Reef Check Malaysia, dedicated to protecting coral life in the Southeast Asian region, and works to develop environmental protection strategies in Asia in partnership with leaders and practitioners. As a Fellow at Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative, and a leader herself within a family business, she is particularly interested in the role of the next generation. For the last five years, she’s been involved in the Climate Change Week Youth Workshops. In 2010, she supported the launch of a book co-authored by Gabriel and Raphaelle Tseng, aged 14 and 11, which tells the story of ‘Billy the Plastic Bag’. These siblings will now be young adults, perhaps starting enterprises of their own… Anna Simpson is Editor, Green Futures.

leaders in the community should pay it forward

Strategic stewardship

energy-savings in operations.” With the support of the board, Ruth established the Environmental Division (now known as the Sustainability Division) – to find solutions across all the businesses to minimise the group’s impact, and set in place formal reporting mechanisms and sustainability targets, such as reducing emissions for the group. The Division also established a group-wide Sustainability Committee, bringing its global network of businesses together to share new innovations and report their sustainability efforts. This ‘show and share’ approach is both a mechanism for learning and for driving ambition – not just in the company but across all the sectors and geographies in which it operates. “One of the biggest themes we emphasise at YTL is environmental evangelism, and this is not geographically constrained. It involves educating the public about the environment but also placing responsibility on key leaders in the community to pay it forward. Personally, having led many sustainability initiatives in Malaysia and other parts of Asia, and also having visited our business operations around the world, I have observed that countries approach environmental sustainability in very different ways. For example, compared with Malaysia, where initiatives revolve around wildlife conservation, Singapore takes a different approach. Being somewhat of an urban jungle and land constrained, the country has managed to turn itself into a garden city with a good balance of both green and urban spaces. Orchard Road is a case in point. Although the area is Singapore’s most popular shopping district, the road is lined with trees and flowers.” For YTL, setting an example is not just about establishing the brand as a global leader but about bringing others along too. Ruth points to YTL Construction, which was recently awarded the Green and Gracious Builder Award, introduced by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority to set standards for green practice in the construction industry. She also speaks with some pride of YTL’s UK subsidiary, Wessex Water: “It was the first private company to publish an action plan in 1998, following the Rio Earth Summit, and to maintain it as a live document, routinely updated following changes to legislation – such as the UK Government’s Natural Environment White Paper and Biodiversity 2020.” During 2012, Ruth recounts, Wessex Water exceeded government targets for biodiversity recovery, through habitat management for birds, bats and bees on nearly 300 hectares of land that it manages which are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Wessex Water also works with farmers to help them manage their use of nitrates and pesticides to prevent contamination of drinking water sources, and in 2013 partnered with the South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project, working closely with farmers along a new pipeline route they are laying to protect some of the UK’s rarest farmland bird species. For Ruth, corporate stewardship needs to go hand in hand with government legislation to advance industry standards. But real leadership – beyond the incremental – requires continual innovation, she asserts. “Take Wessex Water’s subsidiary, GENeco. It has developed a Volkswagen Beetle vehicle that is powered by methane gas derived from human waste during the sewage treatment process. the first such

Wessex Water’s Bio-Bug runs on human waste

Green Futures April 2014



Forum for the Future’s Network is a global community of leaders, united by their ambition and capacity to create real and lasting change. For more information, visit


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Why grey needs to be the next green.

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Shell Foundation

Photo: Nick Woodford; Sydney James/Digital Vision/ Thinkstock by Getty Images

Since the last issue of Green Futures, Cathay Pacific, Novelis Inc, Julie’s Bicycle, Nice and Serious, The Walt Disney Company, The Hershey Company, McDonald’s, Sime Darby, Annie’s Inc, FrieslandCampina Nederland B.V., Clarks International, BioRegional and Kellogg Europe Trade Ltd have all joined the network and Kimberly-Clark Europe are now Pioneer partners.

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Green. Verdant, emblematic of life, the dominant colour of nature’s assets, upon which we are utterly reliant. But also problematic when it comes to describing a movement. While we continue to shovel all manner of aspirations for a fair, equitable and resource-solvent world under the umbrella of green, we continue to put many citizens off from doing anything differently at all. Why? Because, fair or not, green today has baggage. In its report ‘Mainstream Green’, published nearly two years ago, Ogilvy Earth presented one of the first sets of data from mainstream citizens that it thought green wasn’t very normal, and was definitely associated with granola-crunching hippies. Perhaps fair enough in the 80s, but not anymore. So green has a branding challenge. Many everyday folk can’t get past an expectation of having to give something up, possibly the mental equivalent of going to live in a cave without a candle, and the notion that green living could be desirable, nay aspirational, is, quite frankly, a bad joke. The ‘green movement’, and you could include Forum for the Future in that broad descriptor, has failed to mainstream green. The global eco watchdogs are still less than 10% of any consumer segmentation, ‘green’ products are expensive and too often don’t work as well as their counterparts. The mainstream benefit isn’t there. We know we need to reframe green. The conversation needs to be wider than environmental issues. Sustainability isn’t just an environmental story: it’s also about social wellbeing in all its complexity. Key to this grand rebrand is learning to love grey. Why grey? Surely grey is a dreary colour, not a beacon of vibrancy, not very remarkable. This is all true, but grey also has many, many shades – even making it sexy for some. One of the reasons mainstream society has not fallen in love with green is that there are way too many polarised views. GM is good. GM is bad. Flying is evil. Flying is necessary. Eating meat is terrible. Being a vegetarian is responsible. Polarisation isn’t great for building relationships. The song that goes “You like potatoes” comes to mind… Of course, every single one of us is entitled to an opinion. That’s what makes us sentient, interesting creatures. But being quite so black and white about issues means that if, as an individual, you haven’t formed a view, or you feel you don’t have enough

