US Administration takes steps to combat antibiotic resistance

Yesterday President Obama issued an Executive Order which begins, or restarts, the battle against antibiotic resistance. Given the widespread use of antibiotics not only for maintenance of human health but also as animal growth promotants and in household, commercial, industrial, and institutional products, the future of US initiatives should be of interest to a wide range of sectors in Canada and may point the direction of future Canadian initiatives.

The President’s Executive Order puts in place processes which could lead to new regulations and codes limiting the use of antibacterials. The time frames are quite short. In summary, the steps the US is taking in this important field include:

  • making combatting antibiotic-resistant bacteria a national security priority.
  • establishing an inter-agency Task Force to identify actions that will provide for the facilitation and monitoring of implementation of this order and the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. By February 15, 2015, the Task Force shall submit a 5-year National Action Plan (Action Plan) to the President that outlines specific actions to be taken to implement the Strategy.
  • establishment of a Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to provide advice, information, and recommendations regarding programs and policies intended to: preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by optimizing their use; advance research to develop improved methods for combating antibiotic resistance and conducting antibiotic stewardship; strengthen surveillance of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections; prevent the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections; advance the development of rapid point-of-care and agricultural diagnostics; further research on new treatments for bacterial infections; develop alternatives to antibiotics for agricultural purposes; maximize the dissemination of up-to-date information on the appropriate and proper use of antibiotics to the general public and human and animal healthcare providers; and improve international coordination of efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.
  • new regulations will be recommended to require hospitals and other inpatient healthcare delivery facilities to implement robust antibiotic stewardship programs that adhere to best practices.
  • the US will engage in international action to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the development of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance.

The complete Executive Order is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/18/executive-order-combating-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria

Innovative thinking about a hotel product

At least one Vancouver B.C. hotel has implemented an innovative lodging product. While most major hotels now offer the option of a guest choosing to not have sheets and towels changed every day the Lonsdale Quay Hotel at the SeaBus terminal in North Vancouver has implemented a room rate which gives the guest a big saving on their room rate if they choose not to have daily housekeeping service.

Under the hotel’s Eco Discount Package, the hotel offers “We’ll have fresh sheets ready for you, and clean them when you leave. No Housekeeping Service during your stay…great savings for you and the planet!” The package is for a 3 night minimum stay but the savings are quite awesome. For example, for five days at the end of October the Eco Discount Package rate is $85 per room per night compared to a rack rate of $200 and a super saver rate of $110.

Locking in the ‘no housekeeping’ obviously saves the hotel a chunk of money but passing those savings on to the client is something that not only helps to save water and energy involved in laundry but also helps to make the hotel more competitive for lower budget travellers. It is an example of the kind of ‘beyond the box thinking’ that GallonDaily encourages as an example of environment and the economy working hand in hand. Obviously the Eco Discount Package rate is offered only when the hotel is not fully or nearly fully booked at other rates. Even so, GallonDaily highly commends the initiative and recommends the hotel which is only a 12 minute SeaBus ride away from the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Unlike some supposed ecoefficiency initiatives in hotels where  housekeepers do things like change towels daily even when the guest requests that they not be changed, the Lonsdale Quay’s Eco Discount package actually seems to work. GallonDaily’s editor recently stayed at the hotel and effectively received no housekeeping during the four nights of his stay.

If you, or some business that you know, is offering a unique product or service that benefits both the economy and the environment please let us know by sending an email describing the product or service to editor@gallonletter.ca . Please include your name and phone number as we may wish to talk to your about your nomination. We will publish information about some of the products and services nominated.

Information about the Lonsdale Quay Hotel may be found at lonsdalequayhotel.com

This is a GallonDaily original article.

BC Environment Minister cool towards MultiMaterial BC

Multi-Material British Columbia is an industry led and funded non-profit organization established with the encouragement of the BC Ministry of the Environment that assumed responsibility for managing residential packaging and printed paper in the Province in May 2014. The launch of the MMBC program was very controversial among municipalities and many have yet to join.

Normally Ministers express a high degree of enthusiasm for programs initiated by their governments but BC Environment Minister Mary Polak was less than enthusiastic about MMBC during her opening remarks to the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Conference 2014 today. She told the conference that her Ministry is watching MMBC closely to see if the initiative will be a success.

Waste management, especially including recycling, composting and aerobic/anaerobic thermal systems continue to be very controversial in Canada. New legislation for Ontario’s packaging stewardship system is stalled with the government not wanting to raise a matter that has been very controversial. MMBC has partially copied some of the Ontario system, with modifications, and similar mistakes are being made. There is a risk that it will not succeed and that the BC Environment Ministry will be forced to re-engage with recycling and other municipal waste management issues. In the current era of 100% brandowner stewardship, increased government involvement will almost certainly increase the cost of packaging stewardship recycling costs for many brandowners.

