10 Big Announcements Big Business Made to Meet Consumer Demand for Green Products
Big Business is scrambling to adapt to consumers' demand for environmentally conscious products. Yes, there are smaller businesses which are leaps and bounds ahead of these corporate behemoths, but when these giants adopt sustainability measures it has a far greater impact because so many people use their products and, as you'll see with some of the companies below, one company making a change leads all its competitors or its suppliers to do the same.
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Here are 10 ways Big Business has adapted recently to meet consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly products:
1. Panera Bread puts out its "No No List"
Last week, in an unprecedented move among national restaurant chains, Panera put out a list of more than 150 artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors and flavors that it plans to remove from its menu by 2016. Panera is one of a number of fast-casual restaurants that has successfully marketed itself to Millennials.
2. Chipotle becomes first fast food chain to remove genetically modified food (GMOs) from its menu
Another first for a national restaurant chain, Chipotle has vowed to remove GMOs from its food. It will be completely GMO-free except for its meat and dairy products, which come from animals that are still being given GMO-feed and their beverages will still contain GMOs. Still, the health-conscious company, which has warned customers and investors alike about climate change, is far ahead of other national restaurant chains on environmental and animal welfare issues.
3. McDonald's curbs antibiotics in chicken and hormones in milk
McDonald's has made a number of big announcements in the past few months. Chipotle's and Panera's announcements came as little surprise as they have been moving in an eco- and health-conscious direction from the get-go. But now, even McDonald's is realizing it needs to adapt. The fast food chain recently announced it will only buy and sell “chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine.” It also announced it will offer milk from cows that are not treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST in their U.S. restaurants later this year.
What's more, McDonald's also plans to eliminate deforestation from its entire supply chain. The announcement came less than a month after the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report, analyzing top international companies’ palm oil commitment. The fast food giant has pledged to find more sustainable sources of beef, coffee, fiber-based packaging, palm oil and poultry to end the deforestation caused by producing these goods. Two other top fast food chains—Dunkin’ Brands, parent of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, and Yum! Brands, owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell—have made commitments to stop buying palm oil linked to deforestation.
4. Tyson Foods follows McDonald's lead
Tyson, the largest U.S. poultry producer, announced plans to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its chickens by September 2017. The company has been working on decreasing antibiotic use for years now, but was forced to get even more aggressive when McDonald's, one of its biggest customers, announced it was ditching human antibiotics in chickens.
5. Breyers pledges to stop using milk from cows treated with rBST
Ice Cream giant Breyers announced a few months ago that it will stop using milk from cows treated with the controversial hormone rBST, which has been linked to a number of health problems in humans. The move puts Breyers in line with some of the Millennial favorites, including Ben & Jerry's (which went rBST-free in 1989) and Chipotle. Wal-Mart, Haagen Dazs, and Yoplait and Dannon yogurts have all gone rBST-free, as well.
6. Shake Shack announces the value of its initial public offering had increased to $675 million
Shake Shack is one of several emerging “fast-casual” restaurants like Panera, Five Guys and Chipotle that appeal to millennial diners with elevated, healthier, ethical and more sustainable food experiences. For example, Shake Shack prides itself on building eco-friendly restaurants out of recyclable and sustainable materials, paying employees well above minimum wage and serving only hormone-free, vegetarian-fed, humanely-raised beef.
7. Home Depot and Lowe's will phase out phthalates from vinyl flooring by the end of the year
Home Depot, the world's largest DIY retailer, made the announcement a few weeks ago and Lowe's, as predicted, followed suit a few days ago. Phthalate chemicals are considered hazardous and, despite being banned from toys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2009, are still found in other products, including flooring. Recent reports have shown the danger they pose to human health, and consumer advocacy groups like Safer Chemicals Healthy Families put pressure on the major home improvement retailers to phase out the harmful chemical.
8. Lowe's will stop selling bee-killing pesticides to protect pollinators
After two years of pressure by the hard-hitting campaign by Friends of the Earth and partners, Lowe’s announced a few weeks ago it will begin to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides—a leading contributor to global bee declines—from its stores. It's the most significant announcement so far for a retailer of its size.
9. Adidas plans to turn ocean plastic into sportswear
The sportswear giant has partnered with the ocean advocacy group, Parley for the Oceans, to develop materials made from ocean plastic waste to use in its products starting in 2016. Adidas will also phase out plastic bags in its 2,900 retail stores around the world.
10. Levi's and other companies commit to water conservation in drought-stricken California
Levi Strauss & Co., Symantec, General Mills, KB Home, Coca-Cola Company, Driscoll’s and Gap Inc., among other companies, signed onto a commitment from nonprofit Ceres agreeing to make and implement a business commitment that supports the state’s water conservation plan and to reach out to policymakers, customers, employees and other companies on improving water management and enhancing water efficiency.
Levi's went further, announcing aggressive action of its own. The company claims it has saved 1 billion liters of water since 2011 due to conservation measures it's taken and in working with cotton growers to use less water-intensive growing techniques and educating consumers about the water cost of frequent laundering.
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
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