information to do so, ‘being green’ means adopting a whole set of opinions that you might not understand, never mind agree with. The result? No engagement at all. And the global greenies stay below 10% of the population. I’m not saying don’t use green at all (and yes, I know, this magazine is called Green Futures – an ongoing debate). But, perhaps, it’s time to accept that we live in a complex, messy system, with multiple dependencies and interrelationships, where there often isn’t black or white, just many shades of grey. For all of us passionate about the environment and committed to broader sustainability issues, I think it’s time to be more sophisticated in our analysis of what needs to happen to mainstream sustainability. It isn’t about making people feel guilty; it’s about us all becoming better system thinkers. Seeing the whole picture, spotting patterns in order to identify the best action to take, considering different time scales (short term and long term), taking the time to understand others’ view points, accepting that all models are wrong, but some are more useful than others, and, critically, learning to love ambiguity. Which means learning to love grey. Grey Futures anyone?

It’s time to be more sophisticated in our analysis of what needs to happen

New to the Forum Network

Sally Uren is CEO, Forum for the Future. @sallyuren

One direction, many shades

Green Futures April 2014


Starting out


Paul Miller describes his journey from student to start-up accelerator.

What did you learn from it? I realised that the way policies develop is as much down to organisational culture as it is to logic. Think tanks play a big part in their evolution, but in a more indirect way than I’d expected. They help to establish the context for more radical decisions to be made. I learnt not to underestimate how important this is.

Paul Miller Currently: Partner at Bethnal Green Ventures Class of: 1999-2000 People who have inspired me: Tim O’Reilly for urging techies to work on stuff that matters Organisations I most admire: Y Combinator for creating an amazing alumni network

Why did you choose the Forum Masters? I did physics at university but spent most of my time as an activist working on the Jubilee 2000 debt cancellation campaign. I came to see that, while campaigning is all well and

We want to be the best ‘tech for good’ investor in the world


Green Futures April 2014

How did you get into social enterprise? I started working as a researcher for Forum for the Future and then Demos but found myself attracted to techy start-ups like Google. After a while I realised it cost about the same to create a start-up as it did to write a pamphlet, and the costs were coming down. I wanted to start something that had a social impact, and started thinking, ‘Why isn’t there an eBay for education?’ – something to match people who want to teach with people who want to learn. With a group of friends, we set up School of Everything. It started out well: we won a competition for new start-ups and got some publicity and initial funding off the back of that. But we never made any money. We tried lots of different business models but none of them would work. Where did the idea for Bethnal Green Ventures come from? Through School of Everything I learnt that starting a new business is really hard work, and rather lonely – and also that you need

to test the business model before you invest in it. We went on to set up something called Social Innovation Camp, bringing people with ideas together. It was just at the time the terms ‘hackday’ or ‘barcamp’ were emerging. We started to build this great community, and we knew there was a world of social investment that might be interested in them, but there was no bridge between the two. That’s the aim of Bethnal Green Ventures, which has helped the likes of Good Gym, Mastodon C and Fairphone to get going. How does it work? Instead of picking a winner and investing £150,000, we choose ten potential startups to come along, invest £15,000 in each, and get them to work together and support each other – and then see which succeed. I like that idea that people start something together and then see it through together. At its most basic level, it means they’ve got something to talk about in the pub, but they also have a shared experience of learning something, and they teach each other on top of what they are taught. What are your plans for the future? My personal aspirations map onto BGV. We want to be the best ‘tech for good’ investor in the world. At the moment, we just do the really early bit, but over time we hope to invest further down the line. Do you have any advice for start-ups or investors? For start-ups: just try it. Work out what’s the least you could do to test your idea. If that works, then find some people to help you. For investors: take a risk. If you don’t there’ll be less innovation.

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How can we take transformative solutions to scale?

There isn’t time to think small or make the same mistakes


Green Futures April 2014

But there are also ‘soft’ barriers: cultural and human factors that can get in the way of change. Addressing complex challenges means working in new ways, sometimes managing complex and (very) long-term projects and relationships, with multiple stakeholders at different stages. You have to overcome the fear of these projects failing, and persuade people to commit to the process for the long haul. It can mean finding partners with the right skills and interest to take a solution forward, and overcoming the ‘not invented here’ syndrome that can be an issue for organisations that haven’t been involved from the start. Another barrier is the need for a better shared understanding of how to measure and value ‘impact’ itself, especially as qualitative, large-scale and systemic impact can be much harder to assess than quantitative, shorter-term ‘project deliverables’ or indicators. Edward Hanrahan, Director of ClimateCare agrees, but is optimistic that such questions are beginning to be addressed: “I think the government, the aid sectors and businesses are slowly moving more towards a more results-based system for development outcomes. This will help to catalyse this market for solutions, because it will give us an income stream to really compete for, and start to bring costs down through efficiencies.” There are some success stories to learn from, where different organisations and activities have come together to achieve wider systemic change. In public health, for example, concerted collaborative efforts successfully led to the global eradication of smallpox, and, more recently, multiple public and private sector interventions have driven through legislation to make smoke-free public spaces the new norm in developed economies, reducing smoking overall. Another notable success is increasing access to pro-poor, micro-level financial services – from the development of the Grameen bank in Bangladesh in the 1970s, providing micro-loans to millions and in particular to women, through to the recent success of mobile-phone based banking such as M-Pesa in Kenya and elsewhere. A further example is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’s work to build a market for sustainable fish, with a scheme that now covers more than 10% of all wild-caught seafood. Both Grameen and the MSC share a very deliberate approach to addressing a large-scale challenge, with a clear goal in mind of what success looks like (for the MSC, ultimately that’s 100% sustainable fishing of the world’s oceans).