In GallonDaily’s opinion key problems arise because:

  • industry is not taking sufficient account of broad political and social issues in its management of product stewardship and related recycling and waste management programs.
  • a huge amount of recycling and waste management misinformation is in circulation. Until the public becomes better informed, public pressure will push governments in environmentally and economically inappropriate policy directions. Industry needs to play a much stronger role in public education.
  • division of recycling and composting activity between governments and industry often means that municipalities and households bear the costs while industry reaps the profits. Recycling collection monopolies often make this situation worse. Systems need to be established so that those who bear the costs also make the profits.

This post comes to GallonDaily from our Editor direct from the floor of the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Conference 2014.

New Champions conference discusses the engagement of business in the new climate context

The New Champions Conference claims to be the foremost global business gathering in Asia. Also known as the “Summer Davos”, the Meeting creates a unique opportunity for exchange between leaders from top-ranked multinationals and chief executive officers of dynamic and fast-growing companies, including key decision-makers from government, media, academia and civil society.

At this year’s conference one panel focussed on how business should engage in the new climate context. Among the key points made by panel members were:

  • Rasmus Helveg Petersen, Minister of Climate, Energy and Building of Denmark: “Creating a stable framework has helped our businesses create the solutions we need to combat climate change.” “The transition from black to green economies will only be achieved when businesses can make decisions. We need to recognize the need for profitability when we do our regulatory work.”
  • Xie Zhenhua, Vice-Chairman, National Development and Reform Commission, People’s Republic of China, and China’s lead negotiator on climate change at the United Nations: “We need to find a circular pathway to development.” “Businesses need profit, but they need to find a way to achieve common prosperity. If we can do that, we can respond to the climate change challenge and turn the world into a more beautiful place.”
  • Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington DC: “There is huge innovation taking place in the private sector around solutions. This is happening in the absence of a global agreement. This is the most exciting part of what we are seeing today.”
  • Mark Herrema, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Newlight Technologies, USA: “What is missing is something to bridge the gap between what we need to address [in terms of climate change] and people who ask why they cannot use carbon to growth their businesses.” “Industry is taking climate change into their own hands and sequestering carbon.”
  • Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board, Royal DSM, Netherlands: “Mother Earth is not helped by targets and good intentions, but real innovations to change things.” “We in the private sector cannot hide ourselves behind the lesser progress made in public debates.”

For a more detailed summary of the session, and links to other comments and analysis, visit http://www.weforum.org/sessions/summary/new-climate-context

For more of the highlights of the conference held this week in Tianjin, China, visit http://www.weforum.org/events/annual-meeting-new-champions-2014

Danish Prime Minister offers advice on how governments can drive the green revolution

Speaking to the World Economic Forum 2014 Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has laid out a prescription for how governments can drive the green agenda. Among her key points:

  • As prime minister of a country that for decades has worked towards a green society, I am fully aware that the green transition is not an easy task. In order to succeed, governments, the business community and citizens need to join hands. To educate and innovate together.
  • The global financial crisis, the mounting pressure on the world’s resources and the immense climate and environmental challenges have placed sustainability on top of the international agenda.
  • Sustainability is an investment in future economic growth, new market opportunities and job creation. And it is an important social parameter to secure a more harmonious society in which economic growth is not causing polluted air, water and soil.
  • Governments can act as a driver for the green transition setting up conducive legal and political frameworks and introducing economic incentives and standards that promote innovation, develop new markets and build global champion industries.
  • Governments can lead in decoupling economic growth and energy consumption, reconciling economic growth with ambitious green policies, and encouraging education and innovation among producers and consumers.

Key elements of a government drive towards a greener economy which she identifies include:

  • adopting a long-term political vision.
  • creating broad alliances and political support which have led to long-term predictability for a green transition.
  • reconciling economic growth and sustainable development in an inclusive manner. Denmark has established so-called growth teams to strengthen the competitiveness of Danish enterprises. Representatives of business, research, public sector and other stakeholders join hands to discuss and recommend concrete initiatives to improve the conditions for green growth.
  • engaging the business community is a top priority for the Danish government. By applying comprehensive policy frameworks, the Danish government has nudged Danish companies out of their comfort zones – into a greener and more innovative direction. Several Danish companies are today among the frontrunners in the development, testing and promotion of green technologies and sustainable solutions.
  • setting up framework conditions. The private sector can come up with concrete solutions, innovation and deliver results. That is why the Danish government initiative, the Global Green Growth Forum, where China is one of our partner countries, engages leaders from governments, businesses and civil society in green growth partnerships.
  • engaging consumers. Promoting a green society requires sustainable consumption. Also here a joint effort from government and businesses is important. Through information and education, governments can foster a green-growth mindset. Through innovative business models, companies can promote consumer demand for sustainability. And through new valuation methodology, investors can encourage a more sustainable economy. We have seen broad public support and engagement throughout generations and across political beliefs. And we continue to see new citizen-led initiatives to reduce and reuse waste.