Three ‘musts’ for change Drawing on what works well, and on the experiences of leading organisations around the

Photo: Omeproka

Floods, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, obesity, hunger, disease, inequality… Looking hard at the major pressures facing our global society, can we honestly say that all the time, money and effort put into making the world a better place are having enough impact? There’s no lack of professional, ambitious and experienced organisations focusing their expertise on the big sustainability and development challenges, from girls’ education and slum sanitation to access to clean energy or financial services. Many of them have been working on it for decades. Equally, there’s no lack of workable solutions, whether it’s solar lamps, micro-credit schemes or agro-forestry techniques. So what’s missing from the picture? This is the question that the Scaling Up Impact project, a collaboration between Forum for the Future and the Shell Foundation, has been trying to address over the past year, to better understand what achieving impact at scale really looks like and how to bring it about more effectively, by taking a deliberate, planned approach, both as individual organisations and collectively. Given the complexity, urgency and ripple effects of major issues, from climate change to obesity, any attempts to solve them need to be systemic: no single organisation or solution will get to the heart of it. And given the number of people affected, both now and in future, solutions need to become mainstream as quickly as possible. There isn’t time to think small or for everyone to make the same mistakes over and over: we need to get to a ‘new normal’, fast. In particular, Scaling Up Impact explores marketbased solutions. Businesses are increasingly feeling the consequences of global challenges, but also seeing the commercial opportunities in addressing them – from first-mover advantage to more resilient value chains and relationships at all levels. The need for systemic change offers businesses an ever greater role to play in scaling up viable solutions that combine positive social and environmental impact with financial success. Scaling Up Impact draws on the insights of a wealth of existing research and analysis (see, for example, Oxfam America’s work on market-based approaches, Shell Foundation’s report on enterprise solutions, or insights from the Business Innovation Facility) to provide practical ways to overcome the barriers to progress, for both the more experienced and those new to this agenda. These barriers can be very practical ones – for example, designing pilot initiatives to test specifically for how solutions will work at scale; making a different kind of business case for investment or for collaboration between businesses when competition is the norm; or securing financing for very long-term projects with unclear or uncertain later stages.

want to bridge what some see as the ‘innovation frontier’ by bringing environmental, social and commercial impact together. As Chris West says, “We certainly couldn’t do this alone. If you want to achieve lasting global impact you need to take a systemic approach to test new ideas and to build new markets around those that work – and that means looking beyond short-term projects to far more effective forms of cross-sector collaboration.” So what next? Forum is using all these insights to build and share simple tools and guidance to help others take a more deliberate approach when bringing market-based solutions to scale. Anna Birney, Head of Forum’s System Innovation Lab says, “We’ve seen a clear need to broker new kinds of partnerships and collaborations for collective action. We’re exploring how to do this in very practical ways, enabling businesses, foundations and others to come together around these complex challenges for greater collective impact, at scale, faster.” Anna Birney and Geraldine Gilbert lead the Scaling Up Impact project at Forum for the Future. Find out more:

It is essential to build markets for these solutions

Aiming for impact

world, the Scaling Up Impact project has identified three areas that require concerted activity if marketbased solutions are to reach scale: generating better products and services; building and enabling markets around those products and services; and addressing the wider context through market acceleration. Collective experience shows that only addressing one of these areas on its own will not be enough to guarantee scale, however well it’s done. So what do we mean by ‘better products and services’? An important factor is designing individual solutions with scale in mind, by improving existing products and services or deliberately disrupting the status quo. It also means raising the bar across the whole market through standards and ratings. For example, Envirofit, in partnership with the Shell Foundation, designs clean cookstoves to tackle indoor air pollution in emerging markets, while the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves drives the development of international standards to push the whole cookstove sector in the right direction. It is then essential to build markets for these solutions and increase access to them, for example by making them easy for others to replicate, or by piggy-backing on existing infrastructure and resources. It will also mean looking at particular raw materials or processes in supply chains, and creating ‘market pull’ by encouraging demand or changing consumer behaviours. As Chris West, Director of the Shell Foundation, explains: “Social innovation does not happen easily and achieving scale or replication at an industry level is rare. With clean cookstoves [and Envirofit], designing a product that low-income consumers both wanted and could afford was simply not enough; we needed to build an entirely new value chain to foster demand, reach rural customers and solve a host of other barriers to achieve any sort of scale.” Targeted partnerships can help cut roll-out costs. Unilever’s recent Lifebuoy hygiene education programmes weren’t proving cost-effective. By working with strategic partners, from the health ministry in Indonesia to UNICEF, Unilever has been able to cut programme costs by a factor of 10, and therefore take the impact of Lifebuoy soap on health and hygiene challenges to a much greater scale. Finally, market acceleration might involve collaborations and coalitions that catalyse change across an issue or an industry, or influence the broader policy or regulatory context through advocacy and campaigns. Take the global Sustainable Shipping Initiative, which brings together the designers, owners, users and beneficiaries of the shipping world to drive improvements across the entire industry, or LAUNCH, the collaboration between Nike, USAID and NASA that’s revolutionising the materials industry, by incubating innovations and influencing the wider market to take them to scale. While there’s plenty more work to be done, the team behind Scaling Up Impact has uncovered an encouraging appetite for systemic approaches and collective impact, among foundations, government, NGOs and businesses, that recognise the need to work more collaboratively with others to succeed, and have a real drive to do so. Foundations are keen to be more than funders while supporting solutions that can be financially self-sustaining; businesses

Taking the humble cookstove to scale requires great design, international standards and market pull

Green Futures April 2014


Seafood Expo Global puts spotlight on sustainable fishing.