The full speech is available at http://forumblog.org/2014/09/the-green-revolution/

Food wastage is associated with GHG emissions equivalent to 33 million vehicles in the US

A new analysis from researchers in the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan calculates that food waste in the US is associated with greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 13% of the US automobile fleet. The good news is that the researchers also find that “real and important opportunities exist to improve the resource use efficiency and environmental impact of the U.S. food system that do not require increased yields or shifts in production practices, but are instead dependent on consumer behaviors”.

The researchers findings include that:

  • Food losses at the retail and consumer levels contribute 1.4 kilograms carbon dioxide equivalents per person per day.
  • Food losses add 28% to the overall carbon footprint of the average U.S. diet.
  • An iso-caloric shift ( a shift in dietary intake that does not change the total number of calories consumed) from the current average U.S. diet to USDA dietary recommendations could result in a 12% increase in diet-related GHG emissions, whereas a shift that includes a decrease in caloric intake, based on the needs of the population (assuming moderate activity), results in a small (1%) decrease in diet-related GHG emissions.
  • Globally, direct emissions from agriculture represent 10% to 12% of overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; when including the impact of fertilizer and chemical production, fuel use, and agriculturally induced land-use change (which carries large uncertainty), the figure rises to 17% to 32%.
  • Though transportation, housing, and food (in that order) are the largest contributors to the carbon footprint of the typical U.S. household, dietary changes are among the most economically effective abatement options.
  • Food overconsumption and obesity contribute not only to human health dangers, but also translate directly and indirectly
    into increased agricultural demand, excess resource utilization, and concomitant environmental impacts.
  • Dietary choices ultimately drive the makeup of food purchases and consumption patterns, which will also affect the GHG emissions associated with food losses.

While GHG emissions are only one of numerous environmental impacts to be considered, this research speaks to the need to incorporate the environmental costs of food production into dietary recommendations. Increasing the efficiency of our food system by reducing food waste and improving diets is an important strategy for climate change mitigation and requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments, and consumers.

The 10 page paper is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jiec.12174/full

Global and Canadian forests are disappearing at a very rapid rate

A recent study from Greenpeace, the University of Maryland, and Transparent World, in collaboration with World Resources Institute and WWF-Russia, paints a distressing picture of the state of the world’s forests. According to the study, which is based on analysis of satellite imagery, more than 8 percent of the world’s Intact Forest Landscapes, often known as Old Growth Forests, have been degraded since the year 2000. This is an area measuring 104 million hectares, or three times the size of Germany. In other words, human activities disturbed 20,000 hectares of pristine forest every day for the past 13 years.

Among other interesting findings published by WRI:

  • Fragmentation is the biggest form of Intact Forest Landscapes degradation, accounting for almost three-quarters of the global total. Fragmentation is the splitting up of IFLs—think slicing a pie in half versus taking a whole piece of it. It’s caused by the expansion of logging, mining and development activities, as well as the infrastructure that comes along with these, such as roads. Fragmentation opens remote forest areas to further development, including increased logging and permanent conversion to other land uses.
  • The fragmentation of IFLs is problematic because smaller, more isolated forest patches will lose species faster than those that are larger or less isolated. Small forest “islands” typically cannot support the same biodiversity or ecosystem services that a single contiguous forest would, even if their combined area is much larger than the single contiguous forest. Many species, particularly large mammals, depend on large tracts of unbroken forest to maintain viable populations. The only way to maintain IFLs’ full range of ecosystem services is to maintain their “intactness.” They cannot easily be restored once fragmentation and degradation have occurred.
  • Three countries – Canada, Russia and Brazil – contain 65 percent of the world’s remaining IFLs.
  • The largest areas of IFL degradation are found in the Northern boreal forest belt of Canada, Russia and Alaska (47 percent) and tropical forest regions such as the Amazon (25 percent) and Congo (9 percent) basins.
  • The country with the highest total area of degradation since 2000 is Canada.