Ecover is working with algae to produce sustainable oils for surfactants

You have to overcome mental hurdles to live bacteria in products


Ever since Ecover released its first phosphate-free products over three decades ago, the company has been at the forefront of pursuing solutions to our cleaning needs that don’t pollute waterways or place ecosystems under strain. To succeed, the company must not only innovate in their own goods but also to establish a competitive market for sustainable products. For Dirk Develter, Head of Research and Development at Ecover, this means that engaging and educating consumers is just as important as the rigorous process of product improvement. But how do you do both at once? Develter describes Ecover’s approach: it’s a constant back-and-forth between the company’s ambitions, the consumers’ expectations, partners and collaborators in the industry, and the best available technology in the lab. The goal is always to meet their customers’ expectations of quality products with minimal environmental impacts, but there’s a constant iteration and reiteration of the way there. For Develter, this is inspired by the endless nature of evolution: if you remain open to the possibility of new directions which offer real benefits, you’re more likely to survive. It’s not just about finding substitutes that offer incremental improvements in an established framework; it’s about experimenting with the best available technology, in whatever guise it comes. Take surfactants, for example. Traditionally, these have been made using oil from petroleum, or tropically sourced palm oils, which come with a significant transport-related carbon footprint as well as issues of deforestation. In 2009, Ecover established oilseed rape as a viable alternative, one whose ability to be grown globally vastly reduces the need for transportation – but it is now working towards an even better solution, producing oils from micro organisms such as algae or bacteria. These can not only be grown locally but avoid competition for the same land space as food crops. This development is already entering the product lines, with soaps made by these algae; additional surfactants are in the pipeline.

Green Futures April 2014

In the R&D lab, Ecover also turns to nature for inspiration, seeking to recreate the kinds of efficient biological reactions which rarely require high temperatures, hazardous chemicals or fundamentally unsustainable processes. One interesting angle the company is pursuing involves the use of probiotic cleaners. These products would actually contain live micro-organisms as the active ingredient – ones which are extremely proactive in the presence of stains or dirt, but completely benign otherwise. This is where education becomes a crucial part of the innovation process. If you want to get cleaning products containing live bacteria into people’s homes, you first have to overcome the mental hurdles established over many years of adverts claiming a product ‘kills 99.9% of all bacteria’, without ever stopping to ask whether those bacteria could work in our favour. Develter realises this is calling for a big shift in what ‘clean’ means to people: “We would prefer to have a more symbiotic approach, in which we favour good bacteria and good microorganisms, rather than having to kill off everything that lives.” The difference the company is trying to make spans public education and market-shaping goals. Past campaigns have aimed to shift behaviour on waste, and remind consumers that what they discard can come back – in their tap water, for instance. One current topic on Ecover’s educational agenda is in the correct usage of their products: how to avoid too large a dose. Even with an environmentally friendly cleaner, using too much is wasteful – or as Develter puts it: “Just because you are using a green product, it does not mean you are doing a green thing. The way that you use the product is just as important.” Ecover is also working on a ‘water-less’ range, destined for release next year. The aim is to counter the general market trend from powdered to liquid-based laundry products – a transition which, while popular, demands larger volumes of packaging, which is often less recyclable due to the need to be water-tight, and a weightier product to transport, per number of washes. Liquid format also makes it easier for the end-user to accidentally waste the product, Develter believes. By contrast, Ecover’s water-less products will be lighter to transport and require significantly less packaging. It’s an innovation that links neatly to the company’s interest in the efficiency of nature: why carry water if you can access it on demand? But to get such a product out of the lab and into people’s lives, the end users have to see the benefits too. By adding an ‘E’ for education to its R&D process, Ecover hopes to open minds to new meanings for ‘clean’. – Ian Randall Ecover is a Forum for the Future partner.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Creating a new market for sustainable cleaning products means research, development and education.

Photo: defun/iStock/Thinkstock

Show and tell Seafood Expo Global, the world’s largest seafood trade event, takes place on 6-8 May in Brussels. Around 25,000 buyers, suppliers and processing-industry professionals from over 140 countries are set to attend, and between them the 1,690 exhibiting companies supply nearly every type of seafood imaginable. As Kate Wilcox, Corporate Affairs Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) says, the reason this event is so vast is partly down to the value of the global seafood trade: $217.5 billion in 2010, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. It employs, in primary harvesting and processing, around 200 million people worldwide – and that’s before you take into account more upstream employment like making and mending boats and nets, and downstream employment in the retail sector. In short, a big industry needs a big event to do it justice. But what does such an event do for the industry, particularly as it faces growing pressure to ensure fish stocks are healthy for the future? For one, it provides an opportunity for key people from across the global supply chain to meet face-to-face, discovering new products, approaches and industry trends. One trend is the continued rise of MSC certification. More than 22,000 seafood products that can be traced back to certified sustainable fisheries now bear the MSC ecolabel, and representatives from many of the world’s 221 MSCcertified fisheries will attend this year’s show. The fishing industry is a “truly global trade”, says Wilcox, which is why it’s so important to have an ecolabel that transcends national borders. Without efforts to make the industry more sustainable as a whole, there’s a danger that fish stocks could get to a tipping point where recovery is no longer an option, she adds. “Our programme is a bulwark against that. It enables rational management to take place, and for the seafood business, the supply chain, to be able to choose from verified, sustainable fisheries and keep feeding a growing world while generating wealth and value.” Wilcox believes that one of the reasons shows like Seafood Expo Global are particularly valuable is that “people are really willing to do business – to conclude contracts and push things along. So if you are trying to create a tipping point in favour of a particular policy, then this is a good place to do it – not least because people have invested quite a lot in getting there, and in being there, so they want to come away with maximum value from it.” Henk Brus, CEO of Sustunable, an international supplier of sustainably caught tuna, says Seafood Expo Global also provides an opportunity for different sectors of the seafood industry to compare

notes on their involvement with the MSC certification programme. “Many people tend to think very much within their own sector”, he says, “so it’s good to see what activities are being undertaken in other markets, and how these markets are reacting.” The MSC aims to use the ecolabel and fishery certification programme to recognise and reward sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and to work with its partners to transform the seafood market – an ambition which will be reiterated during its Commercial Market Update at Seafood Expo Global. Ultimately, it envisages a world where the oceans teem with life, and seafood supplies are safeguarded for generations to come. The successful MSC certification of a Russian pollock fishery in September last year illustrates how the MSC’s theory of change works. A number European buyers, hoping to supplement their existing supplies of MSC-certified pollock from an Alaskan fishery, worked alongside WWF and the Russian Federal Fishing Agency to demonstrate to the Russian fishery that it would command a better price for its product, as well sell more fish in the global market, if it also joined the MSC’s programme. As Wilcox says, “That is the kind of example we would hope seafood buyers and fisheries in Brussels are going to take note of, and think, ‘There’s something here for us too’.” – Duncan Jefferies Marine Stewardship Council is a Forum for the Future partner.

An expo is a good place to create a tipping point

Clean means

The Seafood Expo Global brings together 25,000 seafood professionals

Green Futures April 2014


UK radar study shows offshore wind turbines pose little threat to migrating geese.

Bupa’s £20 million Energy Saver Fund offers returns for people, planet and the bottom line.

The main migration route for the geese has moved to one side of the turbines

Tens of thousands of pink-footed geese migrate past the turbines each year

Iceland and Greenland. In 2007, a year before the first two of the three wind farms came into operation, researchers began to study their migratory patterns. Radar tracks from the first four years of the study show the main migration route for the geese has moved to one side of the turbines. The birds then continue south to their overwintering site in Norfolk. “They tend to fly either around the wind farms or over the top”, says Simms, who believes that the study is unlikely to alter the siting of wind farms, but feels “it might make the consenting process easier”. The study is now in what is likely to be its final year, making it the longest project of its kind, generating an unprecedented amount of detail about the behaviour of birds around wind farms. Past studies of migrating birds have relied on a combination of military data, which is less sensitive, or weather radar, which can only pick up general information on flock height and direction, backed up by visual identification during daylight hours – but migration often takes place at night. Eagles have been hit by wind turbines in the US and Norway, generating considerable publicity in the process. However, Simms says: “Our empirical evidence shows that while that might happen, we have 80,000 birds that are migrating each year and avoiding the turbines. This study is putting a knowledge base out there that birds do avoid wind farms without changing their migratory route.” UK bird charity and lobbying group the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which initially opposed most onshore wind farm planning applications, has become more selective in recent years, focusing on the need to identify appropriate sites for turbine arrays, so that they don’t damage wildlife. “We don’t know enough yet about bird behaviour and wind farms”, says Nik Shelton, a spokesperson for the RSPB. “But we are gathering evidence, and studies like this one sound like exactly the sort of thing we need.” For Simms, another potential upshot from the study could be the ability to monitor the longer-term effects of climate change on migratory patterns in all weathers and at all times of day. “The use of radar to add to empirical evidence of sightings can be a useful additional tool to help develop an understanding of how bird migration timings, patterns and even routes are being affected by climate change”, he says. “If the radar study was carried out for another 20 years, we would be able to see the detailed changes that are going on.” – Jeremy Lovell AMEC is a Forum for the Future partner.


Green Futures April 2014

While an increasing number of companies are coming to recognise the long-term benefits of environmentally responsible practices, it’s impossible for them to invest significantly in such practices unless there is a coherent business case for doing so. The good news is that such a business case exists, in part thanks to the growing recognition that carbon-based sources of electricity are only going to get more expensive, while the cost of installing renewables is already coming down. With that in mind, companies from Microsoft to Boeing to Phillips now measure the monetary value that sustainable practices bring to their businesses. Leading international healthcare group Bupa has used such evidence to build a strong case for investment in energy-saving measures, establishing a £20 million Energy Saver Fund to invest in carbon reduction projects during 2014. This will help it to meet its public commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 20% by 2015, against a 2009 baseline. Not only does this fit with Bupa’s mission to have a big impact on world health, with a positive impact on the environment, supporting Bupa’s purpose to deliver longer, healthier, happier lives – it will also save the company money. David Bent, Director of Sustainable Business at Forum for the Future, outlines the advantages: “With the demands that come with running a large organisation, it’s easy to miss the profit opportunities that come with projects that reduce carbon. Often when companies look closely, they realise that saving carbon provides good, if not better, rates of return. If something gives you a good return and it is the right thing to do, then why wouldn’t you?” Bupa admits that its performance to date against its 20% carbon emissions reduction target has been slow. Recognising this, it held a companywide workshop in November 2013 to discuss energy-saving options. It was here that CEO Stuart Fletcher helped turn the concept of a central funding mechanism for direct, on-site carbon reduction projects into a reality, leading to the announcement of the Bupa Energy Saver Fund the following month. Applicants from Bupa’s global offices must meet tight criteria around payback, speed of implementation and carbon impact. The majority of the £20 million fund has now been allocated, to speed the implementation of carbon reduction projects from Miami to Manchester over the coming year, including LED lighting, CHP and solar projects. Bupa’s sustainability work prior to the implementation of the Energy Saver Fund includes a care home in Caulfield, Australia, which achieved a reduction