According to Greenpeace, the destruction of forests is responsible for up to a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – more than every plane, car, truck, ship and train on the planet combined.

This study is likely to add to pressure to reduce use of, and protect, forest resources. WRI recommends:

  • Government leaders should steer development away from IFLs. In addition, officials can slow IFL destruction by prioritizing legal protection of these areas.
  • Companies with sustainability commitments should avoid IFLs when sourcing commodities like timber, palm oil, beef and soy.
  • Forest sustainability certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil should give special consideration to include IFLs in their assessment criteria and ensure effective implementation of commitments to protect intact forests.

Greenpeace International is campaigning for zero deforestation, globally, by 2020. To achieve this, the organization challenges destructive industries to change their practices and it encourages consumer action to demand that food, paper and timber products aren’t linked to forest destruction. It also lobbies politicians to take the co-ordinated international and local political action that’s needed to protect the world’s forests, the rights of the people who depend on them, biodiversity and the climate.

More information, including links to the report’s methodology and maps, is available at http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/09/8-percent-worlds-remaining-pristine-forests-degraded-2000

New Alberta Premier may show greater interest in the environment

Jim Prentice, Premier-designate for the Province of Alberta, was federal Minister of the Environment from October 2008 to November 2010. He left Cabinet, and his seat in the House of Commons, in 2010 and was quoted in the press as saying that “I am closing the door on political life.” He was not a particularly auspicious environment minister and took a lot of flack for the Federal Government’s inaction on climate change but many observers considered that he was severely constrained by Prime Minister Harper.

In February of this year Prentice told a Conservative conference in Ottawa “Our position as a country will be amongst the most precarious since we are an industry democracy, with a solid record of environment achievement — but also with a developing economy that relies heavily on resource extraction.” He is quoted by CBC as saying “Focusing on environmental policy isn’t exclusively a question of morality. Increasingly, it’s an economic imperative.” “As conservatives we can’t be in the position of providing our political rivals with the opportunity to portray us as out of touch with the values of Canadians and the prevailing sentiment of the global community.”

During his term as Environment Minister, he was frequently asked questions in the House of Commons. His responses, though sometimes attacking the opposition, included:

  • The policy of the government is to strike an appropriate balance between the environment on the one hand and the economy on the other.
  • Climate change continues to be a major priority for Canadians.
  • Canadians want our country to lead the way in the fight against climate change, and renewable energy sources are key to such efforts.
  • Canada is committed to going to Copenhagen with the targets that we have announced of minus 20% by 2020 from a 2006 base.
  • We have to develop a sustainable economy.
  • The government is working forward on the proposition of a continental cap and trade system. Our plan will include hard caps for all major emitters, if that is the case.
  • Canada is a huge producer of energy, including clean gas. One of our biggest challenges is to find the cleanest way possible to produce energy. That is the case for the oil sands. Our plan will include absolute targets for all major emitters. That is also the case for the oil sands. Our government is working on developing other technologies, for example, carbon capture and storage.
  • The only abatement technology to actually reduce carbon emissions from, for example, coal-fired electricity plants is carbon capture and storage. . . . over 40% of the carbon in the atmosphere today actually came from burning coal. This is the only technology that holds the promise of reducing these emissions. Canada leads the world. We are spending more per capita on these investments than any other country. This has been acknowledged by the International Energy Agency and many other agencies.
  • Mr. Speaker, I am tabling Canada’s first federal sustainable development strategy. [6 October 2010]
Time will tell whether these commitments carry forward to his new role as Premier of Alberta. We will be watching and reporting on environment and sustainable development initiatives of interest to the environment and business community.
The above article contains Prentice quotes extracted from Hansard, the official reporting service of the House of Commons, and CBC news at http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/high-profile-conservatives-urge-government-action-on-environment-1.2555789
GallonDaily appreciates the understanding of our readers during the last two weeks when we took a short break for the summer. With this article we resume our normal publication schedule.

“Clean coal” not so clean, rules UK advertising regulator

WWF brought a complaint before the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority that the term “clean coal” was misleading and implied that the advertiser’s [Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company] impact on the environment was less damaging than is actually the case. In the UK Peabody has been using the claim “Peabody Energy is working to build awareness and support to end energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions using today’s advanced clean coal technologies. We call it Advanced Energy for Life. Because clean, modern energy is the solution for better, longer and healthier lives.” as part of its advertising campaign. In the UK the ASA has the power to ban advertising claims that are found to be misleading.

The ASA ruled as follows:

Notwithstanding the fact that “clean coal” had a meaning within the energy sector, we considered that without further information, and particularly when followed by another reference to “clean, modern energy”, consumers were likely to interpret the word ”clean” as an absolute claim meaning that “clean coal” processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.