in use of 10,000kWh of electricity between 2011 and 2012, or Aus $12,000 (£7,000), through measures such as roof insulation and energy use monitoring. In England, the installation of new LED light technologies at Care Services’ Richmond House offices has reduced lighting consumption by 9,000kWh, representing a £1,000 annual saving. Richmond House has been used to test the lighting technology and to monitor the savings for a wider roll out across other Bupa offices globally. Bupa expects that the Energy Saver Fund, along with other measures already in place, will drive rapid action towards meeting its 2015 goal, affirming its position as a significant global player in corporate carbon reduction. Its ambition was recognised late last year with the award of the Carbon Trust Standard, a global certification scheme for commitment to measuring, managing and reducing carbon footprints. Bupa is one of only a handful of companies to achieve this standard globally, and the first private healthcare company to do so. According to Bupa’s Chief Financial Officer, Evelyn Bourke, sustainable energy measures go hand in hand with beneficial economic impacts: “Long-term growth can’t be separated from economic, social, health and environmental issues. As well as being the right thing to do for the planet and health, the Bupa Energy Saver Fund also makes business sense: we can cut costs and enhance efficiency, mitigate risk, open up new competitive and revenue opportunities, drive innovation and develop our employees. It really is a win all round.” – Tess Riley

Warmth for wellbeing: Care Services invests in a new pipe and boiler service for the 100-yearold Southlands Nursing and Residential Home

we can cut costs, enhance efficiency, mitigate risk, drive innovation

One of the major considerations any wind farm application must overcome is the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The effect the development might have on local and migratory birds is a key part of this process, and similar concerns can also hamper the expansion of an established wind farm, as happened recently with the London Array. (The second phase of the project has been scrapped due to uncertainty about its impact on the local red-throated diver population, a decision which will greatly reduce the array’s proposed capacity.) However, a recent radar study of a group of wind farms off the coast of Lincolnshire in eastern England found little evidence that the turbines have harmed the tens of thousands of pink-footed geese that migrate past them each year, giving hope to developers that this stage of the wind farm consenting process could become easier to navigate in future. “The study has implications for geese species in general and the way that they avoid wind farms”, says Ian Simms of engineering services company AMEC, which carried out the latest year of study for Centrica Energy in autumn 2013. “But it also has implications for bird monitoring and the effects of wind farms in general.” The pre-construction EIA for the Lincolnshire wind farms listed 78 bird species in the area, of which the migratory pink-footed goose is the one of the most sensitive: it is protected under UK and EU law. Almost 90% of the world’s population overwinter in the UK from breeding grounds in

Photo: CS UK

Cash back

Photo: Richard Taylor Jones

Flight path

Bupa is a Forum for the Future partner.

Green Futures April 2014


Carbon finance puts Jaguar Land Rover on the fast lane to delivering change.

The key to delivering change on such an immense scale? Carbon finance


Green Futures April 2014

Will Simpson is a freelance writer specialising in environmental change. ClimateCare is a Forum for the Future partner.

The largest carbon finance project that Jaguar Land Rover has supported so far is the LifeStraw Carbon for Water project in Kenya. By purchasing all the carbon credits generated from the Busia region of the project Jaguar Land Rover has supported provision of safe water to over 700,000 people and funded a carbon reduction equivalent to that generated by UK manufacturing assembly for one year. How does it work? Free LifeStraw Family water filters were distributed to households in the region by global health company, Vestergaard. These filters use no electricity and, crucially, mean that local people no longer have to collect firewood to boil their water, thereby reducing carbon emissions. The project is monitored closely. Every household that is given a water filter is logged by number and geographic location, and checked by a third party. The carbon reductions are independently verified by the Gold Standard Foundation, before being paid for by Jaguar Land Rover. A report expected later this year will detail some of the health benefits being delivered, but Morton has already seen the difference for himself: “You can go to any household and you will hear the same story again and again: families are no longer getting diarrhoea, they are not getting worms or diseases such as typhoid, their babies are healthier.” This project is proving transformative for the community, and the aspirations of people living there. “My children are now able to go to school when in good health“, says local mother Sarah Abwire. “The money I used to spend in hospital I now use to pay their school fees. The remaining money I use for household needs, such as buying seeds for planting and washing soap for my family.” Talk about value for money…

Jaguar Land Rover has supported provision of safe water to over 700,000 people

Find out more at

Photo: Jaguar Land Rover

Can a motor manufacturer make a difference to millions of lives? That is the goal of Jaguar Land Rover, which set an ambitious target to improve health, reduce poverty and create new opportunities for employment and education for 12 million people around the world by the end of this decade. It’s no pie-in-the-sky goal: the difference will be felt by people living in communities with particular development goals – such as the need for safe water. These are being identified in collaboration with ClimateCare, with the Busia region of Kenya first on the list [see box, ‘Water for Busia’]. Consistent measurement frameworks are being agreed with the London Benchmarking Group to help report the impact consistently across a variety of projects and global locations. The key to delivering change on such an immense scale? Carbon finance. Traditionally, carbon finance is a method of offsetting emissions through investment in clean energy solutions. For ClimateCare, the climate and development organisation which has worked with Jaguar Land Rover since 2007, it’s about going a step further, and using this money to both cut carbon emissions and fund community development. “Really it’s bringing a new source of finance to projects that wouldn’t otherwise happen without that revenue”, explains Tom Morton, Director of ClimateCare. Through ClimateCare, Jaguar Land Rover has supported 50 climate and development projects in 17 countries around the world, cutting

Photo: Jaguar Land Rover

In Busia, access to clean water means more money for household needs and education