ASA directed that

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Peabody Energy Inc. to ensure that future ads did not state or imply that their technologies were emission-free or similar unless they could demonstrate that this was the case.

According to media reports, Peabody has responded by adding the following footnote to the advertisement:

The U.S. Congress itself defined the term clean coal, and Japan and China recently have affirmed the use of clean coal technologies as important to their energy strategies. Clean coal and clean coal technologies describe today’s high-efficiency supercritical technology as well as the collection of technologies that reduce key power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and mercury. These technologies are in broad use globally and are commercially available.

WWF may well go after the amended ad as well.

It is interesting that this ban on Peabody Energy’s unconditional clean coal claim comes at the same times as a report states that the Canadian Government’s $24 million Pro-Keystone pipeline advertising campaign in the US has had little impact on US public opinion about the pipeline.

A summary of the ASA decision is available at http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/8/Peabody-Energy-Corporation/SHP_ADJ_266168.aspx#.U_Xun_ldVWI

The advertisement from Peabody Energy, apparently as amended following the regulator’s decision, is available at https://www.advancedenergyforlife.com/sites/default/files/Let%27s%20Brighten%20the%20Many%20Faces%20of%20Global%20Energy%20Poverty_0.pdf

PCBs are still finding their way into consumer products

The Washington State Department of Ecology has recently published a study evaluating the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in general consumer products. PCBs are persistent in the environment, build up in the food chain, and, at elevated levels, can cause adverse health effects in humans and wildlife including cancer and harm to immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. PCBs disrupt thyroid hormone levels in animals and humans, hindering growth and development.

Among the findings of the study are: 

  • PCBs are found in consumer products and can enter the environment in significant concentrations through water and air discharges. Many of these products contain PCBs as an impurity created during production processes
  • PCBs may affect people directly through contact with consumer products.
  • Almost all paint and colorant samples tested contained one or more PCBs at detectable levels. Diarylide yellow comprises approximately 25% of the 250 million tons of organic pigments produced yearly worldwide and testing has shown PCBs (and especially PCB-11) are produced during its manufacture. PCB-11 is part of the structure of diarylide yellow and is produced either as a byproduct during the manufacturing process or results from degradation of the pigment.
  • Higher molecular weight PCBs are produced as byproducts from one of the common manufacturing processes of the inorganic pigment titanium dioxide.
  • Packaging and paper products sampled contained PCBs, particularly PCB-11.
  • Sealants with high levels of PCBs have been found at varying levels in buildings from about 1950 to 1980 in several studies in the U.S. and other countries. Currently, caulks for sale do not appear to be a significant PCB source. PCB-11 was found in one caulk that changed from pink to white during curing. 
  • Additional testing of other products such as clothing, cosmetics, soaps and hand sanitizers and household cleaning products is needed to evaluate other potential PCB sources. Products containing yellow, green and white pigments particularly warrant additional sampling.

In response to concern about PCBs in consumer products, the State of Washington has produced a draft PCB action plan. Among the elements of the plan are:

  • Survey and assess PCB-containing lamp ballasts in schools and other public buildings. Encourage replacement with more energy efficient PCB-free fixtures with a goal of removing remaining PCBs lamp ballasts from schools and other publically owned buildings.
  • Develop and promote Best Management Practices for containment of PCB-containing materials in buildings currently in use and those slated for demolition in order to reduce exposure to people from PCBs in historic building materials and prevent PCBs in building materials from getting into stormwater.
  • Assess schools and other public buildings for the presence of PCB-containing building materials in order to reduce children’s exposure to PCB-containing building materials in schools and prevent PCBs in building materials from getting into stormwater.
  • Learn more about what products contain PCBs and promote the use of processes that don’t inadvertently generate PCBs.
  • Survey owners of historic electrical equipment to confirm estimates of EPA-regulated electrical equipment with more than 500 parts per million (ppm) PCBs, learn what is known about electrical equipment with PCBs greater than 2ppm, and find out when such electrical equipment is estimated to be replaced.
  • Expand environmental monitoring to identify any new areas requiring cleanup. Find areas with highly concentrated PCBs and clean them up to prevent the wider release of PCBs. Find about more about distribution of PCBs to prioritize future actions. 
  • Conduct a public educational campaign to provide information to residents to reduce exposure and raise awareness of the problems associated with current and past production of PCBs.

The 34 page report Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in General Consumer Products, containing details of the test results, is available at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/1404035.pdf

The Washington State Draft PCB Chemical Action Plan is available at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/1407024.pdf