10 million tonnes of carbon emissions and improving the lives of 2 million people. “We wanted to learn from our experience to date and set ourselves a challenge to do more”, explains Jonathan Garrett, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Jaguar Land Rover. He plans to make smart use of carbon finance to both cut carbon and as a cost effective means to deliver almost half the new target and create opportunities for five million people by 2020. A further 5 million people will be engaged through humanitarian, conservation and environmental projects and 2 million through educational initiatives. As well as delivering on the new target, this remains an important part of Jaguar Land Rover’s wider carbon reduction strategy. Since 2007, the group has reduced CO2 emissions by 21% per vehicle produced, and cut waste to landfill by 75% per vehicle. While identifying ways to reduce the impact of production, the company continues to operate one of the world’s largest carbon offset programmes, covering the entire manufacturing assembly process. “At the moment, 20% of the company’s total emissions can be traced to this production process”, explains Garrett. “The remaining 80% occur in the use phase of our vehicles. Obviously we are focused on trying to reduce these, and that’s where new stop-start technology, light-weight materials and more fuel efficient engines come in”. But reducing manufacturing emissions, particularly in older plants, takes time. “Although we work on reducing energy use in the first place, there is still a residual element of carbon-related emissions from the factory. So we created the offset programme to help negate those emissions, by advancing low-carbon solutions in another part of the world.” So this is how supporting climate and development projects fits into the carbon reduction strategy at Jaguar Land Rover, but how do you choose the smartest way to use your budget, with a specific focus on creating measurable new opportunities for people, as well as carbon reductions? Water is an obvious area to make a big impact. “If you want to do a hard-nosed, ‘best value for money’ life-improvement calculation, then water projects come out on top,” Garrett affirms. “It’s because there are a whole load of other benefits that flow on from access to water: including improved health and increased economic productivity. Clean water projects are very cost-effective.” For funders like Jaguar Land Rover, the business case for supporting integrated climate

Water for Busia

Value added

and development projects goes beyond mere brand development. “Some of the companies we work with measure value in other ways, including an increase in staff engagement and retention”, says Robert Stevens of ClimateCare. “And because many of the projects are in developing countries, supporting them can help businesses make partnerships and demonstrate support for local communities. For instance, supermarket chains might want to support projects in regions that play a significant role in their supply chain. There is also an element of reassuring investors that a company is working responsibly and understands the risks associated with climate change.” And of course, there is a simple value for money argument. Climate and development projects deliver multiple outcomes which help companies streamline and focus activity, and make it possible to demonstrate progress towards multiple targets through one initiative. “It’s a win-win” explains Garrett. “It also fits with our new parent company Tata: the Indian business model gives back to communities in a big way, so with the Tata group 60% of the profits go back to community-related philanthropic projects”. Jaguar Land Rover’s support for climate and development projects is an integrated part of a wellestablished corporate social responsibility programme, which saw it awarded Responsible Business of the Year 2013 by Business in the Community. Supporting the entire Busia area of the LifeStraw Carbon for Water project is Jaguar Land Rover’s largest carbon finance initiative to date, but only a first step in the expansion of its programme. “Our work with ClimateCare is going to teach us all some interesting lessons that will help us design and deliver the most effective climate and development projects”, says Garrett. “We aim to deliver bigger projects and also build on existing methodologies to measure positive impacts in communities. Hopefully”, he adds, “this will inspire other companies to do the same.”

Green Futures April 2014



Organised by:


Feedback You mention the significant volumes of animal or plant waste that make farms an obvious place to turn to for biofuel. Not to mention the added benefits of diverting manure and fertiliser runoff that plagues our waterways! – Nick Aster Tess Riley writes that “Our food system generates roughly a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, in large part due to agriculture’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.” Really? That kinda blows my mind. Can someone explain? – Darius MC


Farming for what? 29 APRIL: Planners workshop Site visit to Hawton Solar Farm

30 APRIL - 1 MAY: Large Scale Solar UK conference Networking drinks reception

On 29 April, Solar Media will host a planners’ workshop to discuss planning large-scale solar projects of the future and the importance of involving the local community in future solar developments. This will be followed by a site visit to a local solar park.

Conference programme will focus on: • Solar market drivers in 2014 • The importance of site selection • Post subsidy solar • Unlocking and enabling more development • Responsible management of your asset • Utilities and grids

Local authority & parish council planners attend for free








Green Futures April 2014


In response to Tess Riley’s feature arguing that renewable energy can make farms financially viable [see GF Special Edition ‘Energy Culture’, p 10-11], we must not forget that the main purpose of farming is to produce food for the nation. The fact that farmers cannot make a living from growing food for an increasingly urban population should make us very concerned. All food is grown in the ground, so the more ground is taken up with other uses, the less there is for food production. The fact that we are being encouraged to look to different foods grown abroad makes us vulnerable to climate change, which is hitting food production in some areas of the world. We only have to look at the floods in the UK at the moment to realise that whole crops have been lost or will have a reduced harvest. – Brian Tucker

Green Futures responds: This figure, which comes from the World Resources Institute, is the subject of some debate. The food system does have a significant footprint; factors include industrial input and changes in land use (causing deforestation, for instance). However, such a statistic can be misleading, and you are right to question it.

Schooled savings

Great piece by Martin Wright on community energy. Generation Community has launched a £1 million solar PV project, Staffordshire Sunny Schools. In the current marketplace, the USPs include: free electricity for schools; setting up two community benefit societies, and a new community fund from the sales of any excess. We’re also building a social impact plan to engage the managers of the premises in energy behaviour at school. – Andy Heald, Director, Generation Community Ltd

Join the debate @GreenFutures Comments may be edited for publication.

Wealth for wellbeing

As Anna Simpson correctly sees in ‘Family valued’ [GF91, p16], we need to nurture people for long-term prosperity. I have observed that in India we generally want to save and create wealth for our future generations. To create wealth is one thing, but in order to enjoy it and live happily it’s important to have the blessings of knowledge and wisdom: otherwise we end up in poor health, bad habits, wars of ego and so on. – Naveen Khajanchi, CEO & Director, NKH Foundation Pvt Ltd

Reader survey

Last year we conducted a reader survey to get your thoughts on Green Futures. We wanted to know what you love to read, what you would like to see more of, and how we can make Green Futures better for you. The results taught us a lot. Many of you told us that you enjoy the positive solutions to sustainability challenges that Green Futures offers: 25% of respondents said they value the quality of the content, and 14.6% admired the magazine’s inspiring insights into innovation. You also asked us for a greater variety of interactive, digital content, with 48% of readers preferring to access content via the web. We’re working on this so that we can offer more debate around the big questions, and a better sense of how the trends and innovations uncovered could add up in the future. Watch this space.

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Green Futures April 2014


Soil is the bedrock of national security


A couple of weeks after the torrential rain in the south west of England earlier this year, I had to go to Exeter, with the train from Bristol diverted the long way round via Bath and Warminster. It was a fine day, with the late afternoon sun glinting off what looked like stunningly beautiful lakes, sometimes stretching all the way to the horizon. The birdlife was extraordinary, half-submerged trees and hedgerows alien and dramatic. It’s April now, and both the flood waters and the intensity of the debate have subsided. Dredging in one or two key places started as soon as water levels had returned to something resembling normality, with the Government intent on demonstrating that it was finally ‘getting on top of the problem’. Such dredging is more or less symbolic – in that it won’t make much of a difference one way or the other when such an intensity of rainfall occurs again. It’s a short-term solution with a misleading focus: what those dredgers are taking out of the rivers is soil – washed off the surrounding hills and fields. Although local farmers were most vociferous in their demand for the dredging to start, it’s actually the soil from their fields that is causing the problem. As commentator George Monbiot said at the time: “It’s like trying to empty the bath while the taps are still running.” Most of those farmers know that. And over a pint of good Somerset cider, they will even acknowledge that the millions of pounds a year which will be needed to get that soil back out of the rivers and waterways would be much better spent upstream, keeping the ground in place on their fields, where its nutrients are needed. But that’s not how farming subsidies work: in effect, they’re being incentivised to farm in such a way that their soil inevitably ends up in the rivers. So what would it mean to deploy those budgets to fix the soil upstream? It would mean restoring both upland and lowland wetlands, replanting woodlands and hedgerows in the uplands, and ‘de-canalising’ some stretches of river to recreate meanders and oxbow lakes. It would mean paying farmers to store water on their fields, incentivising them back to springtime sowing rather than in winter (which leaves the soil exposed in the rainy season), and an end to growing maize in all areas particularly at risk. And all that means resisting the bullying tactics of the National Farmers’ Union to ensure that public money is only used to

Green Futures April 2014

secure public benefits, not unsustainable private gain. Apart from a few articles by environmentalists, this whole upstream/downstream dimension was largely absent during the floods. But just at the point when the flood water started to subside, Labour leader Ed Miliband stirred himself into making a powerful intervention, asserting categorically that the floods should be seen as a direct consequence of accelerating climate change. And he accused the Coalition Government of allowing the UK to “sleepwalk into a national security crisis”. A powerful political soundbite, but he didn’t elaborate. He didn’t explicitly draw out the links between accelerating climate change, flooding, soil and national security. But soil is the bedrock of national security. Any society intent on sustaining itself indefinitely into the future will always have regard to its ability to feed itself; global trade in agriculture exempts us from having to achieve 100% self-sufficiency, but at just 60%, the UK has no reason to feel complacent. Especially as current farming practices continue to erode that bedrock. Even the most evangelistic free marketeers in the UK, focused as they are on reducing the size of the state, would still subscribe to the idea that security remains an absolute prerogative of the state. If you buy into the idea that national security means a lot more than the percentage of GDP spent on defence through one’s armed forces, then you might logically ask why such an infinitesimally small amount of government spending is devoted to soil science. The irony of this was brought home to me very powerfully when Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence, visited the Somerset Levels at the height of the floods. He talked a lot about investing in flood defences downstream (glossing over the cuts made by his government at the Environment Agency), but said nothing about investing in flood mitigation upstream by changing farming practices. So what does all this mean for the Somerset Levels? The risk of severe, increasingly frequent flooding is now so high that even moving our flood defences upstream may be unlikely to protect the Levels in the long term. Significant investment may still be required in big engineering projects downstream. And as costs rise, society may well decide that it would make more sense to ‘let the Levels go’. But that traumatic moment of truth will come a great deal sooner if we stick to our reactive, short-term downstream mindset. Increased resilience and security depends entirely on shifting those mindsets upstream as soon as possible. Jonathon Porritt is Founder-Director, Forum for the Future. His latest book, The World We Made, is available to buy from

Photo: Nick Woodford / Forum for the Future


Green Futures April 2014



LIVEABLE AND SUSTAINABLE CITIES: COMMON CHALLENGES, SHARED SOLUTIONS The World Cities Summit is the exclusive and premier platform for government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share integrated urban solutions and forge new partnerships.


Will Mayors Rule the World?

Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Lecture

Making Plans into Reality

Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize Forum

Innovative Urban Solutions for Liveable & Future-Ready Cities

Plenary 1 : The Next Urban Decade Critical Challenges & Opportunities

Building Resilient Cities

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Safe & Liveable Cities Future Mobility

In-Focus Forums: China, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America


Peter Brabeck-Letmathe Chairman, Nestlé SA

Cheong Koon Hean CEO, Housing & Development Board, Singapore

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Secretary General, OECD

Aníbal Gaviria Correa Mayor, Medellin, Republic of Colombia

Patricia de Lille

Executive Mayor, Cape Town, Republic of South Africa

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No92 - April 2014  
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